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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.

 

 

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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?

What is inside matters

I was reading Shiv Khera‘s book ‘You can Win‘ recently and I read a story in it that kind of stood out, “A man was selling balloons at a fair. He had all the colors – blue, red, green that one could think of. Once in a while when the sales slowed down, he would send one of the helium filled balloons up in the air and as it flew up all the children wanted one and his sales would go up. A little boy came around, tugged at his shirt and asked him whether the black balloon would fly if he let it go. He calmly explained to the child that, “It is not the color of the balloon but what is inside it that makes it fly”. It is so true about people too.

We, at Sparkling Mindz, make the children realize this and guide them towards thinking and exploring rather than just merely looking at what others are saying or doing. They get a chance to be themselves and even surprise themselves by trusting that they can! It helps improve confidence levels, offers great avenues for self-expression and most importantly, helps them develop as unique individuals that they are. That has been our guiding philosophy from Day 1, that children are unique and different and if we treat them that way they will begin to respect that too.

If you are looking for an exciting place to work, if you are passionate about working with children and looking for a place where you can really make a difference in the lives of children, Sparkling Mindz is expanding and we are looking to hire trainers (learning facilitators) in several areas in Bangalore – Whitefield, Jayanagar, HSR Layout, Kalyan Nagar, Yelahanka, Malleshwaram to name a few. More details at our website – http://www.sparklingmindz.in/jobs.html. Again, if you think that you are the right person to create out-of-the-box experiences for children and are interested to do so, please email us your resume and we will revert asap!

The forgotten “why” in education: redux

I wanted to revisit this topic and add some examples which added fuel to my thought process the other day. So here goes:

1. A teacher who was teaching 4th standard science wanted to explain the concept of gravitropism in plants. Negative gravitropism in shoots and positive in roots. Now, not a bad concept to choose to show audio/visuals, but, apart from the part that she was adamant that google should give her images to the terms she searched for and that she would not iterate, the bigger problem appeared when I asked her if she knew why it happened that in the same plant, two parts that are connected to each other behaved in this drastically different manner. Her answer shocked me. She said, I’m teaching 4th standard, I don’t need to know this! Well….

2. Another teacher wanted to cover solar system for primary class again. This time round the situation was completely different, she had done a fantastic job and put together some really good set of images and videos. However, when it came to the turn of pluto it was shown as one of the planets. So, I asked her if she knew that it had been changed to the status of a dwarf planet to which she said, “yes”. Then, the conversation veered to why the change in status happened. One of the teachers vaguely remembered that scientists had found other such planetesimals but apart from that they had no idea what had happened. We refered her to search the answer using internet and get it from Wikipedia. She had the resource at hand when she was making the playlist but the fact that it didn’t occur to her that she could have upgraded her knowledge using information from the internet shows the lack of the reach of technology (in this particular school’s case, it is the case of too near, yet too far) and also lack of curiosity to figure things out.

3. This one is a little embarrassing to say the least. We were showing the teachers how audio/visual concepts can be applied to teaching grammar and how they can make effective lessons using internet as a source for getting the audio/visuals and then putting it together. So, as the sample lesson we chose to show a playlist on “sentences and the types”. It came to “interrogative” sentence and we asked them if the 6W’s were a must for an interrogative sentence – pat came the answer – no! Then, we asked them if 6W’s always indicated an interrogative sentence. Now, partial silence, then someone said we can make an exclamatory sentence with them. Then, I asked how about declarative/assertive sentence using 6W’s? Stunned silence. I had to give an example before they came out of the shock.

4. Another teacher was teaching “safety rules” to kindergarten children. She put together something really nice but I didn’t know how to respond towards the end of the following conversation. Most of her images were about what not to do, so I suggested why not tell them something they can do to keep themselves safe – “so how about the action of wearing rubber slippers before they touch electric connections in a wet bathroom or place?” I asked. Pat came the anwer, “no, they will try to do a lot of things by wearing rubber slippers we can’t take that chance”. I’m not sure if children will/will not do something naughty if they get this information but not giving it to them is even more dangerous in my mind, they have no tangible take away from the class on being self-reliant but instead a lot of fear has been induced in them about every sharp object around them, every electrical point around them and so on. Do we want a bunch of scared children?

It quite clearly shows that they are not thinking about the teaching process on a day-to-day basis. They don’t question the way a text has been structured, they don’t question the way notes are being delivered and they don’t entertain questions in their head about the efficacy of their own delivery in the classroom. Will it break the bubble? I’m sure. But, will the prick be sustainable? Can they survive in this “informationally” flat world? What do you think?


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