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The curiosity , the surprise , the wonder ,excitement , the jubilation, the celebrations , the joy ,the cheer , the anxieties , the disappointment , the introspection…. Your palate must have been full of these, the whole of last week soon after the declaration of the Board results . Slowly, everything has started to settle and the big questions stare at you .

Am I standing at the Crossroads ? Now this, next what,now here ,next where ?Do I go for the subjects I like or do I opt for electives based on the marks I have secured ? Do I choose the subjects on the goals I have set for myself or do I go by the wiser choice made by my parents ?Do I go for some off- beat courses or do I tread on safe and oft trodden path ?Will I have friends in the group that I choose? Even before I have put in a great deal of thought into the choice of subjects , where do I go ? ISC, CBSE , IB , A levels, integrated course or HSC ?Which course would give me the depth of knowledge ?What would be simpler to score ? Where would I be able to balance coaching for professional course and my regular course of study ?Do I go for good faculty,the reputation of the institution or the flashy over- sized,loud advertisements , hear- say or by the fact that all my good friends are there ?

If I have left you more confused ,I must say that was the very purpose . When the churning begins , the unwanted thoughts are shelved to the edges , the clearer vision emerges. You will come to a point where you will think only about yourself – your future by the way of your choice of a career , your interests , your passion ,your plans A,B,C , your likes and your dislikes. Once the picture is clear , talk to your parents , your teachers, an experienced person in the field .It could be your sibling or a senior at school.The social networking sites are not windows for solutions.You must first state what you would like to do and your aspirations and then seek opinions .Do use information wisely and then take your decision.

While taking a decision , keep a few things in mind The older generation certainly has a more secure feeling when it came to their careers . Avoid any comparisons , the markets and field go for a constant change . While you have wide array of choice of careers in front of you ,remind yourself that you are in a far more dynamic and more competitive world than we did . Hence , you will have to constantly update on your skills while also polishing your people’s skills . Today’s market invests in people with good interpersonal skills and intrinsically motivated positive people. Your interests have to be diverse . A professional degree alone is no gateway to success. Do not distance yourself from a regular life of 16 -18 year olds. It is a part of growing up . Acads all the way , all the time need not lead you to your destination. When you look back years after you have walked out of the portals of the institution , you should feel that you lived your life – of opportunities , with a blend of activities and joyfully.
A gist of what I conveyed . Your goal is where your interests lie , be a self-starter. No one can drive you to your goal but yourself .Do it because you want to do it , you will see it fruitily. If you did not make it to the course or the degree of your choice , don’t blame it on someone or something . Don’t offer excuses to yourself – no time ( you create time ) , I went by my parents’ or friend’s choice ( the choice was yours ) , if I had chosen the other program , I would have done better ( it all depends on how you are prepared ), X, Y or Z paid for his/ her seat ( you will respect yourself more if you got it on your own).
Believe in yourself , work hard and consistently , cut off the unwanted frills, you will find more time on hands .And when you do it on your strengths, you are more confident and will do well in life. It will open up more channels of opportunities. Is it not something to be proud of ?
Are you still at the crossroads? Seek advice on the blog , I will certainly throw light in the matter without bias .

My family, my school, my friends and well wishers make my world. My students and staff breathe in freshness and sunshine  bringing a new meaning and a new life year after year, my friends and well wishers encourage me to explore, my family supports me, so my cup is full. At least, so I thought until I decided that I needed to spend my summer vacation differently. How about being with Nature?  How I chose to get away from school for a month, to a distant land far from my routines, my longest vacation ever, is still a mystery. But I still did it and I simply love it.

I live in the countryside close to the woods and the waters. The summer by Canadian standards, has stepped in. However to me, it is still mild winter. Not to be dampened by the “four seasons a day ” kind of weather, I step out of the house every morning at 8. I am home only at lunch time. In 5 days, I have known every bend in the creek, the path through the woods and  the nests and creatures around the place. I continue to explore the wildness even when it drizzles. I sit watching the clouds move, the trees dance to the whistle of the winds, listen to sounds of unknown creatures and I realise that my creativity has got its boost from Nature.

It brought me closer to a starting reality. Our kids will be alien to Nature very soon. They have a  strong disconnect  with themselves too. They will do things more mechanically and be driven to fantasies in a technologically driven world. While kids may be aware of global warming, other environment issues, their direct physical contact with Nature is negligent.  Can’t blame though! It is just unfortunate that Kids born today may be under greater threat of outdoor deficiency.

We unfortunately associate outdoors to once a year activity. In a recent trip with students, we were rushing to the Cocoa beach in Florida  when some of our students wanted to skip that to be at Florida Mall. “Beaches are just the same ” while I  counter- argued in the same tone that Malls across the world are just the same too. But It dawned on me that if kids have earphones plugged, how would they listen to the sound of the waves or even catch sight of the numerous colors of jelly fish  and other creatures that we  spotted. How would they admire the clean beaches and the surroundings? How would they learn to appreciate aesthetics if they didn’t have the exposure to it ? It took them quite some time to actually realise that Nature is reality.

One of the serious problems that our kids face is attention deficit – ness. Be it at home or school, they need to be constantly told what needs to be done next. Teachers and moms most often repeat instructions at least 4-5 times. Not a good sign for the intellectual growth of children. Research shows that Nature is therapeutic and can be used for healing. Children can experience freedom, move into flights of fantasy or just give themselves to think – about solutions to the challenges – real and imaginary.  Frustrations, peer – pressure, academic pressures and anxieties do need an outlet and time for solitude.  It works wonders – on the body, mind and brain .

When we distance ourselves from the electronic world that we have embraced so passionately for even a while everyday, one finds a  vacuum, a void that feels hard to fill but flip it around and you will see a huge canvas in front of you. Paint it with colours of Nature as you step into the woods and become a part of the wilderness, the bio-diversity.  You will see a whole new world of colours. We begin to understand ourselves more and concentrate better. We also begin to use our sense organs to  appreciate Nature. It then inspires us to express ourselves in words with crystal clear clarity. Language development happens. More importantly, we can move swiftly from reality to fantasy without feeling lost.

So, the next time you think of membership to a gym or club, halt, why not decide to take family membership in the wildness of greens or the open spaces next door ? Absolutely free!!!  You will never be bored.

Btw, where do you think I am writing this blog from? – sitting on a log of wood watching a plump squirrel playing hide and seek with the wild rabbit, inhaling the gentle fragrance of the lilacs, feeling the gentle breeze and sunshine, munching the berries I picked up on my way and listening to the gentleness of the flow of water …… Could I ask for more ?
Btw, where do you think I am writing this blog from ? – sitting on a log of wood watching  a plump squirrel playing hide and seek with the wild rabbit ,   inhaling the  gentle fragrance of the lilacs ,  feeling the gentle breeze and sunshine , munching the berries I picked up on my way and listening to the gentleness of the flow of water …… Could I ask for more?

Hearty Congratulations to all our students, their parents and the teachers for the stupendous results that they have romped home. A box of chocolate for each one of you. With around 800 students appearing for the examinations, we do have our share of anxious moments. Every teacher receives a gift at the start of the year – they are an assortment of students. It is the differential abilities / goals /skills in students that gives me and each one of us a set of challenges. While I work on reinventing newer strategies to build the learning capacities, my teachers work with the kids bringing on my table periodically their experiences. This sharing has helped not only to be supportive of each other but also for me to see the challenge from the ‘outside’. At the end of the day, it is a mission accomplished because we have contributed in a small way to build confidence in our students who will now embark on a new journey with a sense of achievement. It motivates us even more.

Shreyas Ravichandran, who stood first in the ICSE exams with 98.6% was not in the top most league at the Pre- boards. A very sincere and hardworking student, he blazed his way to the top. That’s what I meant when I mentioned in my blog – Preparing for the Boards that give it always the best. Working hard without aiming at the earmarked percentage helps students to prepare without anxiety. It matters. Nilay and Prakriti the other top runners, are just a mark away at 98.4%. They are also the toppers for me. I believe a mark more or less does not mean we take the crown away from them. 19 students are ranked within the top 1 percentage in the school ! That’s a number I can be proud of !!!

When I called Shreyas Dikshit the topper of ISC with 99% from Toronto to congratulate him, all that he said was ” Ma’ m it must be past 1 am there. So thoughtful of you to call me. Thank you for making my school days of 14 years so special. I really don’t want to leave school ” It is the same Shreyas that I pulled up just six months back, when I noticed falling grades. And he promised to pull himself up. Shreyas, you made me feel so proud. With Arindam Bhave, Shri Bhavishya and Sushmita Som closely following at 98.5% , all that I can say – they are the stars too. A crown for them. When  every student is only a mark away from the other, it means a lot to me.

To all my teachers, crowns for you and a bouquet of tulips (I only see them here in Canada) and to all my  students – heartiest congratulations but this is only the beginning – the launch pad. Work hard to embark independently with a clear vision and courage to face new challenges that may come your way in this beautiful journey called Life .

It seemed a while ago that I posted my first blog  post and when I posted one last night , I was congratulated on turning 100. A 100 …indeed !!! I could hardly believe it. I began writing after a request from parents who urged me to put my Orientations on a blog . Since ,all my  speeches are always extempore , I rarely record them,so I could never upload  the video. So, they suggested that I write . That was the first step toward writing a blog.When I got caught up with my own tight schedules,  it was always my readers who would remind me of a long absence from the blog site.Then, I began enjoying sharing ideas.

I have never read any blog before I began writing my own nor did I make an attempt to read one.I just wanted to be myself – simple , uncomplicated ,natural – with no pretence and above all, meaningful. Every one believes that they have to be different. So ,there is  a burning  desire  to say ” think out of the box”. But I didn’t have any pre-planned motive. I just asked myself  “What if there were no boxes at all?”.So, I began writing about what I saw,observed,  felt, opined and experienced .

I write from my heart – about  everything that I believe in .  I just know that I enjoy writing  about what I know best, enjoy most  and influence most — Children  and  education. It stretched beyond to   parenting. I have enjoyed my journey  from being  a teacher in a Kindergarten class to teaching Economics  to the ISC students because it offered an opportunity to exercise my versatility.. As a Principal ,every challenge added a new dimension to my thinking and  I evolved as a person. As a Director, I see all the 5 schools under our group , meet children and educators across the globe and even train them.It has helped me draw parallels.I have shared them too with you.

Journey of a thousand miles begins with a small step ,they say. So also has been my journey of writing through this medium. Thank you readers,for your support , encouraging words, comments and suggestions. It has always been taken positively.  With 100 blog posts down  ,I look back and say – It has been fun ,engaging and meaningful. I will be writing more often now hoping to post fresher thoughts and experiences. If you wish that I write on a particular subject do let me know.I would be glad to share.Watch out for the next one …..

Thank you  all….

As a kid , I loved the ad world .I loved writing the punch lines which I learnt later was copy writing. My English teachers thought I was a good script writer and often told me that’s where I ought to be. Those days it was hardly heard of  and so I ended up writing scripts for the Annual Concerts and shows  of my school and college.Looking back ,I think  I developed this interest  during vacations.My dad who encouraged me would encourage me to read the newspapers to “improve my style.I read and re-read every page of the newspaper.Are headlines, headlines anymore ?Leading newspapers have International and national news  shifting to Page 3. Something to ponder about.

While one can understand the aspect of commercial viability , I as an educationist see it differently. I see a shift in prioritization. When children see this every day in  their growing years,it casts an impression in their minds. They look at the momentary WOW moments and the importance of promotion. Use of Hinglish to attract the young  readers  is a norm, which again hampers the  formal style of writing,which is essential later in life for corporate presentations. While students and sometimes even children are enrolled for grooming sessions in Finishing schools, we overlook the need to polish the spoken,aural and writing skills. The art of speaking and writing is something that can be learnt during vacations.

So, how does one learn this skill in writing and speaking? The simplest way to do this to observe and then just describe what s/he saw. Children must speak every language correctly ,in its pure form. Mixing two language impacts mannerism , tones, style and vocabulary. At home ,when  speak their mother tongue,they will be to appreciate some great literary works and enjoy the settings and background against which the stories are based . This will help to develop imagination which is essential for good writing.It helps if grand- parents or parents read out the stories for them.Speaking with simplicity , poise and grace in a reasonable pitch or tone with a good  body language. can also be acquired by observation.

When the juices of the rich literature seeps in, one  develops imagination. Children have an in-built skill to add an element of their imagination.They must just take care  not to get carried away by their own description making the piece a drag or static.Slowly , they will develop their own style of speaking and writing. One never knows , this vacation homework may  help them  take this to more professional level  of  copy-writing , script writing or writers later in life. Has Chetan Bhagat not inspired a lot of youngsters?One need not always take to write as a career. Children can  write  just because they like to or  for  emotional satisfaction or  to express a few thoughts or feelings or build self-esteem or plain pleasure. Why does the reason really matter?Let us just play small role in contributing to an intellectual world of  good writers, poets , essayists, thinkers, well -balanced citizens .

As responsible adults , don’t you think we need to get our headlines back to Page 1?Won’t it even  more interesting to have our kids penning/making it to  the headlines ?.Looking forward to that day !!!

Holidays are fun  and everyone looks forward to it  . But a day after the start of the vacations ,  we wonder how  we can keep children occupied .Advertisements draw our attention to holiday packages , nature trails, adventure sports , classes of all kinds from salsa , to grooming, to creative thinking .We often take the  decision of keeping our children “occupied”  by asking – What to do ? Which program to enroll ?Then, how do we arrange for the kids to reach them to the destination? Stop ! Let us pose the question – Why?Why do we want our kids to do what we want? Why do we want them to be”” occupied” from dawn to dusk even during vacations?Why do kids have  to hop from one class  to the other ? Why don’t we ask kids what they want to do , without prompting or leading them to trail our dreams? While -Never Stop Learning – should be our motto ,it is more  important  for them to  create opportunities and take the trouble to find their path.

Why do we have summer camps ? It is to kindle interest in a skill, later And if they did not  feel the passion , it would be something they can shelve for a while and ponder over .What really happens once the camps are done.? Children  will complain of boredom may then just  eat ,sleep , watch television and go online .Parents tend to be irritated by the sight of sluggishness and wasteful time. Relax .. let us see what happens after a week ?Children will start charting out a plan for themselves. Schools basically teach them indirectly to introspect from time to time  and ask the question -Why? So they will embark on a short journey of thinking ,reading,listening  and discussing with friends and parents. They will find an answer sooner or later .They learn all of this in their school life.They must give shape to their interest.  The purpose of vacation is to disrupt  routine,engage in learning , feel the excitement and indulge themselves.

When we see that excitement in children to learn something new, let us hold ourselves back when it comes to expectations..  If kids play cricket ,they need not be ‘like Sachin Tendulkar”. The child may follow  his idol literally but never makes it even  to the school team.Why?.The child has just  observed and imitated  the style, the mannerisms   and the game in that order i.e the glamour but not the techniques and  attitudes. Children are never told that Sachin practices batting facing at least a 100 balls and then watches the recorded video, analyses his strikes and makes the corrections painstakingly.Kids must perfect the art or skill to the best of their ability.We cannot expect children to excel after a year of coaching/training . It takes time for a stage performance or a match.Sometimes ,children just want to be left alone during vacations..They keep themselves occupied . That is the way for innovation in creativity.

In case of older students, vacations are unfortunately ,often spent on completion of syllabus for the next academic year .It is actually time to revisit concepts  and developing thinking skills. Stimulation of thoughts , provoking to question the very purpose of their own goals and path, engaging in intellectual discussions with peers and adults facilitates true learning. It helps to develop their  personality .

All children are uniquely talented and diverse in their thinking. Vacations help to  light the spark of interest .We have to make it  simple for them  by giving them time to celebrate their talent and passion. By pushing them too hard , we are putting everything on a conveyor belt even before it is ready to roll.Let them be left to themselves to decide why they wish to do what they are doing during the vacation .

Whose vacation is it ,anyway ?

I was driving from Gandhinagar to Punsari, a small village tucked in the interiors of Gujarat because this village received world- wide recognition for governance and I wondered why was I doing this visit in the sweltering heat. As we drove down through the villages, I could appreciate the shades of green that Nature has to offer from the dark green leaves of the huge trees that formed avenues to the vast fresh green fields to the yellowish green grass weeds to the brown barren lands . Having taken the 5 a.m flight from Mumbai and then hopped on to the waiting car to avoid the hot late morning drive, we looked for eating joints but there were none. I had a long day at Ahmadabad, so we decided to drive without stopping by.

A huge welcome sign arch – Punsari Village Panchayat welcomes you – greets us. What strikes a visitor is the cleanliness of the village. Swatcch Bharat Abhiyaan found a meaning there. I could see a city in a village. The village was equipped with an automatic water purification plant, supplying pure drinking water to every household. A reverse Osmosis system ensured water all day long. The village had free wi-fi and there were four primary schools running to full capacity with a zero drop – out rate. The local police station had no cases of theft, cheating, ill-treatment registered in the past 5 years. The Sarpanch attended to all the disputed matters once a week. A system of registering complaints using a toll -free number was in place and the complaints were attended to by evening. The responsibility of the complainant is to send a thank – you message. The primary health care center had two doctors on duty – a general physician and a gynaecologist.

I met the young sarpanch of Punsari, Himanshu Patel to know how he brought about such a change. One could see development. The villagers too were proud of their Sarpanch. They insisted that I watch his interview on BBC. It is amazing that a man born and bred in a village could educate the people of the village in the use of technology. What is amazing is that technology is used by the villagers to bring positive changes in growth. Himanshu Patel proudly claims that his village offers “the amenities of a city but the spirit of a village”. “I want people to return to the village and earn their livelihood. Why should they go to cities?”

Every home in the village had a toilet inside the house, dustbins at every junction,  four primary schools which are cleaned by the students themselves, street lights and a drainage system. The entire village had CCTV cameras installed at strategic points. What was unique was the  public address system which covered the entire village with the help of about 140 loudspeakers installed. The sarpanch addressed the people every morning over the public address system.

It is surprising that none of the villages in India, have tried to adopt a few good practices from this model village. I came back inspired because of that ‘one not so educated man’ who has made an indelible mark in India by the way of development. His hard work, immense energy and the dedication has made it possible to ‘educate’ the illiterates bringing about a magical difference. I wish that our higher education focuses on CSR as a part of their course so that our youth (which comprises of 1/5th of our population) will commit to excel and experience the true meaning of Education.

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