Monday, April 29, 2013

Pursue your passion

I happened to be the part of a discussion based on the theme of the transition from school to college/university and why the students tend to behave differently after joining the college than what they used to be in the school. Many factors and reasons were highlighted and discussed and one of them was that the students are usually forced/pushed by their parents or the friends to join a particular stream or combination of subjects. When they find things not of their interest or liking, they tend to ignore the studies and as a result might appear to be behaving differently. The question raised was that the children should be provided proper career counseling at school level so that they choose the subjects and stream of their liking. The meaning thereby was that the students should know their element. If they do so they will enjoy their life in college and in the social way also. But in many a case this does not happen so. Even if the children try to convey to the parents their desire to pursue something of their choice which the parents might consider as an uncanny option for their future, they dissuade their kids not to tread on the path of their choice. While reading the book by Ken Robinson, I came across a chapter in which he very rightly writes about the perception of human beings including the children- what they will think or what will they say. The three important factors which are the hindrances in letting us do the things as per our choice  and interests. These are personal, social and cultural.
The personal barriers are the ones which may be due to the lack of confidence in self potential and abilities. This may be due to physical problems or somebody suffering from disabilities like dyslexia etc. The child might want to do the things of his choice but due to reasons beyond his control may not be able to do so. For example, if somebody has an aptitude for painting but might have lost his hands in accident or otherwise due to which cannot pursue his interest. Take the example of Chunk Close who became a renowned painter but before that faced many hurdles including his own dyslexic problem. He had lost his parents in the initial years but it was his will power and the confidence in his abilities that he ultimately succeeded in his life though the success came after a lot of hard work and sufferings. There may be a child who has an aptitude to be good in science but the area in which he lives does not have any school/college of science and he cannot afford to go somewhere else to study due to financial constraints. Hence , he chooses to study some other subjects. Sometimes the fear of making others unhappy with their action also contributes to the problem of personal behavior.
The second barrier is probably more prevalent and responsible for the people not to pursue the career of their choice. The parents, friends and the relatives are always there to extend all the possible advice and guidance to the children as per their own interest. The parents are particularly concerned about the future of their child and would force their opinion so that their children do something which will bring them name and fame in terms of position and money. They want to help their children have safe and secure future. This happens across the globe with some exceptions. We may find so many examples around us but I would like to quote about the famous writer of the book-The Alchemist and he is Paulo Coelho. His parents always wanted him to become a lawyer and not the writer, whereas Paulo was always keen to explore the power of his pen and be a writer. His parents tried their level best to change the mind of their son. They even did certain things which not many parents would do to their children even if they are dead against their choice. Paulo did not mind all that too but also did not give up the idea of being a writer. He always thought that his parents loved him that is why all the fuss of forcing their opinion on him. It is very much possible that Paulo might have been a good lawyer but the passion of writing gave him an edge and he was able to stick to his element. Family and friends are the people who really at times prove to be barriers and try that you do what they feel would be good for your future without giving any consideration to your aptitude and interest. If you want to join music classes or painting classes you might be asked not to waste time and money rather be forced to focus on science and mathematics to become an engineer. Those who resign to pressure may not be able to find their element and do something which might fetch them money but not the real satisfaction. Those who rebelled against the family members and friends even for some time excelled in future. Even the friends and family members who were against them pursuing their own choice embrace them once they succeed in their endeavor. You can find many examples of this type around you and by virtue of being a teacher, I have come across many such issues where the children were forced to do the things not necessarily of their choice. The other major barrier in this category is of the group thinking. You must have come across a situation many-a-times when you did certain task not because of your interest but because of the group pressure. There may be a few children who would like to attend the school or a particular class but the group may want to bunk. This group pressure is so strong the person despite wanting to attend the class, join the group to remain absent. Many children who fell in the habit smoking did not initially wanted and in many a cases they hated doing that but the group thinking and the pressure could not be handled and avoided.
The third barrier may be the culture in which you are born and is followed around you. You may be more interested in the proof for everything you do but in your culture, the traditions might be followed very seriously. So your element which might help you to create something new forces you to follow the traditions. In India, we are told not to look into the eyes of the elders if they are strongly telling you about something which you might have done wrong. This is because here it is considered to be disrespect to the elder if you look into his eyes. The same is different in other countries especially in America. There if the person looks down when being told the same as above, is considered to be an insult to the elder. There may be so many other examples which do not allow us to be in our element and so something which may not be of our interest or liking. That is the reason you may find many people who migrated from one culture to another to be in their own element.
So, if you want to enjoy your success then be confident to take the challenges of the barriers discussed above. Do not give in to the demands of the family and the friends or constraints put in by your culture but know your element and act upon accordingly.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Stay fit as a fiddle : Avoid junk food

The health of the children in the metros particularly, is a cause of concern for many due to reasons not caused by the problem of inflation or low income of the parents but due to the wrong food habits and more consumption of junk food. This problem is not confined to Indian cities but is all over the world. The government of NCR Delhi has directed that there will be no shop which sells junk food within five hundred meters of a school. Some people have appreciated the same but there are others who feel that this may not be step to curb the problem of obesity. The life style of the people have changed the entire routine and the children and also the adults tend to accumulate the fat which otherwise could have been burnt if the physical exercises were given due importance in our day to day life. The major educational board of the country CBSE has made it mandatory to give more emphasis on games and sports and physical workouts. Just one step would not be able to set things right for the children to get rid of the obesity problem but number of efforts should be made by all concerned who care for the health of the citizens of the nation. The important issue is to understand the reason why children tend to get into the habit of letting negative traits developed. The so called junk food is advertised so easily and effectively that the children tend to ignore the lesson of healthy food habits. The impressionable minds of the children register the ads shown on TV or internet and develop the taste of the same after taking the same for long. The parents are also to be held responsible for the same because they themselves are very fond of such food. As teachers we come across the complaint of many parents that there child does not eat green vegetables’. Eating pizza or burger once in a while may not be a serious concern but having it every day is not good. Those parents who show a lot of concern towards the health of their children should look into their own food habits. I know many parents who themselves are very fond of such food and indirectly teach their kids to have the same. Once the children develop the taste for junk food, it becomes difficult for them to change their likes. The reason for the mothers particularly to opt for the junk food is its availability and convenience to cook. There are many schools which advise the parents to send healthy food in the lunch boxes of the children but still junk food is sent by them. When asked for the reason, many of them were very honest in telling that as the children leave for the school early so they were not able to provide proper healthy food as that takes a lot of time to get prepared whereas the junk food requires almost no preparation because it is readymade, most of the times. Also, when a child performs well or win any prize he/she is appreciated by giving a party lavished with junk food. The soft drinks like Pepsi or coke are promoted by the film stars and cricketers who are the icon for the kids and they get influenced by what they show or say. I still remember one ad in which an actor will cross many hurdles for the sake of a particular brand of a soft drink.
Another reason of the obesity in the children is lack of physical exercise. This adds to the problem already created by the easy availability of the junk food. The children get very little time to do physical exercise due to lack of space and time. As the number of parks and playgrounds are on a decrease so are the opportunities available for the kids. This compounds the problem as the children get hooked to the TV or computer which further binds them to one place. Those parent who complain to the teachers that their children do not eat proper lunch or dinner, should ensure that their children do not take junk food in between the meals. One doctor very rightly said that this is a vicious circle and one problem leads to the other one. So the question is where to start so that the problem of the obesity is taken care of. The first and most important step is to be taken by the parents and the family. They should ensure that healthy food is served and appreciated by all so that the children learn the importance of this type of food. Second the children can be told and advised about the ill effects of the junk food and the reality about the misleading ads should also be discussed. The government should be serious about the ads which mislead the people and these should not be allowed or there should be a clear warning as is for other such products which are not considered good for the health. The schools should also play a proactive role and advise the parents of those children who are sent with junk food not to do so. The consistence and constant efforts will yield fruitful results. All should avoid blame game and be partners in this movement for the healthy life and future of the country. The parents should not pamper the children for the sake of making them happy for the time being because this will lead to serious problems in future. The daily routine should be such that the children get enough time to do their daily course early in the morning in spite of rushing to board the school bus without getting fresh. I know many children who come to the school without eating anything in the morning. Now see if a child board a school bus at 6.30 am (without having anything in breakfast) and then get a chance to eat something at 10.30 am or so during the break, how difficult and unhealthy it would be him/her and in that also if the child has to eat junk food then it would be worst for his/her health. The parents should realize that proper nutritious food is essential for child`s proper growth and their contribution in this is of immense importance.
The remedy of the problem of obesity is not very difficult if taken seriously by the parents and the schools. The children should be encouraged to eat healthy food as per the culture and availability. The parents and the teachers should act as the role models in this case also. They should ensure that the children get some place and time to play one or the other game which is very important for the healthy development of the child`s body and mind. The children should be counseled not to sit on computer or watch TV for long. For this, parents should also set some timetable for themselves too. If the children find the parents watching TV or sitting in front of computer for long then they also get tempted to do the same. As we all know that not so good habits are imbibed by us more easily and quickly than the good ones. So prepare good healthy food at home and give the same to the children in their lunch box to be taken to the school. The schools should also encourage children for healthy food by different activities because the children learn more by seeing than lecturing. This issue should be taken very seriously and at the earliest so that we can make the future of our children healthier and safer.  

Friday, April 12, 2013

Find your tribe and territory

This again is the time of the year (in India) when most of the children who appeared in class XII board examinations would be seeking a seat in a college of repute. In many a cases it may not be the college of their interests but because the past records make them to believe that anybody who graduates from that particular college does well in life, which may not be the correct impression. The children should (and be allowed by the parents) to pursue the course and the activity they may be good at. Today`s discussion is based on the same issue and here I share my views on the same with all of you with an expectation of your critical response which will definitely make me wiser.
  This has been a common saying that the company of a person affects the personality a lot and that is why people suggest being in good company. All agree that every child comes in this world with a lot of energy and if that is put to proper and appropriate use it will evolve a successful individual who would be a pillar of strength and a panacea for all the ailments. If all are like that, then the qualities of individual with the support of others will touch new heights. Now the question asked is that how does somebody decide about the company? Does it come by choice or accident? I found this question quite curious and significant and by virtue of being a teacher, it has been observed many a times that the child who joins a school settles in his group unknowingly without realizing it. Somebody who was considered to be good at previous place is found in the company of the child/children who might have been tagged of possessing an unseemly behaviour. The parents and the teachers find it difficult to change that despite best of their efforts. There may be many reasons for the child to have got in that company good or inappropriate. Though we all agree that all children are born fine and they would like to be appreciated and known for being and doing the good deeds. Ken Robinson writes that everyone tries to find in their tribe. Whenever somebody finds his/her tribe then he/she excels in that field. This field of excellence may or may not be appreciated and accepted by the society, is a different issue.
Today I would like children, parents and the teachers to restrict themselves for the good work done by somebody or to be done in the future. This is true for creed and caste that all parents want their children to be successful in life and they do everything possible for their children. But sometimes the concerns towards their children become so intense that the parents and the teachers tend to interfere too much in their life. The role of the parents and the children is to provide the environment which helps their child to perform better and that too happily and enjoy the same. The meaning of the word ‘TRIBE’ used earlier may be taken as the company of the person. If somebody has to really find his/her element (the areas of someone`s interest and aptitude) then there are two important things as explained by Ken Robinson in his book, the element. One is the idea of domain and the other is field. ‘Domain’ is the kind of activities and disciplines one is involved in. For example being a teacher, actor, architect, painter doctor and so on. ‘Field’ refers to the people who may be involved in the same kind of activities. For example, domain of Shahrukh Khan is acting and the other actors around him are the field. Then he changed his domain from acting to cricket and there also he found field in the form of other people involved in the same activity. Now if the domain and the field are in the same area then a person is more likely to do better than otherwise. I take another example of an individual who is very good in mathematics but gets the company of the people who might be good in cricket or painting. Though this individual might do well but this is for sure that he would have been more successful if he was in the company of the people involved in field of mathematics. So, what I conclude from here is that the field is almost the same what we call as the company. The field of the person will always make a difference in the life of individual and also others. This happens for both who are in the company of each other. This is also true that a more powerful field will affect the weaker one. You may take an example from physics. When two charged particles are kept near each other (in the field of each other) then both have the effect but the one which has higher field would impact the other one more. Take another example from the field of thermodynamics. Two bodies having different temperature when placed close to each other release heat energy but the one at lower temperature increases its temperature and hence appears to have been influenced and affected by the body at higher temperature. Similarly, when a child joins a new school and goes to a particular class for the first time he is also likely to be affected by the fields around. If the child had been in certain areas and a disciplined one and he gets the same kind of field in that class, he is very likely to do well. If the area of his domain does not match with the field of the class then there may not be much of success and the child might find that class of less interest. At times, the area of domain is lost in the field of the class and the child who had been doing so well earlier come down all of a sudden. If the child goes to a class which has a teacher of the area of his domain then also he would perform very well. So, the responsibility of the teachers and the school is that the children are exposed to the field of the area of their domain. Now somebody might ask that if the child is with so called negative traits or domain then what to do. As I said earlier that no child is born with those negatives but get influenced by those fields he might have been exposed to before. Hence, it is very possible that if the same child is put in a field which might help him discover his area of domain, then all those negative traits will automatically get removed. This word field used here might be taken as the environment created for the children. The parents should also try to understand the area of the domain of the children and encourage them to grow in a field conducive to them. Another important thing is that do not change the field around very often because that would not let the domain of the child get stronger. The most important thing for all to understand is that the children should not be forced to do something which they may not be good at. When children do things of their liking and interest they do better and progress in life.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Educators to explore the element

Some people gave their feedback on the topic stress destined or designed. One of them asked me if it was wrong for the parents to remain with the children appearing in the board or school based examination. My response to them is that the children should not be forced or driven to unnecessary stress during the time when they should be encouraged to relax so that they revise what they learnt during the term/session as this revision is to be done by the children and not by the parents. I want to know for how long and how much we would keep our children pushing without understanding their areas of strength in which they love to get involved with all their zeal and enthusiasm. Some parents want their children to be known as more intelligent for the simple reason because  intelligence has been defined based on the marks/grades secured by the children in the examination. Only marks syndrome keep troubling me and many more people because this takes away the focus from the real intelligence.  Howard Gardner tried to give a more comprehensive concept of intelligence when he wrote about the concept of multiple intelligence. A lot work has been done and many books have also been written by educationist and the researchers since then. The concept of multiple intelligence has made the life of many school going children comfortable than what it was before. To say that the school examination and the performance of the children in such examination is of no use, is not correct. These standardized tests give a pencil sketch about the potential of the child which then needs to be filled in myriad colours by discovering the latent talent of the child. I think we cannot do away with such test/examination but these cannot be considered to be the sole criterion for someone to be judged to be intelligent or otherwise. The book by Ken Robinson, the element gives a  beautiful description of the ways a person can perform much better in life. Before reading this book, I used to tell children that they should discover their interest and then pursue the same. I also used to caution them that though they should know what is of their interest but at the same time should be sure about whether that is in their interest or not. If there is something of their interest and is also in their interest they might perform exceptionally well. Robinson says that if you love doing something then make sure that you are good at that. One might do well if he does a thing of his liking but the result would be much better if the same person is good also at doing it. For example, somebody might love football but if he is not good at it, then he may not be reach it’s zenith.
Another important aspect of the child`s doing well in life is the creativity. This is a proven fact that all the newly born kids are intelligent in some or the other area and they are creative also. You can observe the activities of the children and realize that the children up to the age of 10-11 years are very creative and they respond to all your questions. When they grow they tend to hesitate in trying something new or responding to questions. Those people who do not worry about the quality of the answer (right or wrong) tend to answer and respond as they feel good. They do not bother whether they would be appreciated or not. The exposure to the environment in which one grows is very important. The schools need to give that freedom to the children to express themselves freely. Moreover, the tests are to be designed in a manner which gives an opportunity to the child to think all by himself/herself and come out with an appropriate answer and not the one necessarily expected by someone. They must be encouraged to believe what has been taught in the class but at the same time should have a freedom to challenge the same. Further discussion can take place as a result and the child will better understand the answer better than before. Ken Robinson writes about the real story of a little girl who was advised by the school to be admitted to a special school because she was not able to learn in the class room and kept moving and not sit in the chair as the teacher expected her to do and also did not listen to her instructions. She was measured to be a hyperactive child. The mother took her to a psychologist who studied the child keenly and told her to learn dance because she was found to have a natural instinct for the same. The psychologist found that this girl would love to learn with body movements and not sit redundantly at a place. The mother took her to the dance classes, she found a fulfillment of her passion and thereafter she showed a lot of improvement in the class of academics also. This little girl found her element and loved that. She worked hard and was ultimately known as a great choreographer by the name Gillian Lynne. Had the psychologist put her on medication, the world would have missed on a great person. We have many such children in the classrooms, whose real potential and area of intelligence go unnoticed and that  labels them as redundant children. This is the reason people in the field of education have coined a saying that one size does not fit all. All children are different from each other and are unique, then how can one type of teaching and test judge their intelligence? The children should be allowed to think differently. Though this is a difficult task for the educators but, that is what will enhance and expose the creative skills of the children. To let them imagine is one very important exercise which shall allow them to think differently and explore their creative horizons. This does not mean that they question everything but at the same time why to accept all the things as it is. If the steam engine invented by James Watt was accepted to be ultimate and people did not think critically about it and improved upon the same, we would not have had the highly efficient engines as we have today.  The education system should be such that it develops the critical thinking, imagination power and the creativity of the children because that will sustain the progress and every individual will love what he/she does. The parents and the teachers should be careful while they force certain ideas on their kids knowingly or unknowingly. We have to understand that the world is changing and evolving very fast and we cannot be hindrance in that. The teachers particularly have to play a significant role in this and try to know the element in every child and encourage him/her to do what they are good at doing. The children do keep changing their areas of interest because of the influence of the people around them but this is the major responsibility of the educators and the schools to recognize their potential and motivate them in that direction. Though, this may seem to be a difficult task but if taken seriously would become very easy as well provided the educators love what they do and be good at doing that.