I was at a daylong workshop recently, deliberating on the usefulness of non-violent means of communication for teachers and parents while dealing with the students.
Ironically, the concept of non-violent communication has been developed by Marshall Rosenberg, a thinker from America and the workshop was being conducted by Sura Hart, a professional trainer from Seattle, USA.
Irony of the matter being that even the though the concept of non-violence was created and propagated by Mahatma Gandhi and the independence of India was based on the strategy of non-violence, 60 years later, western thinkers are helping us revisit and revise these concepts that they have begun to use more successfully than the Indian race.
Workshop was attended by teachers and counsellors form Mumbai, Surat, Rajkot and Ahmedabad schools. It was heartening to see the concern teachers had, while dealing with issues of students, especially those during the adolescent years, from grade 9-12. Several studies deal with the differential strategies that should be used for students during these years due to the rapid brain development that happens during puberty. It is often noticed that if students are yelled at or labelled as stupid or dumb, then the pre-frontal cortex (where the cognitive learning takes place) shuts down and little or no learning happens.
The current generation of 21st century learners are a curious and more importantly a vocal breed. There have clear choices, they are far more aware of the world around them and have distinct opinions. Often teachers who operate from authority tend to shut up these students as either ‘distracting the class by asking too many questions’ or ‘being insubordinate’. Often this lack of connection in the classroom leads to mischievous attention seeking behaviour in kids who tend to be more distractive or even act in a rebellious manner.
Often an empathetic approach can chase away most demons. Empathy, as distinct from being sympathetic, over bearing, advising, educating, interrogating and telling stories. Being heard and understood is a basic need of every individual and it has been observed that we as Indians are impatient listeners. We all speak at the same time, we don’t wait for the other person to finish before we start to talk, we do not believe in having turns to speak, and while the other is speaking most often we are framing the sentence or the idea that we are going to say rather than actively listening to the speaker. Active and empathetic listening is a good starting point.
Among several key distinctions of the workshop the salient ones were that when we evaluate others and make judgement calls, we put people in a defensive spot and that often leads to disagreements. Often expectations are placed as demands and that often creates a rebellion in children, it is important that requests be made rather than demands.
The important lesson is of course in the mindset change. To treat the adolescent students adults, to have the student participate in framing school rules, rather than unilaterally forcing rules, having the students voice be respected rather than shutting them up, having the understanding to make requests rather than demands on the students and recognising that by constantly evaluating and labelling students, they are being pushed further away.
The 21st century learners require that they be taught in more non-violent, non-authoritative, non-dictatorial ways, the key question being - is the teaching fraternity ready to accept this