Adding Rhyme and Rhythm - Poetry in Education
The self – the introspection and expression thereof are evolving consistently, with their importance in lives being indisputable. Communication forms an integral part of expression – be it verbal or non-verbal, and ‘communicating more in less’ is the elusive mantra, everyone strives to master. What empowers communication or what enhances the power to express the self effectively? Over decades, this mastery has seen many tools being adopted, discarded, discovered and re-discovered. One of these, though a recluse, is powerful: poetry.
My tryst with poetry began early on in life, when expression of emotions was stunted. The twist of the words into sentences that delved into the deepest and darkest pits of emotions, intertwined to captivate the unsuspecting reader was a teaser for the mind and a balm for the soul. Years later when I took a sabbatical from the medium, I returned to realize the vacuum the absence had created.
Today, more than before, poetry is used as a tool in education; its efficacy proven, it makes a rather prominent ‘re-entry’ into the world of pedagogy. The words of Robert Frost come to my mind: “A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom”. I remember a session that I had taken with students of middle school at a prominent educational institution in the capital. It was an eye opener for both parties. The voice modulation applied to the words coupled with enactment of the verses, the varied interpretations and food-for-thought generated were never-to-forget experiences for the youngsters; for me, the maturity behind the thought processes, and their own repertoire of poems carefully nurtured over the years (some began writing as early as at six years of age). One of them, Sonia, shared with me: “There is a lot of learning during the course of the day: learning that we simply have to, to survive in this competition. I make it a point to take some time out to keep a diary with my thoughts. These thoughts are randomly penned or through the medium of poetry. With the passage of time, this has become a habit, and comes naturally now. It helps me communicate more in less, enhances my vocabulary, and motivates me to read extensively. Besides, writing poetry helps me destress, which enhances my focus.”
I can relate to what the child says because it takes me down memory lane, when concentration in studies became a challenge for me. A teacher suggested using a word or phrase to delve into, weaving around it a short story or poem, with a set number of words. This challenge engaged the mind creatively, and enabled my mind mapping abilities too, both skills that served me well later.
Says Shehnaaz Janjali, Educationist: “Finding patterns or trends is a critical skill – as seen in mathematics and science - then why not in languages? Languages are basically communication tools, but the creative use of a language, set to a unique pattern, is called poetry, which brings in critical skills of observation, analysis, visualization, reflection, and so much more. It is, hence, very surprising that there is an active debate on whether poetry should be continued in education or not, especially since critical 21st century skills are the buzz word in education. The teaching methodology for poetry lends itself beautifully to collaborative learning as individual students may have varied perspectives on the same poem; it is also a medium that hones the skill of critique, which can be a highly-engaging group activity.”
The insights that students have, when discussed in plenum, can also provide insights, to the concerned teacher, into a particular student’s mind, his/her thought processes and behavioural patterns.
Peepul, formerly known as ‘Ark India’, has been operating in the country since 2010. Their aim is to empower underprivileged children through quality education by going to the root of the issue: teaching methods in classrooms. According to Kruti Bharucha, the Founder and CEO of Peepul, poetry is a vital ingredient in imparting education: “Expression is important for children to go beyond the textbooks. Poetry, writing, music, dance and such allows them to explore new ideas and express their inner thoughts and feelings. Writing is a great tool to pause and reflect - gather one’s thoughts and express to the world.”
William Wordsworth once said: Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of feelings – it takes its origin from emotions recollected in tranquillity. I would hold the thought of poetry being the medium of expressing the self, no matter what emotion, and no matter when – a medium that enables introspection of the self, empowering and educating simultaneously.
Sarah Berry, the Indian School of Public Policy