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Are you almost feeling the most important examination of your life is round the corner?Do you wonder if the the preparation is good or is it just about enough?Do you already feel like you are policing?Is there restlessness, if not sleeplessness? You are anxious , concerned and doting … you are the parent of a child all set to write the first Board Exam.Relax….. you are not alone.

Students do  understand their responsibilities . Some of them realise it early some other as late as now. I share a few thoughts from my personal and professional experience that will ease the pressure  on parents .

Create a relaxed home environment 

While it is necessary to keep noise levels low to help your ward concentrate , it is essential for you to completely disallow TV , music or guests.It will make you as a parent claustrophobic.However, you may the most important  programs that you may wish to view. You can even record or watch on you tube , when your ward is away  or is the break time. Do not complain that all the favourite pastimes have gone for a toss. We often hear this -” I am just waiting for the exam to get over . He has exams but it looks like we have them. All entertainment is banned. It is so boring .”It hurts children when they hear this .It makes it seem that you have made all sacrifices.. Soft bhajans or instrumentals in the morning helps to creates peace.

Schedules

Children make their own time-table . Do go though it and ensure that they are concentrating on all the subjects equally.Have they planned enough short breaks to help them unwind and rewind? Yet , there would be days when the panned schedule goes for a toss . Do not get stubborn and hyper about not following the time table.One cannot police all the time and go by clock-wise precision.Anxiety and frustration will follow.

Talk time

Have dinner together as a family. I have known families who serve food in the study table so that “she saves time”. Please spare children from that. They need to relax too.During dinner time or soon after , the family could sit together .Do ask them if they are fine and allow them to express fears or apprehensions. Be encouraging and motivating .Give them solutions to the little problems they may face.Do not compare the number of hours of work with those of the other classmates. No comparisons at all.Do not talk about results .They are  outcomes of the efforts. It will naturally follow.

Care 

Students develop back problems closer to the exams . This is mainly due to bad posture. As parents  you must ensure that your ward  has a comfortable chair not too cushioned though . Lying on bed or on a couch or an easy chair are certainly a big No-No. They must have frequent short breaks to help them breathe some fresh air and to stretch themselves. Yoga and meditation helps.Air-conditioned rooms is not quite recommended for study . Good sunlight and air room drives energy in that is required for better concentration . The Sun’s rays early in the morning re-energises tired minds. Locked rooms for better concentration is a big No.

Food

When students are at home for the revision holidays , it is natural for them to try to binge or trot up and down the kitchen looking for something to eat or cool drinks.Simple home-made food with a good amount of fruits and salads is highly recommended.Fried foodstuffs should be avoided . It will induce sleep. All colas and caffeines to be kept away ,as also the “energiser drinks”.  Fizzy drinks should not even be replaced by fruit juices in tetra-pack.A fruit or a fresh fruit juice blended at home with no extra sugar or salt is the best option.There is no such thing as an energy drink. It is all a mind’s game.Tongue tickling fruit and veggie chaats can easily replace the Lays and choco chips.A schedule and timing has to be followed to bring in food discipline.

Sleep 

Gone are the days when lights were off at 930 pm and were on by 430/5 am.However,sleeping on time and having 7 hours of sleep is essential. Students can have a short nap in the afternoon , if they are tired. A nap helps rejuvenation but a three hour sleep in the afternoon so as to study in the night is inadvisable. Our body follows a natural bio-rhythm ,which should not be disturbed . Change in sleep pattern in order’ to keep with the Joneses”  will lead to health issues. Parents need not be sitting with the child all through also helps parents to keep the home atmosphere as natural as possible.

Just one thing

A positive environment aids good learning. Parents should go for brisk walks with their wards and have informal chats with them . This is certainly not the time to discuss future plans -either course of study or career plans or even detail out holiday plans . Let us be in the present with only one thing so as help our ward keep the focus on.

“Just stick to one thing until you get there.” – J Billings

Come February  and the mood  for students changes to being a little more focus on academics . For the 12 th and the 10th graders , it is a crucial time. Families get anxious too . One can sense the air of seriousness  in the house . The television takes a long break, guests postpone their visits, sometimes the internet and the mobiles also disconnected or is put to selective use. Are we waiting for the summer break already ? Let’s see how one make it more relaxed?

Does this sound very familiar ?………. “You have done so well so far,but this is the deciding exam”. “You can do much better that what  you have done so far . You are capable .”You are a ranker. Nothing less than 98%”.”Your sister was the star of her batch. You will prove that excellence is in our blood”. ” He will be the topper “”If you have moved from 65% to 80% in the Pre-Board exams , just imagine the wonders that you can create in this one month”. This is where it begins…the blues,I mean. Despite the best intentions of friends , relatives and teachers , statements though seemingly encouraging causes undue anxiety for students . They are already wondering if they are working hard enough,so this just adds to their cup of anxiety.

The pre-boards are just over and most students may have felt that the papers were tough. Do not despair . It only aids a student to be well prepared  with a broad spectrum of questions. The preparation  to respond  to surprises strengthens the mind and the intellect. Do not have imaginary fears of the unknown outcome. Every focussed  input will  have a deserving output.

While at home during the prep leave ,students go through two phases . One,they get a little complacent knowing well that they have three weeks for their preparation and have put in efforts all year long . Two, they worry about “forgetting” all that they had learnt. And the whole task seems so daunting. This is our mind, that gets cluttered with thoughts when you are alone at home or are not packed with activities as you were through out the year . With the vacuum created by the absence of school activities , one tends to build on the imagination. While it is very vital that we do not worry , one must ensure that over-confidence and complacency does not hinder the outcomes. Let us not build castles in the air. Do not daydream or start planning the future. Live in the present.

So , why do we “forget”?We feel that due to our anxiety.The’Forgetfulness”won’t happen , if there is conceptual understanding.  To help build confidence, one could become a teacher to an imaginary class or teach a friend who did not understand that chapter . This will reinforce the learning. Draw connections to little real life incidents for reinforcement.Diagrams , flow charts , pictures , drawing will also help you to recall during examinations.Reading aloud or repeating the answers aloud also helps to remember but that must be done in isolation and not in open or crowded  spaces. A brisk walk for 20′ ,it helps to boost memory.

I believe a little anxiety ensures the best results. That iota of Vit A (anxiety) is for building the fire to be enthused and excited to write an exam . Then the exercise is not seen as a drudgery. I am a strong practitioner of the principle that anything that excites and kindles the passion in us will ensure  its success. Feel positive  and keep calm. To keep calmer during the exams , remember not to cram up a lot of new learning  day before the exams. Solve papers that will give you the feel of a mixed bag of questions. For those not yet confident , must learn the lessons well and reinforce by attempting solved examples independently.

Believe in yourself and your abilities. No one can take your confidence away. Your efforts can never go in vain.Remain focussed and be true to yourself and your efforts . Nothing else really matters now. The world will be at your feet.

The next blog  is on how parents can help their wards  drive their blues away.

 

 

 

 

 

Republic Day

 

This is an excerpt of my speech for my staff and students on the occasion of the 67th Republic Day ..

We have over the last 66 years made a lot of progress in every field from agriculture , industry to science and technology. We as a country, have come a long way.We no longer look for imports for our food grains,, no longer are we anxious about energy crisis.We no longer are awaiting foreign aid to finance our projects.We are no longer a third world country or an under-developed country.While we have made big strides in economic development of our country ,this is positive.However,like every any growing economy, we too are faced with a lot of of socio-economic problems.. To sustain a large population, providing basic necessities is a big challenge.With this also comes many other problems . But there more problems … that are man -made ,self -created quite avoidable, if each one of us have a vision for our country. The Republic Day is a big day for us ,Indians to feel that pride of being an Indian.But it is also time  to pause and introspect.

Today is the 67th Republic day of our great nation The makers of the Indian Constitution had the vision for our country with provisions for amendments if any to be made in the future. When we have all endorsed amendments in our Constitution , is it not time for us take make amends in ourselves? Just like amendments to our Constitution is partly flexible and partly rigid, we too as citizens,must ensure that  aspects such as  our personal attributes ,values, attitudes,outlook, behaviour, perspectives must be “Amended”. They ought not be based on our own whims and fancies or the pressures from peers.We -individually and collectively -must work on all aspects with a larger picture in mind i.e.-nation-building.Every citizen-child and adult- should shoulder more  responsibility towards making a better,a more humane country.

What can children do in their own spaces to build a better India? Read , think , ideate , experiment, innovate and create. Schools must help children develop critical and divergent thinking. That is the responsibility that we teachers have .We must have more research in pure sciences and technology in schools and higher education.Civic sense, respect towards others and self, self-discipline,diligence, honesty , presence of mind, thoughtfulness,self-initiatives  dignity,wisdom are lessons children learn from the environments they are in. So as adults, we have a greater responsibility  for making the future of our country brighter for our children.

Last week , we had the children from Adivasi school in Wada ,spending a day with our students at our school. They learnt to do yoga ,  football , basketball and kho-kho from our students . They attended science practicals in the science labs and even learnt to make soap . A session of art and craft ending up with a presentation of music , dance and drama that they leant from our students was the highlight . All of ours and theirs were Sixth graders.It was amazing to see that they not only broke the ice within a few minutes but also learnt everything in a short span. Our children were elated too. This is a small contribution but I am sure it sowed seeds of sensitivity and nation building.

Pockets of innovations , researches ,outreach initiatives, amendments, are happening in small pockets everywhere. What we need for the country is a collaborated effort to see  and experience the impact. Let us do our bit today so that we make the tomorrow better.. India of my dreams…..

Jai Hind !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nature Speaks..

I was watching the news of deluge in Chennai and Cuddalore and my heart reached out to each one of them. Man is helpless against Nature. For relatives like me trying to frantically get in touch with near and dear ones in Chennai and Cuddalore,  the helplessness cannot be expressed in words. Just about a month back, I was in Cuddalore for a week. It was hot and I heard people hoping and praying for some relief from the unbearable heat. Ironically, Nature had its say and how! Unfortunate!

On one hand, it pained me to see the suffering of the people.  On the other hand, it made me feel proud that young boys and girls took to streets ferrying people in make shift boats from submerged houses to places of safety.  Young people were reporting for duty wading through the waters so that they could reach out to those in need of help. College students went to pack foods and deliver them to different places. All of this without expectations of name and fame. They were not concerned about media coverage for their service in contrast to some organisations that chose this as a PR exercise. What was beautiful was to see people helping each other, offering a roof for shelter and food to eat. The well-to-do too had to use the  make-shift arrangements.

Education can be classified into formal, non-formal and informal. The one that we learn by the way of academics falls into the formal category.  We create learning spaces outside our classroom is non-formal and when we learn from experience of life is informal. The picnics, field trips, excursions, outings, all life’s experiences in school and outside all of these contribute to the better understanding of what we call today -Life’s Skills..What we need today is not Life- Skills but Education for life. The more the exposure to a variety of experiences, the better is man’s ability to acquire the skills and competencies to beat the challenge. The best lessons in life are learnt when we are out of the feeling of comfort. These are lessons for life and help us to be balanced and grounded. We pick up threads of confidence, resilience, initiative, risk-taking and acceptance of a situation which shapes the way we think and perceive..

Very often , we watch the harrowing experiences of others on TV … we  sympathise or even empathise but let it pass saying this wont happen to us, but it does and takes us by surprise. There is how Education helps us .It helps to use our wisdom to spend our time wisely. Spend time with Nature and do learn to just “Stand and Stare” I have been speaking about this since a decade during all my interactions with parents. I insist on this for the well- being of our children. In our attempt to keep the children busy, we often pack them with back to back schedule to keep them in “engaged learning”. But is that learning in its truest sense ?

To our children who are “addicted to internet, FB, Whatsapp”, this kind of  experience could be frustrating. The families that had a safer accommodation found it difficult to answer questions like – What to do now? No electricity , no clean water, nothing to do …. I was counseling young friends and  relatives in Chennai and Cuddalore, whose parents asked me to talk to them a week after the rains began. The kids were losing hope of clearing their JEE, Medical exams or even Std X Boards complaining that they had lost some precious days and some feeling miserable without the connectivity with friends and games..I could understand their feelings but I did have to bring them around to accept the present and turn it into an opportunity. It is important not to take things for granted.

Nature teaches us fairness and equity. In its eyes, all are equal. It saw beyond positions, power, brands we possess, the luxuries we have. It teaches us not to take today for granted. Everything was floating.. Nature teaches us to accept. On a more positive note, it teaches us to be with our thoughts, to spend time with family, to attend to an elderly family member, to help in the house chores, clean up the place. It teaches us to meet up with our neighbours, many of them we have never ever met. It teaches us to play board games with our younger siblings and neighbours. It teaches to re-invent, re-design, re-create newer games and recreational activities so that the candlelight could be imagined  beyond dinners. It also gave time for deep introspection and put those thoughts down in writing. It teaches us to be with themselves and not be dependent on others and gadgets. It teaches us to look for opportunities where they could help so that they find a deep sense of satisfaction. It also educated them about their roles as an educated person. Could they raise their voices over cutting of trees, open drains, reclamation of salt pans or water logging areas for building purposes.?

Education in schools and homes should be about equipping children with survival- skills. That is Education for Life. Life-skills come into play only when we survive the calamities -natural or man- created. The need of the hour is we have to take them beyond the realms of academics,… let’s ask them to create a Vision for themselves. The vision will help them build their own skills. It does not come through formal education and in the comforts of the homes and classrooms. It would entail taking risks, accepting challenges, facing consequences of their own action, accept inconveniences, discomfort through everyday activities. This will empower them to address their own vision.

Education for life will equip our children with the right kind of skills and competencies won’t come from a curriculum .Integrating life’s experiences in our curriculum,will help children reflect and create a Vision for themselves.

Dear children ,

A very happy Children’s Day to all of you . You may ask what kind of a Children’s Day am I talking about, when there is no celebration today ?When we have school ,I know your teachers put up a special program for you and make you feel special. For teenagers and young adults ,the day falls into a routine ,  making it no different from other days except for the special morning assembly. When I was a kid , Children’s Day meant a small celebration . We were  given a ladoo each and every alternate year ,we were taken to  a film in a theatre not so close by . Neither the film nor the ladoo excited us but the long walk to the theatre “strictly  in two’s “excited us no end . The walk would begin at 11 am for a noon show and then the walk back would take us almost 45 mins. The traffic would come to a complete halt and we felt royal. It made us feel special.At home , it meant dinner out.

So, what makes Children’s Day special for you ? Doing what you love doing ,being in the company of your near and dear should make your day . Today I was watching the finals of the  U-12 Cricket tournament between our school and Sri Ma, .It has been a long tournament ,15 matches ,  a long ,hot day ,yet the children were highly excited with bountiful energy even at the felicitation function . This is the best way to celebrate Children’s Day . It didn’t matter who lost ,the disappointment was neither seen nor felt.That is because they did what they loved doing -play.

All children are very creative . Over the years ,the creativity is somewhat suppressed  due to”academic pressures to perform for marks ” and later in life due” to pressures of life – personal and professional”.One must consciously build on creativity and imagination  so that they become better thinkers leading to innovations.Opportunities galore for developing entrepreneurial skills . The country needs innovative entrepreneurs. You can make a difference with your creativity.

To be that ,spend some time with yourself ,without distractions of any kind – mobiles , games, friends , FB You will be able unearth your potential only with self -introspection . Be honest with yourself . What are your strengths? How can you capitalize on that ? How can you use that to support the weaknesses that you think you have. What are the opportunities that you see  to learn something new ?Where do you see the handicaps – lack of time , money , lazy, distance (too far away),no company… ? If the problems are genuine , search for alternative  sources of learning.You can use the social media as a learning tool so that it makes the learning more relevant.

Why is  this true to oneself  self-assessment so essential? to take you place . To be able to compare , contrast evaluate,synthesize ,apply instructions or orders from outside. You will be to analyse a problem -real or unreal with maturity and clarity.Do not wait for things to be placed before you . There is a greater thrill in being a self-made man.We ,as at school and at home will always  provide  a conducive environment  and support to able to help you understand yourself better.

We dream your dreams with you , we will build in you the skills to help you build your future. We can not build your future for you , you will have to do that yourself . And you will … if and only if you do some serious thinking about  your future,When you stand tall ,the world will be at your feet but remember that’s the first milestone , there are many more to achieve . Stay rooted.

God bless.

Yours always,

Revathi

At the outset, here’s wishing you and your loved ones, a very Happy Deepavali. This is a time of the year best spent with family and friends, loved ones who are a source of joy, of strength and of hope. The best Deepavalis are filled with lots of sweets, diyas, decoration and above all laughter. I hope this festive season has been as wonderful for you as it has been for me. May the coming year bring with it good health, happiness and prosperity to us all.

As an educationist, I cannot help but think of this time as a wonderful opportunity to teach our children the core value that underpins a festival like Deepavali – the triumph of good over evil. It’s important that we never lose sight of that message, since more than any curricular input, it is well-imbibed values such as these that will serve a child well throughout her life.
In today’s internet age,  these values are becoming increasingly important. The internet provides unfettered access to information, so arguably our children could learn about, say, the role of Chlorophyll in Photosynthesis, even without the guidance of a teacher. A strong moral character, however, cannot be simply downloaded; it continues to be moulded through perseverance and foresight in our homes and classrooms.
It is this moral backbone, that will ensure that our children do not slander, defame or in any way hurt others, no matter how convenient it is do so. It is far too easy to do so now, especially with the blanket of anonymity and deniability that comes with messages created and forwarded over our phones. The impact of this ‘trolling’ can be devastating, whether it is directed at a person known or unknown. Yet, I am not sure that we necessarily think of ourselves as casting stones at others, when we forward such a message, knowing that it is probably baseless.
Our children must grow up to be better than this. I would like them to take personal responsibility very seriously, and understand the impact of their actions on others. I would like them to know, that the world will  always judge them not by what they say and do in the light, but in the dark anonymity of web/ mobile ecosystem.
While whats app , FB ,Twitter and others keeps us connected,if not used intelligently, it may make people to commit or comment without thought . In an attempt to tweet or message instantaneously ,we tend to react rather than act even when not required..Malicious rumors not only spread negativity by keep the mind engaged in unproductive thoughts but also ruins the joy in the run up to the most joyous festival of the year. I have discussed this many a times with parents and students in my address to the extent  of being boringly repetitive because of my genuine concern for young parents.
I fully understand and appreciate the concern that every parent has for his/her child’s safety while giving them a mobile to be “in touch”. If that is the purpose , then it must serve only that purpose. Why the Samsung Edge or the I phones ? IT is also time that we introspect .When we complain of no time with family , can we introspect to see the time that we spend on electronic gadgets all in the name of connectivity.Much of what we come across as something that is unsettling or troubling in our lives is an indication that we concentrate on something more positive -learning a new skill,listening to music , play a game of soccer or badminton, catch up with friends face to face , spend time with kids ….the list is endless.
May this festival of lights remove the darkness around us and help us bring out the light within us ,We must  ensure that we explore all opportunities for the best possible preparation we can get for the journey called Life.
Wishing you a very happy Deepavali once again.

Something has caught my attention  and that is lack of attention in children (and adults alike). Instructions have to be repeated. One needs to call out to the child and inquire if  they had heard it. Everyday happenings at home -“Don’t forget to pick the keys from Lara aunty’s house. I won’t be home when you come home from school”.No response . “”Did you hear ,what I said?”,the mother asks again .The door is shut as the child rushes out to catch the school bus.” In the evening , the mother finds her child in a grumpy,irritable  mood – all hungry and thirsty.” You never told me that you will be away”,the child complains.An example from school -” The worksheets are only practice worksheets ,not for submission,”There is a humdrum of activity early morning. Students are busy rushing through the completion of worksheet. The teachers sighs in exasperation. One may feel anger , anxious, stressful , embarrassed and even resentful It seems as if nothing has affected them.

At the same time ,it is interesting to note that children multi- task brilliantly.They listen to heavy metal while studying , talk or text at the same time .And we wonder if they can do all this ,then why not what they ought to be doing ?Poor reading habits, bad hand writing , lesser speed in writing and comprehending  makes a parent more anxious.When our anxiety shoots up , we go overboard doing things for  the children. We feel more responsible for the completion of projects , ensuring a thorough run -through in  academics ,  “fixing  things “- completing incomplete notes through What’sapp, delivering craft items, costumes, sports equipment that was left behind .In the process , we are not allowing them one very important experience – to be able to fight one’s own battle , experience disappointments, face the music. While they become dependent learners , they also take things for granted .

I have an experiment done in our elementary  school  to prove that children will take on responsibilities of owning their learning only when they realize that they are accountable for their scores. Having had the bench-marking scores for all subjects ,I asked many teachers to set appraisal papers for each subject.Parents , teachers and children were not informed of the dates of appraisals .Everyday for a month teachers were asked to recapitulate the  concepts.This was to reinforce short term memory and help to link it to long term memory . On the day of the appraisal , one paper was picked and children attempted the appraisal, without fear of the outcomes..The result spoke about the success of the experiment . the children performed better than the bench-marked scores.Some of the parents who had expressed apprehensions earlier admitted that the atmosphere at home was up-beat and children were happy that they did “all by themselves”. This feeling of achievement will help in building self-esteem and confidence.

Similarly,by setting boundaries the child respects his parents more.Parents and teachers must exercise the power to say -NO. Children must know clearly what it means to cross the limits .Ten year old Naru, wanted to have a night over with friends.”All my friends are allowed an over-night stay ,only you are not permitting” . This is quite common.Where does one feel the gap? If it is a decision taken by the father , the mother  must agree with the decision wholeheartedly . Sometimes inadvertently one may express empathy for the child saying ,”I feel so bad for Naru .This is the age to enjoy. But  my husband ……” The child  reads through. Older children  can use the much cliched  words -” I need my personal space” ,The expression leaves a feeling of disappointment. Personal space is what we create for ourselves.Instead of losing one’s temper , one could communicate even more clearly making it sound you mean what you said . Never be apologetic  , not even if the host parent makes the call.

I must express an observation in this context . I am sure you too experience this When you enter a lift you often find people fidgeting with the handset . As the lift halts in every floor, people enter and start using mobiles -pictures , messages what ever. It takes 5 seconds to come down.And I always wonder why the restlessness. We are not in peace with ourselves even for 5 seconds. Where are we heading?Children must practice being by themselves , doing nothing , yet keeping themselves engaged without mobiles or the FB .

Commercialization of products using  children is fast becoming a good marketing strategy,From violent video games to online orders for food items. The modelling and acting.bug has caught on too.Marketing strategists  have studied the shopping behavior of children and  have  capitalized on the nag factor – i.e the number of times parents buy their children what they asked for thanks to the  pestering .With online shopping being the order of the day , is it wise to give teenagers credit cards ?with parents giving consent for children to be on the social network , the children have become easy targets for marketing strategists who extract personal information from the “”wanting to be visible kids””.

Are we seeing more easy to eat ready made stuff in our homes,or more clothes,shoes or sandals than required ? Are there more and more deos and perfumes or cosmetics ?Are online purchases for the family taking a chunk of the time?Are you feeling more stressed out with your child’s assignments , work not being done or forgetfulness of your child ? it is time to put a full stop to your indulgences.How does one do that ? Where does one begin? It must begin from birth but better late than never.

Place the rules on the table and follow them as a family.(Clarity on principles and purpose )

Do not address moody children .”Unless you speak nicely I won’t listen because I do not understand”

Acknowledge, listen ,then state why they won’t get it right away. ( mutual respect and consequences)

Have relaxation time ,keeping all e-gadgets at bay (helps to keep oneself at peace).

Take a matured informed call and  say -NO when you must .but it is important to use it responsibly.

NO is  a very powerful tool to  help us develop matured ,responsible, sensitive and balanced children..

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