When your child says, “I don’t like Math”…

When your child says, “I don’t like Math” what he/she is really saying is –

  1. I don’t understand/like the way the teacher is teaching OR,
  2. I’m struggling and unable to feel successful or be good at it

You may say, this is one of the most common things that children say about what they learn. You can literally replace it with art, music, science, badminton, new language…anything they attempt to learn and struggle with. True! And that is what makes the statement so dangerous. Here’s why?

  1. Isn’t math and all basic things children learn in school just tools that children need to use in their lives later on? It is like saying I don’t like the hammer, so I will not use the hammer to solve the problem that only hammers can solve. So, in a way, the dislike, really leaves the child weak and vulnerable in reality, unable to use the necessary tools when required in life to make decisions, communication, analyze or create an idea.
  2. Liking and disliking a subject is how children decide on careers and just like that, a disinterested/incompetent teacher in early years would have driven a perfectly capable child away from a career in science or art or sports.
  3. Both of these issues are inherently addressable if only there was awareness of what was driving the dislike.
  4. It is the loss of an opportunity to push oneself, to understand what makes you like/dislike something and figure out if it is important, how do you learn it? Wouldn’t you, if you knew it was important for your survival?

People like to share stories of how a child dropped physics and math in 10th grade because she didn’t like it, how another child picked arts because he was never good at science anyway, how a child picked up commerce because ultimately she wanted to become a designer and how all of this is a great sign of progress. Maybe it is better than struggling and feeling like a failure. I agree.

One thing I know for sure is if our children learned how to be successful at basic things like basic math, language and sciences in early years, whether they initially liked it/not, they would have figured out a lot more about life and success than anything else put together.

Let’s teach our children to figure out the hard stuff and then let them decide what they would love to do in life, rather than teaching them to run away from the hard stuff.They would hopefully be running towards something in their careers with both arms open rather than running away from something their whole life because they couldn’t figure it out!

 

 

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How emotions affect learning?

Schools are generally meant to be a place where children learn the content taught to them, take the exams, be civil with each other, respect elders, obey the rules and go home. There is no place for emotions there, is it?

The BIG problem here is that emotions are an integral part of who we are and no matter how much we ignore it, emotions lurk in nooks and crannies of children’s minds and affects how they learn.

Let me show you a few examples to clarify:

  1. A child experiences a fight or discord at home, doesn’t know what to do with his anger or sadness, brings it to class and is mood off that day. He doesn’t pay attention to what is happening around him and his ability to comprehend information has been compromised. He loses out on learning (note taking) that day and comes home and gets further scoldings for his notes being incomplete. He is at a loss to explain what or why?
  2. Another child misses her best friend who is either sick/has moved out of town and the uncertainty of the friend’s condition/the loss of friendship taunts the child and she is unable to calmly do her work in school. She has no way of knowing why she is upset and even if she knows, no place to express it and learn to work with the emotion knowing that it is only normal to feel this way. She tells her mom, who tells her that she will make more friends and it’s okay to move on. It confuses her further, she doesn’t know what to do. It goes on for weeks.
  3. A teacher scolds one of the children and another child is frightened for life to ask any more questions or to speak up in class. Parents are wondering what happened to my bright and chirpy child from a year ago?
  4. A child who scores very well in the exams and tops her class suddenly finds new subjects boring. She keeps telling herself that she needs to focus otherwise she will not get good marks but a small voice inside her says, “Boring, boring, boring”and she is not able to make peace with it. She doesn’t know how to negotiate or give it any more reasons/answers because she doesn’t know any except that, “it is important for exams and I need to score good marks so I’ll get a good job”

I could go on and on but I think we can agree that emotions are important and can affect children’s learning. It can affect it positively and negatively but when a part of you is not managed it is generally more trouble than good.

As a parent you could start the journey of developing emotional skills in children

  1. Use emotions in conversations on a daily basis to express not only how you feel about what your child did but also about how you felt at work or home when they were not around. Your child gets an opportunity to understand you better as parents and as professionals.
  2. Share your struggles and not just your happy moments and achievements. When children see a range of emotions they realize that they can also have a range of emotions and how to build the capability to express it.
  3. Acknowledge their emotions not the tantrums. Many a times when children throw a tantrum they are actually feeling an emotion and instead of expressing it, they are acting it out. Acknowledging the emotion empowers the child to express the emotion and even develop a sense of how you handle those emotions rather than throw a tantrum.

When children truly learn to manage their emotions you begin to see their learning improve by leaps and bounds. It’s an amazing experience to have as a parent, as a teacher and as a student – welcome to a world where learning is re-imagined the way it should be!

We, at Sparkling Mindz, as part of the school, preschool and our afterschool program work with children on their emotions. It begins with awareness, moves on to managing and generating choices, expressing & sharing with others, taking perspective, learning to respond to situations and developing empathy.

Raising a self-aware generation

I had an off-beat resume land in my inbox recently. Nia (name changed) is an out and out commerce student who scored a whopping 97% in her commerce PUC and is set to go on to do her BCom and CA when she seems to have made an about-turn in her life and joined a teacher training course followed by a specialization in special needs education. Intrigued by her story, I call her. She clears few rounds with us and reaches the interview round with me.

I ask her the question point blank. “Why did you opt out of a commerce career for a teaching job? Is it because it was convenient?” She replied, “I was not well in 11th grade for a long time and in 12th I scored the marks because I had just spent hours practicing the sums and pushing myself, I had not understood the fundamentals, nor did I like it that much. When the marks came I forgot all that and went ahead and joined B.Com honours with coaching for CA. Few months down the line I realized that it was not meant to be. I always wanted to be a teacher and empower children. I was abused as a child for several years and I don’t want children to go through that in life, ever.”

I’ve not found this level of clarity between marks and skill level and humility in a fresher level candidate so far. I wondered, what made her different? Why is that such a rare skill to find? Maybe it was the life-changing event of ill-health, maybe it was the abuse. But, if takes a life-changing event like abuse or some other equivalent trauma to make our children naturally reflective should we wait for that to happen for each and every child on this planet before we teach them to think for themselves, reflect, understand and navigate the language of emotions and social interactions?

Also, by that corollary, should we then wait for our children to have something to talk to us before we teach them language? Shouldn’t we wait for them to figure out economics before we teach them numbers? Shouldn’t we wait for them to discover new facts and figures or new civilizations and cultures before we teach them science or history or geography?

When we teach a lot of these skills in just in case (they need it later on) why wait to teach them the more important skills of thinking, reflecting, communicating, problem-solving and managing emotional in life? Why wait for them to learn it in due course? Nia learnt it the hard way you don’t have to wait for your child to learn it that way too. You have a choice of enrolling your child at Sparkling Mindz today and starting work on all of these skills at an early age.

Nia learnt it the hard way you don’t have to wait for your child to learn it that way too. You have a choice of enrolling your child at Sparkling Mindz today and starting work on all of these skills at an early age. We can’t guarantee that children will not struggle, that is part of their normal life and growth trajectory, I believe with the essential thinking, emotional and social toolkit they will be better equipped to deal with the life’s ups and downs, when they come knocking.

 

 

Are we scared of letting our children think?

I’ve heard too many parents tell me if my child starts thinking

  • They will ask too many questions and get into trouble at school
  • They will make decisions on their own and not listen to me

My point is that children are asking a lot of questions all the time. It is the most natural way that children learn. You may or may not be at the receiving end of it. They may or may not be articulating it to you or to anyone who can help them with it. They may be asking a lot of unproductive or demoralizing questions to themselves – like “What is the point of all this?” “What will happen if I ask that question?”

The difference is that thinking children will ask empowering questions that matter and will ask it politely and will ask it in a way that they are able to dig deeper into answers. More depth, more access, more reflection, more empathy and more clarity is the solution and not preventing children from learning to ask questions.

Your child is also making decisions all the time and these decisions are increasingly complex and at a larger impact scale than they ever were in the past. Most of the times if we were in those positions, we wouldn’t know what to do because we are not children living in the same era as they are and when I say this, most people’s eyes pop out. The truth is we cannot be out there or in their head to protect them from making wrong decisions, we can only empower them with the right kind of skills required to make decisions and that requires a learning a complex series of structuring, reasoning, analytical thinking, visualization, creative problem solving, collaboration, communication and value-based decision-making skills to be mastered and none of which is being taught in today’s traditional schools.

I think, as a parent, we need a paradigm shift in our thinking process and going towards an approach of empathetic parenting where we can take sufficient perspective and yet, work with the children to arrive at solutions apt for them instead of merely telling them what to do. That way, you model good decision-making skills that will ready your child to take on careers and problems in the future that we cannot even anticipate today. If they only listened to us, they will be limited by our potential to think, don’t you think?

Are we raising a generation of literate fools?

Every day I meet students I come face to face with the sinister power of today’s education system.

Children who are taught to weigh their worth in the marks/grades they get in exams.

Children who learn very quickly they have to obey so as to not get into trouble with the system.

Children who learn that there is a single right answer to questions.

Children who feel that they learning means mugging up content.

Children who learn to keep math, science, language, art, music, sports as separate silos in their head.

Children who don’t understand what it means to master language, music, art or math.

This is the reality of the literate India that we are raising with a lot of hard work.

This is how all the schools are right? How does this make them fools?

It makes them fools because it does not push them hard enough. It does not respect or work on developing their potential, it does not set high expectations of him.

Imagine working with a sports coach who teaches you tips and tricks to complete your practice session but does not really make you a better athlete or work on your strengths or pushes you to dream big? You wouldn’t send your child to such a sports coach right? Then why choose a school for your child that treats education and learning as a short-term game?

This increases my resolve to work towards reimagining how learning should be for our children every day.

Anything worth doing…

Some of the recent sessions that I’m attending got me thinking about what makes people do less than what they can?

It could be mere smugness, one might have easily settled into a comfort zone, it could be constraints, it could be a lack of empathy – no clear understanding of what the other person/customer really wants from you or pure arrogance because you can get away with it!

However, whatever the reason for you to do that, at the end of the day you are shortchanging your own potential, your own ability and your own self and not being totally honest with yourself and the world about what you have to offer. The moment you start living that way, you stop learning and you don’t embody a future learner anymore.

In your tryst with destiny, always remember no political agenda, no hurt feeling, no animosity, no lack of faith, absolutely nothing is an excuse to bring less than your full potential to the table. In doing so, you are doing more harm to yourself than good.

Like a wise person once said, “If anything is worth doing, it is worth doing it well.”

 

Too small an order…

…a refrain I’ve heard so often that I’m beginning to wonder whether I’m thinking too small or it is just a sales gimmick in India? It seems to be everywhere if you are the one trying to manufacture or make something- electronic toys, wooden toys, cardboard boxes, plastic games or toys. No one seems to be interested in creating a proof with you to move you to the next level, everyone wants the straight cut 10k piece order. The ones who are willing to do cut lots of corners on quality!

Is our manufacturing sector so bottom line stingy that it does not take ANY risks? How will we create a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship on such an ecosystem and mindset?


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