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It was  a few days after the Boards, when a group of tenth graders came visiting me. It is always a pleasure to talk to these students.As we sat down for a chat on their future plans and careers ,we came closer home.They were all appreciative of the beautiful aquarium space which had all varieties of fish .”Ma,m ,What next ?”popped Nimish .

As if waiting for someone to ask and feeling like n excited  6 year old waiting to share, I said ,”I want  to have the Sulonian Films Division which makes short films with strong messages.The films should me made by students , for students and of students.(pardon me ,Mr. LIncoln for borrowing your words)The boys sat up, very enthusiastically . What kind of messages should we convey?I wanted students to take up issues that affect them during their growing -up years . It had to be themes beyond particular incidents, Schools, Boards ,Course of study or any media related matter.It should be about matters that adolescents in general face as a part of growing up. These are acceptable as “FUN and NATURAL” but can affect one ,if s/he is sensitive.These can not be shared with  parents or teachers for the simple reason that they are “normal”. The discussion led to brainstorming of ideas.

We had a basket of ideas.When they asked me to pick up one ,I told them that the project will be theirs and  only they had the right to  choose but I advised them to take up  one that touched them the most.They announced -” Ma’m, You are  the Producer”,which subtly told me to keep away !!!  They huddled together for another round of discussion and took up one closest to their heart.Done! I suggested that they have a team We planned to meet a week later with the students coming back a week later with the script ,which I had to” edit”.

Three days later , a group of 14 were in my office with the script . A few suggestions and cuts later ,given by a few teachers who volunteered support, they were ready with the final one . The artistes were decided upon by them and the logistics was worked on by the students themselves. I asked them if they needed support for cinematography ,they flatly denied saying,”Ma’m, we will manage”I only had to be the” clapper lady” for the Mahurat shot . How privileged was I !!!!

On the auspicious day , when the camera rolled , I was surprised beyond words . 5 cameramen(my little boys and girls)were all over the place.The building top ,short distance cameras for close -up ,, long distance cameras for long shots other cameras to shoot from different angles,….. the Works!! Many times I caught up with them during the shoot because I was concerned about them handling electricals , SLRs,climbing ladders etc, all by themselves. They always assured me ,”Ma’m,please don’t worry .We will take care of each other”  The film making had begun in all earnestness. A week later , they were back in my office on a Saturday ,with the first cut.I could not believe my eyes .Scripting, Sound recording, cinematography,Background Score,Lyrics,Music, Light effects, Dubbing and Editing ..all by themselves.What they did not not know , they researched , spoke to experts but did  it on their own .

One  Sunday morning ,I sprung out of my bed , having noticed a mail from Sparsh. He probably had sent it to me  at midnight.It was the trailer of the movie.I screamed in delight.We met up the next morning to have a complete screening.As a critic , I gave them a review , discussed where they needed to add the punch or the finesse.In the whole process , I saw seriousness in their project and eye for detailing. Two days later, they were ready with the final script , happy about using the vacation well and satisfied with the final product. .

I invited the cast and crew over to see the reaction of the audience , when I had a special screening for teachers and students of the current batch of Std X.As the the first shot rolled – Sulonia Films Division presents-  CHRYSALIS , the teachers and students it greeted with a thunderous applause, that reverberated along the corridors of the school ,followed by pin-drop silence for the next 15 minutes . Expressions of the audience spoke it all – open mouthed ,forward body position ,in awe and wonder …till the credits came by . And the kodak moment  happened .. The teachers and students gave the cast and crew a standing ovation amidst a deafening applause. Unbelievable but exciting!!

My creative team was so excited as I went on to introduce them. A spectacular response to an outstanding project . I used the movie to discuss the theme getting very positive open resolutions made. The same day ,I screened it for Std IX .They were so inspired that the “naughty ones” actually met me up wanting to make the next movie on a mischief that they had done.They wanted to correct themselves. The ideas are being worked on The spirit is on the high…

The mission to make learning fun,meaningful and relevant  continues .The purpose is not only to experience the joy of creativity,trying something new , receiving appreciation but also to be able to introspect What we perceive as problems, arise out of our own creation  so, we are better equipped to find solutions too.

Using  films to drive home a message has always been the purpose of good cinema but for me ,it was a dream ,that brought  CHRYSALIS so close to my heart because my students created it. They lived the dream . My dear dream weavers, Thank you for dreaming with me  You  INSPIRE and you spread MAGIC.

Lead the way so that I can follow – is the what every kid may wish to say to the society. I reiterate this with a few happenings in school.A month before the school closed for the summer break , we were re-designing the curriculum .We were devising ways of integration of disciplines and life-skills. While teachers expressed concern about ” failing value system”,I differed because I believe that values are what we make of them. Many believe things can’t be taught , they must be imbibed . Everyone learns consciously (Planned) or unconsciously(unplanned) through observation .If we believe that everything boils down to- “What does this have, in store for me ?”,the answer is ” We should build positive environment because it impacts our lives.”

A friend shared this idea and I wondered if I could try it out with my kids in school. We took three bottles filled it with  the same quantity of water,put a hand full of rice in each of them .Left the bottles in the same place ,some distance from each other. One bottle had small  red flowers painted on it ,with the word- Love , the second had small black dots painted , with the word -Hate. And  third bottle was left untouched. KG kids were asked to address each of the red and black dotted   bottles using the words written on it .They could also add positive words and sentences in any language to express love or hate as the case may be. The kids came one by one and spoke to the red bottle and said ,”I love you . You look so beautiful.You are so nice. I like the color red.You look bright.You make me happy. …”.so on.

The kids then had to move to the next bottle -the black dotted one- they read the word Hate . Then turned to the teacher and asked ,”What is the meaning?Why should I say bad things”.We noticed that the KG kids were unable to call out names , or use negative words.Even if a couple of them( out of almost a1000 kids) said something for the sake of it, they smiled at the teacher and added pointing to the ‘Hate” bottle ,”But I like this bottle too. I won’t say this again because this bottle will feel sad. ”  We were quite pleased with the outcomes.We tried it out with the first graders as well and we realized  a few more could use stronger words.After a month of experimentation,we found that the water in the black dotted bottle had turned murky . The water in the red dotted one with love , remained unaffected.

Lessons we learn –

Children are pure and divine . As kids grow ,they fill a lot of negative thoughts in their bags. These come from the society that shows them how ,thus corrupting their minds.Their behaviour is a reflection of the society.Some become skeptical, even  doubting good intentions and acts. Some fail to appreciate little things around them. The early years teach kids what is right and wrong .

Is it not important  for us to lead and teach by example?

It was delightful for me to know that our little ones asked what it meant. It is a relief. We ought to encourage the kids to build a positive and joyful world around them consciously.How do we do that ? Can we help our kids resolve their  differences among their peers  that may come while  playing?Can we teach our children to express their state of mind  in words ? I was travelling from Toronto to Copenhagen, when a lady with her young son took a seat behind me in the flight. No sooner did they sit down than the 6 year old began to howl scream and bawl.Apparently, the mom decided not to give him another chocolate. May be he had one too many. He began to throw tantrums disturbing all the passengers. The mother was visibly embarrassed and used a high pitched tone with very harsh words to quieten the boy.The boy howled even more and she screamed too. The words were to harsh to bear.I could take it no longer and asked the lady if she needed help. In her high strung voice she said ,”Please” I advised the lady to calm down. She kept quiet. I asked her if I could handle her son . She said “Please get him off me” I told the boy “I can’t hear you unless you are quiet. When you are calm ,let me know , I can give you what you want.” The boy stopped crying abruptly.  I smiled at him and gave him a small six- piece jig saw puzzle that I had in my bag .The boy was quiet . He was trying to fix the puzzle. He could not do so . It was the map of India!!!!  As we got off the aircraft the American thanked me profusely saying that “only his teacher at school can handle Joe” . I smiled to myself as I walked out of the airport.

Teaching kids to handle themselves is a gift that we can give now so that they they have a stress-free future.

The third lesson is- if harsh and strong words can turn clean water murky, don’t you think  similar words used  on our children can impact their minds negatively?

Stop ,pause , think and speak for a positive future.

We welcomed the rains as it lashed the city this week. Relieved from the sweltering heat of May, the dryness and the sun burns, the rains have also brought in some greenery and freshness to the otherwise brown, dry gardens and grounds. More importantly, it created excitement and and joy. It also rang in, the New year for the kids as well.
New uniforms, new colourful bags, new shoes or sandals, new pencil cases, lunch boxes, water bottles, new class, new friends…. How exciting!

As a kid, I enjoyed the first few weeks of school for the same reason, just that it was not new every year. I would promise to pack my bags properly the previous night , have my ironed uniforms set aside the previous night and looked forward to doing my homework very neatly. The newly covered notebooks and text books was always such a delight, till it developed dog- ears. Nothing has really changed in these many years. Or has it?

Is the excitement dying? I hope not.
Having been to some of the best schools in the country, I always wish kids to experience the joy of coming to school. It means reaching out to all senses. And so the Aquarium. The colourful fishes are a delight. There are almost 20 + varieties of fishes. The Aquarium serves as a learning space. Just observing them gives a lesson on Aquatic animals with details of their parts, food, movements.

The rock garden, the spice garden, the butterfly garden that is being developed is all about plant life, colours, uses, aesthetics. While the painted bottles and plants add colour to the garden, the noisy geese just pumps in more life. Bird nests are being prepared to and to the bio- diversity.

The Junior labs have been completely redone that will enable more kids to access labs for lab work more frequently. The libraries have added a whole lot to their already over – stocked libraries. We will be opening up for a sale of withdrawn books early next month at throwaway prices, which will enable us to build a library for under-privileged kids.

The kindergarten kids get newer cycles for their traffic parks. New computers have replaced the old ones in 3 computer labs. New painted look in some of the classrooms is a delightful welcome. New sport will be introduced from July. Foreign language courses will commence for students too as an out of school activity. That’s quite something to look forward too.
Newer strategies in classrooms will boost creativity, thinking, analysing and associating skills.

Hope it would create ripples of joy, wonder, enthusiasm and excitement that are not just many and large but also impactful leading to greater desire for learning. A small step ….leads certainly to longer strides.

To a great year ahead …. Cheers !!!!

I have spent this summer with students of the school. Believe me, it has been one of the most rewarding experiences. It is the only time that teachers and students drop off their guards and communicate openly. It is also an opportunity to know students better and share some frank moments. And I do!

I am right now in the Netherlands with students of Std XII, as a part of the student exchange. My interactions with students in USA, Canada and the Netherlands over the past 1 1/2 months has brought home some freshness of thoughts.
Talking to the Dutch students, I realised, they use words and oral language for communication. They found it difficult to decipher nods and the “rolling of the heads “, which is very characteristic of Indian students. I wish they said – No /Yes rather than the gestures. I laughed and asked my students to keep that in mind. Little did I realise that I was talking to the young generation of learners. At the end of the third day, the habit had rubbed on to the dutch!! They made it so much more simpler. The dutch also felt that Indian students are less stressful than they are. I smiled and asked them to check it out for themselves. To me, it is never stressful unless, we choose to make it so for ourselves.
Dinner is at 6 pm and the kids in the house are tucked into bed soon after. Our students wondered if they could have their dinner and not be hungry by 10 pm but our students adapted to that so easily. Our students just made themselves natives.  They loved the outdoor sports, the long distance walking, the 12 kms cycling to school and back. The students mingled with each other as if they knew for a long, long time. They spoke about India, festivals, culture with great pride. They cooked Indian meals voluntarily and enthusiastically, though they did none of that back home. Distance makes hearts grow fonder for their country and I saw them feel the pride for their country.
Be it at home or outside, we need to have occasions such as these for children to feel and express. Festivals are occasions where students can talk about their family customs and traditions to other family members.. This will connect them better to their own family roots. Let the Sunday evening be there to show off their culinary skills. They would love it and would give Mamma the much needed respite from a ” packed in the kitchen Sunday. I am sure it would be relaxing and fun too! They are appearing for the Boards early next year and would appreciate the rejuvenation.

I am sure there will be wonderful conversation once they are back and more revelations.

Getting to meet the children back in school is exciting.Welcome back . We missed you children at school . I hope you are seeing a new sign board that says School is Fun  and I do hope that we can provide you a learning environments that adds spice , fun and wonder to your learning programs.

You are going to be in for surprises this year on all front . The spice garden , the butterfly garden , a big aquarium, new activities, events and a change in curriculum design . I am sure you will enjoy this too.I hope you will welcome all of this.

Smile your way through and enjoy your journey . God bless!

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?

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