Monday, March 13, 2017

Teacher and technology

Technology is a Tamed Tool in the Hands of Tenacious Teachers
Today I want to talk about the onslaught of technologyand the teaching-learning process. Communication has become smooth as there is one or the other app, website or software to facilitate it. The communication of parents with the teachers, the managing of content and subject matter has become easy. With time technology hasreached new heights and so has its influence in our lives. It has become a common belief and a reality to a large extent that technology is an inevitable part of the education system. Even government schools have adopted smart boards and other technological tools which would help children to learn better. 
I am not very fond of technology as such when it comes to the idea of imparting knowledge but if it makes the teaching-learning process effective then it’s definitely advisable to use. When I probe beneath this overwhelming influence of technology, these reasonsoften cross my mind:
• The spread of technology has been wide; therefore, education cannot remain untouched by it.
• The technological influence has been fascinating to both parents and students due to its immensely convenient usage.
• It has undoubtedly made the task of teachers smooth and easy. Also, in some cases it has helped them by being used as a substitute.
• Basically, the subject material has become compact and concise as it can be easily carried in a tab instead of students being burdened with heavy bags.
Pondering upon the above mentioned points we can conclude that technology has actually become a merit or facility which promotes a school as a whole.
Undoubtedly, technology has given an impetus to the working of the education system. It has become easy to interact with parents and track the progress of the students. Teachers are able to access the material which was otherwise not easily available. But whenever we discuss the effects of overwhelming technology it’s always concluded that teachers can never be replaced by technology. 
This brings me to the question that often pricks my mind. If technology cannot replace teachers then why is it overpowering them? Is it because it’s proving to be superior to teachers? 
We all are aware of the common concept that if two lines are drawn parallel to each other, then one canbecome longer to the other only by one’s extension or by the reduction of the other. In the analogy where these lines represent teacher vs technology, it seems that the potential of teachers is becoming insufficient at the face of technology. It is a fact well known that educational institutes are finding it difficult to get quality teachers who are committed to their profession and enjoy the same. I have mentioned in my earlier articles also, that it is a vicious circle and it is difficult to point out where the deterioration started. Was it is because of the lack of quality teachers in schools and colleges which produced ordinary graduates and post graduates and there after the lack of good teacher’s training institutes played its part in depriving the prospective teachers of the basic skills of teaching? If we have quality teachers in schools then the basic educational foundation of a child becomes solid. Then these students can do well in colleges and thereon with good teacher’s training colleges, good quality teachers can be produced for schools. 
Another concern is that teachers seem to have lost the kind of respect they had in the society and again it becomes difficult as to whom we should blame for it, teachers or the society. After discussing this issue I have realized that it is the inadequate availability ofquality teachers which has given scope to technology to appear as a “bigger line”. But when you think about it, you can easily conclude that the onus lies on the teachers to regain the respect & reputation and make themselves better and as inevitable as technology, rather superior to it. 
Whoever wants to become a teacher, by choice or by compulsion, must realize that a teacher is regarded as a role model by for the young children irrespective of whether they are in this profession by choice or compulsion. So, through this article I would request the respected teachers to ensure that they do the required to make them as real “Gurus”. The future of any country or society lies in the hands of the teachers, especially the school teachers who have taken up this noble profession. My advice to them is to stop comparing themselves to an MNC employee who gets huge packages because they contribute in terms of creating hardware or a software but a teacher contributes in creating good citizens. This is the best thing which can be done in the world. It’s meaningless to compare it to any kind of material gain. Their contribution is like the guiding light which is ushering the society in becoming a better place for everyone. 
I would like to highlight a few things for the teachers and I am quite sure that everyone must be aware of them:
➢ First and foremost, you as a teacher must respect yourself and never let anyone feel “bechara” teacher about you. Once you respect yourself there is always a possibility that others will do too.
➢ Never demand respect but make sure you command it.
➢ To command respect it’s very important to value and respect you students and have faith in their as well as your own abilities
➢ For believing in the ability of your students it’s important to know them as well as their family background. Because if the child is not able to perform as desired then there might be some problem somewhere which the teacher must try to find out. And this is the reason, every child must be treated individually and help and support must be extended according to the need of the child. 
All teachers should know that broadly, there can be four kinds of children and they all need a different kind of approach:
1. Students with high competence and high commitment- they should be facilitated and instructed constantly in a positive direction so as to get the best of their potential.
2. Students possessing high competence and less commitment- their competence should be encouraged and appreciated so as to enhance their sense of commitment. 
3. Students displaying high commitment but less competence- their commitment should be channelized in the right direction by finding out the areas of their interests and helping them focus.
4. Students with low competence as well as lowcommitment- they should be provided with constant motivation, appreciation and attention so as to develop in them keenness, quest and curiosity.
Once the teachers know their students and are well versed in their subject matter, it becomes important to polish their own merits with these attributes which should become a part of their persona as a teacher:
✓ Teachers must be good with their communication skills otherwise the knowledge they possess wouldn’t be imparted effectively.
✓ They should focus on their sound modulation and stimulus variation as and when required while delivering a lecture.
✓ The eye contact with the students must be made in a way that every child feels that he/she is the focus of the teacher.
✓ Proper counseling of the students should be done.
✓ A fair and firm approach should be followed while dealing with the students. A child should not be scolded in front of his friends but should be appreciated for his efforts as and when possible.
✓ The homework or tasks given should be checked in time with proper feedback and positive reinforcements. When notebooks are not checked in time and no feedback is given then the children lose interest in these tasks.
✓ Teachers should be lifelong learners.
✓ I strongly believe that for a teacher there cannot be a better teacher or a critic than a child. Therefore teaching and learning should be a continuous two-way process.
Finally, I would conclude this article with a strong belief and a fact that, technology is mechanical and therefore,would produce machines. On the other hand, teachers are the humane torch bearers of knowledge; hence they create human beings with insight and a world of possibilities. These facilitators when provided with the wand of technology can work wonders par excellence. “Learners in the internet age don’t need more information. They need to know how to efficiently use the massive amount of information available at their fingertips – to determine what’s credible, what’s relevant, and when it’s useful to reference.” So, the need of the hour is to tame the technology and stay updated so that technology remains just a tool and teachers perpetuate being the soul of the education system.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Examination: An Opportunity to Showcase Your Hard Work
“The will to succeed is important, but what's more important is the will to prepare.”
Board/annual examinations are at hand. Both, parents and children are experiencing tremendous stress. In his recent speech honorable Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi postulated that examination season should infuse a spirit of festivity among parents and teachers as it is a chance to express and pen down the hard work done or the efforts exhibited throughout the year. But it’s easier said than done. The fact remains that exams are still stressful and testing for students as well as the parents. I have come across many cases where parents approach teachers seeking solutions of the problems which are mostly self created and virtual. Unfortunately, everybody becomes cautious and concerned during the time of examination but remain reluctant towards the entire process of learning throughout the year. This is true for a number of parents and students. Now, let’s try to understand the causes of this stress. 
The major cause of this stress is expectations on the part of the parents. Some of the parents expect their kids to perform beyond their limits and capabilities so that the family can boast of the intelligence of their child. The fantasy to be revered by the society on the grounds of the outstanding performance of their kids surpasses the reality that every child has his/her own capability. Any attempt to pressurize him/her beyond that will cause stress during the crucial period of examination. The parents unload such expectations in front of the children resulting in depression and frustration in them. It’s important to understand that this does not happen in a year. Such behaviour is initiated right from the day the child enters the premises of the school for the first time and in some cases even before the child is born the parents become anxious as to what their child will become in future. This brings us to the second cause of the stress which is quite related to the first one, this the strong desire of every parent to see their child perform as an all rounder regardless of his/her capacity, talents and passion. 
Interestingly, this is the peak time for commerce and we have witnessed a boom in economy. This has given birth to a misconception that even intelligence could be bought and it falls under a certain price tag. Parents thereby focus on providing as much as they can, materially that their emotional presence is overshadowed by the abundance of material stuff. Eventually, their love is measured in this material parameter. But parent’s expectations still remain unfulfilled as materials can not compensate for passions and talents. This proves the fact that our children need resourcefulness not resources. Abundance of resources hinders a childfrom appreciating the value of the things provided to them and they miss on the struggle involved in acquiring them. Therefore they fail to honourthe hard work put in by their parents. 
In theory, everyone appreciates the concept of failure as to how it teaches us to grow and learn from it but in practice no one wants their child to fail. Without mentioning any specific case I would assert that children under stress during the present times are not suffering due to personal problems but majorly due the problems created by their parents. I know a number of cases where contrary views and expectations of parents have pushed a child to a situation where the child burdened under the conflicting views of his parents has given up on himself and doesn’t want to appear in any examination where he is scared of bad performance. 
I would use a fictitious name to elaborate upon this case here. Ramesh is the only child and his parents are educated and in-service. The upbringing of both the parents had been in different backgrounds. After marriage their contradicting views became prominent. After the birth of their child their conflicting views started to work upon their child. They became more aggressive and tried to feed their child’s mind according to their set of thoughts. The child seemed to be doing alright but as he kept on encountering the opposing views, he was stressed to the level where he could not use his wisdom to decide what is good for him. Under all this stress he is completely unable to focus on studies or any extracurricularactivities. His parents would not expect anything less than what they think, individually, is good for their child. At the face of all these expectations and stress the kid tried to save himself by accusing his friends and even teachers. To get his parents approval and avoid the conflicts, he claimed that that his classmates are against him and the teachers are not ready to help him. The parents believed the same and blindly accused others for their child’s under achievement, rather than probing beneath the facts. This made the child good at making excuses and get away from hard work. The parents aspire that their child gets into a renowned engineering college without knowing his aptitude as there are many engineers doing well in the family. They have also ignored the fact that the child is capable of doing well in one of the sports and never tried to encourage him in that. It has become a common practice for the child that he pretends to be sickwhenever he is not prepared for an exam
He has been pushed to this situation by none other than his own parents without realizing that this individual can do extraordinarily well in his areas of interest, if allowed. The parents have not kept their conflicts to themselves but have let others get involved in their conflict and the act of blaming each other thereby bringing embarrassment to the child. With this the parents are failing each day in preparing the child for the challenges of life. A child needs supporting parents who could stand firmly beside him,helping him to realize his potential and faith in himself, in the testing times. 
But there is always a silver lining in the dark clouds. This statement is proved by many examples of supporting parents that I come across. Kamal(fictitious name), another student who was not able to cope up with the stress of studies and did poorly till half yearly was miraculously brought out of this situation as the parents with the guidance and support of the teachers helped the child cope up with the situation and the child did very well in the finals and was one of the high scoring students. 
I would avoid postulating what should be done during the year as the days left for the exams are few. Hence, parents and teachers should follow the following key points so as to enable the child to cope up with the stress during exam time:
• Do not waste time worrying about what hasn’t been learned yet, rather concentrate on what you are good at
• Pay more attention to the topic and chapter the student is confident in, divide the chapters as follows:
➢ Take up those chapters first in which the child is confident and cover them up (I am sure there are always certain topics in every subject with which the child is comfortable)
➢ Then take up the chapters in which the child is average and try to be more comfortable with them.
➢ Finally take up the topics the child is uncomfortable with and work smartly upon them. Children, do not try to cram them up or waste your energy on them. Look for the marks they carry and cover as per your capacity.
It’s important to keep in mind here that the topics and chapters that the kids cover themselves induce in them fathomless confidence which eventually drives out the negativity and stress. 
• The students should not be carried away by peer pressure and this could only happen when parents and their kids work as a team.
• At this crucial time the children should not be pushed to do something they are not comfortable with.
• Teachers should motivate and encourage every child by telling them their areas of strength, they can also give them some bullet points to follow
• Parents must provide them with all the possible support by keeping the environment of the home stress free i.e., family issues should not be discussed in their presence
I would like to conclude this article with the advice that the parents must realize that every child is capable of doing something extraordinary and these exams are not an end of life but a small step towards greater achievements. All children possess great potential and we as parents and teachers must help them exploiting that potential providing them the opportunities to achieve what they can by preparing them for healthy competition not inflicting unnecessary stress upon them. Finally, I wouldtry to raise the spirits of the students with this quote:
“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life's A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! Kid, you'll move mountains.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Importance of risk taking

The times have changed. The way children are being raised, has also changed. The children are not only being protected but cocooned, more than ever before, in the name of the safety and this is up to great some extent important also. The safety of children is an issue which is so often discussed and given a lot of emphasis, at home and in the schools as well. This is not a new thing but is more in focus now than before. But sometimes it seems to be going beyond limit. This has been mentioned by me in my articles that a line should be drawn for any kind of restriction or freedom. Even in our constitution, the freedom of speech comes with certain riders. I think some of you might be wondering, what I am talking about? So I must come to the point. As mentioned earlier, children are the most important assets and resource of a family, society, nation and the world and this is the reason they should be treated and raised with utmost care. The environment provided to them should be such that they grow and develop a holistic personality and should be able to fit in all situations. There are some questions to be answered. Should the children not be given an opportunity to learn by trying on their own? Should it always be the parents, teachers and other external force directing them to do and not to do certain things, in a certain way? When I talk about safety of the children, it does not just mean physical safety but psychological and emotional safety too. The children nowadays are told right from their childhood, what they should avoid and what they should eat. Let me take up a few examples. If I ask the parents not to stop children from using a knife then many of them would not agree with me because they are worried about the safety of their children and it’s a genuine concern. But the problem is that we are making the children scared of the knife and when they are supposed to use it in the future; they might have the same fear which would hinder their learning as to, how a knife should be used safely.
Hellen Keller once said that avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. In the light of this statement, let us look at another situation, where the parents gift a bicycle to their ten year old child. They want him to ride it but before he could they warn him of all the dangers that are involved in riding a bicycle that the child would never be comfortable in doing that and in turn might even give up on it. I once again emphasise that the safety of our children is important but we should not deprive them of the importance of learning things by doing. Are we not encouraging them to take no risks? The children in today’s era seem to be having less physical and mental strength than before and there are many reasons for that but one of the most important reason is that we have stopped allowing our children to take risks, by being over protective. Do we allow our children to go out with some money and purchase some household items or anything wanted by them? Do we allow children to sharpen a pencil with the help of the sharpener scared that they might cut their finger? How many of us allow our children to be alone in the room and create some beautiful painting on the wall or papers lying around, scared that the colours might be toxic for them?  How many of us allow our children to break a cell and observe themselves, what it is made up of? Too much of safety and concern is depriving our children from wonderful opportunities of learning and we should try to be balanced and limit the interference from our side. Children are born curious but we as adults try to kill that curiosity, most of the times. Darell Hammond rightly pointed out this concern and I quote, “We are raising today’s children in sterile, risk-averse and highly structured environments. In doing so, we are failing to cultivate artists, pioneers and entrepreneurs, and instead cultivating a generation of children who can follow the rules in organized sports and games, sit for hours in front of screens and mark bubbles on standardized tests.”
 I have come across a number of cases where the children were not comfortable in the company of the male adults, at times. When enquired, it was found that they were told so many stories about the adults doing wrong with the children that they perceived that every adult is like that. I think this is an appropriate example of overreaction and overprotection. With warnings and precautions children should be taught the skills to be safe. They should be taught to be assertive in order to protect themselves against uncomfortable situations. Listen to them whole heartedly and train them in better communication of their feelings. The children must be allowed to play games and sports without too much of concern about some inherent danger. We cannot ask children not to walk because they might fall and get hurt. This is a fact that they will learn standing up, once they fall. I remember a case in which a child was trying to kick start the scooter of his father and got severely hurt because of the jerk. He got up and went to the clinic (this was a boarding school and the staff would stay on campus) without crying and taking no help. When the parents saw they were frightened and said certain thing that made the child realise that he was badly hurt and it might be painful (as the parents were saying that). He started crying and after this he never rode a scooter or motorbike in future. If the parents would have been balanced that time the child would have learnt how to be careful in future. The children should be exposed to all those situations which they will face in future. They should be made to learn with all kinds of people but not to change their own agenda of learning by doing and experiencing. When children are given freedom to act on the stage they usually perform better than what they would have done while practicing because on stage there is no fear of doing as guided or being interrupted and instructed by the teachers or the director.
One of the greatest teachers (Acharya Chanakya) of our land not only let his student Ashok take risks but at times deliberately pushed him to very difficult situations and the result was the legendary ‘Samrat Ashok’. There have been many coaches of different games who shared the stories how their students achieved the proficiency and this was always because they were not deprived of the dangerous situations. Take the example of the Bollywood film ‘Dangal’ by Amir Khan (a film inspired by the real lives of Mahaveer Singh Phogat and his daughters Geeta and Babita Phogat). The father forced the daughters into extremely difficult situations knowing it so well, what he was doing and what was the result? The girls from a small village of a state in India brought laurels to the country. The girls had to work very hard and this was because of them only that they became what they are. Of course the role of the father was very important but if the mother or some other family members would have stopped him then this country would have been deprived these great wrestlers who are role models to many young children as on today. So this is a proven fact that without risks, great heights are not achieved.

What I would like to suggest and advise is that the children should not be overprotected and should be allowed to try things themselves, to learn better. There are people who live in the temperature below 20 degree Celsius and still survive and serve the family and the nation. Let our children grow strong without fear and be competent enough to face all the tough situations in future. They are born fighters otherwise a newborn child, who sees the world first time, would not have survived after remaining in protection for nine months. We should play our part in making them aware not scared. To conclude, I would quote Taiki Matsuura, “Our obligation... is not to make our children happy- it’s to teach them how to be happy; it’s not to make our children comfortable- it’s to teach them how to tolerate discomfort. For these lessons, upsetting to them as they may be now, will better equip them for survival later when it matters the most.”

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Importance of positive energy

Sometimes, you tend to ignore a reminder or an advice even if it comes from someone you trust or rely upon. The reason, we overlook it or do not take it seriously might be that we weren’t expecting such a thoughtful piece of advice from that individual. This person could be your junior, son/daughter, student or any other member of the society. This could be a person who is not considered equal to you in terms of position, socio-economic background or experience. But the same person might make your thinking chords ring on some very important issue regarding the work you do or the kind of thought process you have. My firm belief lies in the idea that children are the noble souls and they should be treated with affection and their bringing up should be as gentle as possible. I take pride in the conviction that children are the real essence of an individual’s life. But, in the race of being number one and running after the accumulation of as many materialistic things as possible, we tend to lose that politeness and understanding which our kids deserve and crave for. This particular belief of mine has been enhanced and made more concrete by many students, with whom I have worked but one child became a living example of this idea.
 A few days back, he came to my office with a request regarding the role children can play in implementing the vision and mission of the school and in this process; he presented me a book titled “The secret Life of Plants” by Peter Thompkins and Christopher Bird. He insisted that I must read pages 19 and 20 of the same which talk about the impact of the human feelings and emotions on the plants and leaves. I take the same example to talk further about the impact of the behaviour of the parents and teachers on the upbringing and the value system that is being imbibed by the kids. This is regarding the dilemma of Vogel which he shared with her spiritually gifted friend, Vivian Wiley, about psychic energy. Vivian picked two leaves from her garden and kept one of them to her bedside and the other one in the living room. Every day she would get up, look at the leaf by her bedside and wish that it continue to live while she did not pay any attention to the leaf kept in the living room. After a month she asked Vogel to come to her house with a camera. Vogel could not believe what he saw. The leaf which was not paid any attention was turning brown and beginning to decay but the other leaf kept in the bedroom was still vital and green as if it was freshly picked. Fascinated by these results, Vogel also took two leaves from the garden and kept them on two glass plates. Every day, before breakfast, he would look at the leaves with concentration and wished that it remained live and green while the other was ignored. Within a week, the ignored leaf turned brown but the other two were still green. The results thus expressed in the book directed my mind towards human behaviour and what their response could be to such contradictory treatments. The people who think that trees do not have feelings are mistaken but yes, they cannot express them as we can. The people who look after the pets can stand by me on this statement that the animals also get affected by the way human beings think about them. Of course the feelings of the trees and animals can never be ill or bad towards a loving human being that is why it is always good to remain amidst the nature.
Now, if the same analogy is applied to the human race then what would happen? On a daily basis, we come across the cases in which teachers and parents come with lot of complains regarding their children. In most of the cases they are really frustrated while in the others they do not understand what to do with those kids. This is a fact, that every individual born in this world is unique and has the potential to grow and develop as someone capable of helping innumerable human beings. There are many examples which prove this idea, like Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Luther King Junior, Nelson Mandela, Swami Vivekananda and a hundred and a thousand more. They were also born as any other kid but the kind of bringing up they had from their parents made a lot of difference in their lives. The teachers played an equally important role. What I am trying to emphasize upon is that the teachers and the parents must ensure that no child is ignored but more importantly it is a must to make sure that no child is ridiculed. We have seen in the experiment done by Vivian that the leaf which was ignored decayed very soon but imagine if that was criticized and poured upon with negative thoughts (like it would not survive for two days etc) then what would have been the effect. I am very sure that the leaf would have perished faster.
Now look at our children, whom the parents and teachers generally criticize. They want them to improve but their treatment often lacks positivity. Negative will always produce negative result. The parents and teachers must realise the power of positive thoughts. Even if they scold a child, their heart should pray that the child will become better and improve. Some people try to show that they love their children but still the response of the kids is not positive. I would request such people to think and analyse what were they thinking internally while trying to shower a lot of love through words and actions. In most of the cases it will be found that they were full of negative thoughts about the child. So, it is very important to change the mindset and believe that the kids would become what we make out of their potential and not necessarily what we want them to become. I have seen teachers and parents wanting their children to do this and that but rarely found them taking an initiative to make sure that the child is using his/her potential to the fullest. And the easiest method of making them do is to think positively about them even if you are angry or upset with them. Always have an attitude full of positivity and believe me positive changes will take place. Though, this might take some time and you may not get immediate result but please remember that our children are an important part of the cosmic energy which when grown with positive intent can make a significant difference. But, at the same time if they are nurtured with negative thoughts, it might prove to be dangerous to the entire universe. The teachers can play a more effective role here (the parents role is no less important). They should try to understand the reason behind every action of the children. No child wants to be scolded and they do not do anything for that but that just happens because of the reasons that are at times not known to the parents and the teachers. Always remember that if a leaf can remain green and live just by positive thoughts of an individual then how much difference the positive thoughts can make in a child’s life. This might take a little time but be assured that this will bring about positive result.
My advice and request to all the parents and teachers is that please do not think negative about the children. It’s high time that we realize that negative thoughts will only multiply if we are inadequate in handling them and understanding them properly. Also, please do not ignore any child because that would be an insult and disrespect to the Almighty whose marvellous creations these children are. Plant the seeds of positivity and you will see the children bloom like flowers, whose fragrance will cure the ailments of a morbid heart.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Act what you say

While addressing the gathering of Samajwadi party the Chief Minister of the state Mr Akhilesh Yadav mentioned an important thing indicating the conflict with his uncle. The statement was that if he had been equipped with a sword then it was inevitable to use the same. It was as if taking a horse to a pond and not allowing it to drink water. This was something which is so true in case of the parents and the children, specially the school going children. The general feeling in the mind of the people nowadays is that the children of the day are more demanding and less respectful towards their parents and the teachers. If I say that the behaviour of the children in the school is the reflection of what they have learnt at home, proves to be true in today’s scenario. Similarly, some people might argue that this is vice versa and I think nobody is right or wrong. So, this proves that the family and the school have significant impact on the child’s personality. But what we usually miss is the impact of the kind of environment the children are exposed to. The schools and the family are also affected by that. The laws of land and the media have a considerable impact in making the children understand the values and their responsibilities. Before I miss on the important point I wanted to make let me come back to the statement of the Chief Minister of UP. He says the sword was given to him and now being asked not to use the same. See in the context of the children. They are provided the best of the gadgets by the parents and then expecting that they will not use the same is not right. Similarly if a child has been gifted a two wheeler and then it is expected of him not to use the same, is not fair. On one side, we pretend to be open to their views and ideas and then expect them to be obediently following what we say and do not question us. Here the ‘Us’ and ‘We’ are for the parents and teachers both. On one hand, we tell that the children can decide their future themselves but on the other, we force them towards our choices of professions which we think would be safe for them.  On one side, we want our children not to be exposed to any hardships but at the same time want them to learn to live in any situation. We want them to be healthy but how much efforts parents make to provide them the healthy and balance diet. We want our children to develop reading habits but how many parents and teachers practice the same themselves. We want our children not to use mobiles etc but we are the ones who purchase the best possible mobile for them. The parents want the schools to be strict with the indiscipline cases but unfortunately they are the ones who come for the support of such cases. The teachers want their students to be punctual and reach the class in time but many of them do not report to the school or the classes in time. The unit tests etc., are forced upon the children in the name of being very important but the teachers take quite long to share the results of the same with the students and the parents and in the meantime the importance of the same is lost and the next time students may not take the same very seriously and naturally will be blamed for that. I can go on and on with so many examples proving the dual standards on our part with regard to the actions towards our students.
But if we think this is in case of students and teachers only, it will be wrong, actually it prevalent in our society. Even the government policies are full of such dichotomy. The society wants the police to be very effective in curbing crimes but they should be very loving and kind towards the ones who commit crimes. The paramilitary forces and armed forces should be having a humane approach towards militants and terrorists but at the same time there should be no incident of terrorism.  These might seem to be extreme examples but they make a lot of impact on our children. We must be very careful as society and the government that what we say is practiced also. The children are clean in their thoughts and as pure as anything can be on this planet but our approach of duality pollutes them. They are a pure soul when born and that can be kept intact if the whole system works for that. We must ensure that the kids are not made soft target for experiment rather they can be allowed to do experiment themselves. They are not the objects but a source of change which can make this world better place to live for all. The national character for any citizen is important but we must not forget the world character also which is the key in today`s time. The concept of professionalism and being better than others is alright but without others being around us is no life. So, the concept of living together must be the focus of all. The children in their childhood do not differentiate between themselves but we do make them get away from each other in the name of region, religion, caste, rich, poor and so many other categories and in the process the concept of humanity is lost somewhere.
 I took up this point for discussion because our children are the ones who will suffer in future because of the wrongs done by us today. The education system should be such that it is kept away from the politics of day to day life. Our politicians should stop playing politics with education as per their convenience but ensure that the education remains as the learning for the life and which makes individuals to see the entire society and the world as their own family. The units are very important but without an entity units in isolation are of no use. Let us teach our children learn to value the existence of others. Let us not confuse our children but challenge them to do better things. Let us not keep them the followers only but make them learn how to lead. Let us try to change the concept of politics so that our children take it as the means of serving the society and not hate it as something corrupt or not for good people (the PM of the country himself shared the same).

The CM of UP is young and dynamic and his thoughts do reflect the feelings of the young children of this generation. Though he may be criticised by some but yes this is the democracy and we must appreciate the same. But a line must be drawn for this also. As I mentioned before, education at home and the school is something which can make all the difference in the life of the children. Let the parents and teachers understand it well and act accordingly. This planet is still worth living and the best in the entire universe and let us try to keep it the same rather make it better by making our children learn good things and values. Let us try that our children become the torch bearers as the country men were in the past and we are proud of that. Let us ensure that the emotions are not covered or overpowered by the professionalism which is taking a dangerous shape in a swift manner. Emotions are the only thing which differentiates men and machines. Let us think and speak what we preach and not do other way round. Let us be just in our approach towards all and in our actions too. Looking forward to your comments.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Collaborate and liberate

The advisory circular by CBSE to its affiliated schools is a welcome step and all concerned should pay attention to it and try their best so that the problem of weight of bag can be handled and solved for the benefit of school going children. This should not remain confined to Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) affiliated schools only but should apply to all across the school board. The weight of bags and the stuff taken by the children to school has been increasing year by year. The text books, notebooks, art & craft copy, moral science books, grammar, literature, practical books are few in the list of the material carried by the children to the school. Not only this, as the schools are located away from the home of the children, they have to carry Tiffin boxes & water bottles also. The weight of the water bottle is around 500 grams and when it is filled with water (if it is one litre capacity bottle), then gross weight  becomes about one & half Kgs. and this starts right from the age of three years onwards (pre-primary). My experience is that the students in senior secondary classes still are alright with the belongings they take to the school (if they attend), than the children of lower classes and in this also the condition of middle scholars is the worst and primary scholars are next in the line as the sufferers.
The other advice given, by CBSE, to schools is that the project work should be done in the school only.  This is a good idea but has somebody tried to understand how much time children have in the school?  The advisories without foreseeing the practical feasibility leaves everyone wondering and that is the reason, the noble intent also remains non-implemented. There was a circular by CBSE a few years ago where all the schools were asked to have at least one /two periods of games & sports for all children every day. Some people did raise question that how was it possible? I shall try to understand the same by considering a simple example. Suppose there is a school with four sections in each class and it caters to the students of classes I to XII. Then the number of sections would be 48 and number of students as 1970.  If the school has 40 minutes period and 8 periods a day and break (recess) of 25-30 minutes, then total time (excluding assembly & activities) is around 360 minutes which comes out to be six hours.  If we add the assembly time of half an hour and activities, then this comes out to be more than six & a half hours. I would like to find out how many primary, middle & secondary schools have this much time duration every day. Also the number of periods suggested by Central Board of Secondary Education for different subjects (excluding games & sports, dance, music, art & craft etc) works out (in IX –X) to be 39 and if added two periods each of games & sports, music, dance and art & craft and it is added then it is 47 periods. If we consider it to be a six days school, then it will be possible to manage this, but if it is five days school, then how does one adjust? This is when there are only two periods allotted to games & sports and if allot one period every day then the schools will not be able to have all academic subjects provided that number of period as required and desired. Also many schools do not have proper infrastructure in terms of games & sports. Every day, if there is one Games period, there will be eight or more sections in the play ground with approximately more than 240 students. But are there enough grounds available in all the schools or even the optimum size of the play ground? For this the timings of the schools should be increased to at least 7½ hours every day then only it is be possible.  As mentioned earlier, the idea of no Home Works and project work to be completed in the schools is great but that would also require more time to be spent by the students in the schools. The problem of middle school children is further multiplied due to sixth subject as third language because of which they need to study an additional subject in comparison to primary & secondary school students. Also, the other reality should be paid substantial attention, whether we admit or not but most of the children right from primary classes onwards are forced by the parents for extra tuition, once they come back home. Though there is no survey done but people say that almost 50-60% children of primary schools, 70-80% of middle schools and more than 80% of secondary & senior secondary students go for tuition and the fact is most of them do not have any need of tuition, but the parents feel that if tuition is provided then the child would learn more and they (parents) would also be able to engage themselves in the work of their choice, otherwise the child would keep disturbing them. This way the students listen to others the entire day and get little time to think themselves. I wrote about the importance of Home Work before also and proved that Homework should not be given or taken as a punishment to the children but a joyful experience of learning. I have heard people talking in some functions and parties that now-a-days half yearly/SA-1 exams are on for kids, but in reality as if this was their own exam. Why does this situation come? First because the expectations of the parents to see their child as the topper and second because many children had not learnt the subject/topic well and even if they had done so in the class, the lack of practice & revision of the same as Home Work or otherwise made them to miss the learning. I shall keep repeating that nothing worthwhile is learnt until an individual tries self. The solution of the problems by others seems to be very easy but when done self that makes things real and that is why the children should be given time to think and rectify if they commit mistakes. This they will be able to do if they have time. The Home work or project work should not be taken as a burden rather as the reinforcement of learning which has taken place in the school. So, the amount of Home Work or number of project works should not be only for the grades but for learning reinforcement.
Furthermore, the weight of school bag is one serious problem when it comes to health but mental health is also equally important. Reducing and alleviating the things without realising the importance of that on the future of the children is also not right. I would like to suggest that the number of books and notebooks to be brought by the children should be checked by the school teachers and the parents. Sometimes the children do not change the books of the previous day but add anything which is required next day. Here, the parents and proper coordination among teachers can help children in the best way.  I would suggest that the teachers may not ask all the children to bring books but they can share it in the classes on alternate days/ weeks. As such, as a teacher, I do not see any advantage of the books in the class when the teacher is there and he/she is well prepared.   Also the number of notebooks (Home Works etc) can be easily reduced. For example, in spite of having grammar and literature notebooks separate, this can be one and same in other subjects. The other method of reducing the bag’s weight can be to do away with the practice of teaching all subjects every day. The schools can teach three subjects for three days and two/three subjects on other three days. This can be in continuation or alternate days.
The parents can play a significant role by checking the bag of the children every day. Most of the schools have proper water coolers etc., so the size of the water bottle can be halved.  In spite of giving the heavy metallic bottle of one litre capacity, they can be provided light weight bottle of half litre capacity. The size of Tiffin box can also be checked accordingly.  Another thing is the bag capacity should be such that even if the child wants to take more stuff to the school it should not fit in the bag. Because it has been observed that sometimes the parents purchase big and heavy bags for their children which even have the massive stroll weight.

The school should also try that the children upto class II are not given any structured Home Work. The books & notebooks of the students of these classes should be kept in the schools. I know some parents would always like to know the progress of their child. For this the parents can be allowed to access the notebooks on Saturdays (if the school is five days week) or after the school on some days fixed.  This may take some time for the people to adapt to the system but this is not impossible and our children will be benefited immensely by the same. The health of the children is more important than anything else. Let them live their childhood and develop themselves as healthy and mentally alert citizens of their motherland.   

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Do incentives motivate - In Games and Sports?

In India, 29th August, is celebrated as National Sports Day in the memory of  Maj. Dhyan Chand, who was born on this day in the year 1905 in Allahabad, UP. I am really keen to state a few things about him.  Maj. Dhyan Chand had two brothers, Shri Mool Singh Ji & Shri Roop Singh Ji (who also became an excellent Hockey player).  He joined Indian Army at the age of 16.  There is a belief that his name was changed from Dhyan Singh to Dhyan Chand because he used to practice in the night when the moon would appear which was after his duty hours (In the earlier days nobody knew that he was good in Hockey, hence no excuse for the practice during duty hours).  As the Hindi meaning of Moon is ‘Chand’ hence he was called by his friends as Dhyan Chand. He retired from the army as the Major and his promotions were mainly due to his extra ordinary skills of the game of Hockey. It would not be an exaggeration to state that in those days and even today Hockey is synonymous to the name Dhyan Chand.  He represented India in Olympics and won Gold Medal in 1928, 1932 & 1936. We salute this man who brought glory to this game & India and was a force to reckon with in Hockey in those days. If we talk about present, this particular game has not been followed and played by many. The performance of Indian Hockey Team in recent times and particularly in Rio Olympics though was satisfactory, but they needed to learn something from the wizard like Maj. Dhyan Chand.  Not only Hockey, there is a lot of criticism regarding performance of our players in almost all the games except a very few like Badminton, Shooting etc. There was a lot of hype before the players and officials accompanying them left for Brazil but as the game progressed there was disappointment all round and as usually happens in democratic India, people started finding faults in every other person and organisation. This country is moving fast in the art of criticising after the event and now our PM has also announced the formation of a task force which will suggest the ways so that the performance of our players improves in the upcoming 2020, 2024 & 2028 Olympics. This probably has satisfied all intellectuals who discuss aggressively on TV Channels & in their drawing rooms. But I think, if we wish to ensure the performance of our players then they should be caught ‘young’ and for this the children at school level should be identified and encouraged. This should be done in both types of schools, Government as well as private.  The mindset of the public and the parents should also change towards games & sports and it should not be seen as the area of those who are not able to do anything else.  We should encourage those children who are good at any of the games.   These children should be given some scholarships at that age also and not shower the prizes and money only after they win any medal for the Country. If we see, in the last few Olympics or the World Games, the efforts of individuals have yielded some results and India could have its name in medal tally of Olympics from 1996 onwards. It may not be great to mention that there was no medal won by any of our players in three consecutive Olympics [1984 LA, (USA), 1988 South Korea and 1992 Barcelona (Spain)].  Before that in 1980 in Moscow Olympics, we got a medal (Gold) courtesy Hockey Team that too because about 64 countries had boycotted these games because of the invasion of USSR on Afghanistan.  Many people do not understand why should we have not been talking about the same before the Rio Olympics and why only after that. In London Olympics (2012) our ranking was 55 but before that in (2008) China Olympics, this was 50.  Why did we not take corrective measures from then or even before that also?  Anyway let us leave talking about why this did not happen or that did not happen but try to understand whether the kind of prizes in cash or kind which are given to our achievers in Olympics and other games (Cricket may be an exception) help the children and youth to select games as their career and an important way of serving the nation and bring glory to the people of this great country which is second largest in population.  The entire nation is looking at P V Sindhu and Sakshi Malik’s medals, prizes, money, titles and other benefits conferred upon them however, did anyone even try to know the number of practice hours/ days or years invested, by these players, to reach that perfection and flawless performance.
I have mentioned a number of times in different contexts that if this country is to be moved forward and has to excel in any field, then the children and the schools should be given the maximum attention. Schools are the only place which can change the destiny of this country for better.  The government should spend money on providing infrastructure so that the children get encouraged to take games & sports as a career.  Physical Education teachers should not only be responsible for the discipline in the school but as a very important person who can motivate children towards games & sports and train them at young age to perform well in the area of interest of the child. The government should ensure and make it binding on schools that no schools will be given permission to operate if there are no proper grounds and qualified physical education teachers.  Many of you will agree that inspection teams do look at Labs and dance rooms etc., seriously but at times the sports infrastructure is not given that attention as required.  There are schools which mark the field with racing tracks, goal posts, flags etc., to impress the team on the day of inspection and there is no follow up once the affiliation is granted.  It would be interesting to find out how many schools in our country have proper and adequate games & sports facilities and how much budget is allocated to the physical education department and how much of that is spent properly every year.   During the period of dim phases (due to Rio Olympics debacle),  I tried to look in and around and was sorry to note that all these people who cry for the medals, want their children to go to other field but not games & sports. When the parents were approached many of them said that there was no career in this field hence they want their children to pursue academics than ‘wasting’ time on the ground. They may have point in that but most important thing is that games & sports are very essential otherwise also.  They enhance the personality of child and ensure overall growth of mind & body which is so important for an individual.  This is good that our players  should be acknowledged and appreciated but will the money or BMW cars showered on them help to perform superior now than before?  Has this motivated the potential players to come out and perform better in future? Though to say either way is not easy but some examples may be an indicator.  Mary Com won the medal (Bronze) in London Olympics and was showered with the same kind of things. Though she had won five times World Amateur Championship before that, but was noticed by the people only after winning the medal in Olympics.  Now observe what happened after that. How many players got motivated & opted for their career in boxing? Abhinav Bindra won the Gold Medal in 10m air rifle event in Beijing Olympics in 2008.  He was also given a lot of encouragement after that but what happened thereafter? How much could he perform or how many others were motivated? So it is not necessary that the Government gives enormous amount of money to the winners after they win a position but this is true that the Govt. has the responsibility and duty to prepare them (players) to win medals. Whatever money has been given to the players is alright but if that was spent before they win medals, we would have got more feathers in our cap. I am not against the support the winners need but the discrimination after winning. This money only should not be incentive but the support to the individuals and teams before the tournament/competition is very important.  

I would like to mention the following points for the consideration here:

1.      The education boards should ensure that games & sports are authentically played in the schools.   
2.      The schools should give incentive to the children who do well in games & sports.
3.      The parents should be counselled and advised to encourage and allow their children to be the part of games & sports.
4.      The Education Department organises many events every year. They should provide proper training and incentive to the children (all those who participate)
5.      More money should be allocated for games & sports.
6.      Qualified coaches should be engaged by the schools.
7.      The most important of them is that favouritism should be completely avoided.
8.      Any achievement in games and sports should be given the same credit as anybody getting while qualifying for IITs or the likes.
9.      The teachers should also help the children to strike a balance between studies and games & sports activities.
10.  And the most important of all this is that the children should be made strong physically and mentally so that they can face all the challenges of life. AC classrooms & buses are alright but these do make our children physically weak. The natural environment will make our children healthy and they will be able to perform better.

The HM of our school drafted a letter addressed to the CBSE (few years back) and shared the same with us. This seems to be an excellent idea which desires the option for the children from class V onwards where they can opt for games & sports as a subject in lieu of some so called major subjects (like EVS & Science etc).  This does not mean that these children will pursue their career in this field only but can think of changing at later stage in VIII/IX class. In classes,  VI-VII such children may not be forced to study EVS or Science that much as other students do. If some of them are still keen to continue sports as career then same can be continued in IX & X classes and in the higher classes as well. For such children preference should be given to be employed in Army/Navy/Para-military forces & Railways and other fields also.
In the end, I would like to reiterate that sports facilities are important and should be given their due by all concerned. This will really help our nation through its healthy children & citizens.