Today, in my life, I witnessed an event that is every passionate teacher’s lifeblood.
That moment, and this moment is one of unparalleled ectascy, when a child experiences and falls in love with the same thing you fell in love with when you’re a child of his age.
That moment when his eyes sparkle in sync with a wide grin that only the joy of finding something really interesting gives you.
Today, I taught a bunch of kids(from ages 9-11) to program in Racket, taking extensive help from Systematic Program Design course in Coursera(used their images library.). Trust me, as tough as this sounds, we underestimate kids of today.
While being initially reluctant to approach the REPL but eventually casting away all the inhibition, as only children can, every minute was punctuated with a ‘karthik anna come here!’or ‘it works anna!’ and many ‘next?’s. Delightfully noisy, I tell you.
In a society that has come to fetishize criticism, only children seem to hold onto the explorer’s spirit and that too is being hammered out of them even at apparently fun places like summer camps.
Now with summer camps being all about getting kids ready for speed-maths, Abacus and readying them for higher classes, it took a really progressive mind to introduce programming for children and I jumped at the opportunity to teach them.
Eventually most of them would fall prey to the system but I taught with all that I had hoping that one or two pirates would emerge. And like most interactions with children, adults always come out enriched. I would be moving on to work at an environment where great things are achieved by constantly learning and applying, and learning can only happen when there’s a childlike sense of wonderment and an eagerness to embrace uncertainty.
The first thing I noticed was a healthy skepticism. An impulse to question received wisdom. I saw that when you nurture this skepticism beautiful things happen. I was grilled on everything from parentheses to prefix-notation to why keywords are the what they are( it got so crazy that i had to sheepishly Google some answers!) The entire was session was purely powered by curiosity.
I also noticed an almost immediate love for experimentation. They would do seemingly stupid things and keep at it. They would try different values for the functions, take hints, explore in new directions and in the process learn deeply. They weren’t afraid to say no and ask for help - all you needed to give them was time and an eager ear.
The underpinning of all these was the intuitive belief that the world is a place that can amaze you constantly, that change is a good thing and a selfless desire to spread their knowledge amongst their peers can enrich themselves too.
Kids weren’t taught all these things at their moral education classes, they knew it intuitively. We were programmed for happiness and inventiveness and then society steps and changes the algorithm. Most learn to live with the changes, some bristle.
I just wish the ratio was the other way round.
P.S: Those interested in the material I whipped up for this session, it will be available on GitHub. Just stuck with some college work and hence busy. Will collate the material when I get time. :)