Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Annual exam and visit to village

During the last couple of weeks I have been flooded with memories from school and college days. Year after year - 10 months of school, followed by exams and then a trip to our native village, seemed to be a fixed annual calendar. Again to step one, 10 months of school, I often felt that the calendar should start from June and it would have been simpler that way.  The mid-term exams, the sports day, the annual day went past year after year. Dozens of books were read, two dozen or more notebooks filled with writing, rhymes, poems and tables learnt by-heart, followed by formulae of maths & science, maps from geography, years from history, periodic table for chemistry and scientific names for biology and of course more ! As I look, back I am not very clear if I liked the exams because the vacation would follow the exams or I liked them because I will get a fresh set of books & notebooks and new teachers. What I learnt from those classrooms and how much of those do I use today? What did I learn outside the boundaries of the school and how much of those do I use today?

Take a quick time machine ride to 2013. We came to Poland in October 2013. Unlike my school and college days, for a change, I was left to experiment for a WHOLE year to find my own answers. The difference was I never had to sit in a classroom, there was neither a syllabus to follow nor an assessment to deliver, did not have to write sheets after sheets, most importantly no one scored and gave me a grade. How better can a learning process be? I had to choose what was important for me to learn, could determine the pace, could read from the Internet or ask people. I learnt all that I know today about living here just to find my way through and live comfortably in Katowice without even knowing that I was learning. A year later, October 2014, I happened to attend the training session from International Organisation for Migrants (IOM). This is meant for new migrants, but still I decided to checkout on this. The two day training session came in as a surprise with activities and games that seemed to be revising my knowledge on all that I learnt about this new country and living in this part of the world over the last one year. Here I am, in this training session finding myself knowing all the answers that I am supposed to know.

Apart from the fact that this academic year started in October, it made me learn more crucial things about the process of learning itself. Maybe this is not the first time it is happening to me. But, technically this is the first time that I am trying to take a conscious look at it and analyse. “Wanting to learn” and “having to learn” are miles apart. They are like the two poles, except for the fact that they are the extremes, there is nothing else similar.

In this age of technology, I feel the toughest job is that of a teacher who needs to be a ‘super-professional’. One who understands this difference between wanting to learn & having to learn and ensures that brains are not filled with data dumps which never need retrieval but rather with useful data which are so constantly used that they become sub-conscious at some point and do not even need a backup.

Then came the trip to Szczyrk reminding me of the ritual that followed my annual exams – a trip to my village.

Back to 1980s & 1990s. As we crossed the city limits and drove into the dusty roads, the air smelled fresh. Pollution was rather mud and not any toxins. More greenery, temples, simple people - some even without footwear, bullock carts, gracing cows, the farms, the stream and simple houses mostly paining in white with thatched or tiled roofs announced that we are close to our destination. It was quite the same feel when we approached Szczyrk last weekend. The roads narrowed, were not muddy though. The mountain architecture could be seen distinctly in all constructions. People were simple, with less make-up and more flat footwear (happy with their natural heights). The mountain stream was gaining speed and volume as it ran bordering the road.  

Szczyrk is a town inhabited by around 5000 people and is in the Beskid Śląski mountains of Southern Poland.  It is a popular winter sports centre and principal training centre for Poland’s winter sport athletes. Just recovering from flu, we decided to take the chair-lift to reach the peak of Skrzyczne. Over the 10 minutes ride, my body could feel the change in temperature, air pressure and wind speed. The view from the summit made me wish that I were Raavan and had 10 pair of eyes to capture the breadth of this beauty or maybe Lord Brahma with 4 pairs of eyes, but more effective to see in all 4 directions. Soon I realised that it was simpler with one head and a single pair of eyes as I had to use my camera to take pictures and swiftly jump in and out of the chair-lifts.

This morning-evening trip was not like those long ones which lasted for months during my school days. But I trust this is another small beginning. I step into the next year wanting to learn and waiting for another vacation.

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