The article that won Mrs. Valsa Balaji a national Award in the Scholastic creative writing contest for teachers 2002- 2003

The School That I Dream Of

I walk into a place called school, a promise for the future. How does it look like? Well a large expanse of greenery with cottages not too many to count, dispersed well and yonder.. I see the young and older children under the trees and on the green turf leisurely doing their work. Yes it is an outdoor activity where the young learner and the older one read, relax, exchange notes and once again get back to the thatched cottages to be with their friend, guide, mentor who helps them with "work" that leads them from yesterday to today and later to a tomorrow, that is not too "uncertain" to their vision.

There isn't the monumental black-board but her place has been usurped by the "white counter part" and the big friend and the twenty little friends under one roof have a "remote-like device" which helps them project on the white screen any topic under discussion. The beauty of the show can be better seen than described for the "magic button" always brought in enchanting and enthralling relevant audio-visual presentation capturing both the young learner and the "adult navigator". Each day begins with a language session and winds up with a topical discussion, inviting animated dialogue session.

The scene shifts from the Activity Room to the Dining Room where students help themselves to a sumptuous lunch ,for snacks are always served in between sessions in the Activity Room.

Two subjects are introduced every day and students have their hands - on - experience and messages are sent from one group say Cottage I to another in Cottage II and the feedback received, monitored by the teacher who in time discusses on-line with her colleagues.

There is a computer net - work in the neighborhood. Despite reference facility being available on-line, there is a fully functional library with enough and more reading material for the youngsters to browse. It is a delight to watch young readers on the very cosy chairs, going through the books with an attention enviable to the on-looker.

The gong no longer sounds to startle or stagger, for work progresses at a flexi manner, an understanding reached inside the comfort of your cottage where your 'Navigation' has already outlined the programme for the day.

Am I still in J.K.Rowlings make-believe world or in a state of stupor? Yonder, I see a huge Chessboard, Snake and Ladder and Ludo of giant proportion drawn on the ground and believe me or not there are young sprightly children playing these games. That is the Games Yard-children play the games of their choice and there is no one to hurry them on or to remind them of the pending work that never intrudes into their mind-set.

'Exam the demon' has been pushed down the precipice and he had a miserable end for he never ever got a chance to frighten the young ones out of their wits.

Our navigator for each subject has her scale of evaluation and continuously marks 10-15 students and passes her judgment to the 'Chief Guide' who in turn allows the students to progress with their subjects in a flexible manner.

Over there, I can see the students exploring the topic even before the topic is introduced. Well it is Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar' and I can confidently listen to an interesting and enriching session on 'Shakespeare the Great Bard' to his plays. So much of in depth study will go into the presentation that even a critic of Bradley's stature will pause for a while to listen to the young ones at work.

It is always Group Activity and 'I' the navigator will necessarily have to take the back seat. As an English teacher I will be constantly listening to the Speaking, Reading and Role-play going out, checking them not obviously but nevertheless outlining and correcting their errors. Notebooks again are in the form of File sheets and erasable lose sheets that are easy to handle. There is no textbook, for the topics are dealt with on-line and the teaching done through the medium of T.V. and the computer.

Here's the Pandora's Box! Oh no! It is my 'Character Suit case'. I was narrating Harry potter and the Philosopher's Stone and here I have things in my suitcase which relates to the character.

The tiny-tots play on the number tables on the waterfall that is constant. There is the word ladder and each child brings a word, and he explains what it means to his classmates.

There is the creative corner and I find my children writing stories or dabbling with verse. An ambience of total camaraderie and friendship sans jealousy prevails. There is no rat-race for ranks or scores but enjoyment and pleasure in doing the little that can be done. Music transcends all barriers and in this world of learning the day starts with heavenly notes. It is not the jarring school but that children respond to with aversion but the mellifluous notes of the piano that waft the little ones into their world of knowledge.

In the evening, children get back home in indigenous vehicles free of polluting Mother Nature. Bullock carts and horse carts are too common a sight and the little ones are seen feeding the animals who take them home at snail's pace.

Hark! The alarm goes off and much to my chagrin I jump out of bed. It was a beautiful dream of my school that was short-lived but I still hope that if there's a tomorrow, my sweet dream will come true. My dream of an effective school reaching for the future with all 'Three Hands'.

The Phrygian sage Epictetus said: Everything has two handles, one by which it can be carried and a second by which it cannot. Well there's a third handle on the other side, but it can only be reached by people who realize they've got a third hand to reach a better tomorrow.

Valsa Balaji
P.S.B.B S.S.School
K.K. Nagar

Taking Education Beyond Tomorrow