My encounter with teaching
| IOP Desk - 12 Jan 2022

A First Hand Teaching Experience by an Indian Teacher in Russia

The children should be part of family lives, learning and sharing the responsibilities from the very beginning,” says, Pragati Tipnis from Moscow, Russia who is inspired by the theory of Family-School by Mr Michael Shirman there. Pragati has been living in Moscow for the last 30 years. She knows the Russian language very well and, through the years, has acquired a good understanding of Russian people and culture. By education, she is an engineer but has a strong passion for languages and writing. She writes small articles and poems in Hindi and English. She is the cultural secretary of Hindustani Samaj, the oldest Indian organization in Russia.

By Pragati Tipnis from Moscow, Russia

One day while I was in our painting class, I got a call from the secretary in our building’s welfare office. She asked me if I could teach English to a girl in grade IV. I’m not a teacher by profession and had never taught any child apart from my son. As we were in the middle of the class, I told her that I would give my answer by that evening. She insisted that I should at least once speak to the mother of Sonya, the child whom I was supposed to teach. In the evening the mother called promptly at the agreed upon time. I told her in a very straightforward manner that I was not a teacher and don’t have much experience in teaching. But, I also said that if I started teaching her daughter, I would teach her the way I had taught Sankalp, my son. Sonya’s mother was delighted with the conversation, and very soon I started teaching Sonya. In the beginning, it was necessary for me to understand the level of her knowledge. I was amazed to know that it was not her knowledge which had the upper hand in her performances but her mood.

On weekends, I run with Michael, who is a pedagogue by aptitude. During our runs, he keeps telling me about different thinkers, philosophers, pedagogues, and social workers from all over the world and their works. I have never been into History, Philosophy, and other humanitarian streams and the talks and their content are always very new for me, but at the same time exciting and informative. I have heard him talking about works of Kant, Hegel, Marx, Makarenko, Lenin, Ilyenko, and many other thinkers, whose works and thinking have had a revolutionising effect in the development of our society.

Michael has been working with some other of his colleagues on a project called ‘“Family-School”’ for many years. They have had some success in partially implementing the basics of their project in some of the schools in Russia, but one can say it has not yet got the due recognition. What I have understood from our talks is that the pattern our schools follow worldwide is the most significant cause of most of the burning issues the humankind is facing today.

Today while running along the picturesque river bank of river Moskva on Luzhniki embankment, I came across two cases of acute mother-child misunderstanding. In one example the child was a teenager and in the second a child of 6-7 years old. The mother of the teenage girl was asking the daughter to walk fast and follow her, but the girl was reluctant to budge even a meter. Then soon they both started having heated arguments, and the situation further deteriorated. Soon, the mother got furious and started walking away quickly. When the mother had become almost invisible, the girl began virtually running after her to catch up.

Of course, the girl couldn’t have been a rebel, and the mother wasn’t anything but her well-wisher. Then, why do we see such disputes all the time? The other case was of a mother trying to make her daughter of 6-7 years age do some serious physical exercises.It was evident that the child was wretched and non-cooperative. Of course, we all know from our experience that children of this age love to do things in a  group. It’s a known fact that human beings learn and do things better in a group. What I understand from Michael’s “Family-School” project is that teaching of raw facts and formulate doesn’t make children good learners and good human beings.

The children should be part of family lives from the very beginning. They should learn to share the responsibilities and be a part of whatever is happening in the family. For this, initially, the older members of the family should do things with the child, as per his capabilities, and as he grows up and becomes more confident in certain chores or tasks, he should be asked to do those on his own. He should be a part of all the planning the family does and not just a bystander. The parents should also not behave like slaves for their children, and ought not to do things on behalf of their children. The primary thing is that each child is a human being and should be treated like one.

The “Family-School” project urges that the learning and bringing up processes of children should take place in an integrated way with the active participation of all the family members. We have to create an atmosphere where all the family members work and coexist as one entity, where each supports and worries about others. If the pedagogical cooperation between different generations is not the uniting force in our society for the development of the economy and social organisation, then one can say that the Family as an entity of the society has failed in doing its function.

Not only schooling, but all human interactions should be conducted in the way of perfect pedagogical symbiosis. For example, a doctor should not just give specific recommendations to the patients alone but should try to interact with the family as well, and share the guidelines of curing the patient with each of the members. Then working and cooperating as an integrated unit, the family with the doctor, the treatment prescribed by the doctor will be easy to follow and would bear better results.

When we leave a member of the family in the care of some organisation and feel that our duty is now just to sustain that member financially only; and the respective organisation should do the rest, that is when the seeds of all the problems get sown.

This process of detachment is perilous for any society, and as a whole for the whole humanity. We have to aim at building an inclusive world, a world where everyone is responsible for his deeds, and each has responsibilities and duties towards others and not a world where each tries to live for oneself. Such an inclusive world is possible only when we will function within the family like one pedagogic entity and all families together as an integrated society. The first step we have to take in this direction is to change the way children are taught or brought up.

Now coming back to Sonya, she is a wonderful child and a quick learner. There are times when she comes all full of enthusiasm and is ready to do any task. But there are times when she is not prepared to do or learn anything. When our interaction had just begun, I attributed this to her being a moody girl. But, now I have realised that her attitude towards her work on a particular day is the reflection of how her day has passed. If someone mistreats or scolds or scorns upon her, it immediately shows on her face and overall behaviour. She is a child of 10 years old. She needs to be explained, taught, and demonstrated things with patience and love. All of us feel a bit down when we are unable to do something.

Children feel this stigma more than the adults. We try to do different activities like skipping the rope, roasting nuts, singing songs and painting pictures (especially of her favourite animals), whenever Sonya comes in a foul mood and is not ready to do anything with English. You will not believe that a little bit of change in activity, a bit of personal attention to her, showing some appreciation towards her work act like wonder, and soon the clouds of despair and rebellion start clearing off from her attitude. I then see a total change in her behaviour, and then she does even more than what we had intended to do.

My personal experience with one child only has taught me many lessons. All children are capable, but they need to be handled with love and care. By punishing a child for any of his misdoings, we become an equal misdoer in his eyes. But if we show care and compassion towards his errors and help in correcting those, that’s when we earn his respect and make a first step towards building a healthy society.

(This article is inspired by the theory of Family-School by Mr Michael Shirman)

Pragati Tipnis is the cultural secretary of Hindustani Samaj, the oldest Indian organization in Russia. Email: 


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