I started out my asymmetrical triangle-trip through Maharastra, the state slung over the northern tip of Andhra Pradesh, with an overnight beeline to Mumbai where it cozies up to the Arabian Sea. I was heading for the Designing for Children Conference being hosted by the Design Centre at the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai. Long long ago, when I’d been in India for days instead of months, I submitted a proposal to this conference that looked like :
The task of a teacher is to convince a group of students that education can be entertainment; isn’t this what leads to self-motivated study, to improved retention of information, to reduced drop-out rates, and to younger siblings everywhere begging for backpacks and homework? The pre-kindergarten enthusiasm for the paraphernalia of school usually fades after a few years of the tedious process – but it doesn’t have to. Teachers have an opportunity unparalleled in any other field : to go to work and play with purpose. This academic year, I am studying the potential of non-linguistic forms of communication such as art, music, and movement to challenge educational and social inequalities by empowering underprivileged populations.
Through a series of collaborative projects, I am exploring the capacity of artistic creation to build self-esteem in students. As they are asked to tell a story about themselves or their community using heterogeneous methods of communication, students who are typically unwilling or unable to engage in the classroom can feel honored. Through experience working as teacher, tutor, and caretaker, I have consistently used creative forms of expression as the most effective way to engage with children. A range of choice in activities gives students who find themselves floundering in conventional lessons a better opportunity to utilize their talents; the process of choosing itself is an ideal forum to practice setting goals, research, organization, and presentation skills. This approach emphasizes an exchange rather than an imposition of knowledge to affirm the worth and talents students already possess and can draw on to surmount future obstacles. Potential projects incorporate academic subjects and local traditions, providing students with both confidence and competence as they assume increasing responsibility to support themselves and contribute to their community.
In the distinctly multilingual culture of Hyderabad, it is unmistakable that language can conduct power and the ability to communicate determines influence; however, the decision to be silent is sometimes more potent than clamorous voices. We will be mapping a route that moves freely between silence and sounds, improvisation and coordination as the teacher joins in listening, learning, and playing. What color is “once upon a time”? Does “a faraway land” resonate like a drum or a hum? With the responses, we are trying to discover a means of expressing local, truthful, and personal realities to captivate a potentially global audience.
And that abstract became a paper that told my favorite story, and at the conference I presented the stories of that story, and the presentation looked like :
So if you’d like some more words please have a read through the paper,
or if you’d like more images you can peruse the powerpoint,
I won’t tell the stories that wove these pieces together, because you know them already through the Large Jet.
Oh, and to wrap up this dimension, I love Mumbai. I met wonderful people, collected vibrant new ideas, fluttered happily around an art festival, and watched nightlight and daylight over a sweep of sea.
I liked the rest of Maharastra, too. Next I went inland and into mountain. Stay tuned.