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At the conclusion of my talk to the tenth graders just before their Boards were to commence,my heart  missed a beat,when it suddenly dawned on me that one of my kids was not there in the hall. A friendly , warm ,cheerful,polite and well-mannered Meherzad was not there . His cheerful smiling face stood right there saying,”I am here to cheer my classmates”. He was, I know ,up there doing his bit for his friends ,so that they will do well.

I have known Meherzad for 12 years, more so in the past 3 years, when he was diagnosed with cancer. Moving between hospitals and the rigorous treatments, he always told me ,”I am a survivor” I would always tell him “You are a fighter and with the positive attitude you exude , you will always be a winner.” However ,sadly, it was not to be.

Around the same time last year ,we lost a great educationist Shri Rasikbhai Shah whom I know for over 18 years to the dreaded disease Cancer.Despite his brave fight for life , he could not win the battle.When Rasik bhai refused Chemo after a few cycles , I chided him and asked him ,’ Why do you deny treatment? ,he would laugh it aloud saying “Arre, chalta hai .I am an old man. Gaadi chalegi.”Both of have have left a void in the lives of all those who knew them.

Both of them had similar qualities though one was 15 and the other 85. Their smiles , the cheer,the joy love for life  and open fields/farms and positive aura had always attracted people to them. I was left stumped for words when Meherzad’s father wrote to me ,” I am just coming out of Meherzad’s prayers , I felt that it would be incomplete if I forgot the kindness care , affection personally  shown by you and the school  throughout our difficult times. Meherzad’s world centered  around the school and the farm. He went to sleep every night looking forward to going to school.”I thank my teachers who stood by the family always.If school meant so much to Meherzad , the  presence of all of us must have kept him happy.Teary eyed his father then said,”Perhaps, he does not need me as much as I need him.please cherish all the memories forever.”I could do nothing to disagree.

As I drove through the emotional journey, I realised – What is always remembered and cherished is the goodness that people have in them  and what we  share with others.Wealth , power, positions,money, the brands we wear has no meaning because during moments of crisis , what matters is humanity. When we reach out , it gives us bliss .Humanity needs no awards , recognition or publicity.

Farewell Meherzad -We will always cherish the beautiful years of you in school.

Writing the Boards..

The third part in the series, is a piece on examination time. Nothing perhaps is new but a recap helps. Much as we prepare students to be calm and collected during exams, students do feel the heat. Every year, all the teachers greet them at the entrance and chat up with them with words of cheer and encouragement. It is the culture in the school. It is a feeling of  warmth and care reassuring students that they will do well. At home too, I am sure parents create an environment of comforting peace and not one of anxiety.

Students must come prepared with the necessary stationery and hall-ticket , which the parent must also check. Let us begin with the ink. Using a black pen is a No-No for someone who does not have a beautiful handwriting. It tends to highlight the bad hand-writing. Blue or blue- black is ideal for all. Pencils and colour pencils must be sharp and students must carry spares. Wasting time on sharpening is unwise. Underlining key points with a multi -colours is not welcome. It may appear like a piece of art.

Students must choose to attempt which they are competent to do. Attempting a choice question only to prove one’s higher intellectual capacity is not recommended for a Board exam where marks matter. Cancellation of wrong answer must just have one line across the wrong word. Whiteners is strictly prohibited. We have had instances of students attempting a more difficult program in Grade XII Computer-Science because they found the other two programs not challenging enough. And they panicked, when the output was not easy.

Students must read the paper well and not put all their efforts towards attempting one question too well. No question must be left unanswered for want of knowing the right answer. If one can recall patiently or associate it to something they did on the day of revision of that particular chapter, will get them at least half credit, if not full. One must attempt an extra question only if there is a lot of time on hand after re-checking one’s own paper. A few years back, one of our brighter students landed with 84% when we all thought he would be there right on top. He later confessed that he should have attempted all the extras especially since he did not have time to complete well.

Last minute discussions should be avoided, lest it causes confusion. Even after the paper, discussions on the right answers no matter if they were good or not so good should not be encouraged. I always ask students to shut their eyes and relax for the 2 mins before the start of exams, which helps them to unwind. Above all, the greatest asset that all have is confidence. Confidence comes from one’s efforts and self-belief that hard work will have its rewards. Honesty in work gives rich dividend by the way of positive energy. Let every child believe that he/she can and he/she will. When confidence fails, you stand in front of the mirror and say aloud – I can and I will. Say that 5 times till you really believe in it. And you can see the results. Sometimes, there are challenges by the way of disappointments, illness, ill luck …. One must take it in one’s stride.

The following lines summarizes  my thought on challenges :

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or the faster man,
But sooner or later the man who wins,
Is the man who thinks he can.

Wishing that each one of us not just remember these lines but also live it, to believe that we can ….and I will..

In my previous blog, I stressed on the need to build a strong resolve , I will take you through the journey for the next month and a half .By now , all students would be conscious of the exams .Parents must be handling mood swings , anxieties even sleeplessness. Sadly though,some parents too undergo this.Uncalled for -one may say nevertheless it is there. Ultimately, it depends on the “preparedness” of the students.Some of them who are well prepared will want to relax since they are “bored” of going through this revision over and over again while some   who have pulled up their socks late would find the content voluminous and find tasks ahead quite impossible to accomplish.Both groups will have re-visit their plan of action . Over-confidence leads to complacency while unpreparedness leaves one anxious .

During study leave , one can easily put in 12-13 hours of serious work.It does not mean that one needs to study non-stop. Short breaks will help students to recharge.The frequency of breaks would depend on the level of concentration . Majority can sit up for 40 minutes continuously , 5 minutes of recapitulation is essential followed by a break of 10 minutes helps to recall ans unwind. This short break is for stretching w, a break walk and may be some music.A brisk walk or a short outdoor game that is not too tiring will help to relieve of any stress.At this point of time, one must avoid any procrastination.

Sitting on a comfortable chair that supports the back , sufficient light and a clean table stimulates learning . When a student sits in the same place , same time and has a planned schedule ,the mind associates this environment to some serious work and helps students to concentrate better.

Right food and good sleep will help in memory recall. Eating small meals  every two hours with salads ,  fruits and fruit juices is better than 4″ full meals”.Having heavy food, deep- fried and cheesy can make one drowsy. Students love hot piping favourites but this is certainly not the time to indulge. With the heat of Summer setting in, drinking water frequently helps to prevent physical and mental fatigue.Good sleep for at least 6 hours (even when one feels that one has  not done enough) rejuvenates everyone.Students often tell me that if they sleep , they tend to forget , which is untrue. There are days when there is a feeling of blankness surfacing just in the morning of the exams but that is not possible. Cramming till the nth hour may cause that . Keeping the mind relaxed will help recall and analyze.

A quick flashback -I recalled my experience with my Boards.Way back,we did not have many of the distractions that kids have today but  we still had expectations to meet if not beat. My brother , my senior by 11 years was the All-India topper. Those days , the All-India toppers received the gold medal and certificate from the PM or the Defence Minister.My Principal and my teachers were convinced that I could repeat the feat. However,  my parents never pushed me to be the country-topper neither did they draw comparisons . They were just happy that I was doing well. My school and our friends never lost an opportunity to remind me of my brother’s accomplishment. “Do your best so that you don’t turn back on your journey someday and feel you wished you had done better.”This advice keeps me in good stead even today.

Efforts must match aspirations.However,attributing everything to competition ,some students and parents over-do this .Beyond textbooks, beyond classrooms, beyond a few practice prelim papers………the day is packed . There is no time to self-study or to reflect.Today, Whats app is a way of life. Undoubtedly for many, it is an addiction  !! My concern comes from the fact that students rely on that even for their academics during revision time. It becomes a time-waster  for the sender and for the receiver. Taking photos of the notes /solved problems and sending it across to a friend who finds it unclear leads to unnecessary to and fro communication. And if the student is not serious enough, they tend to chat . Similarly , messages on inclusion or exclusion of some chapters only leads to rumors and misguides students creating nervousness.

For students who feel anxiety because of the vastness of the syllabus,  it is advisable take one chapter at a time with at least 3 subjects a day . For quick and sure recaps,colors or highlighters especially florescent and Mnemonics (first letter of every point can make an interesting new word ) helps.A nagging feeling of not being able to complete revision due to paucity of time can be combated by reminding oneself of the number of hours in a day. It  work wonders provided we work hard sincerely.  Will-power and perseverance  will give results. One has to make conscious attempts to keep all distractions at bay . One can always catch up with your outings with friends , FB , gaming  ,Whatapp ,music movies , football and cricket soon after the examinations. One enjoys it too without a tinge of remorse because the best has been presented.

Dear students,you ought to be be cheerful and positive when you know you have the support and blessings/good wishes of your parents, grand-parents , teachers and all your friends. Can you ask for more?

Be the Show-Stopper

Excerpts from my talks with students appearing for the Board Exams

“An excellent performer ,be it in competitions or academics is not one who has complete mastery over the art and science of the subject nor is the person is superbly gifted with a natural talent or capability but is one who has very  deliberately and diligently practised it over long periods of time. So, do  take a call for your own schedules,on utilizing the  next three weeks  that you have before your Boards.It is a lot of time for some and is also very little time for some others.It is important for you to determine how you want to see it . Personally, for me, it is a lot of time. It will help me as a student to decide that I am going to be concentrateL on only thing now -i.e. academics .”

I looked at my students in the packed auditorium. There was  perfect silence and I could that every student was absorbing word of what i said. I continued ,”Don’t turn the time to the future – the date of the results. The destination is secondary ,start working harder each hour, each day.You will realize many of your specific objectives and goals will seem more accessible and attainable . You will then see the outcomes.”

As I spoke I could see and read faces – for some stress and anxiety was written large on their faces , some laid- back and seemed casual, some looked confident  .Yet others,were lost in their own thoughts wondering if they would ever make the grade,having lost a lot of their time earlier this year.I was addressing my students who are going for their board examinations . A class is always a mixed group. I do not want to be perceived as a person who always jumps on to the wagon to give sermons.I want my students to listen to me and then have the wisdom to be able to choose what applies to them. I want them to leave the auditorium  motivated enough to be able to work harder for their own sake,not for me.

” Go back to your prelim papers and note the corrections made by your teachers.Now , see how you can convert every right answer to the best answer you can.For those who got the whole answer wrong, must go back to reading the right answer and re-writing it .Thus,you have made your tasks and results appear reachable and attainable.The ultimate goal of maximising your scores is already in place.For the high achievers , perfecting every answer leads to mastery . The mastery happens not only when you do your best but also when you do  everything in the best way it can be done.”

“Being naturally intelligent does not help much in an examination.Intelligence helps in grasp of the subject , creating newer ideas but it won’t help you go beyond.Reading often leads to familiarity  and understanding but is not necessarily ‘learnt’,which makes it difficult for some of you students to apply this “understanding” to a particular answer.These children can just start off when a clue or a gentle push is given .But ,this does not happen in a Board examination leading to poor scores. Mastery leads to retention and recall which is essential for an examination.”

“Be honest and  accountable to yourself. It does not matter what your teachers or your parents expect of you . What really matters, is what you expect from yourself and your life.When you are accountable to yourself ,you will attain greatest heights , something that others may be only dreaming of .You must own it. Catching up with friends during revision times on FB ,Whats app, Twitter ,mobiles on the sly ,is a bad attitude. If unchecked and uncorrected by yourself  , it will become a habit. Don’t be afraid of what can come before you. Do not be daunted by a seemingly difficult subject or task before you  Don’t be afraid of unforeseen or imaginary situations that may trouble your concentration.Acknowledge them.Seek the help of you  parent/s, teacher/s, mentor,or a coach .Critics help you to introspect.So,don’t rely on peers who are only your cheer-leaders who will say ,don’t worry . You will do it . Reality check is important.”

“You are the designer of your thoughts and your actions. Design the most beautiful piece of art -Your destiny , your life.”Be the show-stopper!!!”

“God bless you all.”

We just concluded the 46th Annual Day celebrations of the school and it has been  receiving bouquets from all, for the thought- provoking  ballet – Ek Anveshan – Ramrajya ki Oar . While the slick script -writing , direction , melodious music by 100 + children special lights and sound effects were much applauded , the stupendous performances  by the 1000 + kids who displayed exceptional skills in all art forms from classical to dialogue delivery stole the hearts of all. Each time that we present a  theme, the discussions and the detailed research begins much before the event. I personally enjoy every moment of being a part of the research and brain-storming for the creation of the  ballet.

What gives us a sense of contentment  and satisfaction , is not just the success and the appreciation ,  but the learning that happens as a part of making it. The learning is  immense considering the fact that it is a complete in-house production ,with no involvement of professionals.It is also  never without challenges – be it creative differences  (rightfully so!) , the absence of key actors or dancers for rehearsals , not having trained dancers for classical art forms , the planning for the light and sound effects and training teachers to handle that completely…. , it is endless. But ,when the team works the results are amazing.This applies to children as much as it is for adults. We scale greater heights only when we synergize .

In our ballet  Ek Anveshan …, the same character was played by different children for different scenes.And there was no selection process . Everyone who wished to participate joined in.Even for the classical dances, the dancers were not  trained.We just celebrate the rawness. It spreads sweetness and inclusiveness.Giving more children an opportunity to participate helps them to rise to their fullest potential.

In the field of Education , schools must give children a feel of a miniature society . The society is a mixture of all kinds of people with different capacities, abilities , opportunities and goals . Children learn from each other as mush as they learn from their teachers. The peer -learning is a powerful tool for long term .In pursuit of exclusivity, one may unknowingly enter a space where collaboration and competition is limited. Thus ,children grow up into young adults and later enter adulthood unprepared for the changing fabric of the society  Adjustments at that time get more difficult ,less acceptable and even unmanageable.

Our ballet also  highlighted the basic essence of Ramrajya -a system based on opportunities, and fairness .This is not confined to our own students for school activities only but to all across the globe in general. Two events back to back reinforces my belief in my statement that we adults  are responsible for make the society- progressive,mediocre or regressive.Take for e.g. the second event which I refer to  – the random sampling for entry to KG.I can understand the excitement of getting it and may be a little bit of disappointment of not making it.Random sampling is a system of providing opportunities and a fair process.It is a lottery . It does not mean someone gets chosen over the other.Children are all born simple , pure , divine,intelligent and positive.We intend to keep  our systems too that way . I still don’t know the kids who will be walking into the portals of my school nor am I even interested to know .As an educationist ,my  responsibility and commitment towards their education is about providing a conducive environment ,nurturing them with a commitment to excel . Keeping  the clutter of complexities ,impure earthly negative  thoughts out of our realm ,help us drive towards our commitment.

A  journey  towards helping our children build a society based on respect , dignity ,fairness , integrity and a commitment to excel is the quest for Ramrajya. Can Man write a better script for an intellectual  civilization, for the next generations to follow ? Yes , provided man overcomes some cardinal emotions-of envy, anger, frustration , greed , arrogance .As we traverse the course of life , we must  get embedded in an intricate web of relationship where only  goodness  prevails and remember that life is our journey to be savored every step of the way.Sounds  dreamy ??? No, it is by taking chances that we learn how to be brave and keep values fluttering high .To be without dreams ,is to be without hope.To be without hope, is to be without purpose ,So, I don’t want to dismiss my dream – To contribute my lot towards building the India of my dreams.

A sudden loud reprimand just outside my office made me check what the commotion was all about. I was informed that some students had unfortunately caused some damage to a teacher’s car. And the kids were hauled up for me!! I called for them and lo! I see a contingent of 2 security staff, the class-coordinator and 8 bright eyed six year olds walking in. The kids had no trace of  worry or anxiety. I could not believe my eyes. I only have had my 13-15 year olds walking in to apologise. With anxiety writ large my teacher said sadly ,”My kids pelted stones on teacher X’s car and has had a crack. My security added that he caught these 6 year old up to this mischief who caught hem at the nick of time preventing a big damage.

Before he could even explain, one of the kids began – “Actually Principal Madam, I did not break anything. I asked them rather sternly -“Who broke it?” Wanting to wriggle out, each one pointed their little finger at the other but I wanted to be fair to them. I know that kids help an adult with a task if he is convinced that we are plain, straightforward and just. I gave them an opportunity to speak. O my! I just transcended into a world of theirs for the next 15 minutes. Apparently, one of them announced that there was a giraffe in school with a cat and a rabbit. They set out on a search for these animals during the lunch recess. A more inquisitive one bent down and spottted a cat under the car. He concluded that the giraffe was there too and announced that triumphantly. By then, all the kids were excited and concluded that they need to shoo the animals from under the car..  I asked them, “Who broke the glass ?” They pointed their finger at each other. When I began talking, they were all speaking in high strung voices, saying, “This policeman caught us (referring to the security) and another policeman also came and took us to teacher. But Principal madam, I caught my friend’s hand and we all walked together”. I said, “You have been out of the class and your teachers were all around the place looking for you. So, just stay at home”, Pat came the reply very cheerfully – “Ok Madam.” I realized they did not understand the consequences.

Though I smiled to myself at their innocence, I asked them to spell the consequences from every angle. They did not even understand the situation. For them, it was just spotting an animal and wondered what the fuss was all about! I then explained calmly, which they listened patiently, adding their inputs every now and then. They then added “This Police Uncle was scolding us, but we were only getting the giraffe out!” I appreciated their love for animal but gave them the course of action for protection of animals and property.

The next day they were in my office with a beautiful card inviting me to the Pet Show. For them, the broken headlight was the past and they had “new pastures”- farm houses and pets. Their chubby faces, twinkling eyes and innocence was heart warming. Why can’t we be like the little ones, forget the incident and carry home only the messages? Selective memory helps and how!!!

I am still amused. Such innocence, inquisitiveness, imagination, adventure, free spirit all wrapped in a small bundle of mischief! Courage, comradeship, reasoning, effective communication (unmindful of their grammar) is appreciable.. Yes, it was upsetting because I had to inform the teacher whose car it was. All teachers who were a witness to the tales that the kids were spinning were very amused by my equation with these 6 year olds.

As parents, most of you will be facing such situations. It is a natural tendency to lose our cool, be angry or even furious. While these emotions are justifiable, let us think of the damage it may cause in the long run – resentment, anger and guilt.  Instead, if we make them feel responsible or accountable with calmness, the children to keep their outbursts, mood swings in check. But making them think and be aware of the consequences, will help the child respect property and others’ views. They must be held responsible. By not holding the child responsible, we do not do them a favour because we are  preparing him for the real world. But at the same time, let kids enjoy the world of imagination with the simple joy.

But for those 20 minutes, I enjoyed being in their world – an Eden of bliss!

But for those 20 minutes, I enjoyed being in their world – an Eden of bliss!

The party is on .. festivities galore….. newer resolutions, newer promises and newer outlook. Happy New Year to all my readers and as we set our feet on an onward journey of following our passion and dreams, I wish you, my readers, a very joyous, blissful and peaceful year. Every year offers us high and not so high moments but nothing prevents us from looking ahead and beyond with positive thoughts and action. This optimism combined with pragmatism helps us to carve a niche in that little private space that is exclusively ours. That private space to me, is  Life. It is therefore, our responsibility to ensure that our wide repertoire of experiences enhances the quality of life making it fragrant and beautiful.

Personally, I wish to thank my family, friends, students, their parents, my school for making 2014 so rewarding. Beginning with happy family moments to school achievements and social outreach commitments. It has been rewarding. Official commitments with the starting of a new school, exemplary school events, Board exams and stupendous results that followed, teacher empowerment, school development, professional growth and achievements and our contribution towards social impact, all of these have  given us avenues and opportunities to explore the unexplored territories. It gives bliss.. Yet, not the one to go piggy back on the past accolades, I look forward to 2015 with the excitement of a little child. For a kid, everything is new, fun, satiating, exciting, inspiring….. let us bring out that child that lies within. If we succeed in that we don’t need to make new resolutions or promises and worse still, we don’t have to realize in a fortnight’s time that we have already back broken it. Don’t we often hear that we make promises to break.

Many years back, I was not different from the others. On the 31st of December, each year I used to pen down all my resolutions in different colours that would often remind me of the order of priority. It is more than 15 years, (in my  Odyssey years), that I discontinued this. It discontinued because I introspected … the question I asked myself -WHY? Why do we make resolutions ? Why does it assume more importance on the night of 31 December? I then decided – I have to create my own signature resolution. The resolution was – I will resolve to be a better person each minute, each day, each week, each month and each year. Next year, when we audit our performance, around January 1st, we can happily say that  we are 365 times better than what we were last year. Is not that awesome?

How do we go about being a better person? In a world of emoticons, have a smile yourself and bring a smile on other’s faces, isn’t that so simple? We can live without lamenting about broken promises and unkept resolutions. Just one more way of un-complicating our lives. All our students will be passing through this Odyssey stage soon (between 20 years of age and 35 years). That is the stage we sit back to discover our own values and goals in life. All conflicts that play havoc in our minds, rest and we learn to control our wandering mind. Fantasies are great fun but we must give that a direction and act in a positive way to get the desired results. So, every student must work towards whatever they wish to achieve and define their success. This is driven and guided to a large extent by family values and culture coupled with good education. Students must create a unique identity of their own – aptitudes, attitudes, habits, skills and passion. Correcting mistakes, overcoming challenges, setting our goals right and doing in what we believe in will create a distinct personality. Peer- pressure is not created by peers but by your own self. It begins when you fall prey to all that you because others do it – hair -styling, coloring, chatting, face-“booking”, Whats”apping”,…Be yourself . Have the courage to follow your heart and conscience. Lend your ear to small tiny voices that warn you when you are wrong. You will never let your thoughts wander and the beautiful you will be visible.

As Steve Jobs said at Stanford University in his Commencement Address ,”Your time is limited, so don’t waste yours living someone else’s life…. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own voice. You will know what you want to become”

Wishing all my readers a very happy and fun-filled year ahead.

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