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NO SPOON-FEEDING THIS

Mother, a child's first teacher, exhausts her patience when it is time for the kid to take up formal education. But, Nannapaneni Manga Devi makes an effort to acquaint young mothers and teachers with playful teaching, writes Ramesh Susarla.


YOUNG MOTHERS and kindergarten teachers from all over Andhra Pradesh turned pre-school students for a week at one of the unique opportunities for them to experience and learn how playful teaching could transform the young ones from shirkers to school-lovers. Puppets -- Anandi and Ananda were their companions for the next one week during summer vacations in the natural surroundings of a dream school for learning and teaching, without tears.

What technique legendary scholar Vishnu Sharma employed on the three foolish sons of King Sudarshana of Pataliputra in 300 BC to churn out wise men is Panchatantra -- the earliest record of effortless teaching with witty stories at Kindergarten level. Montessori re-invented the system of educating very young children by direction of their natural activities in the beginning of last century. These hold good even today.


Modern-day Alternative schools, with a mixture of the Indian Gurukula and the Montessori systems, catering to the elite in the society have their roots in promoting creativity among children, but the competitive world has forced majority to renounce those techniques of playful teaching.

Montessori-trained, Nannapaneni Manga Devi, Correspondent of the Sri Venkateswara Bala Kuteer, provided a rare opportunity for 35 young mothers and kindergarten teachers at Guntur by organising a fortnight-long sponsored participatory symposium. "This is the 19th batch enjoying their experience here, as I believe in sharing secrets of our success at kindergarten teaching,'' says Ms. Devi.

Teaching begins with a nature walk for the youngsters to improve their observation playfully while not suppressing their natural instinct of plucking a leaf here, a flower there and pocketing a few pebbles. Once back in the school, books do not wait for them, instead they scribble from their memory whatever they liked on their nature trail. Uma Devi, a teacher from Vidya Vikas School in Gudivada in Krishna district found the physical activity refreshing after monotonous classroom teaching for 13 years. "I learnt how teaching can be a pleasurable experience both for children and teachers and propose to implement it in my school positively,'' she said.


Punishing children in the name of discipline was a routine in most schools the participants hailed from. They had no hesitation in accepting their barbaric act only to realise at the end of the training programme that they did not have a reason any more to mete out corporal punishment. The word punishment has been erased from their minds.

Hailing from Mathampalli in Nalgonda district, Rajeswari, with lots of zeal to teach kids, was herself not qualified enough to guide them properly. But, the colourful teaching kit that she prepared as part of learning at the camp helped transform the attitude of children towards education in their village, she felt. Many of the teachers learnt speaking and reading English after attending the refresher course. Swati, a new teacher from the Lotus Public School, Guntur, perceived the fun-filled sessions as a value addition to her skills as it had removed the fear for teaching in her. On the contrary, she now found teaching quite playful.

Rajeshwari, a graduate herself, used to find it difficult to make her son Anirudh show interest in studies, but was going home satisfied that she could learn the nuances of being a supportive mother instead of taking him to task for every trivial issue. Seshumani, Rajeswari, and Sushma as resource persons mingled with them so well that the thin line of differentiation got wiped out in no time. Staying in a hostel, it was a life-time opportunity for many to stay away from families in a camp-like atmosphere attending classes regularly, learning and displaying their special skills to make schooling an enjoyable experience for the kids.

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