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Nurturing the dreams of children A study of the dreams of children would be very interesting.

There is something of the touch of fairy tales about them. Ever fluctuating, their dreams make for very amusing consideration. In this article, however, we will not be entering into an analysis of the hopes & aspirations of students. Every person who has achieved anything worthwhile in his or her life in this world was assisted ably by some older person; say a teacher or a mentor. Now, this person who helped the child to actualize his/her dreams must have had certain characteristics. The psychology of pedagogy needs to study more intensely the mindset of such persons who are instrumental in realising the dreams of our children. Hence, in this article, we shall be trying to study the mindset of such persons. We shall try to unravel the most beneficial mind set in ourselves that can bring fulfilment to the dreams of our children. Based on the traditions of the monks of the Ramakrishna Mission, we believe that we need to have two qualities in ourselves so that our kids dreams may see the light of day in the future. Mother-heart in teachers First of all, we, as teachers, need to develop a mother-heart. What does this mean? Very simply, the mother-heart1 is the heart that a mother possesses. We see as a common fact all around us how great a change comes over a young girl when she gives birth to a child. Qualities that she herself did not know that she possessed start manifesting in herself. Swami Vivekananda once pointed out that a young lady, who would swoon at the sight of a spider, would enter the mouth of a tiger, if her childs life were threatened! So, this term mother-heart refers to the heart that a mother possesses towards her children. But we wish to expressly point out that one need not be a biological mother in order to develop a mother-heart. Neither is this ability confined to women alone; men too can, and have, manifested it. In this sense, the mother-heart is a set of attitudes. Let us now try to analyse some of the aspects from this perspective.

This term is the English translation of the two Sanskrit terms Matri-hrdaya & Matri-bhava.
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As teachers, we need to place ourselves at that point of perception, where we are able to accept the child as he or she is. Some may object here that a mother is seldom able to do this. We all know the famous story of Akbar & Birbal related to the most beautiful child in the world. Birbal took the King to a washer-womans house, where, she was cuddling a charcoal-black son and calling him endearingly My moon, my fair moon! So, some may object saying that mothers are prejudiced towards their children. So how can we speak of accepting a child as he is with respect to mother-heart? Allow us to elaborate a little here. If we are unable to see the drawbacks of the child and on the contrary, are able to strongly imagine, even prejudicially, positive things in the child, where there are negative things, welcome. We dont object to that at all. But, what we do is, we concentrate on the mistakes and drawbacks of the child, more often than not. Winston Churchill once came back home from school and his mother asked him How was the exam today, son? He replied, Mother, I knew so many things. But the teacher was hellbent on discovering what all I did not know! It is this point that we are alluding to here. Every child has infinite possibilities. Living with the kids, especially those kids who arent biologically born to us, but are under our care, however, seems to force our attention on their mistakes, on their failed attempts at learning, rather than concentrate on their possibilities. A person whose mother-heart has opened is able to see beyond these mistakes. Such a person is able to see right now in the child the actualisation of what it can become years later. It is in fact, not an imagination; it is a vision. Imagine the beauty of a relationship between the teacher & the student, where the student receives unconditional love and acceptance from the teacher! Does this mean the teacher will never shout or get angry? Far from it; but, chastisement must always be preceded by a rock-solid foundation of strong emotional bonding. Generally what happens is this after some years of being in the teaching profession, we tend to be dehumanized. As a result, our relationship with our students, on a human level, seems to fade into a mechanical interaction. How wonderful it would be if we strove to be real soul-mates to our students! And the important point that is generally not recognised is that our students are in dire need of such a relationship! We all talk glibly of love and acceptance and sympathy, dont we? But, love and acceptance are generally seen to be highly conditional in most of us. We tend to like children who are academically brilliant, physically healthy & well-formed, emotionally well adjusted, vivacious & sweet. More despicable is the fact that our love gets conditioned by parochial feelings quite often. Are we able to break free from all such considerations & shower our love on all the children in our care? That is a sure sign of the mother-heart functioning in us. For, when
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our mother-heart opens, all that matters for us is that these students have been left in our care. It matters little as to what family they hail from, what the social status of their parents is, what region the students belong to or what mother-tongue they speak. Sufficient for us is the knowledge that they need our support and guidance. Subjectively, the opening of the mother-heart brings some palpable changes in ourselves. One such change is the ability to instinctively stand in the shoes of the child before us, to be able to almost see through its eyes, as it were. It has always been the ideal for teachers that they must be able to see through the eyes of their students. This ideal gets realised when the mother-heart opens in us. Every thought & feeling arising in the child will strike a similar chord in us too. When we are with our students, we are then able to virtually become exactly as they are. A little bit of imagination is required here in order to understand this subtle point. We ask a student a question and he doesnt answer. As teachers, we all have our own specific styles of reacting to such a situation. Some of us try asking the student alternate questions, attempting to probe his mind and understanding. Some again would try to cajole him with credits, grades or marks if he even attempts to answer. Many there are who resort to verbal abuse and corporal punishment in order to elicit the students participation in the class! But, some rare teachers there are who try to attempt to understand the exact state of mind of the student; why exactly has he refrained from answering? Is it because he doesnt know the answer? Or is it because he has some idiosyncrasies in speaking that his classmates joke about? It is possible to discover the exact reason for the students non-participation, by resorting to such elaborate investigative practises. But, when our mother-heart opens, our understanding about our students becomes literally intuitive. Our soul becomes more & more plastic, as it were. Another observable change, subjectively, is the ability to see the child as an integral whole, our vision not confined to any one aspect of the childs personality. Let us confess that we seldom do this. For, if we did this, how could we have stereotyped our students as dullards and brainies? We see that a particular student does not follow our classes for some days and we very soon categorise him or her as an idiot. Of course, nowadays, we do not use the term idiot, but use the more politically correct euphemism slow learner! But using euphemisms doesnt better the situation at all! With our mother-heart blossomed, in such a situation, we will immediately be able to discover some aspect of the child that shows promise of unfoldment and development. We develop our ability to view any single aspect of the childs personality against the background of the childs entire personality. This is the stage where we become capable of truly seeing good in every child.
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Yet another subjective indication of the opening of the mother-heart is that all our thoughts, feelings and emotions, even our entire personality, get suffused with the bright quality of light. This may sound a bit mystical to many, but there is really no other analogy in our language to express this change. A unique alertness comes over us. When this happens, it is impossible to see anything related to the child as trivial. These changes bring about an uncommon fearlessness in our actions. All the people around us may object to our seemingly unconventional methods of teaching & dealing with the child, but we get the feeling of being backed by a very superior certainty in the correctness of our own methods. There is a world of difference between this quality that we are speaking of, and ordinary stubbornness. How to develop the mother heart in ourselves The mother-heart that lies dormant in each one of us can be awakened by various processes. Most of those time-tested processes are part of spiritual lore. What is relevant for us in our present context as teachers is the possibility of awakening this dormant faculty through the means of our teaching vocation itself. Ours shall be the attitude of the mother-hen that incubates its eggs. The only contribution of the hen is the protective heat it gives to the eggs. Under that protective warmth, the egg matures on its own. Similarly, our kids have everything necessary for their intellectual, emotional & moral maturing built into them by Nature. As teachers, all that we need to provide is the warmth of our emotional & intellectual support. Children try out various means of learning and look up to us for approval. If we but take the time and effort to delve a little deeper into the effort per s that the child has put in, rather than perfunctorily pass our judgment on the end-result of its effort, we would be removing yet another nail that has coffined our motherheart. Another essential habit we need to develop for opening our mother-heart is that of seeing every child as a bundle of infinite possibilities. We can never be sure of what Nature wishes to accomplish with this particular edition of the human species, you see. The moment we try to beat the child into a strait-jacket of behaviour and activity, we atrophy.

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Nowadays, there is a lot of effort in training teachers to be flexible regarding their teaching practices as also regarding their disciplinary techniques. Modern psychology has shed lot of light on the way the human mind works and all that knowledge has percolated into pedagogy to the greater interest of the present day child. But, we are still in the critical period of pedagogical transition. Even today, despite having all relevant information about child psychology and modern scientific pedagogy, most of strongly believe that it is our primary duty as teachers to break the child into some time-honoured modes of behaviour and activity. As teachers, we are bound to teach the child how to behave and how not to behave; what to do and what not to do. And, we feel that with the decades of experience in teaching that we possess, we are divinely authorised to set right the child! Bosh and nonsense! Little Mozart must have been terrible with Maths and History. Imagine the loss for the world if he had been corrected by some school teacher! To express all this in the simplest terms we can develop the mother-heart in ourselves by falling in love with our job of teaching. Do we hear some people objecting that we are over-simplifying the issue here? We invite such people to just look around. Even around us, we shall come across some teachers who are as we have described above. For, what exactly is this teaching profession? I know some subject, say science or maths or history, and I catch some small boys who dont know that subject and impart my knowledge to them. Is that it? A great Jesuit monk once said, If you wish to teach Latin to John, you must know both - Latin and John! It is very easy, relatively, to know Latin. Knowing John requires a whole new dimension to be opened up in ourselves first of all. We can develop our mother-heart by consciously growing the awareness in ourselves that the children whom we are teaching have all the requisite capabilities to be better persons than we are. It has taken us only one small line to express this sentiment. But it takes a lot of effort to actualize it. It is a job of a lifetime. A teacher should have a dream How do we sustain ourselves during such a prolonged effort? This brings us to the second quality that we spoke of earlier. A teacher must himself have a dream. His own life must be fired by that dream. His own life must be the actualization of that dream. You may ask, what should that dream be? We are not dealing here with the details of the fond dreams of most of us, such as I shall have all my students pass in the board exam with A1 etc or A2 aggregate or I shall train my students to be
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Officers when they grow up. The exact dream does not matter in the context of which we are speaking here. The details of the dream may vary, but its crux must be constant self-improvement. There is such a thing as a passion for improving oneself. It has been found out that one can improve oneself through the job that one does. We are teachers. We deal with students. In the context of dealing with students, we shall try to improve ourselves. Let such be our dream. Such a teacher aims to understand himself by teaching his students. And let us be immensely passionate about realising this dream in our own lives. It is the intensity of our dream that lights the fire in our students. For as Swami Vivekananda famously said, Be and make. Let us all therefore prepare ourselves accordingly. ******************** Swami Vedatitananda

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