Every New Year witnesses a deluge of resolutions, steely resolves, promises and silent vows.
Then follows a flood of Whatsapp and Facebook posts , taking snide potshot at all those burly resolutions.
And poof ! a lot of them start spiralling out of the window.
Lets turn the game around.
Lets just break some rules instead.
I don’t mean to sound like a renegade or a rebel at all.
All that I am saying is that let’s make the resoultions a bit fun. Lets put them in a ‘new box’ altogether.
You have always enjoyed a late morning in bed. Break the rule . For once or twice, get up to see the sunrise and do nothing perhaps – just gaze at the sky with a cuppa coffee.
You are the diligent variety who goes to work diligently and reserves all leaves for sickness or family weddings or emergencies.
Break the rule – take a leave on a healthy day. No rhyme or reason at all. Just a ‘me’ day. Chill out the whole day with no To-Do-List. I guarantee, that you will love this outbreak.
You are a parent who wants to be the perfect role model for your child. Great. You are so mindful of the way you walk and talk. Awesome. Just reverse it for a day. Go drop your child to school in your pyjamas, pick up some candy floss on the way, ditch the car or bike, take a rickshaw perhaps . Enjoy the freedom you get when you break away from your routine. Pick up your kid from school with a balloon wala by your side or perhaps an ice cream cart in tow. Treat the whole lot of kids to a simple ice candy. Your child will get to see the fun Mom or Dad in you . And all that happened because you broke a rule !
If you are a teacher and a disciplarian to the core (rightfully so ) , at least one day present before your class a ‘different‘ you.
Mix around the desks, ditch the black board, hang a placard on the back of each child and and ask the kids to scribble on those hanging behind the child in front. Get the desks out, spread out a few rugs and cushions and voila the class is on the floor.
Wow ! ma’m broke a rule ! (albeit a harmless one) . Now sit down on the floor and get the kids undivided attention!
Whoever heard of learning new stuff while breaking a rule ?
You take the elevator to your flat every day. Just for today , don’t ditch the elevator, just get down halfway. Admire the floor you got down at. Bet, you had never seen it before !. Now keep climbing up casually , soaking in each floor and neighbour, one at a time. Look at the richness you gained by just breaking one routine.
The list is endless…….
Don’t just whatsap your family a god morning on one Wednesday. Call them instead.
While crossing a traffic signal , wave and mouth a big thank -you to the traffic cop standing there. You didn’t really break a rule , yet you will see a jawdrop ever so pleasantly.
Each of us enjoys a mid day coffee / tea with our colleagues. Break the rule – have this mid morning coffee on one Tuesday ,with your support staff – whether at home or at work. Get to know their world too . You broke a routine but I am sure you will get admiration in plenty.
TGIF – Thank God Its Friday . Turn it to TGIM – Thank God its Monday . Because Monday means work / office / routine. And this is what gets us our bread and butter. So why not be thankful for a Monday too ? Change your attitude towards Monday. The whole week will fly by in a jiffy.
Instead of finishing all your grocery on a Saturday , do it mid week. Break the routine. Squeeze out some time mid week. Fridays will then have extra time for some more fun stuff.
Weekends are for mall hopping and shopping. Break the rule . Do go to a mall. Go hit the Café Coffee day . Buy a coffee and sit in a corner with a book. All by yourself perhaps. Get to know ‘yourself’, right in the middle of a hectic weekend.
And pray , why do we reserve just the morning or the evening for our prayers ? Our conversations with God can be anytime , no ? Break the rule . Give a call to God at peak noon. He just might be more free in these off- hours and you may have a better conversation too:)
So, my friends resolve to break the mould. Resolve to make your life fun and easy and only regimented and compartmentalised. There are some rules that are to be followed in letter and some in spirit.
Likewise , there are some rules that cannot be broken in letter ….but breaking them in the right spirit ?
Well, its all up your sleeve and entirely your choice !
As the offices and workplaces try to juggle back to pre Covid work arrangements , there are some organisations who have made a tangible shift in their work culture , there are some who are still weighing the pros and cons and then there are some which have eased into the hybrid mode quite seamlessly. When I look around at the homo sapiens struggle post Covid , I see one member of my family who is enjoying Work from Home to the hilt – it is mypetblackLabradorathome , royally named Sultan.
Sultanhasbeenworkingfromhomeeversincehewas a puppy. As a pup he worked through several slippers, socks, door stoppers , furniture pieces and pyjamas . He worked through them with the enthusiasm of an intern . He would grab every opportunity and run away with whatever his eyes could sight . He would then sit intently for a couple of minutes and work at his problem from every angle , with the trademark enthusiasm of a new joinee.
Then slowly he noticed that he began to be left home alone. The family members started spending longer periods of time outside the home and he was expected to fend for himself within the home. After a few days of tantrum throwing , sulking and a few heebie jeebies , he realised that it wasn’t so bad after all. There was cold water within reach , extra biscuits laid out on the counter , super extra bone treats when the adults got home . And all he had to do was shift between sofas and cool corners , chew a sock if he felt bored , bark if the neighbours bell rang and do some yoga stretching. Sometimes the adults would also do CCTV calling , (that’s what he thought he had heard huh !) Some screen in the house would come alive during the day and he would hear his name being called . But that was quite ok. He responded whenever he felt so , he ignored whenever he felt so.Workingfromhome was not bad at all.
And then came the Covid 19 and the human era of Work From Home. Suddenly he found a shift in routines. There were fewer morning scrambles and shouts – rather the Mister , the Missus and the sister were all over the house. They had taken up his favourite sofa corner , his favourite chair and even the spot in the balcony. He heard strange human talks like “ Oh my God ! I am living in my home finally” . Upmteen zoom calls made him realise that this is what the sapiens call as Work from Home.
Well, things changed around at home. The family ate 3 meals in a day , which meant even more cheat food for him. They snacked a lot during the day , which meant even more tit bits of food. The adults call it Cognitive flexibility , Sultan displayed canine flexibility. He learnt even more tricks using baleful eyes and zero eye contact when being admonished. He learnt to trade his favourite seat for his favourite chewies. He learnt how to get even more attention – whenever the sapiens pressed unmute on the zoom , he learnt to go woof woof. He knew that this would get him the best treat possible! He learnt when to give an extra hug and an extra dog lick to the sapiens – and that was mostly when he saw the sapiens sitting and talking to the shining screen for hours on end. And whenever he did that , he knew it was a Centre stage moment for him. There would so many oohs and ahhs from the pygmy faces across the screen. He learnt to shrug off attention like a habituated screen star – he would flick his mane and slide off the human lap with aplomb. Point to be noted – he was learning a lot while working from home.
And then he heard that the dance of the Covid was slowly ebbing , like the retreating monsoons. There was a lot of talk about getting back to office across the dinner table . What was earlier a discomfort zone for the homo sapiens, it had actually become the comfort zone.
Not taking any sides , he really did not understand what the fuss was all about. He had always worked from home and never really knew another mode of working. He seemed to sigh – Perhaps the less you know , the better it is !
Just like the office, the Home also needed to feel its people. And at the pace at which the Mister , the Missus and the sister had been working in their offices – Hell ! they might not even have built a home – had it not been for him. For who ? For the Canine ? You heard that right . For Sultan – the canine who has always loved working from home !
There is always a constant talk around what is ailing our education system.
Let us hold our thoughts there and focus on a parallel line of thought – what can make our education system stronger and sticky?
There is a reason why I use the word sticky. The digital world that we live in today is overflowing with information. There is excess of information everywhere. If education meant information, then Google would win hands down. But the true purpose of education is not gathering of information. It is to have the ability to sift this information, take what is relatable, contextual and usable. That is what we could refer to as ‘knowledge’. That is why I use the term sticky. Knowledge sticks around for long, information withers away.
Now if we focus on the classrooms, teachers and the taught, it very evident that our teachers today are willy nilly led by Board diktats, curriculum and school mandates along with Management & parent expectations, running against deadlines, documentation of copious records, after school engagements and extra curricular activities. Enough to turn the day into a robotic affair. Where is the time for them to turn classroom teaching into a passionate affair. Yet in this very lack lies the magic. Instilling passion and inspiration into classrooms, subjects and curriculums – is the key to cultivating a learners mindset.
Before teaching a chapter, a lesson, or a piece of curriculum, we must attempt to inspire the child. Why must they learn language ? Why must they learn numbers and maths? Why must they study science and geography?
While there is already a good amount of focus on subject expertise (and rightfully so) we need to focus more on Inspirational expertise as well. We rarely make the inspirational capacity building a vital part of all Teacher trainings. As the age old saying goes – we follow the rules in letter but what about the spirit? We attempt to teach curriculum but what about the soul of the curriculum? Are we getting that across to the children?
Food for Thought:
Inspiration begins right at the kindergarten level. Never underestimate a 3 or 4 year old’s capacity to get curious and inspired. In fact there is enough Research to suggest that upto 7 years of age the neurons connect most rapidly, thereby translating that this is the time to build synapses that get attuned to excitement, thrill and passion for learning.
Early childhood educators must not introduce alphabetic and numeric literacy without building in the purpose.
Alphabets are our friends, look at what they give us? They give us the gift to communicate, speak, read and write.
Numbers are our friends. They help us measure the things and world around us
Why must we read books? Why must we look after our books?
If we spend a few minutes daily on the ‘why’ , then the ‘how’ becomes easier and relatable.
Primary Years are presumed as the years when the child’s formal schooling starts getting serious! There is so much pressure on writing, rote learning, completing syllabus, learning new subjects – that the teacher just loses track of the ‘why’. The rhymes, songs, dance, movement, and free play is thrown out of the window and a sombre learning journey begins. Not because the teacher plans it intentionally but because there is ‘so much to do. Where is the time for such activities’. Nobody really guides her on the point that Inspiration comes before perspiration. And inspiration is a smart cookie, you can dovetail inspiration in the heart of every Lesson with just a sentence or two, a minute or two.
Why must we study algebra and why must we learn to write essays?
Why do we have subjects for study and subject periods as such?
What is the purpose of studying EVS? Why and how are EVS and Social Studies related to each other?
Agreed that Learning styles, innate abilities and interest guide the learner’s journey, but it is a fact that all learning styles, abilities, and interests respond very well to inspirational quotient.
We talk about IQ and EQ, why not the INQ (Inspirational Quotient)
By Middle school the formal schooling aspect gets even more serious! Subjects involve deeper study, subject teachers are boxed in and student abilities and interests also begin to get stereotyped. Added to it, Pre teens and teens see a hormone volcano erupting every now and then. This age group is a total digital geek by now and have all information at the click of a mouse. So why should they attend classes? What is wrong with bunking classes? Why are grades important? Why should they study chemistry when their interest lies in languages?
Herein too, the role of the teacher expands to near Herculean size. I mean the expectations rise but is the teacher able to deliver? Has she built in the inspirational capacity? Because such queries cannot be dealt with a straight jacket approach. The teacher needs to mould herself/ himself into an influencer at this stage!
I leave my thoughts about the INQ for senior secondary students for a later discussion.
But its time that we plough in Amazon stature energy towards inspiring our teachers to be the inspirer.
It’s a huge and daunting task that requires constant fuelling and re fuelling.
We need to keep our teachers inspired, so that they in turn can inspire our children.
Much as we may want to shield our children from topics like war and terrorism , the fact is that children will end up hearing about it from the social media, Television , YouTube, newspapers, School assemblies , school projects and peer talk.
So if your child ends up asking you a question about the war between Russia and Ukraine, the best strategy is to answer as honestly as possible.
Ignoring such questions or brushing them under the carpet does more harm in fact.
Responding to their queries with reverts like , “You are just a child / you are too young to talk about war / We will talk about it when you are grown up/ you don’t need to worry about such things ”, does more harm than good.
HOW TO TALK ABOUT WAR TO YOUR CHILD ?
If your Preschooler asks you a question about war , don’t shy away from answering. Try probing them with open ended questions like – Where did you hear about it / What have you heard about war ? . Begin from what they know about it already .
You may explain war as – a situation where two countries are fighting for their land.
Instead of focusing on the geo politics , try to bring the focus on how children in Ukraine are suffering due to this fighting. Shift the focus towards a solution. Have a solution focused approach.
Do not terrorise your child about war. Instead talk briefly about the situation on ground. Talk about the consequences of war . How some people will go hungry , thirsty, without a roof on their head and without school in case of a war. Avoid gory details about the war.
Age appropriate talk is crucial.
You may use an actual map or a globe to explain the crisis to the child.
Avoid watching disturbing visuals of war on television and whatsap , in front of your child.
Assure them that they are safe though children in Ukraine are in pain.
Talk about how people around the world are trying to help the Ukranian children caught in the war. Some are sending food and medicines and some are teaching the children Online as the schools are closed.
Make your child feel heard and understood . Validation is very important for Preschoolers .
Should we encourage children to pray for those affected ? Yes, we definitely should . At this age , children sincerely believe that prayers are the answers to most problems .
Primary school age children , aged say 6 to 10 years will probably want to hear more details .
Technology channels carry a whole lot of information and disturbing visuals which reach your child uncensored. And remember , violence is always attractive to children. They get enamoured with stories about guns, wars and tanks. So you may need to deglamourise this component. Talk real . You may add to the definition of war – as a situation of conflict between countries who fight for their land but it often leads to violence, destruction , use of military force.
Again shift the focus towards consequences of war . In addition to scarcity of food, shelter and basic amenities , you may talk a little about the economic impact of the war on world economy . Keep the focus on peaceful resolution of problems. Don’t shy away from admitting that war is a confusing and complicated situation.
You may talk about how the world gets polarised in such situations and political opinions start forming. Tell them that they will most likely be studying about the Ukraine – Russia conflict in their Social Studies class .
Your child may feel anxious and stressed. They may have heard about Indian students stranded in Ukraine. Talk about how the government is trying their best to bring them home safely.
Use a world map or a globe to explain the territory conflict to the child.
You may have an opinion on the war , but do not impose your views on the child. Your talk should help shatter stereotypes. Things are not always black and white . War does not mean that all Russian / Ukranian people are bad .
War is the outcome of situations that we are not able to solve amicably . You may round up your talk with your child by probing them on situations where they sort out differences through dialogue . It could be at school or at the playground. Who gets to take the preferred seat in the school bus first ? Who gets to lead group discussions in class ?
Use it as an opportunity to talk about kindness and co operation building , within family and friends .
A 10 year old is perfectly capable of chalking out a help plan/ reach out plan. Encourage them to think up of ways they can help people in pain . Maybe look up the UNICEF link for support opportunities ?
Be ready . Your child may sum up the talk with a tricky statement like – “So the adults failed to find a solution to the problem ?”
In such a case , it is ok to admit that we all make mistakes , at times . Very sad , but true.