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Archive for June, 2016

I come with a long history in Early Childhood Education. That brings with it a healthy respect for the need for varied and enriched sensory experiences. But in the settings I have chosen to work in, the reality is, almost always, very far from the ideal.

In encouraging, warm classrooms I’ve watched children peering over a teacher’s shoulder, occasionally even sitting on her lap as they lapped up the story, drawn by a kind and soft tone, and gentleness of demeanour…But when it comes to skyping with grannies over the internet, well, then… how can one even begin to provide for ‘touch’ and ‘smell’?  Yet, time and again, I am amazed at the extent to which a good, clear connection can point the children in that direction.

One of my fondest memories is of Sue reading a story to children from Grade 1 from one of our Hyderabad SOLEs way back in 2009. They were totally engrossed and kept trying to get as close to her as possible. When asked what they were doing, they said –  she has such “soft cheeks, such soft hair”. They wanted to reach out and touch her cheeks and stroke her hair….

Might this compensate just a little bit for children who would not have sensory experiences provided to them anyway?!

 

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Compensating for limited sensory experiences.Photo by Suneeta Kulkarni

 

This June [2016] we are fund raising to help get the School in the Cloud & the grannies to many more children across the world. Do support us. https://www.crowdrise.com/the-granny-cloud

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It was May 2009, and we had just launched The Granny Cloud. Through the  hottest part of the summer holiday, the children at SHS SOLE in the village of Shirgaon in Sindhudurg, Maharashtra scrambled to participate in sessions with the Grannies in their newly built lab. They climbed up on chairs and desks just to get a look!

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Anything to get a look! Photo by Suneeta Kulkarni May 2009

 

The brand new grannies were as excited as the children and it was the start of many warm and lasting relationships.

One of these young children was Gouri. She took  to the experience like a duck to water and it was hard for her to give the other children a go at the keyboard and computer. Over the first few months she would rush to school as early as 6:30 am so that she could chat with Anne. Then through yet another Granny’s support [Edna], Gouri and her friends participated in a fairly regular chat group with the children at Edna’s school in far away Melbourne!

Even after the school stopped having Granny sessions, the impact remained. She stayed in touch through my visits to Shirgaon and years later, when she finally had independent access to a phone connected to the internet at least intermittently and the occasional access to her older brother’s laptop, she rekindled her connections with several of the grannies from those early years. Today, she still seeks Rodger’s advise and remembers her time in the SOLE with the grannies very fondly. She articulates those feelings in her faulting but much improved English –

“I learn to keep trust on people… I learn to see with very positive approch towards the people… I can be able to understand between mentality of people… And I am trying for be frank with people … When I started to use SOLE that time I was 12-13 years old… That time I had little bit of knowlede of computer… Then I used to go SOLE… I enjoyed lot of thinks there… First I got a confidence that I can able to operate internate easily … And I understood that it is a wast treasure of knowledge… I can get lot of knowledge… Which helps me lot in last four years… I am getting very confident about computer and I can able to do all things related to computer rather than my other friends….  and video calls on skype gives me lot of very nice friends …when we were going to talk on skype with mediators like Anna, Edna ,Rodger we share much more things with each other related to festivals, studies, Indian culture and all… I remember those days when I eagerly waiting wednesday only for talking with Anna… Now a days I am in a very good contact with Rodger and we chat often on FB … I would like to take his opinion as a advice in some things… We are really good friends… “

 

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Gouri with Anne Dec 2009. Photo by Suneeta Kulkarni

Today, this youngster from a little village who only studied in the regional language [Marathi] has completed her second year year of Engineering College, with distinction, through Mumbai University.

As for me, I look forward to the messages that pop up on FB with her latest chat and the sound of her “MAVSHIiiiii” still reverberates in my ears as I recall being summoned to see her latest discovery all those years ago at SHS SOLE.

For another blog on Gouri do visit: https://www.theschoolinthecloud.org/updates/sole-inspires-teenager-to-follow-her-dreams

I would so like to make this a common experience. There are so many children out there who want and need the grannies of The Granny Cloud. This June 2016 we are crowdfunding to help raise funds to support this initiative. Do help us reach out to many more children across the world.

 

 

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The first SOLE in India was set up in Hyderabad way back towards the end of April in 2008. Among the children who was smitten by the SOLE and all that it could offer was a young girl. It was a concept that was hard for many of the adults to digest and that meant that children didn’t have as much access to it as they wanted and could have easily had.

Still, she tried to be in the SOLE as much as she possibly could, looking quite woebegone when she had to leave. Yet even this limited access made a difference. Within a couple of months, she came up to me and said – “Aunty, you know what I have asked my mother to get me for my birthday? A computer!” and then added – “Earlier, I used to ask for dresses, jewellery, toys; but now all I want is a computer”.

Is this at least as telling as a test score?!

Uh Oh! Simon didn't say!

How else are aspirations changing?

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So many times through my career I have been struck [pardon the pun!] by how loyal children can be towards their teachers even when the relationship is often dominated by fear of being hit with a ruler, rapped on the knuckles, slapped, have their ears twisted and so on. And it has always hurt that there has been little I could do to change their reality. Even as they share what happened at school, I find myself squirming and imagining not just the physical pain, but also the humiliation, and the fear of adult disapproval that many children experience.

And the fear extends to other adult-child interactions. Recently, I asked to speak to one of the children at one our labs and in the midst of a warm conversation, he opened up and said that he had  been momentarily worried about why I had asked to speak to him… that he must have done something wrong and I was going to scold him.

And this same child along with several of his mates had, a few months earlier, shared the kind of ‘corporal punishment’ that is still part of their daily experience in school. I’d asked the reasons for which they got hit and was told it could vary – from being late, to not knowing the answer to a question that was asked, for talking in class…. My face is, even when I try to hide emotions, rather transparent. My dismay at this sharing was only too apparent. And the children’s response…. “They are only doing it for our own good” They are teaching us good habits…” “They are helping us learn…”. I couldn’t resist asking whether they would learn without being smacked… and they  admitted they would.

So why are we are we so harsh with them? And do we really deserve their gentleness and loyalty toward us?

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