Archive for the 'Opinion' Category

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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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.”

 

Teaching is about hope!

Teaching is a very personal job and is all about hope. My close interaction with teachers from a non-student point of view, over the past few years has brought me to this conclusion. Why, you may ask?

A teacher has to overcome their own personal prejudices to teach a student in the way he/she learns best. It is very easy to spot weaknesses but guiding a child along its areas of strength is one of the most critical and crucial part of teaching.

When a child shows negative behavior, being able to separate the child’s behavior from the child and adopt a positive approach to prevent recurrence of the behavior is not easy.

So, lets celebrate the open ended teachers who opened their hearts and minds so that we could learn. Thank you!!!

Less Ad(d) More News

Recently, as I was flipping through channels, I came across a Kannada channel where there was news highlights going on and on the left hand side there was a large photo of Akshay Kumar taking almost 40% of the space. For a moment I was confused whether the news was about him. When I looked closer, I realized it was an Ad within the news flashlights.

We continue to sink to new lows day in and day out….

Uncomplicating Things

It is interesting how we end up complicating things way beyond necessary sometimes. Today I heard a comment, “You need a process around your process!” As if having one process was not good enough, you add a couple of layers on top of it so that neither you nor anyone looking at it later can understand what it was meant to do at the first place.

Let’s try and keep things simple. Uncomplicate. We need to scale but do we need to embrace complexity for the sake of it?

IIT heads complain of plunge in quality

Today I read a news article in Times of India titled, “IIT heads echo NRN on plunge in quality”. The whole article goes on to talk about how the seats in IITs today are getting filled by students who are fatigued by years of coaching and in the larger scheme of things, don’t even want to be an engineer. It is sad state of affairs, indeed. But to hear the heads of the institutes complain, instead of do something about it, is sadder. This could have been easily seen coming and here are some thoughts of mine

1. If you set up an exam that is hard to achieve and pass through and prevent people with interest from joining unless they can showcase aptitude 2x the current level of education system. This kind of ‘fatigue’ is bound to happen. We, as Indians, are proud to pass through tests that are seemingly insurmountable and that give you a certain kind of ‘elitist’ status over others! Take the civil services, for example. Most people taking the exam don’t even know what they will be doing post the selection! It is the same with students who are getting coached to get into IITs (and to a large extent the CAT fever too! – they are being taught how to beat the system!!!) – while it will take you across the threshold, it will not get you inspired and motivated to become an excellent engineer or an excellent manager (or a good anything)

2. Next, what have the IITs themselves done to inspire the students joining to wake up out of fatigue and create interest? Is there an emphasis on innovation, creativity or even applying the skills being learnt beyond the basics? If so, where is it being showcased? It is a chicken and egg story and only if you focus on inspiring students will they get inspired and motivated – the other way round is an ideal dream, but can you make it a reality by just cribbing about it?

3. Now, lets look at the industry. These children who join the IITs are very smart and the smartness flows to where they money is. If money is in engineering, they will continue being engineers, if it is in pharma/FMCG/ITES companies, they will get trained to become sales people for Pharma/FMCG/consultants, as the requirement might be. Look at it from their point of view and the society’s point of view, if you are the best of brains and you are not earning the best of salaries, you are a loser! There is no premium on thinking, being different, being unique or standing up for what you are passionate about (let alone sometimes even figure out what is it that you are really passionate about!) and then what about the self-fulfilling prophecy of these large institutes that the most successful people come from there?

4. That brings us to the story of change. What should change to make this better? The mantra is – Innovation and Creativity to create a “thinking generation” of students! The institutes needs to innovate at a much faster rate and create a new form of entry criteria, a new way of working with the corporate world, a new wave of innovation from their labs and that will create enough inspiration and motivation even in the most fatigued or uninterested child to beat and excel the system (where the system is aligned and focused in the right direction)

The seeds of change lie in you, if you are unwilling to lay them in the ground, don’t fret over lousy results!!!

PS: On second thoughts, whatever has been written above is a law of averages and I’ve seen enough inspired, motivated and self-aware IITians over my work life to be impressed by their smartness, hard work, dedication and motivation. So, please don’t take this as a personal note on anyone. I’m just responding to the system’s response on its own intake quality!

Untying the horns around my head

My architecture professor during Engineering days used to regularly wrap up his sessions with this thought, “I’ve taught you this session in a particular way and in the process tied horns around your head. So go home and untie those horns and look at the material all over again.” Frankly, I used to be amused when he used to say that. The reason? Simple, apart from the way he had taught it, I did not know of any other way of looking at the material.

As I have gained experience, I’ve added more dimensions of looking at the same problems, solutions and options in a way that could not have happened in the pre-experience, student era. Of course, some of this has to do with experience depth but some of it is just “a different setting”, “being able to listen to others viewpoints”, “different applications” or a “tough situation” where one has to apply ones knowledge, skill or perspective in order to make a decision or take action.

I’ve never stopped to wonder, how much beneficial this kind of exposure would be for children over a period of time to look at what they are learning as well as being able to look at themselves and their development in a different light.

What do you think? Would you like to share an experience that untied an experience around your head?


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