Day 3- Today’s learning programme is brought to you by …

A very interesting, interactive and extremely engaging session that I had with the Dean of the Primary Year Programme at Namnam’s school. I came out of the hall quite enlightened after hearing all that she had to say about the programme that the school curriculum had in place for its children. And reassured too. I sincerely hope that the programme does achieve the goal that it’s set out to. And that is to help all its children become internationally minded people.

So far I have been happy with how Namnam has been progressing ever since she joined this school. But, like any parent, I would like her to aim for a better reach. She has still a long way to go, but I’m convinced that she is being guided through the right path here. And I’m hopeful that if the school goes about implementing the methods and ideas that the Dean so articulately shared, then she can truly benefit and evolve as a person.

Let me just jot down some of the things that I, as a parent, took away from the meeting today:

Let go of how I learned back in school and embrace the method that my child is being taught in. I’m perfectly ok with it as long as the method is progressive. Having said that I must say that the school doesn’t mind an open-learning policy either. So if I believe that my method of teaching a concept to my child is simpler than how it is taught in school, then the school is encouraging enough to let her learn it my way as long as she has grasped the said concept well.

Encourage my child to ask questions. Oh yes I completely endorse that. I have time and again tried to drill into Namnam that she needs to speak her mind, not suppress her queries, instead express them openly. I particularly loved it when the Dean said that in this programme of learning

there is no such thing as a dumb question.

Oh how I wanted to hug her for saying that! So many a time, we hold ourselves back from speaking our mind thinking that we might sound dumb, don’t we? So here’s a school of thought that urges any hesitant mind to let go and open up.

Education has evolved, technology has evolved, allow my child to evolve too. I agree as long as technology doesn’t border on addiction and misuse. Education is not about rote-learning anymore. It’s become lot more interactive and research based where the focus is more on practical study of concepts. Namnam’s school has been allowing the use of ipads and other tablets from as early as Grade 4, for educational research, of course with stringent restrictions in place. Though I agree there is a grave risk of such devices being misused and kids falling prey to addiction, but there’s no denying that constructive use of these devices has helped children to become more independent and resourceful.

Teacher is a facilitator. I love the term which gives such a huge scope to a child to grow. A child doesnt need to blindly follow or memorize what the teacher asks of him/her. Instead the child has the freedom to explore the concept in his/her own manner and interpret it in his/her own way with the teacher’s guidance. The teacher facilitates an environment suitable for the child to learn.

Approach learning with fun. Do not freak out if my child doesn’t bring any homework home. I’m one of those parents who’s the happiest on days when her child does not bring home any assignments! So this particular take away sits well on me :). Jokes apart, I do get the point the Dean tried to make. Homework is not the only way to practice what’s been taught. There are other ways to ensure that my child stays in touch with her lessons, which I can approach in a more fun and practical manner.

Be constantly involved with the Unit of Inquiry. One of the core features of the curriculum that her school follows is that of an Inquirer. Each term a class is given a topic which the children have to inquire upon, do research, and make power-point presentations of their observation. interestingly this is one of Namnam’s favourite subjects as she gets to sit online and research and I can’t admonish her for spending much time glued to her screen!

Allow my child to be independent. Not just while she goes through her lessons. But in every other aspect. I need to learn to let go and allow her to explore her world independently.

Learning doesn’t stop at the school gate. The responsibility of teaching my child to become a risk-taker, a critical thinker, internationally minded doesn’t just begin from home and end at school or vice versa. It’s to be jointly shared and undertaken by both, the parents and teachers. And this process of learning has to go beyond as an an ongoing process.

Last but never the least, the take away that stays with me is that, we are all learners. The Teachers, the parents, the children all alike. I couldn’t agree more.

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Green Blazer, Blue Blazer..

Oh no, this is not some tongue-twister game that I’m starting with you! You can breath easy! 🙂

This, in fact, is the base of a flow of thoughts that was set in motion after a discussion with a friend whose children studied in one of the schools here.

The exam season is going on in most of the schools here, or at least the Indian schools here and most of the children, I know have their noses buried deep in their course books. And parents, or at least some of them, have their eyes, noses, heads, expectations firmly fixed on their kids to ensure that they prepare their subjects well enough to score high passing marks.

Now there are plenty of parents I come across here who go through their own hyper-ventilating sessions every time the examination-fever is in the air. They bring about all kinds of embargo into their lives. ‘No watching television’. ‘No socializing’. ‘No phone calls’. ‘No internet’. ‘No Facebook’ ‘No playing, dancing, singing, nothing!’ Only stress and mounting pressure to perform.

And the embargo is not just restricted to the kids but the parents too, mind you!

Anyway this post is not about those parents and their parenting styles. They are a fodder for another day another post.

This post is rather aimed at this particular approach that one of the schools here has adopted, apparently, to encourage the students to perform better.

I learnt from a friend recently that the students of the school, who otherwise have green blazers as their uniform, are rewarded blue blazers if they manage to score top grades for three consecutive years. Furthermore they get to wear a blue-tie as well if the top grades are scored for the fourth straight time.

And this friend of mine was distressing about how her daughter was so worried about scoring the top grades this time around for that would entail her the blue blazer!
Ok Now I am happy to see her so driven and studying hard to get the required marks( and the blazer) because I know she is a very bright girl who is confident that she is capable of score high marks.

This incentive may be helpful for those smart promising students who have their confidence and morale intact and for whom this may be motivating enough to work harder and be one of the chosen ones to own the blue blazer.

But what about those weaker students who need that extra push and attention to score passing marks or those average ones who may not be scoring as many marks as their top ranking class-mates and who may just have to make do with the ‘ordinary’ green blazers? Does it mean that they are not good enough? Just because they dont have enough numbers on their mark sheets, does it mean that they are not smart enough?

Every child is different and smart in his/her own way. And every child needs encouragement and motivation just as much as any other, if not more.

Which is why I am not sure how motivating such techniques that schools have in place are. Such segregation based on grades and intellect can demoralize a less scoring child, in my opinion. Imagine a group of students wearing green blazers entering a classroom where there are some students in blue blazers. How likely is for the green blazer wearing students to be ignored or looked down upon by their mates in blue blazers or how likely is for the blue blazer wearing students to be grudged of their status by their mates in green blazers?

I have seen and heard of instances where teachers have favoured the high scoring students by investing time and energy on them, over the weaker students.

Why, its approaches like this that make those overbearing parents sit on their children’s head like a hawk and push them to perform beyond their capacity.

I find such methods so utterly discriminating and unfair. And I have my doubts how encouraging and helpful these are for our children. Hope I am wrong.

Drop Everything And Read!

Says Namnam’s school and I couldnt be happier!

I have always believed that nothing can be more enriching and empowering than a simple act of reading. Reading can open the door to different worlds. It can make you grow, it can make you wiser. It can make you spread the wings of your imagination infinitely.

Even though, if given a choice she would prefer tearing a page out of a book and try making a lamp-shade out of it for her obvious love for craft rather than picking up her story books and read 😀 , yet the glowing look of achievement in her eyes is hard to miss on days when she pulls out a book from her shelf and manages to read sentences successfully, albeit with some help from me when she gets stuck at big words. And that achievement makes her eager to try out more which in turn makes me happily rush to the book store to buy more books for her :).

What also makes me happy as a parent is when schools stress on the very aspect of reading and the importance of making it a way of life, to the children and take measures to ensure every student develops a reading habit. Because not always do we get to see a deviation from the same old method of rote-learning in schools, do we? School that take pride in pushing the children into mugging up their lessons and scoring an A+ without even caring to know if they enjoy reading their books or if they are having fun while learning.

I am yet to figure out if CBSE’s* international curriculum which we have opted for Namnam is truly international as it claims to be or if its a case of old wine in new bottle.

Yet when I came across the concept of DEAR week while checking for updates for the week on her school’s web-portal, it made me think here was a school which truly understood the importance of inculcating good reading habits in children.

Now what is DEAR week you may wonder! It is a programme initiated to encourage children to pick up a book and read. DEAR means Drop Everything And Read! The students are to bring a book of their choice to school. A bell will be rung at any point of the day signalling the students to drop whatever it is that they are doing and pick their books and start reading. The reading is to go on till the bell is rung again after 10 minutes.

Namnam comes home and tells excitedly that she gets to finish the pages even before the bell is rung, I can sense how much she has been enjoying this activity.

“Oh I love millions and gillions of books!” says my child when she runs to her room to pick a book of her choice to take to school the following day. I wish her may this love only grow!

While I plan to voice my concerns at the school’s Open House, over her teacher’s behavior towards her, I also intend to let them know how much I, as a parent, appreciate them for this wonderfully encouraging activity.

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.- Charles W. Eliot

* CBSE: Central Board of Secondary Education

(S)welled up..

With pride.

The 5 and a half years of motherhood have given me ample and more things to learn, to grow as a mother( have miles to go before I can grow upto be even half as good a mother as my Ma though), to feel blessed. And I can never thank God enough for bringing Namnam into my life for she makes me appreciate this wonderful life as a mother all the more, for I learn a new facet of parenting everyday as I watch her grow. Be it her first smile, her first step, her first word, the first time she said ‘Amma’, be it the first time she said ‘I love you’ and every time after that, be it her first day in school, be it her first stage performance, each chapter in her life has been an overwhelming curve for me as well.

And yesterday was one such moment where my li’l sweetheart made me all teary-eyed and immensely proud like always.

Her school had organized its science exhibition yesterday. Her(rather her parents’) project was to make a volcano. And her teacher called up to tell us that she wanted Namnam to speak a few sentences as well on a certain topic on the given day. Now since R is the craftier one in the family, quite conveniently the task of making the volcano was handed over to him and I volunteered to take up the easier task of prepping Namnam for the talk :).

When the teacher called up to say that she wanted Namnam to speak in front of people, knowing fully well that she was one of those shy kinds who had to be pushed into coming out of the shell, I couldnt help but feel grateful yet again for she was blessed with such attentive and wonderful teachers in this academic session as well. Here was a teacher who knew she was shy and soft-spoken, urging me to prep her to talk a few sentences ‘loudly’- yes she must have mentioned the term loud at least 4-5 times in between our brief conversation :)- so she could come out of her shell and learn to be more confident to face the crowd.

So after all the prepping up, I was all nervous and excited about how the day would fare, while Namnam was plain excited! R & I walked in straight to her class room where the children and teachers had exhibited the projects and were all geared up with their presentations. I wont lie, but I couldnt hold myself still when Namnam finished with her talk. I just wanted to run and hug her tight and point my pride to everyone! But guess what, R beat me to it and ran before me to give her a tight hug and a kiss while I was fiddling with my video :(.  And yes she was  confidently LOUD enough for all the visitors present there to hear :). Although R & I knew she would give us and herself even more moments like this to feel proud of, yet we couldnt stop ourselves from telling her how proud we were of her, the whole day!

And I have no one but her school and teachers to thank for it so evident how much effort and care they had put in to help her bring out her confident self. Its moments like this that reiterate how a good school can be as instrumental in shaping a child and guiding her/him towards becoming a better person. At this moment all I can hope and pray is that Namnam is always blessed with such wonderful teachers to guide in every walk of her life.