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What makes the beginning of  every new academic year so exciting for children? The novelty of making new friends, having a new class teacher , new bag , new water  bottle , new tiffin boxes and new uniform. Is it not ? They look forward to the newness that they will experience.   These are all external add -on incentives .

How do we sustain that joy, wonder and curiosity in learning too? While children are all born intelligent , the extent to which a child maximises his /her potential given similar environment and opportunities decides their performance.Children swing back and forth from complacency to diligence and dedication to study We account these phases to moods.If it were so , can we devise ways to sustain the interest and commitment to continuous learning and up-gradation of knowledge.?

We did some research in school on the  relationship between processes and learning outcomes . Children learn better with a wide range of learning strategies, simply because it arouses curiosity and  wonder. If it interests them , they say “Real Fun” , otherwise it was “simply boring”.Monotony kills enthusiasm to learn and makes the exercise “boring”.The situation is worse if they have to repeat the exercise of “studying” under the watchful eyes of an expert once again after school hours.It is proven that That explains why the consistency in learning and performance is not maintained.some subjects are preferred over others.

Last year, we did not send the books home nor did we announce the dates of appraisals  for Grades I to IV.  The children were encouraged to become active learners. their questions helped us to redesign and reshape our curriculum. The outcomes were real – increase in participation in classroom discussions, moving from a more passive role to an active one,shaped the capacity for thinking critically , honing and honoring them, positive outcomes in team projects and improvement in class averages.These may not be very visible immediately but one can say with conviction that the results will be remarkable and gratifying.Facts and skills were important but they were only a means and not the  the end.

This academic year will greet children from KG to V differently They  will be guided to their seats in the classrooms by their own bags . The bags is customised in the House colours with the name of the child on each bag . We all love the game of Treasure Hunt. This treasure hunt will be with a difference .. They will try to spot their bags  that is strapped to the bag of the chair. The bags have pockets for books, geometry boxes , pencils , crayons ,color pencils etc Children will no longer carry bags with books to school . They will only need their tiffin boxes , water bottle and the school diary.They carry the bags to the next class as well  Made sturdy and slides neatly into the back of the chair . It can be strapped as well  What more- It has a cushioned head rest. The children were invited to give suggestions after they” experienced it.” They stumped me with their suggestion”Why not have a complete cushioned back. That would be more comfortable.” I smiled not wanting to make it too comfortable  .

How will it benefit children ? The onus of learning will be on the children . They will concentrate better in class  When they go home , they will assignments like reading , research , discussions with parents ,/grand parents ,reflective writing t do  All of this will reinforce and aid learning and thinking skills. At the end of the unit , they will have a worksheet for recapitulation of the conceptual understanding.. At the end of the whole chapter , children will do a mind map guided by the teacher initially and independently over a period of time .The  design of the mind map may not be identical for all children No one mind map is better than the other . One cannot make comparisons because  no two children are alike in their thinking but  they will know what they must.The perforated mind -map sheets will be sent home after every chapter .

With this intiative , we wish to encourage children to think creatively and learn  independently . They  will experience  the joy , remain curious to know more and express effectively because they will be endowed with the subtle intellect to delve , reflect and contemplate on their learning without have to do rote-learning or repetitive work monotonously(tuitions). The spirit of inquiry  or dogmas or notes.and self learning will develop in them logic and reason  which are not driven by monotonous study. We hope no incentives or reprimands would ever need to be offered for learning.

I am sure that when school reopens I will see sparkling eyes, good cheer and warm smiles with this new initiative of the school .After all , this innovation is  “by a Sulonian , for a Sulonian and by a Sulonian”.

Until then , enjoy your vacation.

Excerpts from my speech for parents to help them prepare children for Std. 1

This is an orientation of a different kind.  A preparation for the next academic year.  Our little kinds are now moving from the Senior most in the KG Section to be the junior most K-12 school.  This transition is a natural process for you and me but  it is a giant leap for all our 6 year olds  because they do not know what is in store for them. Their teachers on the last of school ,were all so beautifully turned out all for their kids . That is the bonding they share so lovingly . Will Grade 1 be any different?

How do we make this transition smooth and effective?  Let us take a walk down the corridors of the Kindergarten section. Kids are seated listening to their teachers narrate a story.  Their eyes matching the excitement of the story.  Smile and all other expressions brightening up their faces.   Another class is in the sand play and yet another in the water play area – in a complete world of their own having fun, unmindful of all the others who come in to watch them.  Everything moves at their pace, they are so much at home doing it under the watchful eyes of their teachers.  They are so comfortable with their friends they made two years back.   This informal system of learning has been exciting, fun and positive.

“Will I have all of these in Std. 1?”  My little friend asked me and I said, “Yes and lots more”.    From the very informal system, they will move to a more structured learning, from shorter hours at school,  they will move on to longer hours.  With the choice of second languages, our little ones may be in a different group.  Change is inevitable they say, and we accept it but with reluctance.  But this big transition is not so comfortable till the time we prepare them for it.

This change that one can see as our little ones enter grade 1, they are suddenly embarrassed about small things, they  cry over little things, little happenings.  They  build stories, add content out of their imagination, are easily influenced and will accept and reject friendship very easily.  Their friendship seem a little unstable and they can be a little unkind to their peers.  They will be easily hurt by criticism and may also be quite demanding and  crave for more affection from parents and teachers.

How can we make this transition effective and smooth?  Talking to children about our own childhood experiences creates a positive impression about the school, the academics, routines, helping the child to move from his comfort zone.  It also helps to create a consistent structure at home where there is a set pattern to be adopted so that the child can adapt to a more regulated and disciplined schooling.  Physical activities during the vacations will help them develop a lot of social skills.

Do we unknowingly use the lines “Grow up, you are in Grade 1 now or you are a big boy/girl, you can’t cry”. “Don’t act like a kid.  Children don’t get older in a month’s time.  Having huge expectations of behavior and interest in academics will lead to huge disappointments.When they return home a day after the first day in school , many would say ,”I don’t like Grade 1”.And the next day they would scream in delight about their “new best friend and the bestest(pardon the usage) teacher ,they ever had ”  Let us remember that they  are in mind and spirit our kindergartners.

As parents, let us spend the vacation engaging  them read , write and draw.They love it.  They  enjoy the activities as long as it does not lead to a judgement or being attached to an  achievement milestone  / goal . C

This is wishing all my Kindergartners  a happy, exciting journey.

 

 

The kids are breaking for the summer vacations. They are highly excited . I make it a point to drop by their home rooms to have ‘my chats’ .Their enthusiasm and excitement is contagious. and I love to share their joy . From invitations to joining  their families on their vacations to Goa ,Leh to Dharwar and spend time with grand parents , I also heard kids talk about learning guitar, calligraphy, skating, swimming  and I commented that they ought to have time to relax and unwind . In a fraction , some actually wondered if they would have any time at all.Are we  relaxation- starved ?

It is true that children must open up to a variety of experiences to empower imagination. Any repetitive work makes children lose interest and sometimes they are lost when they hop from one class to the other.To empower imagination , an art class may be replaced by a visit to a farmers’ market or some night gazing and . After a visit  to a farmers’ market ,to draw and paint from memory is a wonderful way to hone memory and imagination skills.Are we creativity- starved?

Vacations are not as enthusiastically welcomed by the older ones as the  younger ones.They have to catch up with lessons and keep themselves on the track for self-preparation. Parents are caught up with work and other commitments. Both have one thing in common they  can’t afford to break away from  planned schedules.That is what they have to complain about.Are we peace – starved ?

It is not necessary that we have to pack our day even during vacations so that we “don’t waste time’. We experience high levels of stress because” we are chasing time” all the time .Let’s use this vacation to remove physical clutter – books, clothes, shoes , toys, magazines  and they could all become ” give aways” . They bring in a lot more joy if they are shared.Plan to limit what comes in to occupy the empty shelves.When junk is away , our mind is clear for relaxation.

We wonder if we can be at home and yet unwind .Make time to eat all the meals at home and eat mindfully . Eating mindfully would mean eating at the table with family without the distraction of checking on the mobile , reading the news paper , watching television or catching up with last minute revision  Mindful eating will also be junk-free.Physically fit, we are raring to do something different . Vacations are for relaxation but does not mean we lazy around and eat uncontrollably. .

If on a family vacation, do not forget to be off phones calls, or allow people to bombard you with emails , whatsapp messages , tweets .It can be exhausting apart from members of your family feeling that you are physically present while being mentally absent.Being in areas where network is poor , is the ideal way to knock off any addiction to social media.

Vacations help one to unwind only if we actually break the routines.In a world that is driven by cut-throat competition think of priorities other than that of work , ranks , power , position , money . Priorities can be health, reading ,understanding yourself, introspection , skills.That will keep us rejuvenated for the future.

You will never be starved ever !!

Colours of Life

The change of season, the puranpolis , the fun , the laughter , the pichkaris and the colours are all associated with the beautiful festival -Holi. It takes me back down the memory lane to Delhi , where I as  a child lived. This festival gave us an official license to drench ourselves,play with water ,  use a lot of coloured powder ,smearing it on people known and unknown ,unmindful of the manicured garden and shrubs that the gardener and our parents tended to so carefully. We were happy that we were free from  all the reprimands. In short , everything was permissible that day including playing Holi with strangers .You can understand what it means to a child who can break  rules and “not done” things for a day !!- Absolute joy. .At 12 noon  , we were expected to be in our homes for a clean- up of self and surroundings- that was a drab for all of us kids but we did cheerfully because we looked forward to the feast at the Officers’ Club later .We had to invariably write an essay on -Holi the very next day !Phew!

Over the years, we have moved away from complete free-play to a cautioned play . The coloured powders were more synthetic causing skin irritations . Water balloons are thrown at passers -by from a hide-out , balloons with tiny pebbles thrown at passengers in trains, incidents of injury ….a kind of wildness seemed to have crept in. From the days when we as kids were told to ask elders- “Can I use the  pichkari on you ? “to a compulsive smearing of oil-based colour powders with a challenge thrown at unwilling participants with a  ” How can you stay indoors and not play?”,we have  indeed drifted away.

Now , from the cautioned play to a “conscious and guided  play “, have we lost simple and free  pleasures of life? Circumstances has made the society think differently. Water- shortage ,the chemical -based powders,   the numerous diseases in the air and water , the pollution , the lower levels of immunity that has made  us susceptible to allergies the commercialisation …the list goes on .  Simple pichkaries have given way to newer designs which obviously more expensive and one new one every year. Children are  loaded with instructions to be followed and rues of the game to adhered to.

But ,at school , we added colours to this  Holi in our special way . Everything has to be a learning experience – for adults and kids . That is why we keep hearing of the much used term – Life-long learners. I love to use various strategies for make learning for life possible.We have been able to do that thanks to  the experiential learning that happens in school . ‘Safe Holi and “My role as a Sulonian” was the theme of our project this week . It was overwhelming that parents pooled as Sulonians and celebrated Holi with our children with flowers and eco- friendly colours. It was over-whelming to see dads too taking off from their work places .From the importance of  traditions to the enactment of the story of Holika ,  the Holi songs and folk music and dances of  Mathura and Brindavan  it was pure entertainment but a fun -filled learning  week.But , what was more important was the lessons they learnt .

  • Do not cut trees for the Holi fire
  • Use organic natural colours
  • Do not throw balloons on the eyes or ears or face
  • Avoid water wastage
  • Good always wins over evil
  • Respect the feelings of others
  • Do not be selfish and believe that “only you matter”

The kids not only enjoyed and cheered their parents performing enthusiastically but also did a quick recap of all that they learnt and become crusaders for the causes that they ought to be passionate about .Our  11th graders  too contributed by making a beautiful film on “Save Water” . Scripted , enacted , directed , dubbed and filmed  by the students by our students, it was a delight .My students are my pride.

I asked myself -Do I see the essence of the festival that  I  once saw and experienced ?The answer is YES. I see it in the context of the present environment . One cannot keep our children over- protected like the pearl in the oyster. They have to learn to live the ideals that they campaign for. It cannot be lessons in the school alone .   Conservation of Water ,Energy , Environment, reaching to the needy,respect for self and others, appreciation for others  are not  stand -alone occasions , they are Life itself.

That is Holi – the festival of Colours of Life.

Happy Holi !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear women,

This is your day – applaud , appreciate , rejoice  and celebrate womanhood.Kudos to the efforts of all the women in the world who make it with the strength of their character and confidence that you have in your  abilities. But , you must also recognise and acknowledge  the  initiatives that the society takes to recognise your  work. They are your family and friends who say this to you -” We are proud of you”‘.

You have come a long way from the pilgrimage of darkness  to light.Far from what you could hope to have traversed.The journey has helped you to  reach many milestones and today you stand at the cusp of the new era and many more milestones are in sight.You have  come this far on the back of your ability and grit. But thank your grandmas and mothers who chose to  break free from the shackles that women of the yesteryear were once bound to. They have given you the best of education , stood as role models, sacrificed with a smile never letting you know what they missed.Let us salute each one of them today.

It is from them that we learnt to build strengths little by little,  resulting ultimately in developing a core centre in you..But, it is the same core strengths that  made stories of high achievers  ‘flame out’ in newspapers and helped you in carving an identity. But now now sadly, quite often we hear of  stories of surrender and health of the woman under threat from a deadly cocktail of stress and ambitious expectations.You are becoming prisoners  of your own expectations. You have achieved so much so early that sometimes one misstep means one too many and imagine a  loss of face , recognition.or whatever you think you identify success with! But, that is not the case.The best batsman in the world does not hit a six with every ball nor does the swimmer clock the best timings each time . And you are a simple woman ,doing well because of your grit , determination , talent and attitude.So why buckle under  self- induced pressure?

The beauty of life resides in contraries – joy and sorrow, attraction and repulsion , inclusion and exclusion , acceptance and rejection, highs and low. These opposites sit cheek-a -jowl with each other.These contrasts help us to appreciate the other side better.The lessons we learn from these contrasts  are eye-openers and stay with us forever. Sadness for e.g helps us to appreciate joy and happiness.Smaller homes help us to value space, loneliness helps us to appreciate company and less time helps us to manage time better. Life  can not ever be well- lived but for these contrasts.You as a woman, must understand this ,more than anyone else , for you are the epitome of vatsalya, shakti , dhairya, parivartan , aakaansha and prerna.

Happy year ahead!

 

A group of 7-year olds were excited about a project that they wished to do in the academic year. They expressed deep concern over the dwindling number of their favourite animal, the Tiger. They were all animal lovers and wanted to contribute their bit towards saving the tiger. I asked them to prepare a project and gave them a few tips. It was amazing to see 7-year olds making a proposal for the entire Grade 2. They said, “Every Sulonian must save the tiger from extinction”. I did not know how serious they were, but I set a task for them to undertake a project on “Save Tiger”. If tigers were safe, then the whole eco-system would have been benefitted.  I wanted them to shift their focus from being a beneficiary to being an owner of a responsibility. They may be very young, but when they own up a concern, they will see positive outcomes.

The journey began when talking about tigers, visits to the National Parks and talking to officials about “Adopting a tiger”. The money involved was huge. They made paper bags, pouches, cards with tiger stripes and the proceeds of the sales was their contribution to adopt a tiger.

Social Entrepreneurship can begin just when they are so young I saw the enthusiasm of doing the project and also of counting the money that they had collected.  It may have been a very very small drop in the ocean, but all the same, it is priceless.

With the city of Thane going through lot of cuts in the water supply, children began to feel the need to save water.  “Every drop counts”. Through street plays, music, dramatization, campaigns, projects, the message was sent far and wide.

The Std. IV students expressed their concern over rising fuel prices, increase in pollution levels, and increase in the number of vehicles through their project “Car pool”. They did street plays, dramas, skits, campaigns on “Carpooling”. Each one of them spread a strong social message, not just on the themes that they had chosen to work, but also to each one of us that children are never too young to shoulder any responsibilities. It is very important for them to own a responsibility, their contribution may be in the form of Fine Arts or Performing Arts, but they get more energetic and learn far more lessons for life. There are many dimensions that they add to their own learning.

Time for “Active Intuitive Learning” to happen.

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

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