Can we make the classroom our safe space?
Author: Charlene Judith
The past year in the Bhumi Fellowship helped me see that children are intuitive. They are capable of a lot more than we credit them for. Student agency is something that has taken precedence over everything else. My class has taught me to dream and forgive and most importantly, to be kind.
Sharing circles online:
We spent five months engaging with each other online. Sharing circles happened with the class fortnightly. During one of these circles, I asked my students what they wanted to become and what their dreams were:
“I want to work in the Military, miss,“ one student said. Another exclaimed, “IAS, miss, IAS officer.“
“Miss, enaku Maths teacher aganum, miss,” a student said.
*(“I want to be a Maths teacher, miss”)
“Na oru beauty parlor arambikanum, miss,” one student said.
*(“I want to open a beauty parlor, miss”)
Many students said they wanted to be doctors and teachers. They are so hopeful, and speaking about their dreams brought bright smiles to their faces.
Dreaming and Planning:
After this particular sharing circle – I held a space where the students could break down their goals for the year into four steps.
They took time to put down goals and illustrate them.
I asked them to keep these illustrations and notes and pin the sheets of paper somewhere they could see them. As soon as our sharing circle concluded, they flooded the class WhatsApp group with plans to achieve their goals.
The offline classroom:
School reopened in November. In a physical classroom, we continued to use some of the norms that we followed in the online classroom.
Listen to the teacher, raise hands, and a few more. Our class name is The astronauts.
My favorite part of our classroom culture is Mute. When I say: Class mute! The whole class goes silent. Some of the students use actions and gestures to communicate with me.
The transition was rocky. After two years of staying at home, the children get restless sometimes. We try and calm ourselves down as a collective. We practice grounding exercises, breathing exercises, and the like.
When conflict arises in class, we spare time to reflect in the reflection corner. My children take time to describe how they feel and what transpired. We try our best not to blame one another and take ownership of our actions.
The Bhumi Fellowship encourages and stands for reflection and looking inward. I try to incorporate these elements into my classroom.
The basis of everything in our classroom is kindness. To be kind to ourselves and others. “Friends kita anba irukanum, miss”, my students would say. *(“We need to be kind to our friends, miss!”)
We use the magic words wherever necessary. The power of the magic words: Please, Thank you, Sorry, and Excuse Me fascinate my class.
I have seen them grow, and the journey has definitely changed me.
I watched the class share, even when the students had very little. The children show great amounts of resilience and kindness every day.
I saw a child hand her notebook to her friend because he did not have one, and she had two notebooks. I watched another child put half of her lunch in the lid of her lunch box and hand it to another child seeing that he did not have a lunchbox. These little acts of kindness made me give thought to what I can do better and how I can be kind.
My students demonstrate kindness in little ways every day. Whether it is remembering a friend’s birthday, sharing a spare pencil, or apologizing to a friend and not holding any hard feelings. We have begun to stand up for each other. We include everyone and try our best not to discriminate.
The classroom has become our safe space.
About the Author
Judith thrives in creative spaces and loves her classroom.