Guide on the Side

Everyone today has an opinion and they also have innumerable avenues to share it with the world. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, personal blogs, Snapchat and many other social media tools have made it simpler for everyone to voice their opinions and share their perspectives with the world. There are so many opinions, views, reviews floating around that we are literally surrounded by ‘noise’ of information and content. There is too much happening out there and describing it as chaotic would be an understatement.

In a scenario like this, an important question that needs our attention is what will happen to the truth in the digital era? Information is literally available at our fingertips today and in quest to gain more information quickly, we seem to have sacrificed on its quality. In the digital world, if something is repeated a million times most people perceive it to be the truth, while things could be very different! Opinions are construed as facts, while facts are skewed through interpretations and perspectives.

The world we live in, has nothing in black or white, there are perspectives to everything! Clearly, we cannot fall back on the age-old methods of teaching facts and passing information. How do we teach children, attributes like fairness, honesty and truth in today’s world?

Educators today have a challenging task of not only supporting children from being overwhelmed with information overload but also to guide them and help them understand that somewhere in the noise there is the reality of truth. The age-old description of an ideal educator – ‘guide on the side’, sums up the roles of educators effectively in today’s scenario. The educator needs to be an active participant while students learn and engage and eventually inspire them to become curiosity-driven learners who can filter information effectively. It is the beginning of a new year and a good time to reflect on the evolution of our role as an educator.

While we look forward to a fresh teaching-learning nexus let us welcome 2017 with positive energy and happiness! A new experience or learning, both boost confidence and self-belief. This in turn, leads to more happiness and happy people make better educators. Let’s pledge to make ourselves happy as we will make our children happier.

 

Happy New Year!

 

A Collaborative Workspace

In recent times the work places have changed and evolved dramatically. The dominant professions today did not even exist a couple of decades ago. Our office infrastructure has changed dramatically, gone are the days of reams of papers and printing, the advent of IT has made most of our work paperless and instant. Keeping up with the times the workspaces have evolved too. Offices today are designed to be more of a collaborative environment that allows free interaction and openness among colleagues. The boring whites, blues and greys have been replaced by vibrant colors, fixed cubicles and workstations have evolved into collaborative worktables and interaction hubs. One of the biggest challenges faced by most sectors is a high level of attrition, to curb this trend many organisations are going out of their way to create spaces that employees love to work in. Gyms, hobby classes, food courts, etc are a norm in most medium and large organizations. The youth brigade that is joining the corporate world is no longer happy with just the pay package and the job profile, the work environment is a key driver to joining an organisation and lasting in the workspace. While the world around us seems to take the work environment very seriously it is strange that most schools have been oblivious to this need for change. The staff rooms are normally the most boring spaces in schools and the principal’s cabin can more often pass off as an interrogation chamber. Teachers these days work under very high stress levels due to the expectations from parents and managements. They need time and space to unwind and relax. Collaborative learning is a fancy word used by most schools, if teachers are not used to working in a collaborative work environment they will not able to facilitate a collaborative learning environment in their class rooms. There are a few basics that go into making a work space collaborative:

  • Free Space: Environments that allow spaces for movement give a sense of freedom and encourage creativity. Staff rooms should have minimal furniture and lots of spaces to meet, to work together, to discuss, to plan.
  • Ventilation: Work spaces should ideally have a lot of fresh air, in our cramped and noisy cities this is almost a luxury these days. Air conditioning is the next best option.
  • Ample Lighting: Workspaces need to be well lit, here again sunlight would be the ideal option and if that seems a luxury a lot of new LED lighting does give warm white lighting that creates a very nice ambience
  • Colors: They can make all the difference to space. The right colors can make spaces look happy, cheerful, energetic and comfortable. The usage of basics like white and grey blended with very bright new age colors make spaces look inviting and encouraging.
  • Furniture: Individual desks and workstations are not the best for teachers. The concept of work/meeting tables and discussion pockets encourage them to collaborate. Moveable chairs, varying heights, multipurpose furniture, etc. add to the environment.
  • Quite spaces: In the new collaborative work environments spaces along with creating collaboration it is always a good idea to have some space for ‘Quite’.

According to ancient Indian traditions, spaces have a tremendous impact on the behaviour and energies of people. The basics have not changed despite all the evolution we have had as a society. People still long for spaces that make them feel comfortable, at home, reflects their personality and gives them a sense of pride. Happy teachers make happy children & Happy spaces make happy teachers!

AN OPEN LETTER to Anna Hazare

Dear Anna Hazare, I have known you through the media from the past few months. I have been told that you are an practical and reasonable man. I would like to believe this, but there a few questions in my mind…

Your fight is against corruption and your solution to eradicating all corruption related problems is The Lokpal Bill. I am sure you are aware that we passed a historic Right to Education Bill almost 2 years ago nothing has changed on the ground. Are you serious that you want me to believe that by passing the Lokpal bill all my corruption related problems will be solved?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

We have innumerable laws and several bodies like the police, cvc, cbi etc. that are meant to keep the society in check. These agencies and existing laws have not worked well, is it the problem with the law or its implementation? Comman sense tells me that implementation and effectiveness needs to improve. But you are telling me that we should create another body and a new law?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

You keep telling me that all politicians are corrupt, all government servants are corrupt. Agreed our society is corrupt. Then where on earth are you going to land up getting thousands of spotless people to be the ‘Lokpals’ and if I may ask what will happen if the Lokpals themselves are corrupt?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

I live in Karnataka and my state is struggling to find its Lokayukta. Do you have anyone in mind who has such a spotless character that can be the next Lokayukta, or do you suggest we get someone imported? Finding one in a state with several crores is a challenge where will we find thousands to fulfill the Lokpal requirement?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

I always thought your fight was against corruption, then why does it sound like your fight is against Congress. I am a citizen of UP, Punjab, Goa and Manipur, I have to caste my vote next month. You tell me not to vote Congress, can you please enlighten me as to who I should caste my vote? Or you are telling me that all parties excluding Congress are not corrupt? I am confused kindly clarify?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

You have been telling the world that you are the voice of the people of India? I am an Indian citizen, I do not remember giving you my voice, then how come you are claiming you are my voice? You are representing me without my permission and you are fighting what? Oh yes corruption… Kindly clarify?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

Whenever I watch you on TV you keep telling me that you know the solutions to my problem of corruption. You sound too over confident, actually I think the right word is arrogant, not sure…
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

Whenever I watch you making your demands you sound like a five year old kid that threatens to cry if he does not get his candy. I know you are quite old, but when will you grow up?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

My value education book told me that education is the solution to all the ailments of society. I was wondering why you have not been telling people to give the right values to children at home and in schools. Why is education not a part of your agenda?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

According to the Lokpal Bill all the corrupt will be punished. Let me share a secret of my school days, whenever my teacher punished me I did not stop what I wanted to do, I just found another way to do the same thing. You want me to believe that punishment and fear will stop corruption, when that does not even work in schools?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

We have over 2 million NGO’s in India, yet we still have millions of problems in India. We all know how corrupt NGO’s and corporates can be, how come you do not want them to be covered under the Lokpal?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

I watched you on TV when you said that you will be the first one to take a gun and fight against Pakistan. Can you please enlighten me as to which problem of this world was solved by war? And by the way you have been compared to the Mahatma Gandhi, you call your movement non-violent, and you nurture thoughts like these?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

I believe that corruption is not the biggest problem, it is the manner in which we have educated our children over the years that is the key issue. The most corrupt people in our country are the educated ones that went to school and studied maths and science but their schools and teachers did not teach them the right values. Parents told them to grow up get a good job and a good life, but forgot to tell them the importance of virtues and values. It is EDUCATION Dear Anna and not LEGISLATION that can rid societies of corruption…     Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

– Syed Sultan Ahmed

Corporal Punishment in India

It is extremely painful to hear of yet another incident near Mangalore where a child’s life is lost due to the carelessness of a teacher. This incident only highlights the biggest issue facing Indian education today – lack of qualified & sensitive teachers.

Schools today enroll anyone & everyone as part of their faculty & are not stringent about quality. Moreover schools don’t spend time or energies in training teachers & sensitizing them about the needs of children.

I am sure if the physical trainer was effectively qualified (not just had a degree) & if he had basic sensitivity in place, this incident could have been averted. If other schools can take this issue up seriously & put some stringent measures in place such incidents can be avoided.

WE THE PEOPLE… The educated class does not understand this term…

I was leading a workshop for teachers at the Taj Lands End Mumbai sometime in the beginning of February. The workshop was dealing with various issues related to reducing stress levels among children and how exams are such a big deal in Indian society. One of the points that I was trying to emphasize was the fact that we study so much in schools but we hardly learn anything.

To reiterate this point I took the example of civics. An average Indian school teaches Civics as a subject to its middle and high school students. We study Civics for anything between 3 to 6 years in school. One of the first things we study is

“WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a – SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, LIBERTY, EQUALITY and FRATERNITY”

But look closely at the minds of most educated Indians they have not understood the first line of our preamble “WE THE PEOPLE” for years we studied it. What I mean to say is that we studied Indian democracy is “of the people, for the people, by the people” but we have no understanding of it.

In India the segment of society that votes the least is the educated segment, infact the more educated the Indian the lesser chances of them going out to vote. This only goes to prove that they have not understood the first statement of our premable even after studying it for years… WE THE PEOPLE… We make the government for ourselves and we deserve the government that we vote…

Our Civics teachers always told us to study well and get good marks in exams, they forgot to tell us that when you grow up and are over 18 get out and vote.

It is ironic that a holiday is declared by the government on election day and we conveniently sleep through it. We have not woken up from this sleep of ours, its high time we got up and moved in a direction to rectify the lopsided treatment we give our Democracy.

The first step would be ensure that we are a part of the voters list, this is a process which requires us to spend some time on it and we have to devote a day or two to ensure this is done. Once our names are in the list we must GET OUT & VOTE.

Congress should show guts & innovation… project Rahul Gandhi

One of the hot topics that is keeping our country engaged these days is the general election that is scheduled to be held in the month of April. It is such a pity that even today the worlds youngest democracy in terms of its average citizens age is so far behind in involving youth in the main stream of politics. There are several reasons for this and one of the major factors is that our private educational system that is so bend upon creating individuals who are self centered and narrow minded that there is no scope for leaders to emerge from our schools and colleges. The only student leaders that we hear of normally come from a government school background.

As a long term agenda a very important task that needs to be taken up by the HRD ministry is to nurture leadership among students across the nation along with providing basic facilities for a decent educationaly system to flurish. This will go a long way in strengthening our democracy and seeding political leaders for our future.

Talking about this years elections it is anybodys guess with the way things are going in various political parties. The Congress believes that our present Mr. Silence & Mr. Smiley prime minister Manmohan Singh is the right candidate. I like the guy but we need a leader another good guy running the country. We need someone with a strong will and strong conviction and ideas. The next on the list is the saffron man Advani, I admire Advani for his longivity almost 80 he is still active. But he has a few issues that he needs to address himself, as long as he was the deputy to Vajpayee he forgot Ram and his Mandir, but now he has given life to the whole dead issue and is going to ensure that the religious divide comes back to haunt our elections this year too. He is too old to run a country like ours we need someone young and someone dynamic, Advani you need rest and leave the rest of us at peace atleast at this age. Image an 80 year old running Reliance or Tatas… how would he manage the task… but we are ok if an 80 year old runs a country and the lives of a billion plus people.

One of the scary thoughts of this years elections is the possiblity of Mayavati emerging as a choice if the elections come up with a fractured mandate, which I am sure it will. Then imagine…. elephants on the streets of Delhi to parade the new PM… imagine the scale of birthday parties and imagine the vendetta politics she will focus on instead of running the country. At times I wonder if the big 3 women of Indian politics Mayawati, Jayalalitha & Mamta Banerjee come together in an alliance…. our country will be what we call in Kannada “Devare Kaapad Beeku” … God alone can help….

ok ok now that is a bad dream I was talking about …. lets move on. I am a positive thinker  and believe that the Indian voter will wake up this time and give us a sensible choice (still dreaming with this thougth). But who do I vote… I think it is time for India’s oldest political party which has become like a white elephant these days more protocals and high command decisions than the Kremlin… Congress Wake Up…. cant you see that the youth are sick and tired of the old political faces. Give us a fresh lease of life…. project RAHUL GANDHI as the next prime minister. I know I do not like a family dynasty in politics even tough my name is Sultan and my namesakes ruled the larger part of the world for centuries…. but still he is better than most in the political circles these days. He is trying to be genuine with his issues and concerns, he has shown a lot of comman sense and maturity in his comments and actions. Lets give him a chance… I want to … many people I know would want to.

Ten reasons why Rahul Gandhi should be projected as the next PM candidate by Congress

1) He is young

2) He has common sense, educated and dynamic

3) Has a face that as a nation we would feel proud to call him our leader

4) Carries himself in a simple yet dignified manner

5) Has a Gandhi surname which is probably the biggest assest Congress has, the country and the world respect that name.

6) women like him so many more women will come out to vote

7) the youth relate to him so he will bring a lot of new voters to the booths

8. he is not married (can give more time to politics as of now) unlike Vajpayee who spent his free time nursing his aliments & drinking

9) He is open to new alignments & thoughts. His friendship with Omar Abdullah and the Congress alliance in Kashmir is a good step forward.

10) If Obama can so can Rahul….

But, Congress needs to show Guts & Innovation to project him. If they do I belive they are sure to win a decent majority this year… else we will be relegated to praying to the almight to save us from the elepant woman or the saffron old man… or maybe the rail man who loves buffalos… who knows or even the cricket crazy sugarcan czar from the maratha heartland…