Classroom Expectations: Positive management for the productive growth of students

I got a questionnaire from edinbox.com to respond to. Though the brief is to write answers in a couple of sentences for each issue/question raised, I feel unless we do not understand the very evolution of a human being, cognitively and behaviorally, we cannot find solutions to any of the issues raised here. Hence, I am giving the context before I address each of the concerns raised in the questionnaire. My answers for each of these questions could be dramatically in variance with the conventional wisdom that is prevalent around most adults. Whatever I am sharing here is an outcome of over two-decades of hands-on experience of being with children and young-adults, setting up schools, creating learning environments there in; and also seeing over a couple lakh students excel in career and life. Quite a few of those grown up adults bring their children to us, to seek help now!

Phases of learning in the evolution of a human being.

Phases of learning in the evolution of a human being.

Fig 1. Evolution of the human being, cognitively speaking.

 

The above conceptual framework is self-explanatory. Various empirical studies observed that the rate of cognitive evolution is exponential in the first eight years of life, reaching almost to 90% of that of an adult; about 80% by the age of three. We have been using the above nomenclature – Ananda, Jigyasa and Sadhana – in our language for almost two decades now. They evolved over a few years of observing and introspecting as the children evolved.

 

  1. A child in the initial phase of one’s early childhood evolution, Ananda, involves all senses in absorbing one’s context. The slate in the early phase is clean. It is all about joy of discovering the contextual existence. The child is like a sponge, soaking everything that exists in the immediate environment. It is incumbent upon the adult around her – a parent, grand-parent, family or a teacher, the school – how rich we can make the immediate contextual environment forthe child to thrive. Learning happens at a pace unimaginable, all without any agenda. (The Howard Gardner’s Multiple intelligences is in full bloom – kindly google to understand this concept of Multiple Intelligences)

 

  1. The primary and middle school years – age 8-14 – Jigyasa phase, is all about observation, introspection, analysis, synthesis to consolidate thus far imbibed experiences, into a solid knowledge through active questioning and embarking on finding answers to those questions through further experimentation and exploration. Greater the exposure, the higher is the learning. So as an adult in the environment, a parent can help the child experience a variety of spaces and activities in the arenas of all intelligences. During this period, a lot of likes, affinities, interests develop in every child that may start shaping the thought process that eventually may play an important role in choice-making and decision-making, about what one wants to pursue in career and life.

 

  1. If the adults at home and school have been taking note of the likes and affinities that are evolving in the Jigyasa phase, one can proactively facilitate the child to make well informed choices by exposing the child to a variety of literatures, activities, events, people of eminence etc. so that the child will listen, engage, interact and evolve. As the child moves to higher classes the family and school can facilitate the access to all the avenues that can shape a child’s chosen area of interest, probably positively impacting the career too.

Now I would like to answer the following questions with the above frame work as a reference. I also need to add here that I have clubbed questions together, where I have found them to be closely related, and I shall addressthem in a logical way.

What should be an expectation level of a teacher or a parent from the student?

  • One of the secrets to bring about the expected outcomes from a child is to be EMPATHETIC first. Talk to a child the way you would talk to an adult, in calm, eager and understanding way. As I said, the cognitive evolution of a child is almost that of an adult beyond age three. So, keep your emotions at bay.
  • The first requirement of an institution – family or school – is to take responsibility upon oneself to create age appropriate learning environment and experiences even before they have expectations from the child.
  • So, my expectation is directed more towards the adults in the child’s context, asking, what exciting environment have you created for the child to explore, experiment and learn.
    • Can I be with the child, whenever I feel the child is struggling? Can I walk with the child and not just talk?What inspires the child is your walk, and not the talk!!
    • Everything boils down to a good, open communication with the child. Only when the child feels that you are understanding, will the child be open to hear and see your perspective.

Does over expectation from a bright child deteriorate his performance and self-esteem?How behaviour of a student can be modified with simple learning and how can we help him in developing his self-esteem?What are the methods to develop behaviour modification among students?How to motivate a child to perform better in the class?

    • The secret, as I shared, is open communication and facilitation. Understanding the child, in the given context, is paramount. Help the child gain confidence to be open with you, to share her fears and needs.
    • An adult should not talk from 6ft. Get down to the child’s level. That means, your eyes and that of the child must be at the same level! Make the child feel that you are her friend and facilitator.
    • Every child is unique and let us not compare one with the other. Acknowledging the child’s interests, way of thinking, strengths, weaknesses and evencurrent  prioritiesis very important. Being open is the key. That is the only way to stoke self-esteem. Every positive thing we say or do, adds to her self-esteem.
    • First,believe and help yourself to help the child understand that he or she is good enough; and it is just a question of getting more comfortable in the subject or topic or issue that we are concerned about, and give a message that by understanding the concepts and practicing more she would be good. And that you are with her in the process. Walk, walk, walk with the child, do not talk.
    • I have seen the transformation in many a child, including my daughters. Building trust and stoking the self-belief is the key.

Is there a model or a technique to deal with discipline referrals?

  • Most of the root causes of the discipline issues emerge from the child’s immediate environment. The behavior of the child has its origin in the way an adult or two is behaving in the child’s environment – How is the adult dealing with the child. The adult’s ‘walk’ may be inducing the behavior.
  • For instance, if the child is very energetic and active in the school, then you may soon realize that his energy does not find any vent at home. His home environment could be highly restrained and over disciplined. And that pent-up energy finds a volcanic outlet in the school. Similarly, a child shouted at or abused at home, may vent his frustration at his fellow learners in school.
  • My questions for institutions, are, “How open are we to integrating homes with school? How much do we know about the child’s home environment? How much of interaction between the school and home have we institutionalized beyond the formality of PTM (parents teacher meeting which most of the times is unwelcoming for the schools. It is just an item in the check-list)
  • When the home and institution will be seamless, most of the behavioral deviancies will be easily taken care of. In the technology-enabled world of today, institutions can really create that seamless communication channels to bridge to two.
  • Even after having amazingly cordial and proactive engagement with home, if we find the child’s behavior still beyond our capability, then we need to seek the help of a psychologist/specialists in diagnosing any other eventuality, like ADHD etc.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) affects the child’s ability to focus and control his behaviour. What steps to be taken to address the children suffering from ADD?

    • ADHD is the term that we usually use for affected children and adolescents, while ADD is used for adults. ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder of children, more prevalent in boys than in girls; diagnosed based on the child’s symptoms and behavior.
    • Inattentiveness, impulsiveness or hyperactivity are the symptoms of a child with ADHD. It is a genetic-disorder and child has no role to play in acquiring it; one of the parents has contributed to the cause. Brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, don’t work the same in children with ADHD; Certain areas in the brain may be smaller or even less active in children with ADHD than those without the disorder. Most of the times, a parent feels guilty of even acknowledging the presence of ADHD, especially do to the social stigma it may carry. Hence, we as adults, both teachers and parents need to be proactive, yet very patient in dealing with the child.
    • Timely diagnosis is very important. If not treated in time, ADHD continues into adulthood. However, by understanding the child, working on and channelizing his strengths, facilitating a conducive environment, and using medication timely, a childwith ADHD can grow into a responsible and productive adult who is socially invaluable.

 

How show we improve the school environment so that it helps students to perform better?What are the key points to be kept in mind which helps in developing a cordial environment for students and teachers?How can a teacher build an environment that can help students struggling with serious academic deficiencies, lack of support, language barrier, or any other challenges?

 

    • Most of the times I see the really issue lies with institutions – School and Homes – and adults within. I measure the adults by exploring their attitude towards these three questions –
      • Do your really love children?
      • Do you love learning?
      • Are you excited about creating rich, stimulating learning environments and experiences?
    • We need to understand that the institution exists for the child and need to bring about changes in our environment and the way we conduct ourselves and our learning processes
    • As Charles Darwin says, the human being as an organism is programmed to thrive – survival of the fittest. Unfortunately, we adults control the environment, at home or school, in such a way that the brilliant mind, amazing body and soul is not excited to flourish. We shackle the being.
    • It is very important that the learning environment, pedagogy and engagement be conducive with the evolutionary phases of a human being that is illustrated in Fig. 1 above. The coordination of the school and home, along with the curriculum engagement need to be rich and stimulating. Homes need to help the child experience the real world beyond the classrooms and curriculum. Parents must be thinkers and doers. Expose the child to experiences in every dimension of intelligences that Howard Gardner talks about.
    • Does the outside world come into your classrooms? Do your classrooms go to the outside world? If the answers these questions isin affirmative, soon we would have found solutions to all challenges.
Evolving child being facilitate by family, school and the experiences in the world

Evolving child being facilitate by family, school and the experiences in the world

Hope, I have been able to address all the issues raised in the questionnaire. I apologize for writing a lengthy article to address your questions. I strongly believe, there is no short-cut to facilitate a parent, teacher or institutions toenable every child that is playing in our aangans, corridors or classrooms.

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H H Dalai Lama – ‘Love and Compassion make all the difference’

It has always been a pleasure contributing to the spaces where children observe, introspect, participate, engage, discuss, debate and learn. One such movement that I have been part of as a volunteer, contributor and advisor has been ITIHAAS, an endeavor by a team of strong-willed and highly capable youth lead by Smita Vats and Shivani, has been doing a yeoman service for over 15 years now, in the space of Heritage Education for children. The movement now addresses children and institutions in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh while children from across the country travel to these states to soak in and also learn the heritage of our rich, composite nation.

dalai_lama_25

There are many initiatives by ITIHAAS, year around, that engage the children, schools and the entire education community not only through their walks but also through facilitation of research in literature, music, traditions, livelihoods that are integral to Heritage.

As part of the latest initiative, first in the series of Changemakers talk, His Holiness Dalai Lama delivered the ITIHAAS ANNUAL ADDRESS to the school fraternity… What an interaction, it was !!  Always a pleasure listening to His Holiness. It was a wonderful opportunity to interact with him too. Just observing him silently is good enough to absorb so much about purposefulness towards humanity…

As he was addressing the children, teachers and education community, laced with his inimitable humour, I made it point to tweet whatever I could gather. Here I collate my tweets and share for posterity. Each of the points that he shares are invaluable –

  • Every #child receiving #love, affection, hugs of #parents in #childhood, will grow to be a confident and compassionate adult
  • we, generation of 20th century created a lot of problems, your gen of 21st century, has to solve. Solve Disagreement by talking
  • Young generation, #brothers and #sisters, think how to build a happy and compassionate world, through education and learning
  • Through warm heartedness you will be able to resolve every issue in the world; love, forgiveness will help you to bring peace
  • Anger brings violence; conflicts need to be solved through dialogue; love others and respect them to facilitate. Create peace
  • Non violence, peaceful dialogue by you will create a peaceful and happy family, society and world228
  • #Secular #education needs to include moral #values, ethics; value of warm heartedness makes the difference to humanity
  • fear is part of human being; I train my mind through analytical #meditation; analyse the source of anger; you will solve
  • Positivity begets positivity, creates peace; work towards eliminating negativity; Ahimsa and Karuna can solve all problems
  • without inner #peace we cannot develop world peace? #Trust & #affection will beget happiness & peace at home and society
  • As an youngster, I can contribute to solving every problem with my small actions with awareness; environmental issues, example
  • People’s movement – I must think, I must talk, I must work – our vision, on sharing, can gather mass to bring change
  • All religions, all traditions talk of love, harmony. #India needs to take lead in promoting tolerance, forgiveness and peace
  • Different #religions may have different approaches for different people, but the final purpose is #oneness and #love
  • Be a kind-hearted and #compassionate person. #Education needs to just contribute for this one purpose. That is the basic value
  • I never saw my mother angry. Not just me, she cared for every child ….First teacher of love and compassion is my mother
  • Every teacher has responsibility towards every child.Yr love helps every child understand whatever U impart. Infuses Happiness
  • Secret of my youth. 9 hrs of sleep and rest of 15 hours with peaceful thoughts. Have healthy mind. Smile adds to handsomeness

He also interacted with students by taking their questions and responding. I shall get the complete video across soon…

I have not done justice to this event if I do not speak about the Live painting by Artist Vilas Nayak that mesmerized His Holiness The Dalai Lama Dalai Lama. I consciously did not do, as I felt I need to write a separate story on it. I shall.

 

Mama, Papa…. there is nothing in my bag today!

This rabbit does not eat carrot! …. how come?

Today I did my math and science,

I toasted bread,

I halved and quartered,

I counted, measured, used my eyes,

and ears and head.

I added and subtracted on the way,

I used a magnet, blocks and memory tray,

I learnt about a rainbow and how to weigh.

So please. don’t say, anything in your bag today?

How to paint my fence!

You see I am sharing as I play,

I learned to listen and speak clearly when I talk,

to wait my turn, and when inside, to walk.

To put my thoughts into a phrase,

to guide a crayon through a maze,

To find my name and write it down,

to do it with a smile and not a frown.

To put my painting brush away,

so please don’t say, what, nothing in your bag today?

What fun building my own home!

I have learnt about a snail and a worm,

remembering how to take my turn,

Helped a friend when he was stuck,

learnt that water runs off a duck,

I looked at words from left to right,

agreed to differ, not to fight.

So please don’t say, did you only play today?

 – Anonymous

Early Childhood Education – School Leadership Conferences – Facilitating and Reflecting

Early Childhood Education - School Leadership Conference

Last couple of months have seen me crisscrossing the country to facilitate this conference in multiple cities and a few more are lined up in the coming weeks. Though I have been involved in creating and anchoring workshops for parents, adults, mentors and educational leaders in the early childhood space for over a decade, one for the school leadership has definitely been a challenging one, always.

The top most of these challenges is that of creating eagerness in the school leaders to just come together to share their learning while being open to learning from others. Though we, as school and education leaders, are looked up to create and nurture learning, most of us have an ‘aura’ about ourselves and think that ‘we are the be all and end all’. Learning has agenda does not exist. We ‘Impart Knowledge’!

I have always been looking at opportunities to learn, whether through books and web, or attending these learning fora and conferences wherein just listening to someone’s sharing adds richness to my thoughts and ideas. The personal interactions add so much more. Anchoring and facilitating has added immensely to my learning. The beauty of facilitating a session is in observation and reflection. So much emerge out of the interactions among the participants, as a facilitator I just need to put those together with a couple of ideas to reach out to everyone. It gives a sense of dejavu for almost every one.

I feel delighted and also satisfied when at the end of my workshops the participants – parents, mentors or school leaders – come and share how they identified themselves with the issues or examples that I raised or shared. It is just about our ability to observe happenings around us closely, empathize with the situation, relate to them and imbibe the learning and essence, while also being good at expressing the way others can identify with it.

So much more to learn and so much more to share and do to reach out to every parent and adult to make a small difference to every child around us, who are young leaders of today capable of impacting the world of tomorrow.

Introspective notes for self, Inspiration for everyone else – June 2013

On Setting goals and Chasing them

DO NOT JUST THINK IT – INK IT! If you have a goal to achieve, write it down. Written goals transform wishes into wants, thoughts into action, cant’s into cans; dreams into plans; and plans into reality. WRITE IT DOWN in as many posters as you want, paste them all over your home, vehicle, especially places where you spend most of your time. Create a song and make it into your mobile tune… Every element around you should be talking to you. JUST DO EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO PUSH YOURSELF TO REALIZE YOUR GOAL.

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There is nothing called failure, you actually give up. When you fall down and stay down, people say that you failed. Do not give up! Keep banging the door that you want to open. Open, it will. It depends on your passion and perseverance. As long as you do not give up, every door in this world can be opened. Just believe in yourself. Love.

An inspiring video of Mark Inglis, a native of New Zealand, who climbs mount Everest even after becoming a double amputee…

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Importance of execution, and the way you go about

You cannot escape the inevitable, why procrastinate….. Kaal karey so Aaaj Kar, Aaaj Karey so ab…. JUST DO IT!

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Always under-promise and over-deliver…. Over achieving your objectives / targets is the biggest boost of confidence you can give for yourselves and for those who are betting on you.

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Good Judgment comes from a bad experience and Good experience comes from a bad judgment! Why hesitate, just jump and swim…. yes, be prudent in whatever you do! Believe in yourself and your judgments… Enjoy the journey!

An inspiring video that talks about Initiative, Execution and Perseverance

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Out of the box thinking and being creative

Both optimists and pessimists contribute to our society. The optimist invents the Aeroplane, the pessimist, the parachute – Grg Bernard Shaw

A story about two shoe salesman who happened to travel deep into the rain forest and chance upon a primitive tribe. The first salesman messages his boss, “NO opportunities here. All the people go barefoot.” The second one also sent a message, “Everyone here barefoot. Huge opportunity! Send all the possible sizes and styles”….. a favourite story of Akio Morita, founder of SONY.

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Discovery and innovation come out of seeing what everybody sees, but thinking and doing what nobody has ever done before. Do not be afraid to fail, just do it!

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Believe in every individual, he / she can startle you

Accept that people think differently than you do; Do not waste your time trying to convert the diehards. Instead, work with them, live with them, respect their differences, be open to learning from them, and be thankful the world isn’t full of people exactly like you.

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Child is the father of man!

How true this statement is. The way Mallika Nethra Sreenivasan and Svwara go about their explorations, in fact make them the best teachers I have ever had in my life. I need to have more patience to explore and learn as much as I can. Thanks to Indira for making life more meaningful.

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Don’t Expect gratitude! You may get it but don’t expect it. Do whatever you do because it’s right, because it pleases you; Your reward should derive from the fruit of your labours, not the arbitrary whim of disinterested recipients. And when that infrequent expression of gratitude comes your way, humbly accept as it will be that much sweeter.

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If this posting is inspiring enough and has set some thoughts in you, kindly share with others; Leave your comments here, what more I could do to inspire you and others. You may wish to follow the blog for future postings. Thanks, Love and regards. Sreeni

Creating the Magic in humans – Investing time with children, enabling them excel

The first fourteen years of a child’s journey is very significant. The intellectual growth of a child happens during this phase. Only when critical thinking and problem solving dimension gains a critical mass, the physiological body matures.

If I have to be more specific, by the age of three, a child’s ability to observe and analyze a particular situation, i.e. mental faculties, match 80% of an adult; by the time she is eight the match is 90% adult, by fourteen 98% adult.

The question is, as an adult or a parent, how many of us do anything during this critical phase? What is the role of a parent during this critical phase of first fourteen years?

Sorry to say, most of the childhood is neglected, as they count for nothing in a society. Not to offend any, but in the current context, working mother’s want to get back to work immediately after the child’s birth. Without office, they feel like fish out of water. Since I have been in the education space and early childhood space is one of my passions, I invest a lot of time counseling a young mother about the significance of their presence in the first 4-5 years of the child’s life. The nuclear families have house-maids and nannies. Need to really think how this would really impact a child. Yes, crèches take care of the kids! But what impact does the crowded crèche leave on the child.

I do many a workshops on parenting and facilitating a child. My sessions on ‘Multiple intelligence’ and ‘Enabling the leader in your child’ are most sought-after among the parents of school-going children. Will upload a couple of sessions online… But I just thought of sharing a couple of thoughts here….

Image

Books are the best friends parents can ever help their children befriend with. Nothing can match books in igniting the imagination and creativity in a child. It needs a lot of investment initially – book reading, story telling, selecting and flooding home with books, oneself indulging in it regularly … Once you set them on that path, rest assured you have made their lives…

Creativity is a casualty in our school education system. Performance in the exams, marks take such an importance, that everything else is left behind. So even critical thinking and analytical skills take a beating. It is all about rote-learning and vomiting in the examination hall.

So parents and families really need to invest more time on building the ‘right brain’ – creativity and emotional intelligence. Only thing that we can give a child to really enable her excel, is time. Coming to time, any amount of time that we can give to a child is less …..

Will talk about other activities soon, that you could engage the child to excel…. till them invest time with books.

Thanks to Indira Ganesh, Mallika Nethra Sreenivasan is a book worm (;)) and Svwara imitates Mallika ….A Bookshop is the safest bet to keep both of them gainfully for the whole day, calmly and peacefully…

On SREENIViews photoblog – Being abreast with the world!…

Human being has always been curious. Curious about knowing what is happening around the world. Who is behind this story? What could the response now be? Why is it behaving so? why does it look so? what is working as a catalyst? How will the world respond? The questions on who, what, where, when, why and how of every happening are interesting. We want to be aware, analyze with whatever data we have, create our own perceptions and take those decisions….

The messages went across the world using birds – mostly pigeons. Then came the printing press and slowly newspapers came into being. Then television stepped into world to beam films that made knowing the world more interesting and visually appealing. Then came along other forms of media like tapes, CDs, DVDs that made sharing easy. As the world moved into twenty first century, world wide web reached out everything to our desks. The world is at our finger tips. Anytime anywhere is the choice we all have. Now we can peep into any country, city or a colony from the sky, drive through a road looking all around sitting at our desk, even appreciate the art pieces in a museum! The future seems to be even more exciting with possibilities….

For most of us, the early morning cup of coffee with a newspaper in hand is a bliss! Each one eagerly awaits for the newspaper boy to through it every morning and scurry to get it. It is no different in a city, small towns or villages. Every curious human being quenches his thirst of catching up with the world, through the newspapers…..

 
 

Let me catch up! Chor bizaar, Mumbai
Let me catch up! Chor bizaar, Mumbai

 
 
 
 

““Newspapers are unable, seemingly, to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilization””
— George Bernard Shaw

 

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