Monthly Archives: July 2009

daughters of fire, vimochana from dowry

A couple of adults and all the erdkinder from NammaShaale were fortunate enough to participate in the ‘India Court of Women on dowry and related forms of violence against women’ organized by the activist & doer folks from Vimochana in association with other organizations on 28th July, 2009.

Lumps in throat. Feeling of helplessness.  Misery that, while I enjoy my daily morning coffee, at least 5 women in & around my Bangalore are preparing to kill themselves for no reason other than harassment for dowry/money by their husbands, in-laws. Or some in-laws and/or husband are planning the execution.  Guilt of being a participant male in an essentially inequitable patriarchal, patrilineal & patrilocal society.

On the contrary…

Stunning courage shown by marginalized folks against impossible odds. The fact of so many folks from all walks of life rallying against gross injustices. The pleasure of being amidst real activists and not mere armed-chair intellectuals. Incredible stories from the battlefields. Redemption. Hope. We shall overcome. There are other worlds. Yes.

If one cares to use google, one can get a significant amount of information on what went on – but I am going to merely record my experiences rather than give a true reportage.

To begin with,  Mallika Sarabhai the danseuse par excellence, enthralled the audience with her innovative and sensitive  portrayal of  the four kerala sisters who committed suicide as a protest and not as cop-outs as Mallika put it. This 15 min performance of Mallika and the one that preceded it  – about the Ethiopian woman who rebelled against the illtreatment meted out to her by her husband and who finally succeeds in preserving her dignity and self-esteem, using the Sike as a metapbor  (Sike is a Oromo term for the staff that is given by the mother of the bride to the latter, as a symbol affirming her power over her life, should she be troubled in her marital life) – set the tone for the court.

The whole day was full of first person narratives (mostly harrowing, many liberating) but all of them outstandingly couragious, from the many affected individuals from many regions and communities of India.

The whole day was reverberating unrelentingly with one ghastly story after the other, with the dramatis personae being real people. I frequently felt that  I could’t take it anymore – but I was also full of admiration for the testifiers who 1) braved all odds to emerge from their (our?) dark dungeons, continuing to fight & 2) the courage of conviction that made them narrate their very personal stories in front of a numbed audience.

The good folks on the jury & compere leads, included such accomplished individuals as Kamala Bhasin,  Shiv Viswanathan, Mallika (again), Veena Talwar, Nivedita Menon and many others including good ol’ V R Krishna Iyer. They all had something significant or the other to say, apart from being very time conscious. Much appreciated.

One statistically significant thing (with respect to the Indian demographics) was that, I was surprised not to find any story of struggle and redemption from any Christian testifier, but then, I don’t think it is anything significant from the point of view of the Court. The story of women is the same all over the world.

And, I sincerely hope, within our lifetimes, we could see some positive things emerge…

A lot of positive things unite India (Bharath ki Chaap) – but among the negative things that we should be rightly ashamed of are, three prominent things that we citizens can definitely do something about. They are so common and each a major unifying farce for all jaatis, classes, regions, religions, languages, levels of education(!), you see…

  1. Dowry harassment, as a symptom of the status of women and its myriad forms.
  2. Insipid films (dished out in the name of entertainment) and the TV channels that are hell bent on making us all into drooling & insensitive idiots and lazy bozos.
  3. Cricket – that game of laziness personified and glorified that has gotten reduced to a monster tamasha, lately

Surely, we can all do something… about these blasphemies, something?

Now, our erdkinder are all from second generation urban families, with little or no exposure to the realities of life and ruralia;  and so,  it was a great opportunity for them to know first hand about the other worlds and realities. I am sure, their brains are full of question marks, fears, apprehensions and mostly hope. It must have been a great experience for them to be amidst such a large and beautiful gathering of activists and changemakers.

We plan to conduct a seminar / workshop around the ‘learnings from daughters of fire‘ – so that ideas get consolidated and coherence emerges in the impressionable minds of NammaShaale children.

A few words need to be said about the organization of the event. I never realized that the Christ College (now university) had such a nice auditorium – pleasing colours, comfortable seats (no need for arms-rest wars), the effective multichannel sound system. A good infrastructure for hosting quality events. Of course, this was put to an effective use by Vimochana.

I must say that the conducting of the event, the professionalism of compering, handling glitches, the warmth, the friendliness – put many of the cash rich corporate events and roadshows (HP, SUN, IBM, Microsoft etc etc techshows) to shame at many levels – Content, Framework, Visuals, Music, Effect, Audience, Food, the surcharged ambience, the Soul

I am really and truly proud of the fact that some of the good folks behind the event (Vimochana group) – a good many of them, to be precise Madhu, Kalpana and Chalam Bannurakar are all NammaShaale parents.

I salute & thank thee.

(second part / take2 on the event here)

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cooking the navadarshanam way…

Details of the training programme at Navadarshanam is pasted hereunder – feel free to contact them, if interrested.

———-x———-

NAVADARSHANAM

is happy to announce a

THREE-DAY INTENSIVE PROGRAM

centred on

 

COOKING THE NAVADARSHANAM WAY

 

This Program will offer the participants an opportunity to understand the different ways in which healthy yet tasty food is being prepared at Navadarshanam. It will also give them a chance to take part in such cooking rehearsals. Shoba Gopalan will lead the team from Navadarshanam in the instructions and guidance of the actual cooking processes involved. T.S.Ananthu will explain the theory behind the classification of foods and cooking methods that forms the backdrop of these health food ideas. Partap Aggarwal will explain the role fasting can play in making feasting enjoyable.

 Dates:  Program will start at 4 pm on Monday October 5th, 2009, and end at 3 pm on Thursday October 8th. It is a fully residential program.

 Venue: Navadarshananam Trust, Ganganahally hamlet, Gumalapuram village.

 Accommodation: Shared rooms in the various buildings at Navadarshanam.

 Participation: Full-time participation for the entire duration of the program, is a must. No children or non-participating family members allowed. It will be good if participants can eschew the temptation to bring their laptops and mobiles with them.

 Course Material: A small cook-book containing different recipes being tried out at Navadarshanam will be provided to each participant, in addition to notes on the theory of health foods as well as fasting.

 Fees: Rs. 3,000 inclusive of accommodation, food and all course materials. Can be waived in case of participants from low-income backgrounds. Payment may be sent electronically to:

 Navadarshanam Trust Savings A/c No 30523191101, State Bank of India, Jayanagar II Block Branch, Bangalore, IFSC Code: SBIN0003286 

How to apply: Please send an email to navadarshanam@gmail.com giving details about yourself and why you feel interested in enrolling for this program.

———-x———-

 

primary orientation – some jottings

Apparently, the primary meeting also went off fine (4th July, all hail USA) – like the elementary  orientation session.

Here’s the report filed by Anjana – actually a few matters-of-fact, meaning a version of what happened was given  (um, extracted, really) by Anjana but I have used my blogistic license, as the dictator-for-life of the blog; no one else seems to be interested, presently so you know how this works, yeah?

Looks like quite a few parents took part in this session and there were lively discussions, after the yearly ritual of formally introducing what Montessori and child-led education mean and some of the grammar and semantics of the method.

Now, typically, the primary parents would be newbies to the Montessori system unlike the elementary parents, who would have their own notions about how the system should be and all that. And hence, these primary and elementary differences make both meetings colourful in their own different ways.

In this primary meeting apparently there were two interesting viewpoints that emerged.

  • Some parents were of the opinion that with all the systems and methods of Ma’am Montessori – the ‘naughtiness’ of the children is sorely missed. In fact I have also heard similar views. And, this of course puzzles me no end! When requested to elaborate upon what their ideas of naughtiness constitute – usually this would devolve to: (am not saying this is what some of the parents meant, but this is what they are likely to have meant, objections to this point of view of mine welcome and when they come, they will be summarily overruled!)
    • Unruly behaviour
    • Put-on Cuteness & Cuddliness
    • Temper Tantrums
    • Junk food addiction
    • Ability to monopolise the TV RemoteControl
    • Mouthing ‘adult’ expressions
    • Plain obnoxiousness
    • Spoilt Brattishness
    • Ability to act like Aamir Khan
    • <insert your favourite nastiness, that some children are capable of, trained/encouraged by parents>

That some parents expect their children to exhibit their talents in these various ways, really beats me. Anyway, I think the adults from the school handled this question with empathetic aplomb and all that. (unlike the way I am treating it!)

  • Some parents were happy that their children have started behaving in a more orderly way (sensitive period for order)  at home and are becoming more respectful towards their physical environment and people. In fact, some parents seem to have said that they are actually learning a lot about orderliness from their children. Fine.

All in all, I hope parents, NammaShaale and most importantly, the children – benefitted by it.

africa, americas (sans US and Canada) revisited…

“So Geographers in Afric-maps,
With Savage-Pictures fill their gaps;
And o’er unhabitable downs
Place Elephants for want of towns.”

— Jonathan Swift, On Poetry: A Rhapsody, 1733

With a smaller sub-group of erdkinder, we have been working on developing a game  (basic idea loosely borrowed from a boardgame designed by the good folks from IIT – Bombay; thanks for the lending of the Discover India puzzle, young Anjana) that can be played by elementary children, which would make children interested in the oft-neglected but fascinating areas of the world, such as the Titicaca lake and Peruvian Andes, while not forgetting the Bolivian Cochabamba – eventually we hope to make it to US kinda oft looked at places too.

We have collected the relevant information, design part is going on – and, in the next four weeks, these geography based board games (developed by the children, for the children) should be available for children of NammaShaale.

Geography is fascinatingly fun.

Related links from the blog:  South America Quiz | Africa, Africa | 

kinder, über alles

… Joseph Haydn’s jingoistic composition extolling the virtues of deutcheland and his emperor notwithstanding. I like Haydn’s oratarios much better though – the seasons and the creation.

Yes. Children above all.

I remember to have read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk’ of Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish a decade back or so.  So, when I started rereading  the ‘borrowed’ book from the NammaShaale library on a lark, I was quite amazed that I did not remember most of the content. Quite sad. So, the night before last I sat up almost finishing the book. Now I have to reread it and take down notes, religiously.

It is amazing how much I miss out if I am NOT ready for something, even though that something may be staring at me all the time and I may even direly need it like life itself! This reminds me of another of those fine books of Wayne Dyer titled ‘You’ll See It When You Believe It: The Way to Your Personal Transformation– I would have dismissed this book too, as a mere mumbo-jumbo, a few decades back.  And oh boy, am I happy having rediscovered Carl Gustavus Jung and Erik Erickson

Another book by the same Adele & Elaine that parents may find extremely useful would be: Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too – strongly recommended.

The whole set of books (of Adele and Elaine) could be reduced to a following seemingly simple algorithm, for life that is! And the books contain a ‘toolkit’ approach to dealing with issues, which is quite handy for the current times of serious attention deficit disorder of us adults…

  1. To ‘facilitate’ children to express their feelings.
  2. To accept the feelings of the children as a given.
  3. To listen to them, with empathy.
  4. Offering a set of meaningful choices and trust the spirit of the children.

The premise of the books, with which I agree wholeheartedly is ‘be the change you wish to see’ – and the books embrace the concept and build a set of effetive approaches to deal with our children.

At another level, if we replace the word ‘children’ with adults, the effects are much the same. This is an added bonus of the approach of E and A.

When one begins to use the techniques, it would seem as if they are corny and endlessly phoney. But, by and by, one’s feeling of being ‘artificial’ gets reduced.

Once again, my spouse and I would strongly recommend using and practising these books.

why I love TV

Upfront, I would agree that I found the TV to be infact useful to me, when we had one, some 1.5 decades back or so.  It had a flat surface on top, over which one can very safely keep tea-mugs. But alas, with the new flat screen technologies this important feature has vanished. Besides, my spouse yells at me, if I keep my teamugs in random places. So we don’t have a TV at home.

Now, I am not of those who would say that technology is a veritable evil. I wouldn’t call myself a luddite in the current dictionary sense of the term, but would identify with it, historically speaking. All technologies (including the IdiotBox) have their positive and negative sides but with what most of us lack – a sense of discretion & the ability to make sound judgements – most technologies and media become unmitigated & unvarnished evil.

To inappropriately quote the National Rifle Association, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

Sometimes I chat up with children, when they are not successful at trying their best to avoid me, that is. So, that rules out most of the NammaShaale children. Local neighbourhood children  aren’t that lucky – a few of them that are there, cannot run away from me that easily.

During the course of such random conversations, sometimes some appalling facts tumble out. One such tumbler is that parents (thankfully not all of them, only a few, *phew*) allow their children unrestrained access to the TV.  So, these children become armed with a remote control and become perilously dangerous – and eventually graduate to becoming chainsaw murderers at best. They may even explore other career options such as slumdogs or millionaires  or Borepathis… Won’t they?

I have even heard parents proudly saying that whenever their TV is on, which is for about only 24 hours of the day, their little sonny boy snatches the ‘remote’ and monopolizes its use. I really feel proud of the fact that I have been fortunate to meet with such democratic parents. The spirit of capitalism, the monopoly, here I come…

I am also gratified to learn that some parents not only see random 3rd rate illformed & halfbaked movies, with frontal, backward, sideward, topward and ohmygod, bottomward nudity too, but also encourage their children to learn about the birds and bees the hardway, by watching The Reader, for example! And, ohmygod, don’t I really appreciate such openness and liberal attitudes… Of course, I love Kate Winslut, don’t you? (s0rry, Kate)

Now, I agree. This could be due to various very genuine reasons such as:

  1. Parents are busy earning a living, while yearning to live.
  2. Parents are busy spending their dying, in activities such as being busy.
  3. Parents have got a life too! Don’t they have a right to enjoy life, without bothering about the pesky children? Do you even have a suggestion as to how else children could be kept occupied, without bothering us?
  4. Children are being prepared for being good citizens of the morrow, with the virtues such as stupidity, stupour, moral turpitude, banality, venality, laziness etc etc, being continuously  imbibed from TV.
  5. How else can one ensure suppy of quality criminals and bozos and armedchair intellectuals for the next generation? Talk to us, if you have suggestions.
  6. The children should know what is going on in the world – specifically, they should know life-saving and important details such as who is dating who, why Aamir Khan has sharp ears in Ghajini and all that. (Apologies to the quadruped, hope he does not mind getting compared to Sir Aamir)
  7. Children are always upto some mischief, so switch on the TV, they sit glued to the screen. Simple, eh?
  8. Our idea of  enjoying a quality family time is to watch Formula 1 races and ghastly_tasteless films together on our Plasma TV – while munching on quality chips and slurping fizzy soda. We aspire to be NOT mere couch potatos, but mighty couch pumpkins, grr. Well, you have some complaints, we hear?
  9. Weather is not good ‘outside’ for the children to play – oh what a blessing, let them imbibe some values from TV, while I have an SMS conversation with my colleagues and pretend to take part in a conference call.

Oh what will a hapless parent do, oh NO… What can one do in this situation,,,

I am sure there are more such genuine reasons and my heart aches and goes out to support the hapless parents, who are left with no choice other than the TV, to take care of their children, to educate them,  to inform them, to entertain them and to be with them! May their blighted souls rot in hell till kingdom come. Amen.

A couple of decades back (d0 the math; if you wo do, you would realize that I have no right to be a NammaShaale parent, but only a NammaShaale grandparent), I read Jerry Mander’s ‘Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television‘ – an Indian edition of which was published by that indefatigable Claude Alvares. Surprisingly (not) my views have not changed! If any of you want to ‘borrow’ it, please contact me.

It is hard to refute Jerry Mander’s philosophical moorings and arguments. I strongly recommend it to any parent who can afford to take a few precious hours away from their various favourite TV peepshows.

Jayashree Janardhan Ashok  (this may ring a belle) & Anita Balasubramanian (belle’s rebelle friend?)  have put together a brochure rather politely titled: TV and its Impact on Children – available off this url at the LearninngNetIndia. You may want to check this out.

Our friendly Thekambattu karmayogins  have also ranted against the TV because of its direct population reduction results, among many other such abominations, of TVs, I mean… It is heartrending to see such mishaps happen because of  the insipid and criminal TV serials.

Yes. TV Channels are the Serial Killers.

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What?? Sorry, what did you say? Is there a nice talkshow on Sun Loon TV? I prefer to be my own doshow hostage, ha!

PS: Yesterday, my father (and neighbour) became poorer by a satellite TV DTH connection, and I promptly requested him and banished his TV to a corner of his room where the evil can stay where it is. To be charitable to him, I think he merely wants to know the latest news of the world (perhaps, nothing seems to happen in our sleepy village, Bilishivale) – such as

1) how the latest child of the latest wife of His Holeness Karunanidhi, the current chief minister of my hapless Tamilnadu,  is being accommodated in the Central Ministry of our Indian Government, in spite of his(it) NOT having been toilet trained – expect schemings & announcements such as  ‘Free diapers for children and adults!’ for the citizenry.

2) for the FIRST TIME in the ENTIRE history of the Universe, actress Jenni Fur Slobbers, conducts a Realty TV show, sponsored & ‘brought to you’ by the prestigious MantriSoBah Builders.

3) breaking noose – resulting in the cancellation of the hanging of the condemed etc etc

Pardon him (and me), my lord… Father, Son and the holy waste…

4 interesting links

[1] As young Reshma (a NammaShaale parent) who forwarded this link puts it: ‘a good resource for parents willing to keep up with school math.’  It is a pity this blog is not very current or updated regularly. It has quite a few nuggets of wisdom, though.

Understanding Children’s Mathenmatics – http://lindalevi.blogspot.com/

[2] This story came via Navadarshanam – and is about this interesting (and I might add, inspiring) guy Naga Naresh Karuturi – unfortunately from my bête noire, IIT Madras.

‘God has always been planning things for me’ – http://specials.rediff.com/news/2008/jul/28sl1.htm

[3] Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED talk – strongly recommended.

Stroke of Insight – http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html

[4] How can one forget Julia Butterfly Hill’s saga of living for 738 days atop a 600 year old Redwood tree for preventing it from getting chopped?

Circle of Life foundation – http://www.circleoflifefoundation.org/

Julia’s blog:  http://juliabutterflyhill.wordpress.com/

Wikipedia page (reluctant link) –  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_Butterfly_Hill

Enjoy. Reflect.

elementary & primary: orientation sessions

As is the practice with NammaShaale, this year too, there were orientation sessions for the parents of elementary and primary children. On 4th of July  it was for the primary group and on 11th of July it was the turn of the elementary.

Following is a report filed by Jayashree Janardhan Ashok in respect of the elementary meeting on 11th. Though the scope of the meeting was to have been to bring out the various stages in the growth of the child and how the school and home can understand and assist the child – targetted primarily at parents who are kind of new to the Montessori mode of education, there seems to have been some ‘beyond the scope of the agenda’ interesting and impassioned discussions and sidetracks around the aspect of physical education.

I like impromptu discussions. I wish I had participated too. But, this time I have passed up the chance, not willingly, but I was not invited, luckily for you, I might add! 

Rashomon, that Akira Kurosawa classic, beckons. 🙂

Jayashree has presented her point-of-view, her take on how the meeting was and her views have been ‘pasted’ below verbatim from her email – with her express permission.

Thanks young Jayashree, for the write-up / report.

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The Role Of Physical Education

We had a very full and productive workshop by Rama with elementary parents last Saturday. Many aspects of elementary education were explored. It was wonderful initiative taken by Rama and the school in initiating such a dialogue so the school and parents are more in sync. Several questions and topics came up including task completion/following a passion project and the overall objective of balancing different work areas. Due to shortage of time we could not explore this topic fully but made very useful inroads. We then had a debate on the role of physical education primarily through questions raised by me – with active participation from Rama and several Namma Shaale parents. Reshma later brought up several questions on Math and Science education and Montessori approaches towards the same. We also explored several aspects of Montessori and the different stages of growth of the child.

I’m taking the liberty of continuing the dialogue yesterday on physical education. This is an important area and I’ve been exploring it for a few years now. I’d really like to request a longer dialogue on physical education. It will be wonderful if more people can post comments on this.

My primary intent is to really get all of us to take a hard look at how we view physical education. Perhaps not enough of us care about this. And hence this absence of physical education at Namma Shaale. Many of us view it as something dispensable – not “real” work. As parents who have chosen to put our children in a holistic education system – we must relook our positions. Several of the points I’m mentioning below are in response to yesterday’s dialogue. Here there are – and hopefully the context will be clear from the responses.

Yesterday’s discussion was surprising for me in many ways – while looking at physical ed – there seems to be a clear separation between education and physical ed. In my humble opinion there clearly seem to be several misconceptions about this –

1)Physical education in itself needs to be seen as integral to education not separate from it. Yesterday’s conversation clearly showed a lack of awareness around this. We kept separating work and physical ed. As lovers of science – one of the best science platforms is our own body. Learning to care of it is as much a science experiment as any. A sensitive physical education program can teach a lot about the human body. I’m sure you are aware of the many findings in science about the importance of a regular physical routine to stay healthy. Fitness and health are surely an important aspect of education. A human body needs to serve its owner for several years. And yet – we seem to simply pay inadequate attention to it. Most of our visions/goals in life cannot be met without physical health. I really would like us to recognize the role of health and physical education as integral to education – not something separate. It needs to be addressed in a systematic way – like other work areas.

2)Lack of physical education can really hurt the children long term. They “learn” and internalize sedentary life styles which can actually harm them in many ways and make the transition in adolescence and adulthood that much harder. Some of us grew up with little or no physical education. I’ve learnt things the hard way with plenty of health problems personally until I took a good hard look at myself. I really hope with the amount of information already available today our children don’t have to learn the hard way. It is much harder to change in adulthood something that we can learn so naturally in childhood. We should not let our own limitations become problems for the children long term. As adults – we need to offer the best to our children and let them develop good physical habits that will support their lives and dreams.

3)Our emotions also get regulated with physical education allowing us to contribute fully and freely in life’s situations. Physical ed trains the mind with many things including will power, participating fully, learning to win or lose, team spirit and many aspects of life. All of these are invaluable aspects of life/living.

4)As another Namma Shaale parent pointed out – it is a great way to learn team work and co-operation. As adults we will be working in team situations and it is important to learn this from early on. We seem to completely ignore this aspect of physical ed/sports. This is one of the reasons it is important for such team activity to take place within Namma Shaale – to help this community of children learn to work with each other.

5)There is PLENTY of literature of the benefits of a good physical ed program on the other aspects of education. Yesterday we dismissed this contribution with “work also produces calmness.” Of course while this is also true – it need not undermine the contribution of physical ed towards producing a balanced child. We need to be careful before dismissing it as “not necessary for a calm child”. Every science article I have read completely disputes this. While work also contributes to calmness – when there is so much restless energy – a good physical outlet will help channelize children’s “flight” and excess energy in the right direction. Every Montessori school I am aware of has this completely integrated. In fact physical ed is even available in card formats! Why are we looking at this as “work also contributes calmness so we don’t need any physical education?” This seems like an unnecessary restraint. Why cant we have both when the benefits of physical education are so obvious?

6)Some of the arguments were that there is too much “work” and not enough time for physical education. Are our children “so busy” between the ages of 6-12 that they have no time to learn about the benefits of physical ed? As busy adults – what can we expect from them? Ignore their bodies till they get a harsh wake up call from their doctors?

I urge you to ponder over these questions. My intentions are really for more children to learn to use their bodies and stay fit and healthy. I hope you will consider this. I hope Namma Shaale will hire a sports teachers of a regular basis and have at least 30 mins of physical activities every day including some team based activity. This will help the children A LOT.

Warm wishes,

-Jayashree

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— discussions on this, welcome; other parents’ reports too  —

ave adolescens, morituri te salutamus!

The adolescents require so, SOOO much external structure in their lives. At another level, they also resist that, rightly so. So, these seemingly contradictory pulls make dealing with them, that much more challenging and endlessly tiring.

As a wag said, an adolescent is a teenager who acts like a baby when you don’t treat him (or her)  like an adult. Truly.

Lately I have been going thru’ the books and ‘learned’ journal articles on the psychology of adolescents from various perspectives and am flummoxed, to say the least. One thing that I have realized is that no linear textbook approaches work; and whenever I practise whatever I am preaching them, it works. Whether it is sports or gardening or hardwork or laboured humour, whatever… Another fact is that whenever I link whatever that I am trying to explain – to real life scenarios and things that they can readily observe and internalize – that concept mostly sticks in their brain. It may need to be polished now and then, but it is there. Gratifyingly so.

I am reminded of an anecdote: Once there was a teacher who had to go to a hospital and at the reception-counter had to  fill-up some form giving the details of her life and health. There was a question in that form: Have you ever been exposed to toxic substances in your life? Does the place of your work, makes you deal with toxic substances as a matter of routine? Could you name them? The teacher thought for a while and wrote: Yes. I deal with the adolescent hormones all the time.

But it is fun to be with them, if one has the patience and can doggedly pursue the objectives and has loads of sense of humour, and sometimes, er, silliness; also, the amount of trust that they repose in you, if you capture their imagination in one way or the other, is like gestalt. At one level, one feels really honoured to be with them.

To cite an example, I routinely ask the erdkinder to take their practice tests at home and am 100% sure (gratifyingly so) that they do make a genuine attempt at it, in spite of nobody really ‘monitoring’ them at home and they never fake knowledge or expertise. I think this is what happens, when a child is self driven and pursues something because he/she wants to pursue it and NOT because someone says so – and in no small measure, I think, this incredible attitude is blameable on the good Montessori mode of tutulage that happens in NammaShaale.

When the erdkinder actually started taking their ‘rigorous’ tests and stuff at school – a few months back, I was amused because, they kept helping each other during the exams! Not in a clandestine manner, but openly – because they could not think of NOT sharing what they know and wanted to genuinely help their fellow mates! After much discussion, now they have come to a point where they can take their tests silently. All of them, do well in their tests, well, most of the time…

I am also proud (as do the other adults who deal with them on a routine basis, but silent unlike yours truly) of the erdkinder, but we want, coax and cajole them to stretch their physical selves, their imagination, their capabilities, their life…

Adolescents – quem di diligent, what else…

elementary children in their elements

For the past couple of weeks the elementary children have been working on the periodic table and the elements – and for their part, the erdkinder have been ‘owning’ a few elements each and have been digging out some interesting stuff – apart from understanding the rationale of the arrangementt in terms of orbitals – s-p-d-f , valance, the works.

So, Rama thought it would be a good idea to conduct a quiz (with a slide projector and a powerpoint slide deck to boot) –  for a subset of the elementary students – and so it was. Today was the Q day and I could see some uncalled-for tension in the faces of a few children right from the morning; apparently there were some rumours flying all over about a certain bearded guy, who shall remain nameless, who is going to be the science QuizMaster from hell. I also got curious about this chap and was wondering who this gent would be, with much trepidation.

Luckily for that guy and the children, the quiz was conducted by young Rama who divided the elementary class into to groups and conquered, being a  divide et empress – sorry about this laboured pun, but then – don’t you know that the quiz master’s decision is final and…

It went off like any other typical quiz, excited chatter, guffaws of laughter, hushed silence, squandered opportunities, random guesses resulting in wins, real knowledge, ‘others getting easy questions’, mirth, sorrow, relief  and what not. On the whole, the children and quiz master and the scorer(who was quite Mercyless)  enjoyed it – lots of ruckus, ayyo-din and all that. Luckily there were no accusations of the QM being on the take!

The erdkinder made some useful contributions by blurting out the answers only a few times and by injecting constant backchatter – and generally lobbying for negative marks (for the tense participating teams, that is) and much else. Thanks erdkinder, where will we be without you…

All in all, it was elementary, Mr Mendeleev. What else!

I think in the days to come, there shall be more such quizzes and we are all looking forward (and backward) towards having more fun and learning.

One question: How come the periodic table of elements is called a periodic table in spite of the fact that there are more groups (some 18 of them) than periods (only 7 in number) in this table – shouldn’t it be fondly called a Groupiodic table? Any guesses? Or would you want the QM’s decision to be ‘final’ again?