Under the peepal tree!


Benazir Shafaat Hussain
Special Educator, Pune

When a school is built with passion and vision of sheltering the young minds with knowledge then it becomes more than a simple building or a room.

Remember the days of gurukul? Yes, the days, where the nature was the school and the peepal trees used to be the classrooms. The traditional schooling has since undergone a sea change. Now that ‘peepal tree’ has become huge buildings, with massive infrastructures. But this is not the case with all the schools around the country. There are still schools which lack basic amenities and infrastructure of a classroom. But nonetheless, there have been a transformation which all of us have witnessed in the last few decades.

As individuals, the best memories of our childhood are those of our school, our classroom, teachers and friends. The typical classroom would have a wooden table with a chair and rows of desks and benches –this is the exact picture which comes to our mind even today when we think of our classrooms. The peek from the windows was as fascinating as if, we students were watching the cricket match from a gallery in a stadium. My class is my second home, says my son, who is fond of his class. When a school is built with passion and vision of sheltering the young minds with knowledge then it becomes more than a simple building or a room.

The huge peepal tree stretching its wide branches and pupils sitting underneath the shade of this tree was the best environment a child could study in. There was no distraction or pollution, nor was it difficult to sit and study then. It was so basic then and yet amazingly efficient. But with changing times, needs of children, parents, teachers and educational institutions have changed variedly and significantly. The need of the hour demands an infrastructure which is digitally well equipped so that the teaching could be impactful. With changing lifestyles and stressful culture, we need to provide young minds with facilities where learning can take place in the most efficient manner.

While I am sharing this lovely experience of learning in one such school, I must say that it is our duty, as providers, to ensure that the students learn the values of life and not just acquire the technical knowledge.

A child’s first step outside his/her secured environment at home is into the school and what could be more exciting than to begin with this new journey at bright and colourful classrooms. These classrooms not only provide a lovely experience to the kids but are equally enriching for the teachers who spend the better part of the day in the school. A well-lit classroom with adequate sunshine makes the winter classes the best time to learn. Children learn every moment and from everyone around them. The teaching boards and the display boards are a unique part of the classroom, which teachers use to share the knowledge and concepts of the subject. The visuals stored in our memory are the ones which we as students would have seen somewhere in one of our classes. This is how long term memory is created in each individual.

My classroom layout

A classroom with a specific design needs to be planned out carefully as institutions serve a larger group of individual and different age ranges. In the primary classes, the need is of a close knit structure which gives them the warmth of being safe with the teachers and their buddies around. A place where they can have their circle time, play time and mini class library, all in one together to facilitate different thoughts in one place. Whereas the junior school classes have their own demands of major display boards to let out the creativity in the class filled with young scientists, artists and engineers. A different scenario is at the high school level, where adolescence needs its own zone and every child wants to explore their own world. They need more space than the tiny tots who have more restricted movement and who are more under supervision for 24/7.

While if we look at cities like Delhi, we can clearly notice that the environment is another factor which has a major influence on the classroom designs. Today big cities rile with the problem of pollution and the climatic changes have forced the regular use of gadgets to support work culture. Air conditioners have become must during summers and purifiers are a necessity in days of smoggy winters. This is the new normal in today’s world. What we need to do is to visualize the future, which looks quite alarming, and build our educational institutes with keeping those factors in mind. This is more so, because with the effects of global warming, climatic changes will have strenuous effects on many countries and we need to redesign the space we live in and create better schools for future which are safe and secured for students.

Modern classrooms

To create a modern classroom without a challenge is not possible. We as educators are in the phase of transition between traditional teaching and active learning since our roles have also changed over the years from just being teachers to facilitators. Our contemporary classrooms need a look of active spaces where active learning will occur. This will happen when educators are free to move around the class and explore themselves as freely as a child. The restricted movement of an educator which is normally confined to front and back of the classroom, should change to moving around freely with round tables or moveable desks oriented in circles or semi-circles .The classroom should have a flexible layout and ample open spaces for young minds to move. This freedom of movement will have a positive influence on individuals and their learning.

Let’s also not forget our special children, some with limited mobility and other limitations. They also have equal right on all the learning resources. Unfortunately, as a society we have not been able to do complete justice to their needs. It is imperative that we practice inclusion in the truest sense and it starts with providing them with enabling infrastructure. A place where they forget their limitations and focus their energies on their strengths.

Let’s create a new learning space for the future generations to come which imbibes values of humanity and spread knowledge which can be put to better use for the mankind.

Benazir Shafaat HussainBenazir Shafaat Hussain is an expert in Remedial teaching, Individual education planning, psychological assessments and curriculum development. Before getting into special education, she was working as lecturer of Psychology at Diana Nursing College (Bangalore).

Besides having Masters in Clinical Psychology from Bangalore University, she also did Diploma in Family Counseling, specialization in Family Counseling and certification course in Autism Spectrum disorders from UC Davis University. Currently, she is pursuing her research in Autism to study how we can improve the learning experiences in children with Autism. She also worked with Step by Step School, Noida.