I was invited for a session with students at the Jabalpur’s government engineering college. Like most of the workshops In universities, institutions and offices, I realized that this exercise too was an exercise to either put a TICK in the list of TO DO activities or to score brownie points from the higher authorities.
While interacting with the organizer, I realized that one can add greatest value if we can facilitate the students to be serious about their careers and life. Can I enable the students to set a goal for themselves and pursue it purposefully.
Thankfully, one of the other speakers in the sessions to follow was ATUL SHRIVASTAVA, a dear friend since 1986. I quickly shared with him the idea of merging both our sessions to do a workshop style intervention than a BHASHAN, a monologue. It became all the more glaring as two of the precious sessions, addressed by staunch protagonists of the ruling ideology, hardly had any participation of the students. They ended up being preachings sessions.
I quickly picked a couple of activities as interventions for our sessions –
– know the stranger in the room
– trust walk
Know the stranger
A. When I asked the participants to select a stranger, especially of opposite gender, from the room to interact with, I threw them into the deep sea. The boat was rocked. Quickly most caught the nearest known. And you could see in their eyes, what they did. It is such a difficult thing to do. Most do not want to venture into unknown; they just Fall back to their comfort zones.
It took me a while to help them understand that there is going to be greater learning only in the unknown. Think of having one more friend in your life. Reluctantly they moved. The pairs invested about 20 minutes in knowing each other. And the I asked the pairs to volunteer to introduce their partners. Again the reluctance to speak in front of about 100 people; fear, shyness,…. On pushing them slowly a pair after another came in front to share. As usual the struggle of language, the struggle of facing the unknown…
Yes, when the exercise culminated, they were relieved, but quite a few had broken a few mental barriers. They expressed as much. It was an exhilarating moment for many. Never ever in their lives such an exercise happened. Each one discovered so much about every one in the room, their batch mates. It was an irony that hardly any one got to know much about other batch mates though they have been together in the same class for over two years.
I asked all the participants to walk to the front lawn of the institution. It shocked most, especially the faculty and staff. This was blasphemy. How can a session happen in the open. They protested. I was very clear in my mind, what I wanted and told them that I am the facilitator of the session and they have to follow my brief. ATUL was excited too about the way the session is progressing.
The participants were excited as the previous activity, Know a stranger, surprised them with the outcomes. Again they had to choose yet another stranger, of opposite gender, for this exercise. This time they were more enthusiastic. The were eager to discover more; actually they were discovering themselves as much as the other person!
The girls shared their dupatta to blind fold their partner and themselves in turns, to discover more about themselves. When they had to navigate their blindfolded partner around the campus, only through voice commands, without touching their partner, it was a revelation! They were ecstatic to discover the challenges, as much as the strategies that emerged to overcome those challenges.
When they reconvened in the conference room, every one, including the faculty and staff discovered the merit of going into the open spaces. The room was buzzing with the sharings – fumbles and discoveries were openly shared without hesitation. The room repeatedly burst into laughter, when people could related to those mistakes that they too committed. The reflection time was celebrated.
In the shortest possible time, the whole workshop could deliver quite a few things that the institution has never experienced in the last two years of the presence of the students. The sole purpose of enabling the whole institution to collaborate, share, shoulder and excel was achieved. We were very glad that every participant committed to contributing to the growth of every other, as much as themselves. The few professors also realized how to harness the power of students to empower themselves; and also how the pedagogical process can be enriched.
It was an immensely satisfying day for ATUL and Me. Looking forward to enabling more students and institutions.