Over the course of nine years at Prakriya, I have been a part of dozens of circle times. The entire class sat down on the floor with its class teacher to address a ‘problem’. Some of the problems that were addressed included:
- A major conflict that had originated from A calling B an idiot (3rd Grade)
- Unhappiness between two parties because C said something that was meant to be funny but D got offended (3rd Grade)
- Misbehavior by a group during a field trip and no efforts to alert teachers by the others (4th Grade)
- Misuse of social media (6th and 7th Grade)
- Formation of cliques and exclusion of children (6th Grade)
- New students not being included by others (Middle school)
- Bullying (Almost throughout)
- Girls refusing to talk to and stand or sit next to boys and vise versa, to an extent that came in the way of teaching (6th Grade)
- Girls and boys becoming, well, too close for the comfort of teachers (9th and 10th Grade)
- Students not able to follow a teacher or not understanding what is being taught (High school)
- Discussion of post-Prakriya plans, suggestions to the school and discussion of what we will miss most about Prakriya (10th Grade, before graduation)
The issues tackled varied in both topic and gravity.
Circle time provided a forum for children to talk about the petty disputes they had with their peers. Those who were shy and unlikely to speak up shared their opinions, encouraged by the fact that all of their classmates were talking.
The fact that we had circle time was one of the reasons why we felt that our teachers were very approachable. Today, every school touts that they foster an environment in which ‘teachers and students are friends’. However, in Prakriya this is not just a talking point. In ninth grade, most of our class did not like a particular teacher’s style of teaching. Our class teacher had the class sit down with the teacher in question and talk it over. The upshot of it was that classes went far more smoothly from then on - there was far less grumbling and far more learning.
I would be lying if I said that I looked forward to circle times: most of the time, I was uncomfortable and praying that the ground would swallow me up. Digging up the issues between your friends and talking about why someone is being picked on by everyone else is never fun. Most of us felt that circle time was just a 90-minute busting session. In fact, most of us realised just how important circle time is when we joined different schools after 10th grade - schools where circle time is meant only for kindergarteners.“No one talks about what is bothering them”, a friend told me. “People just stay mad at each other. Misunderstanding only grows”.