Day 9: Empathetic teachers

I shared my story about the chaotic grade 6ers from last week. With the lesson learnt from there, I’ve been taking a different attitude towards the classes this week. And I must say that it has worked so far. I went in helpless and asked the students for solutions to address my problem. I treated them as equal partners in the process. I made them aware that I m knew when I was being taken for a ride and it didn’t benefit either of us in the long run. What I got was a bunch of collaborators who worked within their groups to see me succeed. And through this, it became evident to them that they were going to succeed too.

This strategy worked the most with the two kirana kids in my class that are the notorious boys. After the class, I pulled them aside and told them how kuch it hurt me to scold them. When they began protesting I made it clear that I saw through their dramatics. I lay it out that I was there to help and they were the ones to decide their fate in class. We ended the day promising that they would behave better in class.

And not a single decibel raised.

But aunty, what if we get super excited and our volume automatically increases? We can’t be soft and excited, no?

Aunty, are you wearing Fogg?

No, why?

You’re smelling nice. Like Fogg on TV.

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Day 140: 2017 Highs – Bhored

It’s 2018. 2017 has gone by, and the cyberspace is overflowing with messages of positivism in the upcoming year, reviews of the year that went by and promises for the new year. Here’s my year in review but focused on the major highs and the lows.

Bhor-ed

The summer spent in a little town, south of Pune, definitely tops the list of highlights for the year.

The internship started at the end of Year 1 in the new career, at a point when the University and the teachers had left a strong sense of doubt in my mind. While the subjects were novel and insightful, a welcome change from the days of Engineering, the methods of teaching, the mindset of the teachers, and the management, in general, where a hard reality-check of an industry overflowing with archaic ideologies and bureaucracy. I was left questioning their ancient ways, and the effect that they were having on the minds of the next generation. The pain compounded when the realization sunk in that this was a department training teachers, tasked with equipping the citizen for tomorrow.

It was with that broken morale that I joined the group of educationists in Bhor, and the group saved me from the dark dungeons of my own mind. I realized that while I was stuck in a place that was still shuffling in the industrial era of education, there were agencies out there that had moved on to the modern ages. The group made me realize that all it takes is a few like-minded souls to get together in order to bring a change in any area that one is passionate about. The gang reinstated in my mind the belief that all one needs in life is hope to keep surviving. The team also reaffirmed the idea in my head that it was very easy to join a certain school of thought, make its registers our own, but that it took an open mind to walk the middle path and understand both points of view.

  • The whole experience reinstated my respect for simplified living. One does not really need three different sizes of coffee pots or five dupattas in varying shades of the same black. The clarity that comes with losing clutter is very powerful and the month at Bhor helped me realize that.
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Some chai and samosas at the school

  • The weekly Tuesday markets were absolute fun. We were the outsiders that got stared at every time we went out of the house. And yet, I did not feel the awkwardness that typically comes with walking out in public in the cities.
  • The sunrise and the sunset were absolutely out of this world. We did not have to drive 100 kms away from the city, hike up 2 hours and fight off a crowd for the best views. I looked out the window at day break and there it was, the beaming ball of fire. Equally easy was the sunset. And the million stars that popped out when you looked up at the night sky are hard to come by even 100 kms away from the city.
  • The planning that goes into running a household is beyond compare. From picking up groceries on a Tuesday for the whole week ahead, to planning dinner-breakfast-lunch for the next day, everything was done systematically. This completely removed the last minute frantic run that one normally does before a meal. This experience helped me tremendously in planning for Keto. Yay!
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And, we made amazing an Chocolate Cake!

  • Fooood! The mallu mango curry, the great chicken curry, the super-thick lassi/malai, the chocolate cake, the banana bread, the yellow pumpkin pooris, the overly simple yet tasty sabudana poha. There was just too much of too yummy food to keep us going.
  • At the end of the day, the highlight of the whole trip was the quality of the conversations. Whether we were arguing about something or agreeing to the same perspective, whether we were discussing the men in our lives, there was a high level of involvement and zeal in the conversation and immense respect for the parties in the discussion.

 

They were very different people, with varied interests and life experiences. They were very successful in their lives; Doctorates, educationists and designers. Some walked the straight-out leftist path, while others trod a little left of center. Some wanted technology to play a larger role in education while others didn’t care too much. Nonetheless, they loved talking education, especially with each other; they loved goofing around while getting serious work done; they had an open mind to try varied things, and were learners for life.

Here’s to more such great company in the years to come!

dav

Day 100: You don’t have to sing like me, you only have to sing like you

PsychGoddess showed up fresh in the morning, and the Sunday was worth it all.  We started the day off with some dosa, coffee and loads of life. Scotch was the most excited of the lot though. Having spent so many months with only me, she was all out of bounds for another company.

Adopt, Don’t shop

Since the trip to Bhor, I was in awe of PsychGoddess and her perspectives on life. That awe transformed into respect, and one of a different level, when I found out that her son was an adopted child. H and I have had conversations about adoption in the past; it’s been a decider for me on a number of prospectives. But they’ve typically sounded wishful thinking, and something that we’d have to battle against the world to see it through. Talking to her about it made it seem very relatable; doable of sorts.

It’s clearly a big decision to choose to give life to a child that has been abandoned. But a few things she said will stay with me if I get to that point of having to make that decision.

  • It’s not your right to have a child, especially to adopt one. It’s the child’s right to have a decent life. And that always trumps every other justification you might have in your head.
  • If you’re a married couple adopting, each of you has to decide for yourself, if you, as an individual, wants to have a child.
  • Every child reacts differently to the knowledge of her adopted status. Know your child enough before having that conversation. And even then, anything might happen. Be there.
  • Do not overcompensate for the status of the child. At the end of the day he’s your son. And he needs to realize that being adopted doesn’t give him extra goodies than any other child around.
  • Be open and speak about it in the house. The more hushed the conversations are, the more the child feels different.
  • Leave no opportunity to remind the child that she is loved and wanted in the family. It is all that matters.

Marriage

It’s always refreshing to hear PsychGoddess’ perspective on marriage. It changes you, she says, and warns me to be prepared for even the most sensitive men to give up their views when in this institution. It’s very uplifting to hear men, and boys, like SPD and GardenMan talk about the status of women, and to see them empathize with the lopsided role of women in the society. But to imagine that all this would change when they get married makes it seem like the soul sucking institution that I’m imagining it to be.

I believe more in the idea of spending time together, living through the good and the ugly. None of the pain and the joy would be changed by the fact that you’re legally bound by marriage or not. Not being married, but living together somehow puts you on an even scale. Societal expectations from the roles of the man and the woman no longer seem to apply. And it seems less stressful to explain why the man stays at home to cook or why the woman wears pants all day.

And if marriage seems like a logical celebration to the past, the time that you’ve spent together, then by all means – do get married.

Finding Ram in Kabir

A great perspective that PsychGoddeas introduced me to this time around is the Kabir Project. What started off as a project to find Kabir, as the opposite of finding Ram, ended in a beautiful collection of hymns and poems that seem to talk about life more than religion.

She signed us up for a Kabir singing workshop today and I was excited to try out something I’d normally never do. We reached the studio, Shoonya, early enough to soak in the beauty of how the terrace had been transformed into a positive living space. Mental note made for future terrace spaces.

When the event started, a group of 28 very different people got talking and singing about Kabir. The group was led by Vipul Rikhi, who worked as a translator at the Kabir Project. The song for the day was called ‘Haalo ri mori sajni’ and it deserves a post of its own. The workshop was well conducted, and we spent enough time talking about the lyrics, and listening to him sing it that a number of the participants were singing the song like naturals at the end of the 3 hours.

What caught me off guard was the silence that I felt inside me when the whole group finished singing the song one last time. We’d talked about detachment and the palace of colors, had laughed at each other’s singing voices, and had held each other’s hands through the stress of singing in smaller groups. But in the end, as we all sang together, I felt a strange attachment with the idea of the group while still feeling extremely detached from it.

Oh! And Vipul was super hot with his salt and pepper and the beard. ❤

Singing or not, I’m happy that she is here. She made me a special batch of upma, anf I had it with a side of amma’s mango pickle. She even bought me fresh dates for dessert. It’s only weird she left it all on the kitchen counter, and it was a little tough reaching them all. But I managed.

Can we keep her, please?” Scotch

Day 54: Lacking vision

I’ve been pretty irritated by the head of the department and his clear lack of vision for the team he leads. What pissed me off most recently was his ‘expert opinion’ that it would be better for us students to attend class than skip sessions to be at a national conference on National Universities. A conference held two blocks away, in our own campus, organized by the department of advanced studies in education and chaired by one of our own faculty. What a logistical nightmare for the three in my class to attend!

Our syllabus is the most hollow effort at a program that I’ve seen in a while. Most teachers themselves comment about how most of the topics covered are repetitive and they simply put their hands up in the air when I question about the purpose of studying some outdated concepts. I’ve come to peace with this, rationalizing it through the fact that the syllabus is just a guiding post, not the journey itself. That is why I look for opportunities to learn, through conferences, seminars and workshops. Remember I wrote about the one on Service Learning here? So it really pushes my buttons when I’ve been forced to sit in class instead of listening to some eminent deans and vice chancellors from across the country about improving the state of higher education through the concept of national universities.

Only last week, this leader of ours canceled my class’ trip to a special school run by the same management as the university. His reasoning? Our class was missing too many sessions and reallocation classes was becoming a pain. He has made it clear more than once that we were spending too much time and effort in visiting Bethany Special School as well.

It worries me when such gentlemen, with regressive ideas, are made in charge of a team. They clearly lack a vision for the department, are comfortable doing the mundane and their biggest effort is spent in maintaining status quo. They are the ones that sit in presentations for the sake of it and question the authenticity of the project purely because they themselves faked their way to their PhD. Honestly, I don’t know if I should be happy that the man is at least honest enough to accept the flaws in his own research, or sad that the state of research in the country has been reduced to just a degree.

They are also the heads that stop others from voicing their ideas and innovations. They fervently oppose any new proposal because they would then be forced to think of ways to match themselves up. They lecture on experiential learning and activity-based curriculum, and restrict learning to the four-walls of the classroom. They let their male ego decide all their official decisions and treat the women in the department as mere door mats. They most often do not realize the effect, in fact the ill-effect, that they have of students and their minds.

The past year has been a huge learning. I’ve been unschooled. I know what kind of a leader to not be.

You’re busy complaining about your HOD when there are bigger things in life? We should be worrying about dad and mum leaving. 

Maybe I could sit on their bag and not give it to them. Then they’d stay back. Right?” Scotch