I like being around kids.
And that’s only an year old revelation. Earlier, I’d believed otherwise. Like most of my friends, I too believed, without any basis, that I dislike kids. That they are a pain. And noisy and a little too energetic and annoyingly carefree.
Well, all that is true.
But I don’t dislike them. Instead, I quite like being around kids. And if they are not city brats, I like it even more.
The revelation came from teaching a bunch of third graders last year, for five months in a school in the Himalayas. I could say it were their apple cheeks which changed my mind, but that would be only half the truth.
The whole truth is that being class teacher to those kids blew my mind. They were adorable, bright, downright amusing, interested, interesting, and just absolutely hilarious. Somewhere in those five months, my heart grew with all the love they gave me, and all the love they let me give them. And somewhere in those five months I realised, I really really like being with kids.
They are way way cooler than adults. And way too simple.
So, when one of the government school teachers from the village of Thimran came and suggested that some of us travelers pay a visit to a government school in another village, Chiturgul, I knew I had to go and meet the minis there. I had to.
To make my time at the school more meaningful, I designed a one hour long workshop for them. I’ve learnt that silliness and fun, coupled with high energy and movement, are great tools for teaching minis and holding their 30-second attention spans. So, I decided to include those in my workshop by means of a few ice-breaker activities and a fun song with actions.
How did it go? It went as fabulously as anything “planned” can go with 30 five to six year old in the same room.
I could barely do any of the ice breaking activities in the attempt to get them to say my name right, which, I would’ve never imagined would become a little game/quiz of their own. I think they enjoyed seeing the look of (exaggerated, dramatic) horror on my face, at having them say my name all wrong.
But what did go (almost) perfectly as planned was the song and dance.
I wrote, in big alphabets, each word of the song. We first read them out loud together a few times and then, threw abandon to the air, put some actions to those words and, line by line, choreographed the entire…wait for it…one para of the song.
And that’s a huge deal. Take my word for it.
The workshop turned out more fun than I had imagined. It turned out louder, funnier, cuter than I had imagined. But my favourite part of the workshop was the end, where I decided to do what I used to do with my third graders back in the school in the Himalayas. Ask each one to give me a hug at the end of the class.
There, it was easier because I’d known them long enough to demand that and also, because I was their class teacher. Here, I’d only known them for an hour and was a complete stranger to them.
I decided to ask them for a hug each, anyway.
No one responded.
I figured what it is. They didn’t know what a ‘hug’ is. That’s easy. I’ve explained that before. I asked one of the kids to come and stand in front of me, I then took her two scrawny arms and wrapped them around my waist. A limp hold, I thought and made a mental note of hugging each one tighter so they get the courage to hug back more tightly. And finally, I bent more than half way down to hug her.
“Samajh mein aaya?”
Doubtful faces. That’s easy too. I’ve seen those before. The only way to clear the doubt is to just go on with the hugging. They wouldn’t know what it is till they feel a tight hug from a total outsider.
Every time I take a workshop, I’m fooled in thinking that I’m the one teaching the kids. But in reality, it’s always and always them teaching me something new or old (but forgotten).
This time I relearned. What I was hoping to but wasn’t sure I would in a mere one hour workshop.
I relearned that one of the most important reasons I really like kids is because they let you love them.
They. Let. You. Love. Them.
Kids let you show affection. They even ask for it. They come hold your hand when they need to and want to, they sit close, really close to you, they hang by your limbs, they ask for material gifts, they ask for flying kisses and give you back twice as many, and they let you hug them if they like you, even if you are a total stranger.
They let you love them.
I had one hour with the babies at the Chiturgul school but they let me in, they let me teach them, they learned what I taught them, and they let me love them.
Let people love you. Without closing up.
Let a few special people in. Let them pamper you, compliment you, tell you you are smart and talented and beautiful. Believe them when they tell you those things. Lap up their love.
Because when you let someone love you, wholeheartedly, it makes them, ‘the givers’ of love feel free and light and joyful.
I know this to be true. I know this from my five months at the school in the Himalayas. And I known it ever more strongly from my one hour in a classroom with 30 minis at the Government High School Chakalpura, in Kashmir.