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Teaching what you know: a process of personal exploration and sharing

Photo by Azzedine Rouichi on Unsplash

Teaching what you know is not easy as it sounds. Most of the platforms available to teach don’t just filter what is considered worth teaching but also filter the people who are thought to be capable of teaching. This kind of filtration means a lot of learning paths and a lot of individuals who know something along these learning paths are left out.

I am initiating a process to help children discover what they know and how to teach others what they know. Why children? Children are generally at the receiving end of a teaching process — either in the school or at home or socially. In their relationship with children, adults suppose that they know the things that their (or their social connections’) children need to know. Of course there is a big disconnect here. Children who want to learn what their guardians or relatives want to teach them are considered ideal. Conversely children who don’t want to learn these things are considered truant or thankless. They are considered obligated to learn what is being taught as a sign of gratitude for the upbringing. In this process neither is there an evaluation of what is being taught done nor an evaluation of what is there a desire to learn done. It is assumed that children obviously need to be corrected. It is assumed that children need guidance. At least the children who do not show an enthusiasm for the elements that their environment has.

But children have a vastly varying sets of experiences and possess different kinds of intelligence from each other. Even the children who are not keen to learn what the adults in their environment want to teach might want to learn something else and from someone else and might not deserve to be dismissed as being truant. Adults naturally assume that they are responsible for the value education of the children around them. But is an effort made to understand the values they already possess?

Is an effort made to have a conversation with the children around us to understand if they know what, when and from whom they want to learn from?

In the process that I am initiating with a diverse group of children, I am talking to them to help them realise what they know. I am also trying to listen to their experience of what they are being taught, by whom and whether it appeals to them. This is important to do because the relationship that adults have with their elders depends on how pleasant or unpleasant their experience of being taught was. Children who felt a mismatch between what they were being taught and what they wanted to learn, feel imposed on. Such children develop a distant relationship with their elders when they grow up.

The intrinsic values that some children have might emerge from their experiences, from their interactions or from their feelings. The nature vs nurture debate can take its own course — but it cannot be argued that all children no matter what conditions they might live in have similar values to the adults in the environment. Children intently observe adults and form their own causal relationships in their mind. Based on these observations they make their own decisions about which beliefs and which values are worth having and which not.

Children can be led only if they want to be led and need to be led. If they are intrinsically inspired to do something different from the elders in their environment when they grow up, then largely it should be their call. They can teach other children and even adults if they are able to recognise what they know and how. It is a matter of other children and adults taking stock of their assumptions about what they need to know, why and whom do they assume to have and knowledge and being capable of teaching.

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