What is a School

Samina Mahmood 2014/Sept/11

The origin of words is quite fascinating. When parents choose a name for their child a great deal of thought obviously goes into the process. What does it mean? What does it signify? It is usually chosen with love. Questions that surface are ‘what will my child become?’ This is an open ended question, because who really knows; the astronomers and predictors of the future – do they know? No one knows; it is an open page, an open path which leads to each ones destiny. The next question that arises is where do I send my child to school?

It is interesting that the name or word ‘school’ suggests something so different to what is normally assumed or applied. The Dictionary is an amazing book and of all the various meanings that it gives for the word school the one that struck me the most was the word ‘leisure’. I thought I would ponder over this point, or word.

The old English scol from the Latin schola is interpreted as “intermission of work, leisure for learning, spare time, leisure, rest, ease; that in which leisure is employed” among other interpretations. The original notion of leisure evolved to mean ‘otiose discussion’ in ancient Athens and Rome and to spare anyone from having to look up a dictionary, otiose actually means ‘serving no practical purpose’. This would sound alarming to most parents! However, ‘leisure for learning’ is something we don’t pay importance to and is probably one of the most important elements in a school. Leisure brings in the aspect of enjoyment and indeed, learning should be joyful. Whatever learning was joyful remains deeply embedded in my understanding. What was not was either pushed aside or forgotten. This brings to mind images of excellent educators who made the learning environment come alive. Shakespeare’s Hamlet was not a heavy textual interpretation. It came alive with a revered teacher, Mother Joseph Antonio, who enacted entire scenes with such passion and fervour, that we forgot she was wearing a nun’s habit. It didn’t matter what she wore. ‘To be or not to be’ put us in turmoil but made us wrack our brains to find answers to the perplexities of life. Montessori’s suggestion that each one of us is born in a moment of history is so beautiful! It takes us out of the pages of a history book and connects us to all time, past, present and future – ah! I too am a part of history, and however small, play a role in the larger perspective of life and its meaning.

Can we give our children such understanding; such wisdom, to connect with themselves and the cosmic world around, or do we just want to see marks and grades which ultimately become a statistic? I am a number, a mark, a grade, a percentage.

A school should provide leisure for learning; the opportunity to discover, probe, think and reflect without the pressure of a timetable and an outcome. Do we have the courage to break free and let our children be themselves? If we do, we will definitely help build amazing and unique children who evolve into wonderful, amazing adults!

Posted in Learning.