Who is kiddish—we or our kids?

Every evening, I do try and make it a point to have a conversation with my daughter about how the day at school had been to her; it is not always possible with late night office calls and my daughter’s need to complete her homework and studies. But we try and make it happen; the sessions have varied hues to them–at times it is a venting session, at times it is an exciting conversation about something she has learnt (academic or non-academic), and at times it is pure gossip!!!

It is very interesting to note the difference in kind of interaction that we as kids had with our peer group versus the kind of interaction that this generation kids have with their peer group. In my daughter’s school, the class monitors for various activities are elected by the students themselves; in my case, our teacher nominated the monitors and there were no elections. For us to be a monitor, all we had to do was to be a teacher’s pet! It is not so now: kids have to be able to work well with their peers and be popular among the group. My daughter has not spoken about any veto power, so I presume that the teacher does not have much say in this! 

I understand (from my daughter obviously) that although she is not the most popular in the class, she is reasonably popular to garner enough votes to be one of the class monitors. As the election happens every month, everyone gets an opportunity to woo the electorate multiple times a year!

This month, my daughter has been elected as a discipline monitor. And just a little detail: my daughter is in 4th standard. 🙂

Yesterday, my wife said from the moment my daughter was back from school, she was in a bad mood–just huffing and puffing around for no apparent reason.  So, something had not gone right at school. As expected, our talk turned out to be her venting session. It did not take much time for her to open up: as a discipline monitor, she had challenges with some of the “undisciplined” folks. I prodded her to understand better what she meant by “undisciplined” folks. It had got to do with the seating positions. Although each student has their own chair and table, they are supposed to sit next to their partners. Each student has a partner, and this pair is expected to sit next to each other, with no apparent space for any sort of movement between their chairs/tables. So, the class is arranged in rows and columns with two students making up one block. One of the tasks of the discipline monitor is to ensure this kind of seating arrangement is adhered to. My daughter was having challenges with it.

As kids grow, there is this natural tendency to be identified with your peer group more strongly. And, aligning with the same sex group is a strong urge. Boys tend to be with boys, while girls tend to group with girls. In my daughter’s class, the teacher, in some cases, had paired a boy with a girl, and not everyone was happy about it. Some of the boys and girls wanted to maintain a space between their partner, and this had led them to move their chairs/tables slightly away from their partners. My daughter, being a bit of a perfectionist, was not ready to accommodate this deviation as it did not align with her definition of co-location of partners.

My daughter was just pouring out her woes and frustration of being a class monitor. All I had to do was to just listen to her, at times nod my head in approval, give that occasional ah or um, and emphasize with her situation. That is what I do to make a living! So, it was not difficult.

She mentioned that couple of them were absolutely adamant on non-alignment to the expected seating arrangement, while she was equally adamant to have the alignment as per teacher’s mandate! As she was discussing with the non-aligned group, a few folks in her class seemed disinterested and had not bothered to jump in; one of the disinterested folk was another class monitor, who happened to be a boy! That was another of her frustration points! Some of her friends, presumably those who voted for her, did come to her support and tried to reason out with the non-aligned group. A couple of non-aligned folks agreed to align their chairs/tables, while some reasoned that there was not sufficient space for anyone to walk between the chairs/tables; so in principle, they were still aligned with their partners! They were already displaying qualities of a good lawyer—find an ambiguity in the rule and use it to support your argument. 🙂

Anyway, the bottom line: my daughter was able to get a few folks to align their chairs/tables in a way that she believed it ought to be, but there were still some dissenters.

As I listened to her, the situation sounded very familiar! At work, I too was going thro more-or-less similar kind of situation. The senior management of our company believes that as an engineering team we need to move to Agile mode of implementation. (Similar to the teacher’s mandate to kids for sitting in a pre-defined fashion.) It is not clear to most folks as what Agile engineering practices mean; I do not mean to say that people do not understand Agile, but without a proper framework, everyone has an opinion of what Agile practices mean and how it should be implemented. (Similar to teacher not clarifying what it means to sit in pairs and each student interpreting it in their own way.) In the team, we have early adopters, folks watching on the sidelines, and folks who resist change because they are used to doing things in a particular fashion. (My daughter’s class too had some enthusiastic adopters of the seating arrangement, while some felt there is no difference, and there were some who wanted to continue to sit the way they wanted, but wanted to give a semblance of following the mandate by the teacher.)

Wow!

I am not sure if folks in my company are acting kiddish or the kids in my daughter’s class are acting like adults!!!

The jury is still out…

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