Child, the mentor of every parent : Mallika, mine

I have been deferring writing for some time. Every day brings forth so much, worth penning an article a day. Lazy or I can say misplaced priorities, I must say about myself.

Yesterday was a very eventful and memorable day for me! All thanks to our lovely daughter Mallika. She was awarded the scholarship in school for her meritorious work and excellence in Music, through her middle-school, classes 6-8, at Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, her school. Music is one of those intelligence that is not so common as maths and sciences, still we usually look down upon. Thankfully at our home, it is appreciated. The right brain enriches the left brain effectiveness and we invest significant time to facilitate the right.

Collecting the scholarship from eminent public servant, Mr. Lakhan Mehrotra formerly Secretary in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Government of India

Here are a couple of favourite compositions of the school. The school has many a music album to its credit. Mallika features in the choir..

Yes, over the last six months there has been a concern with her performance in other subjects, especially Maths and Sciences. Mallika is brilliant there too, but interest and passion is lacking. I have been running with her a little more purposefully to infuse the passion. I always feel bad if one does not perform to ones potential. I am sure she would realize hers soon.

What made me introspect more is one more episode that happened last night. We have been talking to Mallika about a great opportunity in a fellowship, Counter Speech Fellowship, that aims to expose a very young mind to a variety of perspectives, especially in the world that is getting influenced by the proliferation of Social Media. We have been having talks with Mallika about her inclinations and engaging interactions over Social Media, both overt and covert, in the last few months. We felt, some of them are not only unproductive but energy sapping and rendering her ineffective.

It was Oct 31st, the last date to fill the form for the Scholarship and time 8pm. When we went through the form, we realized it demands introspection and expression of oneself, not only in words but also she has to design a poster. Mallika was revising for her weekly test scheduled this morning. We spoke to Mallika, whether she would still like to fill the long form for the fellowship. She said she wants to. I just spoke to her broadly about the purpose of the questions and went to my room. She filled the form and did everything to be submitted before she called me to show. I said, if she is happy, just submit. It was almost 11pm.

And this morning I saw a copy of the form that came my way from the fellowship office. When I went through, I felt so inspired by Mallika’s expression, I am still overwhelmed. CHILD IS A MENTOR OF PARENT, Mallika mine. I felt like expressing. Here insights into what our young darling is blossoming into.

What excites you about the Counter Speech Fellowship?

The mind of an adolescent is always a tumultuous one, the heart is one that is often unexpressed and the thoughts are always confused ones. Many feel alone, unsure and weak. Many around us , harm those weaker than themselves to feel powerful. Many seem to feel eyes judgemental eyes on them even in an empty corridor. We are surrounded by individuals who frequently use the term “depressed” to describe their state of mind. People think its a joke and that it is okay to put somebody under a term that is not a very friendly one, something that may be racist ,sexist ,casteist or any other term which makes one feel low and discouraged. A lot of our ideas are influenced by the internet, which may or may not be giving our thoughts the right shape and direction. One always feels the need to be guarded and protected.This is the time of discovering oneself and of self-realisation . People should realize that it is NOT okay to close your eyes and take it or see someone else take it. Your voice, can make a difference.

As I see it, the counter speech fellowship is an opportunity to voice my opinions and engage with others who are my age and who believe that these same set of problems should be tackled. I want to know more about Bullying, Body Positivity, Mental Well being, Embracing Diversity, Safe Spaces Online and Violent Extremism and learn better ways of making people aware of these issues .
This is why the Counter speech fellowship excites me.

Have you held any leadership position at school or outside of it? Tell us about some life lessons from that experience.

Yes, I have held a leadership position before. I have been elected as the representative of my class at school (Sardar Patel Vidyalaya) quite a few times.
Something I learnt while I was a class representative was that, all people are very very different. We all have our own set of likes and dislikes. You cannot control somebody ( it makes them rebel) and you should not take such condescending behaviour either . Everybody’s idea of an ideal individual differs. It is important to respect other’s thoughts as well as have your own opinions which one should have the courage to express. This is what, in my opinion , can make us better. I also think that one can be a good leader only when one listens to other opinions and learns to accommodate others.

The themes for the 2017 Fellowship are: Bullying, Body Positivity, Mental Wellbeing, Embracing Diversity, Creating Safe Spaces Online and Countering Violent Extremism. Tell us about a personal experience that makes you passionate about one or more of these themes.

I come from a modest middle class family. Ever since I was young, I have been taught to share, to include people , to always be open to learning. As a family we travel widely and try to experience and interact with new places and people.

I have attended various workshops on a variety of topics and am interested in the performing arts (I am trained Bharatanatyam dancer, a Carnatic music vocalist and a theatre person).

All my experiences have given me memories which I will cherish forever. But would it have been as memorable if it weren’t for the people? Would it possible to learn so many new things from new places and to gather such experiences randomly?
The beauty of life is in differences. In different cultures, traditions, thoughts , ideas and lives. Differences make our life more exciting , they give us something new to learn, to behold, to try , to explore.
It is funny , that one would feel more at home with their warm and friendly neighbour than a relative who appears to be cold. Relations are made not pre-decided. Diversity should be celebrated. A canvas is more beautiful when it has many colours. 🙂

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What a clarity in the young mind. So much we can facilitate to help her blossom. I shall commit more of myself to facilitate both Mallika and Svwara, along with Indira. God bless every young mind. Love.

Will add videos to this, as and when I find time.

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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

Interesting case of literacy and education !

The boatmen and the Literates ?!

A tourist asked a boat guy, “Do you know Biology, Psychology,
Geography, Geology or Criminology?”

The boat guy said, “NO….not any”.

The tourist then asked, “What the hell do you know on the face of this earth? You will die of illiteracy!”

The boat guy said nothing…..

After a while the boat developed a fault and started sinking.

The boatman then asked the tourist, “Do you know Swimology and Escapology from Crocodiology?”

The tourist said, “NO!”

The boat guy replied, “Well today you will Drownology and Crocodiology will eat your Assology and you will Dieology because of your Badmouthology”

——————–

This discussion brings forth the schism between literacy and education – who is a literate and who is educated. Does literacy mean education? As a facilitator, I would love to engage in a facilitation that will be of practical value and applicable in nature. The question is to ask ourselves how do we create an environment that fosters the application of the learning. At the same time helps one to be a humble and eager-learner through ones life.

share your thoughts. Thanks

Reading Comprehension : Break the barriers, hoist your flag at IIM, IAS, NLS.. !

Book – Young leaders Success Code – features R.Sreenivasan!

In the last edition of this series, Make ‘Reading’ a Passion : especially CAT and competition participants, we discussed some of the fundamental principles you have to inculcate to be an effective and efficient reader, and to enhance your performance in the Reading Comprehension (RC) section.  I am sure some of you have certainly tried out the principles that we discussed in the last column.

The principles you came across were –

  •  Involvement, enthusiasm or enjoyment is the foremost requirement for excelling
  • Visualizing the authors narration of his imagination will make you a clear winner
  • Elimination of regression will result in augmentation of your speed

In continuation, in this edition, you will encounter a few more principles, which would make all the difference between a good reader and a bad one.

Principle No. 4.   Enlarge Recognition Span; Decrease Fixation Time

Many of you must be looking at one word at a time while reading. You concentrate more on words rather than on the meaning behind the words. You are having an affair with the words and not with ideas. By doing so, you realize many a time that you have not got the hold on what the author intends to say.

An effective reader will take the given lines as a stream of ideas or thought processes rather than as a stream of words. He will read a chunk of words or a clause that offer some meaning and conveys a thought.  Ideally, if you are an effective reader you will be imbibing seven to eight words in one go. This measure of grasping a group of words in one go is called recognition span. It means, in order to be effective, you should try and increase your recognition span. Newspaper columns offer you a good practice exercise to increase the same. You should be able to take one line of newspaper column in one go. The time taken to recognize the span is called fixation time. The lesser the time you take to recognize the span, the faster you will be in covering the distance. Hence, you should try and increase your recognition span and at the same time decrease your fixation time and become an efficient reader.

Principle No. 5.   Push your Comfort Zone Speed (CZS)

You read at speeds at which you believe can comprehend most of what you read. This applies to both information reading as well as pleasure reading. This speed of reading could be termed as ‘Comfort Zone Speed’.

CZS is a result of poor habits that you have built through years of the wrong kind of practices. Passive reading habits have worsened the situation. It is you who have decided that the speed at which you are reading is the most comfortable speed. No one has thrust that upon you. It is now time to have a re-look and question the reading methods and techniques you have become a slave of.

The reading comprehension demands you to read at speeds which are much higher than your CZS.  If your CZS is low, you will find yourself reading at an uncomfortable speed, to pace with the required speed. This will result in low comprehension or ‘cognition strain’. On the other hand, if you do not want to take the risk and you enjoy being at CZS, then you will not be able to complete all the given passages. This will definitely not serve your purpose. Hence, you have to take the risk. You should practice constantly and gradually in order to improve on speed and comprehension. This would help in pushing the CZS.

When you try pushing your speed comprehension and retention may go down initially. You should not be flustered. Try maintaining at the same speed, the comprehension will return in due course. This speed will be your new CZS. Once you start enjoying this speed, its time to push the speed again. It is a proven fact that the higher the speed, the greater the comprehension, since you are trying to break the frontiers and you are keeping your brain on alert to come to your help in comprehending whatever you are reading. At lower speeds the concentration is low, and you must have realized while reading, your mind wanders and goes for shopping, watching movies etc. Increase your concentration by increasing your speed.

Principle No. 6.  Indulge in Active Reading

The secret to effectiveness is to do active reading. By being active, you are trying to understand what author is trying to say. While you are grasping the information provided therein, you keep asking questions like ‘what is he saying’, ‘why is he saying so’, or ‘How can he say that’ etc. By questioning his intentions, his narration or his way of giving information, you are trying to bridge the distance between the your knowledge base, a collection of all of your life experiences and learning, existing in your brain and  the new information provided on the piece of paper. By seeking more, you are able to predict what the author may say ahead in the passage. By doing so, you will make this information a part of your knowledge base and rule the RC section.

The stream of words is not mere words, they give away much more. Authors reveal attitude by their choice of words and narration of experiences. By indulging in active reading you are also running with the authors flow of thoughts and ideas, his style of expression. You will be able to grasp the mood of the author, attitude or intentions of the author.

Invariably all the passages will have questions probing authors’ views and intentions, idea behind the passage, implied information etc. If you are involved in active reading you will be able to crack all such questions.

Mechanics for reading

In order to be efficient while reading, skim all the questions at the end of the passage before entering the passage. So you know what to watch for in the written material.

  • Read the passage as quickly as you can, concentrating first on the main points and essence.
  • Mark the focal points, specific examples
  • Mark the shifts in the viewpoint, like the phrases – nevertheless, ironically, in spite of, however, although etc.
  • Also pay attention to the concluding sentences to get the gist or theme of the passage.

Make an effort to incorporate some of the principles discussed so far and reap rich dividends. Push the frontiers. Experience the pleasure.

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If you are benefited by this article kindly LIKE It, SHARE It on any of the following platforms; Yes, REVISIT it as many times as you want. SUBSCRIBE (left hand top corner) to the blog to get the latest ARMAMENT at your virtual doorstep.

Thanks and Best Wishes.

Sreeni.

Sreeni@careerlauncher.com

For motivating yourself regularly, I recommend you bookmark the following and watch the sessions and videos there in- Dream It, Do It!

Think Big, Start Small!

[A variant of this article first appeared in THE HINDUSTAN TIMES, September 03, 1998. Since then this has been picked by so many publications. Here I reproduced for the benefit of all CAT and competition exam takers. The principles of excellence do not change… they live for life time!]

The HINDU article quotes Sreeni – Engaging quieter students for greater participation – June 20, 2012

Lively classrooms filled with boisterous students make for some very buzzing teaching sessions. But lost among the ‘full of beans’ students are some quieter learners. They may be punctual and diligent, paying attention and completing their work on time, but they never raise their hand for an answer. Ask them a question and they will most likely clam up, becoming reluctant to speak.

There may not be any disciplinary issues, but the ‘withdrawal from communication’ bothers many a teacher hankering for complete class participation! Alternatively, there is the frustrating element of how to gauge knowledge and understanding of the quieter lot. Not to mention the worries of how the reticent will fare in the workplace tomorrow.

Engaging young minds - Indus world school

Engaging is a primary need for learning and development

Research proves that educators subconsciously harbour negative expectations of the ostensible ‘wallflowers’. They are habitually perceived as less intelligent, less capable, less interested and less enthusiastic than their more vocal counterparts. Inadequate oral responses automatically reflect on low achievement, lack of preparation and even resistance to learning. Teachers also tend to concentrate on more verbal students and ignore the seemingly quiet ones.

Some well-meaning teachers do try to cultivate speaking skills in unusually quiet students, but being ill-equipped, end up doing more harm than good. For instance, the obvious solution to ‘get them talking’ is to give quiet students more opportunities to speak. But forcing oral performance by asking direct questions, verbal testing or marks for participation are indeed counter-productive. The pressure can be exhausting, making them quieter or even interfering with their learning! So, the monumental question is should educators challenge quiet students or are they better left alone?

Drawing them out of their shell

Mrs. Meenal Arora, Executive Director, Shemrock and Shemford Group of Schools cautions, “Ignoring the fact that a child is quiet and withdrawn can have adverse impact on the holistic development. This ignorance can also have serious repercussions on the affective, cognitive and psychomotor development.”

What is imperative is to assess why some students choose to remain quiet and withdrawn. The reasons can range from shy and introverted nature to poor communication skills to low self-esteem to fears or apprehensions of even peer discrimination. Students may not understand the subject matter, dread that their answer might be wrong, struggle with communication or simply not want to communicate.

Skilled observation coupled with private conversation can help educators pinpoint the worries and assess whether the quiet student needs professional help. Keep in mind that forcefully trying to change an introverted personality can create hostility. Further, understand that silence is not always a problem. It can be a personal learning style that should be respected. Some students actually prefer to use the productive space to carefully listen, reflect, process and introspect in a way that fosters learning.

Teachers can help quiet students develop a public voice by cultivating a warm, relaxed, supportive and colloquial classroom environment. Allow students to get to know each other with permissive, unrestricted communication without letting it get out of hand. “In order to help such students, an environment with a sense of security and respect should be developed in the classroom. There is a high tendency to miss out such students amidst the highly verbose student crowd. A successful teacher should be able to look for such quiet students and give them the extra care and attention with a very friendly approach”, suggests Amritha V, Faculty in Soft Skills, Corporate & Industrial Relations, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University, Kerala.

Encourage the withdrawn ones to become more active participants through drama, role-playing or simply reading aloud. Form small groups or panels of two to five students as they may be reluctant to speak individually. Let them speak from their seat when needed, as opposed to standing in front of the whole class! Mind group dynamics where overbearing, verbose students may intimidate others into silence.

Mr. Rajiv Seth, Registrar, Teri University advises, “Very often it is just an initial stimulus which is required on the educator’s part, to draw the ‘quiet’ student into the learning process.

This can come through gauging the areas of strength of the ‘quiet’ student and then structuring a presentation related to the topic on hand, around those areas.”

Ask open-ended questions that persuade quiet students to contemplate or hypothesise aloud as a means to exchange ideas and construct knowledge. Seek participation but sans any threat or pressure to demonstrate their learning/ achievement or penalising lack of involvement.

Hitachi executives with IWSB students in a classroom discussion

Hitachi executives with IWSB students in a classroom discussion

Mr. R. Sreenivasan, Director, Indus World School of Business adds, “If the learning environment is collaborative and exploratory, rather than directive, in due course of time the positive reinforcements from the process will make an individual open up. The facilitator in the process will have a significant role to play in creating experiences that could be transformational. These processes will give positive feedback that makes an individual realise his or her self worth and gain confidence.”

Never criticise, confront or attempt to grade their performance. But do provide positive reinforcement by valuing and appreciating any verbal contributions. As Mrs. Arora continues, “Provide them with an environment wherein they will feel free to step forward and express themselves in the best possible way. Motivate them to take initiative to participate in group activities. Also, appreciate their efforts so that they feel good about themselves and make such efforts in the future as well.”

Use technology to engage this segment like email, online discussion boards, blogs, wikis or social media and build their confidence. As writer Susan Cain observes in her book, Quiet: the Power of Introverts, “They’ll gain confidence by tweeting their ideas and seeing them recognised by their peers. That confidence will spill over into their ‘real world’ interactions, I predict.

Once they’ve savoured the pleasure of participating in a discussion and seeing their ideas validated, they’ll be hungry for more!”

Finally, “Evaluation should be based upon what a student knows, not how much a student talks.

After all, a student who is listening is more likely to be learning than a student who is talking”, comments Professor of Communications, James McCroskey. Mr. Seth adds, “What is more important is to make all the students ‘intellectually participative’ rather than ‘vociferously participative’!”

Payal Chanania

faqs@cnkonline.com

CORE STANDARDS OF TEACHING, The HINDU column, April 18, 2012 – Sreeni’s quotes appear

As I shared in one of my earlier posts, Teaching – Vision, rationale and personal standards , was my response to a questionnaire sent by THE HINDU for one their articles.

Here is the link to the published one, article online, in The HINDU opportunities page. This article was written by Payal Chanania, of cnkonline, after interviewing a few educationists.

I am including the text version here..

———————–
All teaching is designed towards preparing students for success in such a way that they emerge as responsible and grounded adults of tomorrow. Teachers are the guideposts that show them the way for achieving high-quality paths ahead. But attaining such meaningful development requires educators to hold themselves up to certain definitive standards. This comprises of the basic philosophy underlying their teaching and governing their conduct in the classroom.

What standards do you expect of yourself?

The personal vision or critical rationale that a teacher is committed to achieving is quite difficult to define. The challenge lies in carefully reflecting on and conceiving what you are really committed to (and how).

Most teachers echo that they see themselves as more of facilitators. Mr. Rajiv Sethi (Retd.), PhD Registrar and Professor of Finance, TERI University voices the sentiment, “The first thing I look at is to move away from the traditional role of a teacher – which was to ‘teach’, and move into a slot where I as a teacher, ‘facilitates’ learning.”

Ms. Joy Puvana, Faculty, Business Communication, TalentSprint expands, “The role of a teacher doesn’t consist primarily of lecturing about a specific subject to students who sit in rows at desks, dutifully listening and recording what they hear, but, rather, offer every student a rich, rewarding, and unique learning experience!”

This will prompt a true love for learning in the hearts and minds of the students. But encouraging active learning requires the educator to be equally passionate and committed to the subject, as it proportionately influences student motivation. Students will then be willing to push themselves, explore new dimensions and seek new possibilities. Promoting critical thinking and problem-solving is considered imperative as well.

Helping students identify and explore their passions so as to find what they truly love doing is next on the list. In the words of Mr. R. Srinivasan, Co-Founder, CL Educate Ltd. and Director – Indus World School of Business, “It is all about enabling an individual to set goals for oneself and chasing them. Once that happens, everything else will fall in place!”

Imparting true understanding of the subject is an important teaching standard. Prof. R. Dheenadayalu, Dean (ICT), Saveetha Engineering College, says, “My personal vision is that every student understands the topic clearly and should be able to apply that when he encounters a problem.” Even Mr. Ishan Gupta, Founder and CEO, Edukart.com agrees, “We aspire to make our participants understand the concepts of the subject and also imbibe experiential learning.” Mr. Sethi especially mentions, “I should be able to connect new knowledge to today’s context, so as to be able to pass-on a better understanding to the students.
I must be able to foster cross-disciplinary learning, so that the students can understand the nuances of every aspect of a problem and can then approach the problem in a holistic manner.”

Teachers also wish to build an engaging and joyful classroom atmosphere as it helps students truly understand and learn. Accordingly, they should draw on their expertise and aspire to make their subject matter as meaningful as possible.

Developing good ethics and values is considered important as well. This calls on teachers to highlight the importance of hard work, perseverance, honesty, integrity, courage in the face of adversity and so on as the ultimate path leading to true success.

The importance of fostering a collaborative, interactive and supportive environment is not overlooked either.

Incorporating a variety of instructional strategies deserves a special mention as it enables teachers to easily adapt to diverse learning styles of the students.
“Although there is no ‘right’ method for teaching a particular lesson, but a teacher should be efficient enough to choose the right instructional method depending upon concept, context, topic and needs of learner”, so says Mrs. Meenal Arora, Executive Director, Shemrock & Shemford Group of Schools.

Putting the standards to work

To achieve these teaching standards, educators have to model the expectations. Mr. Srinivasan explains, “I create experiences in the learning environment that enables learners to realise and comprehend the concepts through experiential learning, more than the theoretical lectures of the concepts.
So, for me, learning is bottom-up.”

Even for Ms. Puvana, “Constructivism approach to teaching is best – activities that encourage students to construct pieces of learning by themselves.” Mr. Sethi feels, “By moving away from just classroom lectures, to much more of classroom discussions and assignments which stimulate critical thinking. By moving away from rote learning to learning from role-plays where one gets a chance to explore one’s own knowledge, what one lacks, and what needs to be learnt to be able to meet the challenges ahead.” Believing in the students’ abilities while providing due support and encouragement is also important. When it comes to evaluating whether one has really accomplished the standards, Ms. Puvana offers, “I would like to evaluate my success not only by the student’s scores, but also by their progress in their lives and careers!”

For Mrs. Arora, “The result of a teacher’s efforts is visible in the accomplishment of her students. If a child has understood and inculcated the subject and values being taught by the teacher, she would surely demonstrate a positive change in thinking and behaviour.”

To sum up, teachers play a very strong influence in students’ lives. But the core effectiveness of the teaching community does not rest only in their knowledge of the subject but also encompasses the overall standards, characteristics and behaviour when they actually teach!

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