Sunday, July 24, 2016

Preventing violence in students

There is growing concern among the people regarding the cases of violence and intolerance among the school going children. This seems to have been on rise in the recent past and our policy makers seem to have no clue about the same or they deliberately ignore that.  Their promptness can be seen when some case is reported in the newspaper, and the blame game starts but fades in the background of noise of some other incident.
The recent incident reported regarding a child of Std-I, who had a fight with II Std. child of a school and one of them succumbed to death as a consequence of the injuries sustained by him due to the fight, is alarming. They must be of age of 5-7 years and that kind of violence? But should it surprise us? Have we not been anticipating that to happen and if yes, what precautions & preventive measures have been taken?  One day or one week debate in the newspapers or the articles of the child psychologists is not going to be of much use but we must make sustained efforts for improving the life of our children.  These children are born innocent but this world makes them to behave in a manner which is condemned by the same world. A question is always asked after such incidents. Are the parents responsible for this or the schools?  I am sure no school would be teaching violence to the kids but the same is true for parents also because no parents would like his/her child to be violent or intolerant.  The real problem is that our children are expected to learn values without seeing values.  The societies’ role is also very important and media can plan such a big role but expecting everything from media is not fair.
I did mention in my previous articles that someone or some agency will have to take responsibility of these children and for this, to me,  schools and teachers are the ones who can make a lot of difference in their lives. There are issues on the part of parents also but the teachers should own the responsibility for providing congenial environment and make them learn values by which are bequeathed by teachers.
One suggestion given by many people is that the moral teaching should be done in the schools. {This is not new but the problem is that the same cannot be achieved by giving lectures}. The teacher would have to transform self to Guru who burns self to enlighten the path of children. The teachers should keep themselves away from the impact of the society or rather be capable of impacting the society through their influence on the children who will be their torch bearers in the future. When I began this article, I did not have clue of the shape of the article, but I realise that the role of teachers is most important. They will have to own the responsibility and ignore the financial status which affects almost the entire society. I do not say that financial safety is not important but then teachers can put a limit to how much is much enough.  They cannot place themselves in the race of the other people and forget the responsibility which is on their shoulders. The teachers will have also to act as the protective layer over the children so that menace of violence which we see all around us does not impact them. The parents can help the school & teachers by avoiding the exposure of impressionable minds to the violence being shown on TV channels of any other media specially the social media. They must follow the guideline and advisory issued before the start of such programme. For example, recently there was a lot of controversy about a film. The matter was settled in the High Court and the film was given Adult Certification which nobody less than 18 years can go to watch in the theatre. But as per the media reports, there were number of minors with the parents in almost all shows of that film exposing the kids to certain abuses, who in turn would get disturbed and some of them might pick those abuses and use in daily life. The teachers and parents cannot stop the TV serials aired which show the violence (verbal as well as physical) but they can ensure that our children are not exposed to them. The teachers will have to reach out to parents and do not react to any of the actions of the parents because for them, the welfare of children should be of prime importance.  My experience is that sometimes some parents might behave in a manner which may not be appropriate (this might be in the fit of anger due to something wrong been done to his/her child) but for this, the child may not necessarily be responsible, so the teachers should not react to such issues and always focus on the welfare of child. No action of the teachers should harm the child in any way. The parents also do not intend to disrespect the teachers but that just happens.  But yes, there is a request to the parents also, please do not always try to realise your dreams through your children. Let them enjoy their childhood in the fresh air (which is becoming polluted everyday) and not in the coaching centres or the tuition classes. Let the children explore the world by doing things themselves and commit mistakes because that will make their learning enduring.
Some teachers and schools might argue about why should they only be responsible for taking care of the behaviour of the children and not the parents and other agencies also?  This is true, but the fact is that the teachers have the power of transforming the children more than anybody else and also Guru is the one who shows the path not only to the children but also to the society.  Teachers’ understand the child psychology better and it can be of great help to them in times of crisis.  It has been proved that the children do have more faith in their teachers than anybody else. My intention of putting more onus on the teachers is not to relieve others (including parents) from their responsibility but to avoid shrugging the responsibility as has been the case in recent past.  So think positive and start working with enthusiasm and positive frame of mind.  I have some suggestions for parents and teachers;
·        The teachers must treat every child as an individual who gets influenced by the environment he/she lives in.
·        Try to understand them and take corrective & preventive measures.
·        Motivate the children to share their problems, if they have any and help them to come out of those problems.
·        Be the role model for them. It has been observed that teachers criticise their colleagues in front of the students or reach late to the class themselves.
·        The parents should avoid exposing their children to serials & movies showing violence etc.
·        They should avoid fighting with others in front of the children.
·        The parents are said to be the first teachers so they should also be the role model for the children.
·        Be the part of all their activities but also give them some space wherever required.   
·        The most important for them would be to talk to their children about the great personalities of the present and past and the hard work put in by them.
·        Work for the overall growth of the children (physical, psychological & emotional) and do not make them the machines for earning money.
·        The most important of all that parents & teachers must work in tandem so that children do not get confused.
·        Understanding the potential & attitude of the children is very important and after that help them to develop the same.
·        Do not make contradictory statements which will erode their faith in teachers/parents.
Let all teachers know that the good & positive things are not achieved easily but for that a lot of hard work and dedication is required. The teachers will have to unite with the child and prepare him/her to become strong to face all the challenges of life.

Friday, May 20, 2016


This has been observed that some students seem to be devoting less time towards their studies whereas others work very hard and spend a lot of time on their studies but still do better in their tests/ examination. Why is it so? There may be many reasons for this and one of them is the way one tries to learn. The learning is helped by the memory of an individual. Somebody has rightly mentioned that memory is the mother of wisdom. Memory can be of two types, short term memory and long term memory. Now an individual has to understand that what is required for short term duration and what is required for term duration called as enduring learning. Now the question is, does learning mean repetitive practice or does it mean some reinforcement? Does learning have the power to transform us? What kind of learning style should be adopted to make it powerful and long lasting? To find answers to these questions is not easy however also not impossible. Our generation has moved from Industrial Age to the Age of Knowledge through Information Age. Hence, the ability to obtain, assimilate and apply will also become a SKILL in the years to come. The age old theory of repeated practice does not exist anymore.
Rather, the intelligentsia will have to leave it at a point of time as a myth.  Mind mapping and re-reading will make you less competent giving it an illusion of competence.
The athlete, for example memories a huge number of random words/numbers in a short amount of time and to add to their capacities; they can even regurgitate the memorized words in reversed order. But, one will have to remember the concept of spaced repetition (Practice); which certainly means the same exercise, if has to be consolidated in memory, should be repeated in INTERVALS! Continuous repetition or repetition in smaller gaps will not yield promising results however; the spatial memory will work efficiently with an intuitive and instantaneous indicator.  The quick repetition may make one feel to have learnt very well but that is short term learning and tested at some later stage may not be remembered by the individuals. A research was conducted on bean balls which I write for my readers as basket ball. Two groups of players were asked to score the basket from a fixed distance of 10 feet and they practiced for two three days. The other group was also asked to score the basket but from two different distances of 8 feet and 10 feet for the same duration. During the practice the researcher felt that the ones throwing from the fixed distance were doing better than the other group. The two groups were tested after about two weeks but the both groups were asked to score from the 10 feet distance. Many people will expect the first group to have performed better than the second one but the result was opposite. The group which has practiced from a distance could adjust better than the one which threw the ball from the same distance.
 In the book, Make It Stick written by Brown, Henry and Mark, the authors explain the idea of ‘embrace difficulties’, describing difficult learning as desirable due to the idea that the brain encodes & consolidates learning when learning is ‘effortful’, in case of Mia, who learns a safe and secure parachute landing. The book also outlines the fact of making the learning ‘Stick’ by adopting active learning methods of retrieval, elaboration, reflection and generative learning.
When we talk of feedback which is a very important tool in the process of learning then we must look at the spacing of the assessment and the feedback. While in a learning spree, feedback is pivotal, nevertheless, timing has to be appropriate. If an immediate feedback is given, it does not produce a learning which is long lasting as the reflection by the individual is missed. On the contrary, if the feedback is also spaced rationally, there can be some amount of learning taking place. If a child has been asked to solve a mathematics problem and the teacher gives the feedback immediately, in that the child will not get an opportunity to think self and will follow the advice of the teacher. For the time being he might have understood it but in long run he may not be able to recall and use this learning when required. Now most of the books have practice exercises at the end of the chapter. Most of the problems of the similar type are put together. The students are able to repeat the knowledge and solve them at one go before going to another set of problems. At that time the child might have felt as having mastered the problems but when the examination for the entire syllabus is conducted such children face problems. This is the reason some students who do well in Monday test are not able to that well in the term examinations. So the lesson drawn is that practice and feedback are important but they should be spaced. There are though many internal and external factors affecting an individual’s learning, like lack of confidence, support, resources etc; but these barriers have to be bridged through the rightful learning practices. From being the driver of your own car to being the pilot of an aircraft – the engine, instruments, illusions etc are all yours. Hence, the safety!
Memory is a reconstruction from ‘chunks’ to ‘blocks’ to ‘larger components’ and by focusing on retrieval, it can produce exceptionally good results. Even by ‘Generative Learning’, wherein, students are given a problem to solve before being taught the concept thereby, making the learning stronger as more time and energy goes into solving it.
Thus highlighting and rereading are a ‘passe’ or in other words ‘easier’ is not better but as learning is a never ending process, the knowledge gurus’ are always of the opinion to foster conceptual learning that solidifies and consolidates. Another concept dealt by the authors in this book is that easier is not better. Anything which is learnt without much of efforts may not stay with the individual for long so always try to find solution self before asking for the same from the experts and teachers. This little difficulty will make learning enjoyable (once that happens) and will be useful when required in unknown situations. When a child learns to ride a bicycle he/she struggles balancing the same. He/she falls and rises and in the process learns self how to balance the cycle and how to ride it. If he/she would have been provided help by mother/father at every fall or rise then the child would have definitely taken longer to learn and also would not have been very confident. The same applies in academic learning situation also. So we as teachers must evolve methods which enhance the memory of the children which can be recalled by them when required.

I need your feedback and input to make my learning more effective and another article will appear in this blog on this topic some time later. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Education Management and School Leadership

The concept of educational leadership has emerged with the rapidly changing dynamics of education in schools. Schools that were just confined to textbook teaching, awarding degrees or certificates have turned into leading organizations and knowledge warehouses. The understanding that the quality of leadership makes a notable difference to the school, has made educational management and school leadership synonymous to each other. Trained and dedicated teachers are the building blocks of a school nevertheless effective leadership is the axis of quality education. An effective school can nurture growth, learning, creativity, optimism, curiosity, conscientiousness etc., owing to the consistency of a positive and assertive leader. This leader does not only change variables inside the school but also outside, in the society, combating the prevalent challenges supporting the widespread belief of society being congruent to school. Effective school leadership can manage and tackle all the emerging issues. To a great extend, the reformatory approach accepted by the leader chaperons the change.
While earning a degree in the field of education, a teacher is imparted subject specific knowledge. Little do the designers of the curriculum realize that the need is related to the interaction and interpersonal relations with society, parents, students, and all other stakeholders, notwithstanding the fact to include life skills to impart and equip the students with it. Now the question of an ideal school arises, along with effective learning practices. The Gareth Morgan1 model of school organization (though apparently obsolete) still exists with a few reforms. Out of the three models i.e. Bureaucracy, Social Systems or Community, no model can be claimed to be the best one. Bureaucratic organizations transfer authority from one person to a committee, maintain extensive records of students academic work and behavior, while exercising external control over classroom teaching. Values that sweep through this model are efficiency, controlled supervision and regularity.  As there is a defined hierarchy hence there are clear and uniform methods. The Systems Theory practices the concept of feedback for self regulation and yielding a product. Systems theory thrives on the value of cooperation with a human touch of collegiability and flexible roles. The third and the most important model is Communitarian, based on the values of care and concern for others well being. Every member of the school is approachable regardless of status. 
Leading is an active process and leadership is multidimensional. Potential leaders recognize, analyse, assess and then act. However, this carrot needs to be nibbled fast as minutes spent planning can save hours while execution. The shift in the role from a ‘boss’ to ‘coach’ fulfils the present leadership style. Before discussing about the leadership styles and roles, it is imperative to build a leader within by initiating, coordinating, communicating ,recognizing, resolving and most importantly building a team. The study of leadership and group dynamics states about a “Team Development Wheel’’, which has four stages. Stage one refers to “forming” indicating polite, impersonal, watchful and guarded behaviour. The second stage shifts to “storming’’ denoting difficulties, opting out, controlling conflicts and confronting people. “Norming” is the third stage moving towards getting organized , developing skills, establishing procedures, giving feedbacks and confronting issues. The fourth and the final dimension is “performing”, relating to resourcefulness, flexibility, being close and supportive.
In fact, from a veteran to a novice, leadership styles may differ as needed. The leader will have to be justified in selecting the style. In situational leadership, it is known as Directive behaviour and Supportive behaviour. Directive behaviour concentrates on ‘what’ and ‘how’. It involves telling and showing people what to do, how to do it, when to do it, monitoring performance and providing feedbacks on results. It also develops confidence in others. Supportive behaviour focuses on developing an individual’s commitment and initiative. It develops positive attitude towards the goal or task. Listening, facilitating, self reliant problem solving, encouraging and involving others in decision making are a few examples of this style. By placing these two styles on a horizontal and vertical axis, four combinations of leadership styles emerge from it. Style one ‘Directing’ consists of High Directive behavior and Low Supportive behavior. In this, the leader provides specific instruction about achieving goals. He supervises closely, the individual’s performance and by defining, teaching, showing, planning, prioritizing and monitoring, the task is accomplished. The feedback further reinvents the goal. The second style stated is High Directive and High Supportive, also termed as ‘Coaching’. Here, the leader explains decisions, solicits suggestions from the individuals, praises progress and continues to direct task accomplishment. Though individual inputs are considered but the final say is of the leader. By sharing feedback, encouraging and redirecting, the task is taken to the next level. According to Leadership and Group Dynamics2, the third style is ‘Supporting’, Low Directive and High Supportive category, in which the leader reassures, collaborates and facilitates self reliant problem solving. Style four is ‘Delegating’, which is a combination of Low Directive and Low Supportive behaviour. The leader empowers the individual to act independently and provides the appropriate resources to get the job done. Here, most of the decisions are made by the individual. In all four styles, the leader, clarifies expectations and goals, observes and monitors performance and gives feedback.
Giving and receiving feedback is an art of communication through which the future course of action is determined lest it should be offered in a manner that is acceptable and useful to the receiver. An atmosphere of cooperation in a collective undertaking can make the feedbacks productive. When providing feedback, it should be descriptive and non judgmental. Also it is observed that it should be provided close to the event so as to maintain its preciseness. Giving feedback is meaningful only when that person is willing to relate to it and change the phenomena. Formulating feedback in specific rather than general terms, will give optimum results. On the other hand, while receiving feedback, the subject can help the observers by encouraging them to express their observations. The observers’ comments are best understood by linking them to specific events that occurred. Also mutual understanding and cooperation can help construct a healthy learning environment.  
Principal as a leader has to play myriad roles. This might sound exigent however the accountability defines the position. Beginning from transportation, health, faculty, finance to capacity building, public relations or community service, the principal is the link, balancing between the staff and the management, in possession of massive responsibilities. This leadership is educational leadership, meaning thereby, working through and with individuals. So, the school administrator is an initiator, who works laboriously to accomplish simple and complex tasks. He presents well organized plans and is someone who is self-motivated, perceiving details in their proper perspective and organizing them into meaningful plans and programmes.  He is a recognizer, who identifies the strengths and weakness of the subordinates and pushes them to prove their potential.  He takes an insightful approach while dealing with his team. By recognizing them, their problems, thinking, bent and ability, he builds a successful team and never stirs up the hornet’s nest.  Facilitative leadership also comes into play here. The care, concern and helpful nature enables him to gain trust of his team, which helps the team both professionally and personally. As a facilitator, he creates a permissive, accepting and understanding environment in the school by sorting out the problems faced by staff members, ranging from diagnosis to prognosis.    
Considering the educational programmes and evaluation practices, Bloom stated: “The main purpose of formative evaluation is to determine the degree of mastery of a given learning task and to pinpoint the part of the task not mastered. Summative evaluation is directed towards a much more general assessment of the degree to which the larger outcomes have been attained.” Hence, the principal becomes an instructional leader. Finding facts, gathering data, interpreting, generating instructions for guidance and immaculate working ascertains progress. Looking at communication and its various facets, it becomes the greatest source to convince. The leader should be an effective speaker, one who can do impressive public speaking to turn the chimes into his favour. Besides, conveying opinions candidly casts an imprint in the mind of the public that the school is in safe hands. Overcoming the conjectures and hearsays, the school administrator is also a coordinator. He takes the responsibility to coordinate with all of the human resource in school. He encourages people to participate in policy development and planning. The concept of ‘loose’ supervision could be a better idea as he may be aware of the happenings around but does not constantly impose his will in everything. The leader is a financial leader also, with the basic responsibility of reviewing the accounts. As each bill passes through his palm, he needs to possess an eye of accuracy to keep the expenses under control, as, if the finances go wrong, the repercussions are disastrous. Most well defined role of the principal is being a curriculum leader. Though the senior school curriculum is well defined and well designed, yet the leader has to ensure the effective implementation of the same by constant supervision and follow-up. To make certain, the levels of learning to rise, he must adopt innovative pedagogical styles and evaluation methods. Being a social leader is the need of the hour for a school administrator. Establishing the congruence between man and society by stating that society is to man what man is to society, is true here. Social obligations are to be fulfilled to a great extend as the leader is quite dependable, consistent in his disposition and courteous. Social interaction will expand his horizons of understanding the prevailing status of society. Consequently, understanding the child psychology, which makes him a counsellor. He can judge countenances and differentiate between feign and genuine. He can guide and motivate students for being high achievers. Ethical leadership is vital for society’s survival. Receding values in youngsters make it more essential to be taught in the school. The leader through his talks in the assembly or group interactions can trickle the moral values in the nascent minds. Achievement leadership is another jewel in the crown of a leader. Setting challenging goals, both in work and in self-improvement (sometimes together) is it’s descriptor. High standards are demonstrated and expected. The leader shows faith in the capabilities of the follower to succeed. This approach is best when the task is complex. Last but the most important of all is Visionary leadership1. Of course, if the leader has a strong vision, democratic style of leadership will work well to generate fresh ideas to execute that vision. To explore the potential forces or to restructure effectiveness, astute leadership quality will always be the discernible force. Be it institutional planning, competency enrichment or translation of vision into mission, an outstanding leader will never lose the sight of his purpose. Explicit knowledge of Mission and Vision will ensure its effective fulfillment. Visionary leader motivates people by making clear to them how work fits into a larger vision for the organization, explaining them all the standards to achieve it and move towards the grand mission. If the authority shares it strongly with the team, associate, affiliate and assign tasks to the members by identifying their strengths, vision can be converted into mission. Faculty meetings play an imperative role in the accomplishment of mission. They are concerned directly with feedback, whether positive or negative, their professional growth and need along with skilful orientation. Solutions to specific problems are deliberated and discussed. If the agenda of meeting is given prior, the faculty can come prepared, eliminating the unnecessary and focusing on the vital factors of reflection. The administrator, in this situation can adopt a coaching, democratic or authoritative style of leadership. A leader being fluid and lucid can fit into any style. They are exquisitely sensitive to the impact they are having on others and seamlessly adjust their style to get best results, highlighting the factor of emotional intelligence.
In a nutshell, the leader being an alchemist can foster transitions with his conscious, consistent and conditioned manifestations. Association with a higher moral position is motivating and will result in people following a leader who promotes this. Continuous self development, commitment, competency and cooperation are the key words of successful school leadership and education management.

1.     School administration and management by PVV Satya Narayana
2.     Leadership that gets results- Harvard Business Review

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

How much intolerance

There is lot of discussion and debate on the topic of intolerance in the society and at times some people make us realise as this is something new which has come up in the last few years. The fact is that this was there in the past and might not be eradicated completely and so will exist in future also. Before we get into the details, let us try to understand the meaning of tolerance. The idea of accommodating the views and thoughts of all the people around us who may not think the same way as we do may be the laymen understanding of tolerance. Those who think the opposite or contrary to this will be treated as intolerant. Another issue to be pondered upon is that the ones who are in majority or power, do they need to be more tolerant as the others want them to be? In our society this is visible in almost all situations and I would like to cite some examples of the same. If a person driving a car gets involved in an accident with a motorcycle rider, in that case mostly the car driver is blamed for the accident though the fault may be entirely on the part of bike rider. Similarly, if the accident involves bike rider and cycle rider, then bike rider is usually blamed for it. If it happens between cycle rider and pedestrian, then the cycle rider is blamed while the fault may be of the pedestrian. Similarly, in the classroom if something goes wrong between the teacher and the student, then mostly the blame comes on the teacher though he/she may not be guilty at all and the list of such examples is endless.
The question here is: should the perception dominate the reality and the cases be generalised? We belong to the country where the parents and teachers were remembered ahead of God. The sons and daughters sacrificed their everything on the command of their parents. Here we have many examples starting from Lord Ram to Krishna, Jesus Christ to Bhishma Pitamah to Samrat  Ashok to Maharan Pratap to Gandhiji to Shivaji to APJ Abdul Kalam and  again the list is endless. The same has been the relationship between the teacher and the taught. Relationship between Guru Vashistha and the sons of Raja Dashrath, between Guru Dronocharya and Arjun are the eternal examples followed by many till the last few decades and are still existing in our societies where the students follow their teachers and succeed in their life. You might get surprised by my mention of these examples here and might question about the relevance in context of the topic being discussed. But there is very important reason for the same. We all agree and accept that the change is law of nature and nobody can stop it. True, but does the change mean doing away completely with the previously followed traditions? Or do we need to change only the branches keeping the roots intact so that the improvement is affected for the good of the human race and the nature both? This is true that no society has been perfect because even during Dwapur and Trerta era, there were problems of having people with evil design and thoughts. Every society has some set norms to be followed by all the citizens. In today`s time every country has its own constitution and the same applies to both government and the citizens. In our country, this is considered equivalent to Gita and Bible. As mentioned before that changes can be made but the soul must not be disturbed and the same has happened with our constitution also in the form of many amendments incorporated in the last sixty six years. Everything was going fine with us but all of sudden in the name of development, globalisation and modernisation, things took turn and fast changes in the thoughts of the people emerged and the same was given impetus by the marketing strategy of the multinationals whose sole purpose was to earn money. All our traditions have been hit by them. The festivals as on today have become market driven and in the process the values got lost somewhere. Initially, the people were enjoying their rights with a lot of responsibility but now the things have got into reverse gear and the people are trying to enjoy their right with a lot of might and the word responsibility is lost in the debate of intolerance. I am to ask a question here, whether asking to follow traditions and the constitution of the country intolerance? If the father of a child asks him/her to come home in time and study and eat healthy food, is it intolerance? If the teacher asks the students to study and learn and follow rules, is it intolerance? We began with some issues where the parents and teachers allowed their children to put forward their views and that was the right thing done but this did not stop and now the situation has become alarming where the children have started questioning everything the parents and teachers ask them to do. This may not be the universal truth but a general perception. The government also has contributed in this by implementing certain laws in reaction to some unfortunate incident. I have always been for the welfare of the children and all possible positive and safe environs for them in the school and at home but that does not mean that our children should not be taught respect for the parents, teachers and the constitution. What happened in one of the prestigious universities in the name of “freedom of speech” seems to be the result of ignoring the things in the past. The saying- what shall you sow, so shall you reap, is proving to be true. If a child disrespects the parents or the teachers and he/she is told that it is immoral, is it intolerance? This still can be ignored and pardoned in case of a small child but can the grown ups who form government be allowed to indulge in such uncanny debate of tolerance-intolerance. The fact is that intolerance in some cases is necessary. We should not tolerate the onslaught and destruction of nature. We should also not tolerate the attack on the culture of this great nation. We should not tolerate the insult to our forefathers who gave their life for the freedom of this county. They wanted a free country where all could live in peace and harmony but did not give their life for those who want to divide this country into pieces. Tolerance is a two way gesture and not one way signal. One cannot keep abusing others and expect no reaction ever because there is limit of everything because even the most elastic body breaks if stretched beyond elastic limit. If this debate is to be reached some conclusive stage then we must ensure that mere power, money and personal vendetta should not overpower the welfare of the society and the nation. Let the government make study of constitution mandatory in all schools and the colleges so that the children and the youth remain well aware of what they are supposed to do for our country and not only the responsibility of the nation towards the citizens. One more request that even in this debate where we do not agree with each other on any issue (this is natural and must be appreciated) but the language used should be such that it is tolerated by all. Dear parents and teachers, our constitution needs to be followed. We feel hurt when the PMs of the country are called names by the people in power and this becomes tolerable.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Attitude of contradiction in children

Pondering upon the contradictory behaviour of children, one is in a state of dilemma whether to understand the influence of external environment or home environment. In an outrage, one tends to behave differently without realizing the impact of the same on other people or surroundings. This can not be justified as situational behaviour as the adults are expected to have a strong control over their wrath rather than being in its control. The recent incident of a girl leaving her home because of the scuffle between her parents’ is an eye opener for most of the couples, who perhaps do not want to adjust or change themselves according to the situation. The girl was in such a great distress that she just never wanted to come back home, but rather wished to be at some other place from where she could manage to attend her school regularly. How often do we realize the impact of adult behaviour on the nascent mind of children? The words spoken to each other in anger, the verbal fights, the indifferent attitude, a humiliating environment at home and many other such negativities arising from different corners and ultimately disturbing the child psyche. The parents, by putting themselves in controversies and by making mountains out of mole hills, rarely understand that the children have to bear the brunt of such activities, resulting in the feeling of insecurity among them. Their dreams shatter, they lose faith, their capacity to think about future ceases.
The children are taught to follow certain norms such as honesty, truthfulness, hard work, empathy etc; but ironically, they get ample examples which go contradictory to the norms and in coherence with the prevailing circumstances. Adults in the family or society or even on roads do not confirm the same norms no matter they may violate them themselves. Furthermore, they at times approach the school and plead teachers to look into the changing behaviour of the child, asking them to solve their crisis. As the child does not listen to the parents, the parents are also baffled at such a stage, so to seek solutions, they take the teachers into confidence. I have mentioned about all this in my previous article, however, today’s focus is the behaviour of parents’ at home or in the society which is emulated by children with absolutely no hesitation. Hence, the parents will have to display maturity in front of their children by putting the ego hassles on the back burner.
Another act which is insidious to the nurturing of childish brain is to contradict each other in front of the child. Let’s take the example of birthday celebration. Sometimes, the father may refuse for the celebration in a restaurant whereas the mother usually agrees to what the child wishes. Now, the seed of contradiction arises from this petty issue and the parents start fighting and opposing each other, realizing less what impact this might have on the child’s mind. This does not stop here. They carry the same argument further and getting into a brawl becomes a daily routine for them. The pertinent question here is- who suffers? It is the child obviously as the child listens to the heated arguments and absorbs everything silently. Feelings of insecurity crop-up in such an environment which is full of negative emotions and hatred for the people around, particularly the parents. The child then believes that he has been subjected to such a misery without actually being at any fault. These feeling then surface significantly at a certain point of time, as the child starts having saturation to existing circumstances. Unless there is love, respect, unity of opinion, care and concern, parents can never set a perfect example of life for their children. They here need to understand the right behaviour to be projected in front of their children and settle their argument within themselves, lest the children should suffer from other psychosomatic problems. Then they get addicted to gadgets or fall in bad company, thereby creating challenges for parents at home and others in society. Certainly their academic performance also is doomed in such situations.  And then begins the saga of unending problems. According to a study conducted in California, Many children seek not a friend but a guide in their parents. There are innumerable cases of domestic violence, in which the mother is a silent sufferer. She does not gather enough courage to go up against her husband, hence, keeps tolerating the belligerent chauvinism. This then becomes a routine affair and the silent sufferer role shifts to the child who witnesses the hostile violence between parents. The blossoming mind of the child might suffer grossly from such episodes, resorting to extreme steps of repulsion from dear ones, leaving homes, withdrawal or suicidal symptoms. These children lose their ability to rationalize resulting in low levels of confidence, low self esteem, low morale and even low performance in academics. Their minds always struggle to remain steady, they display gloom through their gestures. At times, they start involving themselves in such disparaging activities, the repercussions of which are unpredictable.
Parents have to critically analyse their behaviour and actions as this kind of environment turns the child into a violent human being. It is not only the furore between parents but also within the family members like mother and son, daughter-in-law and mother-in-law or any such relation. So to find some solace, attention seeking activities increase. Such children bear split personalities and can not have a balanced mindset, which is required in life to grow. The adults in the family will have to be careful not to criticize, blame or incite anybody in the presence of children as it will sow the seed of negativity in nature. A father should not talk to his father disrespectfully or argue with him. Similarly a mother should be polite and respectful for her mother-in-law and other adults of the family to teach her children those values that are often found missing.  This would be leading by examples, which is imperative for a united and happy home.  The popular story of blanket proves to be so true here, in which, when the father purchases a blanket for his father, the son asks him to buy two blankets. Baffled, the father asks him the reason, which the son states that when he (his father) grows old and is sent to old age home, he would need it just as his grandfather requires it.

Teachers here should identify the problem and deal with it by drawing the children in conversations that are motivating, solicitous and guiding, this will transmit positivity. Since the teacher is also aware of the behavioural challenges, she can give concrete counselling to the child as well to his parents by taking them into confidence. The feeling of isolation that surrounds the child at any age, whether five or fifteen, can take the child into self-condemnation and other predicaments, which might be challenging in life. The teachers and the parents have to understand these changes and act sensibly. They need to guide and support them, nurture their talents, hone their skills and lead them with examples. No doubt these children are the store houses of colossal energy that needs to be directed with utmost precision.  Although, children fantasise about sports champions, actors or freedom fighters as their role models yet, parents top this list. So, assist your children to adopt a balanced approach rather than being contradictory, realize your roles and help your children to become humble and worthy citizens of the country.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Interpersonal skills and time management

In the past, we used to discuss about LSRW. The skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing considered imperative in all situations. With the changes around the globe, there are so many other skills that stipulate our attention in order to ascend in our job, work place, personal life, relationships etc. Not unless there is an understanding of human needs, emotions and values, can relationships be built and core competencies be enhanced. There is a constant need to develop the skill to know, analyse and deal with people of diverse behaviour patterns and varying emotions as we are perpetually surrounded with people/society. Though there is a sudden hype on the subject of emotional intelligence but it is the most important attribute to the leadership ladder. Be it students, teachers, administrators or managers, all should try to learn these skills at early stages of their careers so as to be immaculate in man management. As being at work means working effectively with different people. For example, a student , when is taught life skills, should learn to keep a consistency in his feelings and emotions, in order to manage self appropriately, a teacher requires certain skills of communication and relationship based on trust and respect to deal with students and handle the class capably. Knowledge of the subject can only be shared when the students are receptive and well managed by the teacher. Similarly, someone on a more responsible post can have a better control over situations by adopting a problem solving approach and also by being able to manage conflicts arising among employees. Giving a patient ear to other’s perspective, selecting the best course of action to resolve differences and also appreciating when required, are some of the key points to deal with people around. Interpersonal skills thus become a strong predictor of success in personal as well as professional life. Through verbal and non-verbal communication, many issues can be solved amicably. Only if there is rationality and coherence in thought and action, can there be a positive environment in an organisation. Moreover, if one knows and considers the emotional implication of verbal communication on the people around, can there be a sense of gratification. Some people, in order to be assertive as there profile demands become rude, which again is downbeat for their escalation. Empathy and encouragement can turn all odds to evens. A much talked about concept these days in most of the seminars is the feedback concept which ensures accuracy as regards opinion formation (only if it is an honest feedback). In a nutshell, an individual has to adopt a panchromatic approach to deal with the surroundings.
Consider this example, if a child is told by the teacher to be there with her during some activity period, for the completion of a specific project / topic, at the same time, his (the child’s) best friend also asks him to play with him, what does the child do? This might put the child in a dilemma and he may not be in a position to take an appropriate course of action. If he doesn’t take the teacher’s call, he might lose on his image as a student and if he doesn’t go to his friend, he compromises his relationship with his friend. Interestingly, most of us are aware of our ‘objectives’ and ‘relationships’. Ideally, the child should be with the teacher, only if he understands his priorities (which must be taught at formative stages).Now, this child will have to strike a balance by being prudent in his interpersonal relationship with his teacher and act sensibly with his friend. As understood that ‘objectives’ and ‘relationships’ go hand in hand. In a case where objective is given more priority than relationship or the entire focus is on the achievement of objective, relationship can not be nurtured thereby creating a void. If all the preference is given to relationship without any objective, then this does not cater to the need of survival as only relationships can not fetch livelihood. However, if there is a balance between the two, it becomes an ideal situation which can very well be practised in every day life. More importantly, interpersonal skills are the lifeblood of any organisation / individual working with many people around.
Another crucial issue to be discussed is time management, as the moment time is managed, there would be no stress. Arranging, organising, scheduling and budgeting ones time to increase the output is called time management. We may not realize and exercise a conscious control over time, which leads to dereliction or incompetency. This is mostly prevalent in teenagers or even adults. By having ambiguous objectives, aimless activities or unnecessary interruptions, we may face a massive loss of time, however, if these obstacles are dealt with, scrupulously, managing time will not be a great deal. Growing children and students should be counselled about the same at the early stages of their life so that they invest in time rather than waste it. For it, the first step is to recognise that the obstacle exists, after identifying it, employ strategies to overcome it. Time management is also synonymous with having SMART (acronym) goals. To meet SMART goals and to be truly effective we must begin with the outcome in mind, as, being busy or being efficient will not make much of the difference. Pareto Principle proves to be true in majority of the cases. We spend 80% of our time that yields 20% results and 20% of our time is spent in gaining 80% results. There has to be an analysis of the ‘trivial’ and the ‘vital’. Something that is trivial should be put on the back burner and substantially, something that is vital should be the priority. The categories of ‘must do’, ‘should do’ and ‘nice to do’, comes in handy here. Scheduling priorities is the key that opens the lock for many missions. What if we involve ourselves in ‘not so urgent’ tasks and then whine later for being stressed out on account of more work? No doubt this is a human tendency nonetheless, the quadrangle of time is fundamental to deal with most of the situations. One needs to understand the difference between ‘important’ and ‘urgent’. Then comprehending the quadrangle of time stating ‘urgent / important / not urgent / not important’, can become a perfect guide in time management. Especially in this example of another student being motivated by the teacher to study assiduously, makes a promise to himself to persevere and accomplish his objective or goal, is further invited by peers for a get together on the same day at 5 o’clock; now what does he do? He can not let go his commitment as it is his enlightenment. Neither can he offend his friends who plan a gathering may be after months. How does he get rid of this impasse? Perhaps he can politely convey to his friends to change the timing of the get together or if discreet can also refuse to participate, without losing the sight of his objective. Deciphering between ‘important and not urgent’ and ‘urgent and not important’ is crucial. Something urgent will always demand our attention, only if we start rationalising, prioritizing and planning. If we have our goal set and time allocated, we will never reach the fourth stage of tasks defined as ‘not important and not urgent.’ In some circumstances, we might be pushed to ‘important and urgent’ category. This can be the result of procrastination, when we decide and excuse ourselves to conclude an important task. However, by meticulous planning, these tasks can be accomplished way ahead of the deadline and the first quadrant can be averted. Rather the use of interstices, which is a fragment of space, is a good idea to save on time. Only if we are aware that such a space exists. Mailing while travelling, planning while commuting, creating while watching etc., are a few examples of substantial use of interstices. Relationship building, recreation, etc; are in the category of ‘not urgent’ but ‘important’ tasks. Generally individuals are seen glued to their mobiles while travelling, commuting or even while attending conferences. This might appear ridiculous but, these interruptions are the quadrant of ‘urgent and not important’. However, the children as well as parents have to understand that gadgets and social networking sites consume a lot of time rather a major chunk of  time is spent on facebook, net browsing, chatting, twittering, watsapp etc. Hence, this discretion has to be developed, giving them an insight into the ‘not urgent and not important category’. Some trivia has to be condemned lest it should occupy the precious hours of your life.
Time is said to be the greatest healer. But a second wasted can be gauged only by the person who averted an accident, similarly, a fraction millisecond can be estimated only by an athlete. So, with the commencement of the New Year, let us resolve to create a time balance account so that there is a purpose added to life. As once the time is lost, it can never be recovered and by managing time one can reach the pinnacle of success.

Monday, December 28, 2015

We reap what we sow

The news related to an incident reported in the newspapers regarding the drastic step taken by an engineer who killed his parents because of a silly reason as he could not qualify for a premier competitive examination. There have been incidents in the past also when people took such extreme steps of taking their own lives but this seems to the first case where the family members have been attacked by an individual due to failing in his efforts to have achieved what he aspired for. This is something which relates to murder but don’t we come across smaller incidents in our day to day life which might ultimately lead to such situations? Unfortunately, such incidents are forgotten by all soon because of so many other issues in their own lives and sometimes because some other issue becomes the focus of public. This incident happened when our parliament had almost unanimously passed a bill regarding juvenile crime. While most members of parliament were in favor of the amendment but some raised very pertinent issues which require immediate attention by all concerned. This is true that no reason justifies the heinous crimes committed by anybody, be it an adult or teenager but the question to be answered without getting emotionally influenced is why children get involved in such acts. If we consider specifically Nirbhay`s case then the dreadful crime involved the people who were less than 18 years of age. In addition to the punishment, should not the law makers and the society be looking for the cause as to why the innocent girl was killed? No punishment can bring her back but shouldn’t everyone try that such incidents do not get repeated? And we should also realize and accept that only law cannot help us achieve that goal. We need to sensitize our self and also our children specially the boys. Remember no child is born with those traits and instincts which are displayed later in life. All the children when born are absolutely innocent and born good human beings. This can be proved by considering the activities of the children till the age of 9/10 years that they behave almost in the same manner when it comes to being very close to the parents or their demands for different things. These children respect and follow the instructions and advise of the adults around them (be it the teachers or the parents) almost 100 percent. They are very close to the mothers and always worry about them. Try a child to remain away from the mother for few days and one can easily make out the despondency on the face of the child. But what happens when the child is of 15-16 years of age and starts moving away from the parents who had been his role models right from the birth? Let us try to understand the reasons which are many but we will focus on the most important ones. In today’s time, most of the children live in nuclear families and both the parents working. Now the parents have very little time to be with their children physically and to compensate for that deficit, they try to provide them all the material things which might make children feel happy for the time being. In many a cases, at later stage, children start demanding the things of their liking whether required or not. In this situation also many parents fulfill their demands to make the kids feel happy though they understand it very well that this is not the right approach. This makes children habitual of getting anything which they want by any means which may not be right from the society's point of view. Now the question may be asked that in case of Nirbhaya, the children involved in the crime were not from high status/ income family background then what made them indulge in such a crime. Some members of our parliament were right when they raised the issue of lack of education and proper employment. If we all try to see the condition of unauthorized colonies in the metros and bigger cities, then we can very easily understand the mindset with which the children are born, in those colonies and the fact that they grow with the same. There may be just one room (make shift with plastic sheets etc.) in which the entire family lives. They cook, eat and sleep in the same room and the children see everything what their parents do and the verbal fight they might have which each other because of their socio economic condition. There are number of such one room huts and every shed has the same condition and environment. When these children meet each other outside their so called one bedroom hut, they share the same kind of thinking with each other. The most venerable case might be of the girl child in such cases. These children do not get an opportunity to have good education and always exposed to very negative things happening around them which might include the father consuming alcohol, committing physical violence against the woman of the family etc. When such children grow in these conditions, then how does the society expect them to be behaving in more decent manner? Try to analyse the background of such children who are found involved in committing the crime, it would invariably be established that the environment in which these children grew was responsible for what they did. This is true that the one who commits crime have to own the responsibility of that, but how can those who made them to learn in such negative environment, can be left scot free. Should the people responsible for fulfilling the fundamental rights of healthy living as provided by our constitution not be held responsible for such situation to arise? Should they also not share the blame of such incidents?
If we have to root out such crimes from our society then the people should be provided those basic things which are necessary for the human beings and these includes proper shelter, education, food and employment. If these things are provided then we may not be dependent solely on the law and the punishment.
But this is not true that the crimes are committed by the people from lower socio economic background but the kids from so called high profile family backgrounds also get involved in such crimes. For that the parents have to understand that the way they behave at home and in the society has huge impact on their kids. If a child does not listen to the advise of the parents, then there must have been something lacking on the part of parents or the adults of the family and children learnt it from there. If the father or the mother uses foul language with other people then the child will follow the same. If the parents value and respect their parents then the children will automatically learn to respect their parents. If the husband and wife fight with each other or behave in a negative way, the children will get affected by that also. If the parents value money and the material things acquired by them as a result of hard work put in by them, then the children will learn the importance of hard work.
There have also been large numbers of cases reported from Kota regarding suicides committed by many young children who come to that place to realize dreams and in many cases the dreams of their parents. The parents want them to qualify the competitive examination even if they have to sell off their valuables and in some cases the land to manage the exuberant fee of the coaching centers (some people call them as dream sellers). When few of them are not able to take the pressure of studies and are fed up with the living conditions, they resort to that extreme step which is a shame for all of us. On the one hand CBSE and some other boards are trying to reduce the pressure of studies on children but on the other hand such coaching centers (which have their presence in almost all cities now-a-days) do just opposite of this. Many children from such backgrounds grow as frustrated individuals and cannot accept failure in their life. The parents must understand that every child is different and has the potential of achieving something great in life which may not necessarily be the field in which the parents want the child to excel but some other field. If the children are allowed to pursue the field of their choice and the parents support that, the issue of extreme disappointment will be taken care of up to a large extent.
My request to all the parents and teachers is that let the government do what best can be done by it but we should have faith in our children because they are God sent gift to us and gift by God is always precious and good. If something negative happens to this gift then for that God or the child should not be blamed but we should own that blame because the child learnt all those things from us and not from anybody else. If we can provide good environment to the children at home and in the schools, then there is no reason that they will not prove to be great citizens of this land and show the right path to the world in the pursuit of excellence.