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The Incredible Journey from Student to Mentor

As an educator, there is always room for surprises at The Owl House. Each day, something new and extraordinary happens that leaves us all in absolute amazement! But there are other days, when even we are left shell shocked with the progress made by our students. Like Shrutesh who recently took control of a situation that we educators were finding difficult to manage. Here’s what happened…

One of our trainees got quite upset in the middle of his work day and refused to stay in the session. My colleagues and I tried to pacify him and asked him to rejoin the session. But he wouldn't listen. Unable to help him relax, we decided to give him some space. As he sat by himself, Shrutesh walked up to him and gently asked him if he would like to join the session. And without a moment's hesitation, he stood up and joined Srutesh in the activity.

Working in a field that is shrouded by a general lack of awareness, and with individuals who are generally thought of as being challenging to work with, it becomes crucial to repeatedly shine a light on the fact that every individual tends to have their own way of communicating. It requires observation, time, patience and an open mind to grasp the cues and work together to enhance that communication, which is the cornerstone of learning.

But here’s the interesting part…

The gaps that arise when I communicate in a group session with multiple individuals, are bridged by students who help one another. Just like in another place of education, our students have developed special bonds. It makes us proud to watch our students buddy-up during activities, sometimes of their own accord. Their decisions have been observed to have a tangibly positive effect on the student’s participation.

There is something empowering about receiving approval from your peers. It is at times, far more motivating to an individual than a pat-on-the-back by an educator. It is a strategy that educators can inadvertently rely on when they face a communication barrier with their students. It would be safe to say that in the case of Shrutesh, he stepped in and took on the role of a teaching assistant!

Interestingly, what Shrutesh did isn’t an anomaly. There is a term for it called Co-operative Learning, and it stands for a construct where a group works together for mutual benefit. It has long been used in study-groups, large families and even at workplaces. And we have witnessed it at play a number of times with Shrutesh in the lead.

Here’s a video of Shrutesh mentoring Abhishek - a new participant in our adult program.

Here’s a little more reading material on Co-operative Learning...

Co-operative learning is a concept in which students are put into small groups. The groups will usually consist of three to five students, sometimes as little as two – many with different grade or skill levels – and are assigned to work on an activity presented by the teacher. Within each group, the students work together, often dividing different tasks between each other. Also, one person within the group may become the leader or the presenter of the finished project.

  • In 2009, Johnson and Johnson posited five variables that mediate the effectiveness of cooperation.

  • Positive interdependence (group members work together to accomplish a goal)

  • Individual accountability

  • Promotive interaction (students meet face-to-face to promote one another’s work)

  • Group Processing

  • Development of small group social skills

How we activate Co-operative Learning at The Owl House…

The Owl House is constantly looking for innovative and creative strategies to help our students learn. As part of our motto to create Better Futures for Everyone, we work with our youngsters in social situations where they can engage with one another to create unique friendships and group dynamics.

Peer to peer learning is a big part of our methodology at The Owl House. Assisting a colleague in picking up skills is a great way to practice and perfect your own. Additionally, it helps to develop social and communication skills in the most organic way.

If you would like to witness this magic for yourself, there are ways for you to be more involved. All the events and groups sessions that we have The Owl House on a regular basis are good opportunities for members of our community to engage more and spend time with our students. Come volunteer with us!


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