Should a school fit into a child, or a child fit into a school? | Pune News

When Gayatri Kalra Sehgal joined as a preschool teacher, she observed the faltering learning outcomes of her students and tweaked her teaching methods accordingly. Her understanding of the teaching and learning process, child development milestones, ways of enhancing memory of children, etc, is now accounted in eleven books as of this month.

Sehgal, 48, is an author and educationist. She graduated in English and Economics from MKP college Dehradun. The daughter of an army officer, she has been across the country, but defines her early phase of life as a Punjabi settled in Dehradun. After her marriage, Sehgal moved to Pune. It’s been 24 years to that and she now calls herself a ‘pakki Puneite’.

On November 5, three of her books were launched across the country: Tales of Fairies, Witches and Magic, Stories of Dragons and Beasts, and Greatest Ever Aesop’s Fables.

These books aim at enhancing the literary skills of children, help them think creatively, develop imagination and problem-solving skills, reason, and overcome their fears, build resilience, and learn moral lessons.

Drawing on her experiences as a preschool teacher and the research that went into her books, Sehgal talks to The Indian Express about her key beliefs. This includes her thoughts around child development milestones, different learning styles of children, selection process for pre-schools and a teacher’s role in making pre-school a more accommodating and empowering experience for children.

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Child development, selection of pre-school

“At what age is a child supposed to start writing, if I don’t give them the pencil at the right time, their handwriting will be below par,” says Sehgal.

Sehgal explains that some children are auditory learners, some are visual, some kinesthetic. A teacher needs to take that into account and tweak teaching methods accordingly. The progress in this regard depends on the teacher’s insights of the students and whether they have received training to teach through different styles.

“It’s just that people don’t know. Teachers need to be taught about child development milestones during BEd. They need to know when the child is supposed to hold the pencil and speak a certain number of words,” she said.

She says there are eight different learning styles and research on more is underway. Every child is receptive to a particular learning style, and it is a child’s comfort zone.

Sharing her thoughts about the preschool ecosystem, Sehgal asks an important question: “Should a school fit into a child or a child fit into the school?” She elaborates that the best preschool for a child is not necessarily the most popular one in the area. “Most pre-schools have a philosophy, which parents are unaware of, they need to select the one that connects the right dots for their child”, she said.

But she also has a basic checklist in mind that one should think about before finalising a pre-school. “Do all the floors have proper fire-extinguishers, are they doing fire drills, do they have a paediatrician on the panel, if yes, are they close by?” she said.

She emphasises, “Your child was born genius, you are pushing the child’s genius under the carpet of a school where teachers have no clue on how to cater to them.”

Books, techniques, teachers

Sehgal’s book, ‘Super Child: Unlocking the Secrets of Working Memory,’ includes 101 activities that help enhance a child’s memory. “It keeps in mind the level of the child and Indian curriculum, and activities are designed in a way that parents can engage in via simple conversations,” she said.

Her other book, ‘Become a Brilliant Thinker in 11 Days,’ is aimed at enhancing different thinking skills, keeping in mind qualities of future global leaders. It assists in different types of thinking skills like convergent, sequential, analytical, critical, etc thinking, with questions that help facilitate the child’s thinking in the correct direction.

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Teacher’s role

“If I am teaching numbers to a child, I can write them on a blackboard, I could sing those numbers, I could dance those numbers, or write them in sand, or burst bubble wrap while counting one to two three with it. These things don’t require a lot of money, but intent and teachers’ mind and heart to help each learner learn,” Sehgal said.

She points out that it takes a lot to implement these teaching techniques but if the teacher isn’t motivated, the school’s leadership has to take it into account and pay the teachers better.

She said, “When I conduct my workshops, I ensure there is some music, some movement, I employ all the eight different styles of learning in my seminars, a teacher also has to do that.”

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