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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Rambling #2- Open communication with school…good or bad?

In my previous post I had mentioned about Namnam’s teacher messaging me to come and pick her up as she wasn’t feeling well. This happened a few days ago. In no time I had rushed to fetch her from school and bring her home. Let me add that earlier in the day a couple of messages had already been exchanged between us as Namnam was anyway feeling a bit under the weather when she left home.  So I had to make sure that she was okay. Hence the constant communication.

Its at times like this that I feel immensely grateful for the school’s open communication policy. From the very day the school opened its gates to us, we have been given to understand that parents/guardians would have all possible access to our kids’ school and their teachers. At the first orientation programme, Namnam’s teacher had even shared her phone number and her email id assuring us that we could stay connected with her anytime of the day.

If I hadn’t had that direct contact with the teacher, I would have probably been hyperventilating at home, feeling guilty for sending my sick child to school, feeling utterly helpless even and wondering about her health. But because I had free access to the teacher, I could easily check on my child.

And I’m sure the teacher is just as accessible and supportive with other parents as she is with me. I have seen parents waiting outside the class, every other day for a little chit-chat with the teacher getting the required feedback about their wards and discussing their concerns. The school allows the parents to approach them at anytime for any concerns whatsoever. And as a parent I completely welcome this policy. Its quite reassuring to say the least. So if one is to ask me to weigh the pros and cons out of this policy I, as a parent would tilt the scale in favour of pros since I have only benefited from such a policy so far.

Personally, I like the idea of teachers sharing their contact with the parents because I feel it is always better to have direct access to the particular teacher who’s responsible for your child’s well being and safety for a good part of the day than waiting for the school to connect you to him/her.

Now I understand such an open policy can have adverse implication too if misused. And that is the only con, per se, that I can see coming out of this system. Parents may tend to take such generous services for granted. For instance, with teachers’ numbers out in the open, its every bit possible for the parents to call them at ungodly hours to discuss some frivolous issues of their child. But these are minor elements which I feel can be done away with if parents and teachers set boundaries and respect each other’s space. The teacher can always choose not to entertain any calls or messages after the school hours if he/she feels they aren’t urgent enough to be addressed. And the parents can/should always choose not to take undue advantage of the facilities that are made available to them.

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february ramblings

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

A genuinely concerned parent or an over-reacting one?

I really cant decide what am I being here. Whether my concerns are truly genuine or am I just being plain over-reactive.

Parenting does that to you sometimes, doesnt it? In your need to ensure the well-being of your child, parenting brings you to a juncture where you feel challenged into deciding which path to take so that your child feels reassured and best taken care of in the given circumstances.

Now it was only a few months back that I had praised Namnam’s teachers in her kindergarten for being wonderfully caring and sensitive towards her and helping her work on her confident self. And I stand by my opinion. I really do. I am hugely grateful to them for making my daughter’s kindergarten experience one that of immense fun and learning. And on her graduation day while proudly welling up at seeing her stride towards the stage to accept her passing-certificate, I hoped and prayed in my heart of hearts that she would be blessed with the same kind of teachers and environment with ample space to grow in grade 1 as well.

Theres no doubt that I am glad that I chose the particular school for Namnam because the principles on which the school is being run and the various programmes that the school has in place for its pupils convince me thoroughly as a parent that they would benefit my child in the long run.

But unfortunately I have not been getting a very welcoming vibe from Namnam’s Grade 1 teacher. I cant seem to agree very well with her method of approaching her students. Now I know I have no right to judge her for she has the humongous task of handling 20-25 kids at a time in her class. And I respect her and all the teachers for that because I know how difficult it can be to handle so many children with so many different traits and characteristics.

But the fact also remains that one of her students is my child. And when she comes home crying uncontrollably to say that her teacher wrongly taunted her of dreaming because she was not writing what was being asked of her, I am seriously driven to think if its something I should worry about.

What disturbs me is not that she scolded her. No I have no issues whatsoever with her scolding my child. She has every right to, if my child is in the wrong. I send my child to the school, thereby to her knowing fully well that they expect me to place the trust in them and that she will be their responsibility and if she misbehaves or does anything wrong they would have all the authority to correct her, be stern with her, scold her and even reprimand her if needed. But mock her? Taunt her? Now is that really a good method to get the child to adhere to you?

From what I could gather from Namnam, what upset her the most was that her teacher taunted her in a mocking way in front of her classmates. The best way I could think of to pacify her was to tell her to ignore and practice her writing at home. We told her that her teacher had to be given the same importance as her parents and that if she had scolded her for something, she would also commend her when she did something right. It was important that she didn’t begrudge her teacher.

A similar incident occurred with one of Namnam’s classmates, also a friend’s daughter when she was unable to finish jotting down some notes in her book to which the teacher took a swipe at her by calling her a ‘slow-coach’, after which all her friends kept jibing her with the term. She was inconsolable when she got home and recounted the incident to her mother.

Now I understand that taunts, jibes or pokes by friends and peers are a part of growing up, but is it really healthy when a teacher uses such a tactic to tackle her students? Wouldn’t the confidence level of the child take a hit if he/she is snubbed in front of his/her friends? Every child is different but if he/she is treated with the right kind of sensitivity then will it not make him/her secure and confident?

I dont know if talking to the teacher would help for I fear it may put my child in the spotlight which may counter-react. Or if I should just talk to the principal and address my concerns so he can take it up with the teacher without mentioning the particular ward’s name. But what if the principal brings it up with the teacher specifically mentioning my daughter?

Or maybe I am just over-reacting. May be this is just her way of teaching her children to become tough and more accepting towards criticism.

Maybe I should just leave it as a non-issue.

There are so many conflicting worries cropping up in my mind!