If you have read Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, you would know that he chose 13 virtues that he wanted to perfect and kept a little black book with columns for each day of the week, in which he marked with black spots his offenses against each virtue. Quick analysis of this data revealed interesting patterns. For example, he noticed that Order was the hardest for him to keep. He took necessary steps towards perfecting that virtue.
I love the fact that objective data tracking can help even in the most abstract of pursuits. I can’t help it – I love love data and what it can reveal.
And btw, if you have not read Franklin’s autobiography I strongly recommend it. You will seriously be astounded by what one man can accomplish given discipline and perseverance.
But, I digress.
I thought to myself, why not a similar framework in the classroom, too? Will it work? Well, there was only way to find out.
The Bodhi Tree was thus born, to teach the class how to be good. It sits serenely in one corner of the classroom. It has one “Value” to-do per week for the class. The children need to be mindful of that one thing the whole week. For example, it could be “Say Thank You.” Another could be “Hands are for helping, not for hitting.”
Monday morning, first thing, we discuss the Value To-do of the week and why we need to follow it. When the children enter the classroom every morning after assembly, they make a 10 second stop near the tree to remind themselves of the week’s value to-do. At the end of each day, we discuss our success and failure in practising the Bodhi Tree’s Value To-do – sort of a 5 minute end-of-day meeting. There are also home work assignments like “Say thank you to your mother after dinner today.”
Total time allocated everyday to Value reinforcement: 7-10 minutes, sometimes lesser.
Another reason to love the Bodhi Tree: It also introduces the class to BIG words of the week, related to the request. Example: Gratitude, grateful, thankful etc.
I don’t know if this is the best way to teach values to 7 year olds. At least it gives me a framework to introduce and discuss values and also gives them time to practise the same. It is my hope that over time, they would imbibe these values and the Bodhi tree would become redundant.
Another plan is to actively involve the Bodhi Tree in teaching english (through speaking & listening, writing projects and vocabulary related to Value theme of the week). Lets see how it goes.
But, here is an example of why I truly love the five hours I spend in the classroom everyday:
While narrating the story of the Bodhi Tree & Prince Siddartha who after sitting under the Bodhi tree and “listening” to it, became Buddha or a great man, I tell them that Prince Siddartha saw an old man and asked to himself “Why do people grow old?”
Shaizan raises his hand and answers (in a curious mixture of hindi and english that I just cannot reproduce here), “Miss, people grow tall, get married, become old, then they go to the sky.”
And to the next question of Siddartha, “Why do people fall sick?”
Sanjana says (in hindi, this time), “People don’t wash their hands before eating. They don’t wear masks. So they get swine flu and fall sick.”
At the end of the story, Pushkar declares (after raising his hand!), “I am going to become Buddha by listening to the Bodhi Tree everyday.”
Lao Tze (& Buddha!) would have loved my class, I tell you. They seem to instinctively know the secret to happiness. Eat when you are hungry, sleep when you are tired, that sort of thing.