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.

Wonderful Mentor’s day

Starting with waking up at 4:30am and rushing to the station pillion riding on a 2-wheeler early morning at 5am, it was a great beginning for an exciting day that was in store for me. It started pouring mid-way to station. Drenched, entered the station, bought the ticket from Durg to Raipur, an hour away. By the time train left at 6:25, I was reasonably dry and noticed young boys and girls entering the train. In a while, four of them joined my cubicle and started discussing about their subjects. Realized that they were engineering grads discussion digital electronics. On inquiring, found out that they were second year students from NIT Raipur. I borrowed the book and browsed through, as I was not able to really figure out Karnaugh Map etc that I studied way back in 1986, a good quarter century ago! It was fun interacting with the youngsters. I realized that half of the train was heading to NIT Raipur from Bhilai!!

After an adventurous ride, got to Indus World School, Raipur and was delighted to see the excitement among the young students who are waiting to treat their mentors on the occasion of Teacher’s day. The whole day then on was full of surprises with children and mentors singing songs together, the mentors dancing to the music selected by the children, an audio visual of all the mentors with an interesting backgournd music, all the way cheered by students and mentors alike.

In the afternoon, all mentors were treated to a surprise lunch at Magneto mall and it was a gala affair worth witnessing with groups of mentors running around the food joints around the court to get their favourite dishes, but eventually every one grabbing from every other plate. They almost tasted all that the food court had to offer! They were no better than kids!

The final stretch of one hour in the electronic games arena witnessed a complete pell-mell with every mentor trying to play every game and a few hard fought competitions too. Children if were around would have chuckled all the way and may even shared that ‘we are better’!

Raj, the principal, acknowledged every one by giving away token appreciation to one and all for contributing to the journey of the school. Finally Raj took pains to see me off at the airport.

To my utter surprise, I watched Kiranji, founder of SPICMACAY and a couple of more elderly volunteers entering the security area ahead of me. They too were surprised by my arrival. I admire this gentleman, Kiranji, who has given his precious life for the cause of spreading culture among the youth along with the band of dedicated volunteers. They were heading back from Chattisgarh state convention, that I missed by a couple of hours. Kiranji shared with me the developments and how the whole state – Governor, CM and ministers all laid red carpet for SPICMACAY and the promise that the future holds.. I loved the interaction, as Kiranji emphasised that we will have to grow 10 folds this year and only way to do it is to push state governments to work towards reaching out at least 5000 government schools this year. I was taken in by the enthusiasm and the passion of this 60 year young gentleman.

While standing in the queue to get out of the waiting lounge to board the flight, I noticed a very familiar face being checked by the security. I smiled at him and he too acknowledged. Once he collected his hand baggage, he walked towards me and I confessed to him that he was very familiar and wanted to know whether he is Mr. Binayak Sen, the civil liberty activist. He said ‘yes’. I was humbled by this gentleman walking all the way and asking me who I was and what I was in Raipur for, just because I smiled at him from a good fifteen feet. We had a short chat as he was heading to Kolkata and my flight to Delhi was boarding. He shared his contact details with a promise that we will be in touch with.

On reaching Delhi, I paid my humble tribute to my gurus, Kiranji and other elders by dropping them at their respective stations and homes and felt very good about my small contribution to the cause of mentors this day.

I want to say a big thanks to all mentors in my life, gurus, teachers in various schools and mentors, young and old, each one has contributed to what I am today. Love you all. mmmmch..

Purposefulness, Passion, Perseverance with belief are key ingredients to Success

Jan 13, 2009. 3:30pm. I entered the temporarily erected air-conditioned tent that was huge and ready to accommodate over 1000 people. This was nothing compared to the tent of the inaugural session where 15000 people were accommodated, including over 100 dignitaries – prime-ministers and presidents of various visiting countries, industry leaders like Ratan Tata, Ambanis, Mittals etc…on stage. I am talking about Vibrant Gujarat, the annual summit that happens in Ahmedabad wherein Indians (Gujarati’s predominantly) from all over the world and also the governmental heads of the nations which have seen significant contribution from Indian Community assemble every year. The session that is about to commence is that of Human Development and Social Infrastructure sector, one of dozen such sessions on various areas of development. I could see eminent personalities of various institutions in the areas of Health, Education around, a few were there to address the gathering, and many more were there to ink an MOU with Gujarat Government to contribute in the development of Gujarat, by executing a few projects.

Decisive moves in 24 hours – IWS way convinces Gujarat Government

Decisive moves in 24 hours – IWS way convinces Gujarat Government

In a few minutes the MC of the event, a pretty elegant lady civil servant, started calling the organizations that have been selected through a stringent process for their abilities to contribute to the growth of the vibrant state of Gujarat. There were three columns in the arena. The left most was to be occupied by the representatives of the invited organizations for the MOU signatures. First row filled, then the second, then came the name of Career Launcher Education Foundation. I went and occupied the second seat in the third row. I just introduced myself to the gentleman sitting to my left. To my surprise, he was the director of NIFT Ahmedabad and he had come to sign an MOU wherein they are going to help artisans of Gujarat. My eyes fell on a familiar gentleman in the row ahead. I went and wished him, and he pleasantly reciprocated and recognized me as I had attended one closed door meeting of IIT-IIM alumni body a couple of years ago. Then this gentleman was director of IIMA – Dr. Bakul Dholakia. Here in this conference, he is heading an entity that is setting up a university.

The session commenced with addressing by a few gentleman including a couple of ministers. The one that impressed me most was that of Dr. Devi Shetty, Narayana Hridayalay in Bangalore. Here is a gentleman whose endeavours of heart operations and transplants save 40,000 lives every year. He is also going to sign an agreement to set up one of the largest hospitals in Gujarat.

Vibrant Gujarat MOU signing for Schools

Vibrant Gujarat MOU signing for Schools

Then the time for signing MOU’s came, there were four tables with secretaries of the government ready to sign and various names to be called. Mr. Narendra Modi entered the tent to a thunderous applause and took the designated seat on the stage, while people started signing the MOU’s in front of him. In a while the MC announced the name of Career Launcher Education Foundation that will undertake setting up of nine schools in the state of Gujarat for a project worth of Rs. 176.85Crores over the next four years. I headed to the table, signed the docket, exchanged, and headed to shake hands with the Chief Minister. A new page in our movement added.

Sreeni stepping out of stage after interacting with Mr. Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat

Sreeni stepping out of stage after interacting with Mr. Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat

It was momentous occasion for every mentor and every facilitator of our school movement. I was just a signatory representing our movement. All the wonderful work done thus far has yielded this result.

Every thing started in the month of October in one of the education sessions at CII, where I met a resident commissioner of Gujarat government in a session I spoke in. At the end of the session he asked me whether we will be interested in setting up schools in tribal districts of Gujarat. I readily shared our interest. After a few interactions, that were very positive and developmental, the government created a committee to head to one of our schools to observe and evaluate our institution.

Jan 02, 2009, 9am, the two-gentlemen team landed in Indore and immediately started the day at the school with the very first event of the day, morning assembly. They were taken in by the whole atmosphere, that I could see a great amount of appreciation on their faces. At the end of the assembly one gentleman asked Smita whether we allow parents in the assembly?!! To his surprise he discovered that all the elegantly dressed ladies who had so many children on their laps and shoulders where mentors and not parents!!

Children take responsibilities every week - in the kitchen at IWS Indore

Children take responsibilities every week - in the kitchen at IWS Indore

We let them lose with a broad agenda for them to select and evaluate. They interacted with a couple of mentors; they went and sat in the classes to observe; they entered the kitchen to see what is happening; they dined at the same time as children and noticed how mentors were interacting and facilitating children make choices and eat responsibly; then they sat through and observed from sidelines a QCT (quality Circle time) of class 3 wherein children were airing, sharing and resolving their personal differences amicably and promising to make a behavioural shift that will help the class. They spent time in the mentors room and were impressed with the co-learning that happens along with usage of laptops.

Facilitating to be responsible, faciliting India of tomorrow

Facilitating to be responsible, faciliting India of tomorrow

They enjoyed the art class, they were surprised at the ingenuity of the sports teachers’ way of engaging children with varieties of innovative games in a small playground through usages of tyres, nets, poles. They spent time in understanding all support systems and process – transportation, finances, purchases, stock handling etc. They were surprised at the level of technological facilitation, including parental interaction over SIS; it is almost a paperless institution. By the end of the second day, one of the members pulled out a file to say that I had brought a long check list to evaluate, surprisingly we found we got much more that what the list stated.

It will come as a surprise to you to know that, most of the mentors or staff of IWS Indore, did not really know who the two gentlemen seen around the corridors and classrooms for the two days were, unlike most other institutions that I know off, where a big announcement would have been made in advance to maintain decorum during the visit of dignitories!!! Most of the school team in fact realized the identities and gravity only after the Gujarat team left. The Gujarat team had a lot wonderful things to share about an environment that is a vibrant one promoting learning not only among children, but for every individual in the school. They wrote their feedback in the school visiting diary.

While parting, to head to the airport on Jan 3rd evening, they shared that they were delighted by the whole visit and that by Feb first-week we would get a call to visit Ahmedabad to take the matter ahead. To our utter amazement, the call came on Jan 7th, saying that we have to reach on Jan 12th to sign the MOU as the Chief Minister and the secretary of the department want it to be signed during Vibrant Gujarat. That is how I landed in that Air Conditioned tent in Ahmedabad!!

If all goes well, we will have ‘community enabling centres’ at a few locations that goes beyond just schools and also many more schools may get hooked onto our endeavours, as the preliminary interactions indicate, during the recent visit to Gujarat by GP and Sachin!! We have to move into the execution mode very soon.

Join me in congratulating the entire IWS team at Indore, headed by Ms. Smita Rathore, the entire CLEIS and school team at Delhi, the technology team, the finance team supporting the endeavours and also the vocational team under Arindam that played an important role in the interactions and followups at Ahmedabad, and finally every member of the Career Launcher family.

Hurray!! We are set to facilitate the Governments!! We are set to facilitate the larger communities. Let us Deliver, Let us make a difference to every child of this nation.

Looking forward to your comments… that will help me to ‘swamanthan’ more, leading to learning.

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