Raising Responsible Leaders
Ms Shashi Banerjee, Principal, Shiv Nadar School Noida, has authored the following piece. This was initially sent out as a letter to the parents.
Our children have braced the cataclysmic change in their immediate world with amazing resilience and by and large, a quiet acceptance. In most cases, they have provided unconditional support and love to their elders by shouldering responsibilities as much as has been possible in keeping with their age and individual capacities. This is certainly a time to express our gratitude for the hope they offer and stand for.
Children of these times, especially the past decade or so, are equal victims to environmental degradation at all levels - of the physical erosion of our natural environment, reckless growth and development of consumption and consumerism, an all-time low in socio-political discourse and unmediated lifestyle role-modelling offered as variant models of modernity and liberalism which strongly clash with traditional value systems. As victims of this onslaught, many of these adolescents have not had any moral or spiritual anchor to hold on to, and thence emerges an aberration in social behavior - such as the 'locker room episode' - an anomalous sporadic social eruption sending moralists and masses across into an angry chorus of 'Let's fix them - did I not say, this technology is the evil that spoils them?' This simmers, till the next big thing gets exposed. And the world carries on bearing little or no accountability for the actions of their young ones, though thankfully, many do acknowledge and constantly engage with how best to empower our young to thrive and, together, build a better world.
Thinking objectively, beyond all the outrage, it saddens me that perhaps the society, and we as adults, have failed our young people. When in the process of becoming adults do our children get conditioned into such structures and systems? Does this not come from the socialization process, learned behaviours and attitudes from seeing all that is modelled around us - in family conversations, in movies, in advertisements, in songs, and subtly in so much around us?
It is perhaps a time for all of us to look within and wonder what we need to review and reconstruct to ensure that we scaffold our children to be respectful adults. To themselves and all around them.
We, at School, talk about digital citizenship and cyber safety as part of our curriculum and we go deeper into age appropriate topics of gender sensitivity, the thought and vocabulary of respect and equality, sexuality and more in a safe and non-judgmental space. There are no taboo topics - for that is what creates a repressed mind more often than not, channelized towards inappropriate behaviors.
As a School, through the curriculum of scholastic and co-scholastic engagement and wellbeing sessions, we constantly create environments and lessons that engage the student to think critically, to question, to reflect and to share their voices. To have thoughts, feelings, opinions and actions that they take ownership of. To empower each of them to find meaning and purpose for themselves and what they can contribute as global citizens. We will continue to create safe spaces where students can express their individuality and stand tall whether or not they 'fit' in.
This integrated, concept-based curriculum is woven into lesson plans and into a daily/weekly/ monthly/yearly timetable in the following ways:
1. Social, Emotional, Physical and Ethical well-being modules as part of their 'Health and Well-being Classes' - spiritual well-being through the practice of mindfulness and attitude and skill building through Aha Sports.
2. Development of empathy and connect with the self and community through the exploration of traditional and non-linear forms of learning in the Co-Scholastic and Aha Arts programmes.
3. Environmental education through Sustainable Development Goals, based on Design Thinking.
4. Robust Technology learning programme infusing Digital citizenship enabling creativity and innovation, reducing consumption.
5. Problem and Project-based learning through programmes such as the Capstone.
6. Career Guidance and Self-awareness building through Internships and Work life exposure.
7. World affairs and higher order thinking, reading, listening and writing skills through the learning modules of Education for Life, Model United Nations, Literary, STEAM and Electoral Literacy Clubs, Exchange programmes, Community, Service and Outbound Learning Experiences.
However, the efficacy of all these inputs and the entire paradigm of raising ethical, responsible, happy, aesthetically sound and purposeful citizen leaders, persons of substance, is subject to the harmony of this critical relationship between Parents, School, Family and Friends, and the immediate and larger Society. This could be summed up as the 'Village ' that raises the child.
The New World demands our attention in revisiting parenting, schooling and community interaction norms. Each one of us will need to re-examine our roles and responsibilities, our do's and don'ts, in order to raise a worthy individual who could be valued and would thrive and contribute (not just live) with dignity.
What can you do as a parent?
As a parent, there is nothing more important than to keep channels of communication open. This is the toughest when the child is an adolescent - moody and uncommunicative. Do not give up! This is when they need us most. We may feel unloved and not needed, and it takes enormous patience and unconditional love to not give the same back.
They need love. They need boundaries. They need conversations. As they grow they need consistently to see us model the values that we hold dear, hear us share our principles, our non-negotiables and for us to know that even when they do not seem to be listening, it is stored away somewhere. Let us hold firm to the non-negotiables, even in the face of tantrums and recalcitrance. Let us not be afraid of difficult conversations - our children need them.
Instinctive and informed parenting and value-led education are effective known ways to educate and guide our young for life. Together, let us continue to raise ethical, responsible, happy, contributive and purposeful leaders of an ever-evolving brave new world!
May 29, 2020 by Shiv Nadar School