Incorporation of civic education and empathy-generating lessons in a classroom setting remains a challenge as many teachers or educators may not be aware of the strategies that can help them guide their classroom exercises. This little write-up by the undersigned is based on her brief experience with an informal school catering to children working on the streets in Lahore. This piece has been written with the intention of sharing knowledge of the little exercises carried out at the school whilst not affecting a child’s innate playful imagination and indigenous culture. The main philosophy adapted by this informal school is to bring a meaningful learning opportunity for the children coming from the alienated groups, so the education and the related values they receive from is appealing to them and their community, and the learners of this group develop confidence in availing opportunities in life which they are aiming for.
What is civic education?
Imparting values in an individual to play their role constructively in a group or society.
It is not a course textbook. Application of civic education is more effective through practical exercises.
Why do we need civic education?
- Asserting one’s presence. Everyone’s presence should be recognized and acknowledged. “Nobody is a nobody” here
- Inspiring respect and preserving dignity of the self and others
- Not harming others. No one wants to be hurt by others, nor should one consider hurting others’ feelings
- Love for humans, for animals and for environment
- Empathy: what you feel for others
- Patience—let’s see who wins the race in the end. “slow and steady”
- Maintaining a peaceful environment
Classroom dynamics and observations
At the school, we are generally divided into two groups. One is for the older children and the other for the younger ones. Their families are living in sheds on the streets and they have occupations such as selling balloons at car signals or picking garbage for different contractors.
As is observed in all schools, it is the younger kids who are in a transition from playfulness to studiousness, meaning they are getting exposed to a new environment of school and are being transitioned into it. Obviously, when they are drawn to a different environment, it can be a bit chaotic in the beginning while the routines are being set. It is observed that younger children have a tendency to disrupt others, but they also listen to their instructors when tactfully told not to.
The older children, in comparison to their younger peers, are more attentive and listen to their teachers well. What is heartening to note is that a majority of students are willing to attend school, not only because their parents want them to but because they find learning new things appealing and fun, a little escape from their hard work routines.
Setting behavioral patterns for incorporating Civic Responsibility
Behavioral patterns need to be set for children, for example they may be oriented well with the value of punctuality. If the school starts at nine, they should feel a sense of responsibility to be there in time if they can manage. Another example can be waiting in queue, or listening to others with full attention etc. Imparting civic responsibility is meaningless without its practical implication. Behavioral trends may be set as per an environment where our children feel comfortable and confident and can be done so subliminally. Young learners can start their day as follows, with the facilitation of the teacher:
- Morning greeting: as the children come along, have them sit in a circle where they can exchange greetings with each other. This can be done by asking one child to shake hands with the other by saying friendly phrases as “how do you do” “I am fine” that show care for other
- Noting date and time: Start each day by noting down the time, day and month, this will inculcate in our kids a sense of timing. They may be too young to understand its essence but repeating the exercise daily can help them identify a time pattern.
- Waiting for turn: Ask a child, by his or her turn, to think of the name of the animal and say it aloud. Other children will follow with the sound of that animal.
- Raise your hand: Ask a fun question from the child that he/she can eagerly answer, example: how many legs a cow has. Asking them to raise hands before answering will help them understand the significance of waiting for their turn.
- Games: pass-the-parcel can be a fun exercise, as it bolsters both curiosity and learning. An element of surprise here in the game generates lessons that can remain with the child for a longer time.
- Form a line, be a train: Before the end of school, ask children to form a line to get a start painted on their hand or to get a candy. The kids will know that everybody will get a star in the end. The more one waits in line in consideration for others, the bigger the star they will get in the end.