Real Life Connections


By Shama Mir

Reflection is important to me. As a teacher, it helps me assess my strategies and evaluate my methodology. It helps me make changes for the better. It is this judgement that drives my creativity and helps me innovate. It also contributes to my solutions and problem solving.

As usual, it’s the beginnings that set the tone of the classroom. Therefore, the moment I met my Year 6 students, I knew it was going to be a year of exploration and discovery. The very first week, one of the boys ‘A’ approached me and said, “Ms. Shama, I didn’t want to disturb you through the lesson, but there is something I wanted to share with you.” I was concerned so I gestured him to come closer and sit down. “Ms. I just wanted to let you know that I’m going through puberty, so things will be difficult! There will be days when I will be lazy and then there will be days, when I’ll be very angry. Please understand that it’s not me, but the puberty at work.” I will confess that for a moment, I wanted to tell him that I was 44 years old and it seemed puberty was still at work, however, I didn’t want to burst his bubble!

“I’m glad you understand this,” I told him. “Please don’t worry, we’ll get through this together. I completely understand.”

“Is there a way though or can you suggest a plan to get through this smoothly?” he inquired.

He got me thinking, and as always, it became the centrifugal prompt in my head. I started to create stories around it and it remained in my sub-conscience. As I browsed through some books in the library, planning to teach them “Responsibility”, I came across a fantastic book titled, “7 Habits of Effective Teens” by Sean Covey. As I read through, it gave me many ideas on how to responsibly acknowledge and respond to this young boy’s query while at the same time establish a sense of responsibility to self.

I created my reading lesson around this book and decided to share these 7 habits with the class.

As I introduced the lesson, I lifted the book up for all to see and said, “This is my plan for you for the year. We are all going to develop these 7 habits to become effective individuals. Adopting these vital habits will help you understand yourself better and at the same time assist you in making intelligent choices.”

The students listened attentively as I read out each habit. I had created colorful empty maps for them to work in groups to create a plan. We worked using the Jigsaw Strategy. Each expert group managed one habit, exploring it fully, trying to create a relevance to the practice and their growing needs as individuals.

They learned about being proactive, sharing role play that stressed on being the first one to apologize, or the first one to take action and initiative. They also studied about consequences and keeping the end in mind. This group highlighted the importance of planning and taking advice. It was refreshing to witness them talk about taking responsibility for their actions. The third group learned about priorities. Through their presentation, they expressed the need to make a list of things and evaluate their choices. They focused on doing tasks on time and went a step ahead, sharing quotes like ‘Don’t leave what you need to do today for tomorrow’.

Next in line was the group presenting habit # 4, “Think Win-Win”. As part of the speaking criteria, all members of the group had to speak. The first few speakers did a great job and explained the concept well, however the last speaker failed to contribute his voice and the group got uneasy. Quickly the class raised hands to share their ideas, “Compromise a little”, one said. “How about finding creative solutions?” And in no time, I had six great resolutions on board on how a mom and daughter could share a car to watch a movie and do groceries too. It was amazing to watch their proactive approach to the problem. “Well-done class!” I applauded. “However, as a group, it remains your responsibility to educate each member in the group on the topic. For ‘X’ not being able to speak on the topic indicates that he was either left out, or his ignorance wasn’t identified.” They all agreed that the blame game didn’t quite suffice for the point loss and it was better to become more vigilant the next time.

Habit # 5 was closest to their life and they were able to share many incidents from their life when they had felt misunderstood or had experienced rejection. “Seek first to Understand,Then to be Understood”. “Whenever I ask my mom to let me go to the mall with my friends, she says no. She needs to start trusting me. I’m not a child.” “It’s quite annoying when you’re sure about something and no one feels the same way.” “What is the point in arguing?”

Many points were raised. I asked them to tell me what they expected their parents to do in a situation like that. “I want her to trust me. I can take care of myself.” “I think they should sit down to listen. When you look at someone in the eye, you can understand how important it is to them.” “I don’t think they ever understand. It’s always a big argument.”

Argument was the key word there. “Should you argue or discuss?” I asked him. He looked confused. “It’s the same thing.” I argued on it not being the same thing, till he gave up. “You see, we reached no conclusion because we missed the reasoning. None of us talked about why it isn’t the same thing or for that matter, why you believe it to be the same thing.” He nodded and added on, “Yes of course! Also in a discussion, we don’t waste time. Like even if it’s a long discussion, in the end, you find the answers. I guess you just need to listen to the other person’s point of view before you get angry and maybe their reason makes sense to you.” It was a fine discussion!

Group 6 shared their opinions on how to synergize. They presented their claims stating that sharing ideas always helps you draw intelligent conclusions. Their ideals revolved around collaboration and team work. It was evident through their presentation as they had defined roles for each member and their cooperation came through effectively. There was a round of applause as they concluded their display of ideas and we all agreed that it was a well-coordinated effort.

Finally, the last two boys approached the speaking spot. Their habit was all about renewing self. I was taken aback by their deep thoughts. “If you get bored with life, do something new. You can redecorate your room or start learning a new skill.” The other boy stepped up and said, “Go have your favorite ice-cream. It doesn’t always have to be expensive.” And they continued to amaze us with their bright views telling us to go on a holiday, visit grandma or do things differently, meaning break the rut.

I collected all their mind maps and congratulated them on their mature attitudes and approach to life. I concluded the activity sharing these words with them, “We are now going to remind ourselves to be careful about not being reactive, ignorant, lazy, selfish, arguable, uncooperative or careless. These are damaging attitudes when you are growing up. Middle School can be a beautiful experience if you take charge of your lives and exhibit a sense of ‘Responsibility’.

As I left the class, I found ‘A’ standing close to the door. “Well ‘A’, did I manage to help you with your query?” He gave me a stunning smile and replied, “In more ways than you could imagine Ms. Shama.”

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