Remembering teachable moments during a crisis

Madhura Visweswaran, Co-Founder of the Redwood Montessori School Llp, and the Redwood Montessori Foundation, pens a personal note on all the teachable moments that one should remember during these challenging days

Last night I spoke to an uncle of mine, who belongs to the generation that lived through the partition, has seen full-fledged wars, the Green Revolution, famines, ration queues and so much more; a whole spectrum of life. However, he was clear that in all his 70-odd years, he had never witnessed something so disquieting. He said it was disconcerting for him because there is so little knowledge of what this virus is and what it can become. He is one of the strongest men I know, and to hear him say those words bothered me.

It was my conversation with him that led me to put down my thoughts on paper, thinking of all the teachable moments that can bring comfort during these immensely troubling times.

At this moment in time, all of us are in the same boat, navigating a stormy sea with no calm waters in sight. Like me, do you too feel adrift? Are you worried about your children’s learning? Do you feel that you are not doing enough? Are you worried about the health of your loved ones?

If you are asking yourselves these questions, I strongly believe you are doing right by your child. Everything good that happens in the world begins with a good intention, and this is evident from the way you have been questioning yourself and worrying about the well-being of your loved ones.

Suddenly and abruptly, life as we know it has taken a 180-degree turn. We are in a better situation than a majority of people in our country are, but that doesn’t mean we can’t feel their pain. If you are in a position to contribute to those less fortunate, I am sure you will, and that’s what I see happening around me. Many a time, people say ‘first, world problems’ to me and, yes, they may be, but that doesn’t make my fears and concerns invalid.

Schools are closed, but I would like to reiterate that it does not mean that your child’s learning is in any way compromised; instead, it has been enhanced.

I have never in my 40 years met a child who went to school and never learnt to read or do math. However, what I have witnessed is a lack of awareness and empathy in adults and young adults, and this leads us to the topic of teachable moments in everyday life.

In these unprecedented times, by helping a neighbour, by standing in line in the supermarket, by practising social distancing and following the rules and regulations that have been laid out by the government, you are showing your child how to behave. You are embodying courage and showing them that no one is above the law of the land. By not snatching every piece of sanitiser and by respecting those who help us, such as our guards, health care and sanitation workers, people who cook for us and work for us. You are shaping them as human beings, showing them that we are all equal irrespective of caste, creed, socio-economic status or religion.

If you are tired from doing all the work and assign them chores, you are sending them a sign that they are more than capable of taking care of themselves and their environment. The subliminal message here is that no work is too dirty, beneath them or executed by a particular sex. This is fantastic at a time when gender equality and the pay gap are subjects being debated the world over.

At a time when everything we took for granted before, such as tight hugs, visiting our friends and venturing freely outside to buy provisions, is no longer an option. When you make the best of what you have at home, it sends them a signal that this too shall pass and we will all be fine. It also allows children the unique ability to keep themselves occupied, content in their own company, a skill that many of us don’t have.

Yes, of course, you will feel angry, frustrated and go through many other such emotions. This is no holiday for the children too, their life has also been turned upside down; children are meant to run around, play tag and not have to wash their hands a million times!

The greatest learning we as parents can take away from this is that Math, English, and so on can be taught and your children will catch up in no time. But qualities such as empathy, love, independence and resilience must be witnessed and cannot be taught. Here you have the opportunity to show your children these amazing life lessons they may never have the opportunity to learn again.

In the end when life resumes its new normal, we may forget what we went through, but your children will have all the qualities that make them superior human beings for life because children are but mirrors of our souls.

Stay safe, stay positive and repeat with me: This too shall pass.

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