I Can Illuminate: the Camp with a Difference!

I Can Illuminate : A camp with a difference.

3 days’ in-house camp at Kappimala, Kannur, Kerala.

Explore the nature; explore with in!

IABS camps aim to take you to an exploration of the deepest secrets of nature. Each voyage aims to transform the individual to a more effective, more positive and more courageous person who is empowered to live a sustainable life with high self esteem.

Join us in our journeys and open your minds to embrace the wide,deep, intense world around.

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Prof. Yash Pal: the mind that illuminated millions of youngsters in India

Copy of Fully editable science poster - Topics physics and chemistry

Prof. Yash Pal came to my small world, or rather this school girl of class five entered the large world of his, one fine morning in 1991 through the  the TV programme “Turning Point”, aired by Doordarshan. His wrinkled face, milky white hair and childlike smile wiped out literally, all my inhibitions and fear towards the subject ‘science’. “Prof. Yash Pal…” I read the name that flashed beneath him on the TV screen with a bit difficulty. That was a brand new name for a rural Malayalee kid. But I liked that name…
Through Girish Karnad and Prof. Yash Pal, we kids walked to and through the magical world of science. I must have traveled a few years with him. However,  at some cross- roads, I missed him and slowly he vanished behind the veils of my memory… along with him vanished my interest in science. it became just another boring subject along with mathematics. There was no one around to inspire me to develop my interest in science.
Much later, while sitting in the M Ed class, Prof. Yash Pal suddenly reappeared. This time as ‘the man who changed the Nation’s Perspective on Education’. Yash Pal Committee Report, NCF, ‘Learning without Burden’…  The learned old man with an innocent smile from my childhood memories metamorphosed as a great educationist, scientist and visionary who was leading  a long journey,a “Maha Prasthan” to transform the nation through sowing the seeds of quality education and scientific temperament in the young Indian minds.
Today in this monsoon morning, when I see his face again on television, I realize that he is no more with us. It is a bitter truth… a painful reality… and that void will be felt more intense in today’s India which is spearheaded to a dark era filled with extreme nationalism, fascism, fundamentalism  and unscientific temperament.
Miss you, “Jnaana Vridha”…

Happy Mother’s Day Dear Son!

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If the word ‘mother’ is the epitome of care, love, responsibility and nurturing, then, I am right in wishing my son ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ on 14th May. He is a mother to a puppy now.  The day we adopted Tito, our new puppy, my 8 ½ year old son got promoted as the mother cum brother of that pup. He declared himself as the ‘big bro’ of Tito and shouldered the duties and responsibilities to rear him up. Suddenly, from the youngest member of the family he got promoted as a ‘big brother’ which he really enjoyed. Right from feeding the pup, to taking him for walks, combing and cleaning him and providing him all the emotional support to get adapted to the new family, the ‘big bro’ was intensely involved. From that day onward, my little one became more mature and more responsible.

puppy-1806092__340I could find a lot of visible changes in his behavior. Suddenly he became more caring, more empathetic and more responsible. His thoughts and deeds became more compassionate and the care he had for his pet made him more considerate and empathetic a human being.

The role of a puppy in our nuclear family was not clearly defined till we owned one. However, now it is clear, evident and very significant! The young boy of 8 ½ years suddenly became a responsible brother.

Engaging with a pet would naturally reduce tension, anxiety and loneliness. Instead of sitting glued to a computer, a mobile phone or a TV, the child would naturally start engaging with a pet during his free time. The feeling of ownership would kindle a spirit of empathy and kindness in him. With the pet at home, the child is never alone! A pet dog would accompany him and render a selfless devotion which is strong enough to boost qualities or life skills such as kindness, sharing and caring mentality and sense of belongingness.  These are qualities which would support in the holistic development of the child. Further to enhancing the psychological wellbeing of the child, a pet could also contribute a lot to the physical wellbeing too. A dog or a cat is a good playmate. They would encourage the child to engage in various types of fun games such as chasing, playing with ball and walking or running along with them. The companionship shared among the child and the pet would also enable him to think of group games and activities which would invariably foster his creativity and imagination. Instead of playing a pre- devised game in the mobile phone or in the computer, the child would start to develop his own games where he will decide the rules and regulations. Such a game making process needs a lot of cognitive thinking and analytical reasoning. Instead of following rules and regulations set by another person, he becomes a master of his own game and learns to devise own rules and regulations which will enhance the feeling of independence, self- esteem and pride.IMG_20170511_102206

When the child is initiated to take the responsibility of rearing up a pet, he is also given an opportunity to learn how to look after another being. When the child is giving a bath to his pet or cleaning up the mess made by his pet, he is learning how to be patient, how to be kind and how to clean-up things. Here the parent may render a helping hand, but the child should be given enough work which can be possibly handled by him.

Growing up as an independent child in a nuclear family is not an easy thing. Harder is rearing up a child to be independent and self –reliant by parents who get very less time to spend with the child in their busy life. The anxieties on the possibilities of the child becoming selfish, moody, aloof, over dependent, less confident, more arrogant and the scepticism of the child lacking social and emotional skills bother many working parents. While interacting with parents during the counselling sessions, they share these worries and anxieties very often. One of the major complaints that they raise is the amount of time the child spends with mobile phones, computers and TV. On a deeper note, they are also aware of their inability to provide a better option for their children to spent their free time effectively. Neither are they ready to compromise with the life style which they are following and which provides very little ‘constructive interaction time’ with their children. As adults, the parents prefer to stick to their conveniences and excuses and thus are usually not in a position to bring in a radical change in their daily routine. Awareness about the possible psychological and sociological troubles the children might develop, makes the modern parents paranoid and that results in self- criticism and self- pitying.

A pet at home, to great extent, is a possible solution for such parents.  Pets have been identified as great stress relievers. Their loyalty and love can help in fixing the issues related to the lonely life of kids.  Pets can also be great guards. On the whole, a pet could add more happiness and comfort to any family, provided the members have love and  care for the pet.

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Why Totto- Chan?

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Totto- Chan

 

“Having eyes but not seeing beauty; having ears but not hearing music; having minds, but not perceiving the truth; having hearts that are never moved and therefore never set on fire. These are the things to fear”…. children, you may not understand it now, but someday when you grow up you will understand these words”. (Totto- Chan- 1981)

Thus spoke Mr.Kobayashi answering to a question on what should a teacher be afraid of recollects Tetsuko Kurayonagi in her world famous book Totto- Chan.

 

Tottochan is not just a novel on the childhood memories of a little Japanese girl; it is a Bible – a Bible of  Education and Developmental Psychology. It is a must read one for any practitioner of education and internalizing the noble concepts related to education and child development will enable them to form a strong basis for their practice . Unfortunately, none of the B Ed or Dt Ed syllabus prescribe this book. I have repeated the question “how many of you have read or heard about Totto- Chan?” at least fifty times in various teacher education programmes in and around the state of Kerala (the state which ranks as one of the best in Education and literacy in our country); very rarely I got to see more than 15- 20% of the crowd raising their hands in agreement.

The highly commercialized private education system cares least about the psychological well being of the teachers and students. They are focused on increasing the profit. The public education system is slowly vanishing or fading away which is most of described as ‘dying a natural death’. In such a grim scenario, reading Totto- Chan and reviving the inner spirit of educational practitioners could prove to be a practical solution.

So what is Totto- Chan or who is Totto- Chan?vxba004136

Well, I won’t tell the story and kill the thrill of reading.- My intention is to kindle the spirit of curiosity and thus compel you to read it.

So here are the hints which will leave you restless till you finish reading the last page of the novel.

  • Totto- Chan was dismissed from her school- she was in Class 1 and the reason for the dismissal… well, she opens and closes her study table in the class!
  • Totto- Chan goes to school alone! And her mode of transport… trains! Remind you, she is just 5!
  • On her first day in the school, her headmaster listens to her for hours… what’s there so much to talk? And how could any headmaster listen to a child for hours and hours!
  • Kobayashi master insists on ‘something from the sea and something from the mountain’ in their lunch! Geee… what’s that?
  • Swimming classes meant all kids swimming together in the pool … and almost all naked! Yeah… that’s against our ‘moral values’! It’s time to send a battalion of our moral police there.
  • Kids are scared of ghosts… and do you know what? Even ghosts are scared…
  • Ever heard of Eurythmics?
  • Oh! Forgot to tell you- an abandoned bogie of a train can be a classroom and a school can have a tree for a kid!

Aren’t these hints sufficient enough to compel you to search online or rush to the nearest bookstore for Totto- Chan?japanese-kids-lunch-box-24846099

Teaching kids (obviously a ‘lesson!) is a cake walk! Being with them, being one among them and facilitating learning in the most interesting and non compelling way is another magic. To master that art is not easy; but it is very much POSSIBLE. Totto- Chan takes the parents as well as the teachers to such a world of magic, where the learner and the facilitator share the same warmth of love, empathy, care, passion and compassion. To transform oneself from a teacher to a facilitator, Totchan is the best guide. Happy reading!

 

The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery

The Little Prince

(….Excerpts)

  • by Antoine De Saint-Exupery

It was then that the fox appeared.

“Good morning,” said the fox.

“Good morning,” the little prince responded politely, although when he turned around he saw nothing.

“I am right here,” the voice said, “under the apple tree.”

Fox

“Who are you?” asked the little prince, and added, “You are very pretty to look at.”

“I am a fox,” the fox said.

“Come and play with me,” proposed the little prince. “I am so unhappy.”

“I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”

“Ah! Please excuse me,” said the little prince.

But, after some thought, he added:

“What does that mean–‘tame’?”

“You do not live here,” said the fox. “What is it that you are looking for?”

“I am looking for men,” said the little prince. “What does that mean–‘tame’?”

“Men,” said the fox. “They have guns, and they hunt. It is very disturbing. They also raise chickens. These are their only interests. Are you looking for chickens?”

“No,” said the little prince. “I am looking for friends. What does that mean–‘tame’?”

“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. It means to establish ties.”

“‘To establish ties’?”

“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . .”

“I am beginning to understand,” said the little prince. “There is a flower . . . I think that she has tamed me . . .”

“It is possible,” said the fox. “On the Earth one sees all sorts of things.”

“Oh, but this is not on the Earth!” said the little prince.

The fox seemed perplexed, and very curious.

“On another planet?”

“Yes.”

“Are there hunters on that planet?”

“No.”

“Ah, that is interesting! Are there chickens?”

“No.”

“Nothing is perfect,” sighed the fox.

But he came back to his idea.

“My life is very monotonous,” the fox said. “I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat . . .”

The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.

“Please–tame me!” he said.

“I want to, very much,” the little prince replied. “But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”

“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me . . .”

“What must I do, to tame you?” asked the little prince.

“You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “First you will sit down at a little distance from me–like that–in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day . . .”

The next day the little prince came back.

“It would have been better to come back at the same hour,” said the fox. “If, for example, you come at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o’clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you . . . One must observe the proper rites . . .”

“What is a rite?” asked the little prince.

“Those also are actions too often neglected,” said the fox. “They are what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours. There is a rite, for example, among my hunters. Every Thursday they dance with the village girls. So Thursday is a wonderful day for me! I can take a walk as far as the vineyards. But if the hunters danced at just any time, every day would be like every other day, and I should never have any vacation at all.”

So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near–

“Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”

“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you . . .”

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“Then it has done you no good at all!”

“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.” And then he added:

“Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you a present of a secret.”

The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.

“You are not at all like my rose,” he said. “As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.”

And the roses were very much embarassed.

“You are beautiful, but you are empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you–the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.

And he went back to meet the fox.

“Goodbye,” he said.

“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

“It is the time I have wasted for my rose–” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.

“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose . . .”

“I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

“Why are you talking for him?” The Dangerous question that contributed to the deaths of Rohit Venmulas

“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.”
― David W. OrrEcological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World

 

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“Is helping my friend or speaking for him a bad thing?” My son asked the moment he saw me at the ‘waiting yard,’ the place where I usually wait for him to pick him up after his school hours.

“Tell me, did I do something wrong by speaking for my friend?” Now that is a question.

“No… helping your friend is not bad… why?

“Ah… my teacher scolded me harshly in front of everyone. And she scolded the entire class too”

This is what happened according to the 7 year old.

He found his friend Abhi sitting in a corner and crying in the class. He was scared of an upcoming exam. Both Abhi and my son are new this school. Abhi has been born and brought up abroad and he finds it a bit tough to adjust with the Indian ways of ‘teaching and learning’. He was also scared to go to that ‘rather cold’ teacher with a request to postpone the exam for him. So my son took it on his shoulder.  He went to the teacher and said “Ma’am, Abhi is a new student and he finds it difficult to by-heart and recite the poem that you have given us as a test. So don’t give that exam for him” This literally made her furious. “Who asked you to come and talk for him? Why are you bringing his ‘petition or waqualath?’ Why can’t he come by himself? Who gave you the permission to talk for him…” and she didn’t stop with that public humiliation. She went on to scold the entire class and finally declared the exam cancelled”- well, purpose served!

This is a ‘NORMAL INDIAN CLASSROOM’ situation. Most of us have experienced this in our life. So we may wonder what’s wrong with it?

Well, my answer is “IT IS SUCH TEACHERS AND PARENTS WHO CONTRIBUTE TO THE DEATHS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WHO DIE IN ROAD ACCIDENTS WITHOUT GETTING TIMELY HELP, IT IS SUCH TEACHERS AND PARENTS WHO HAVE FORCED ROHIT VENMULAS TO COMMIT SUICIDE, IT SUCH PARENTS AND TEACHERS WHO HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO THE GROWTH OF OLD AGE HOMES, IT IS SUCH PARETNS AND TEACHERS WHO HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO OUR HOSTILE CHILDREN”.

Now does it ring a bell?

That Class 2 teacher has successfully managed to send a clear message to the 40 odd kids in the class on the need to be ‘selfish, egocentric, insensitive, numb, inconsiderate human being’ to survive or ‘succeed’  in the society! Now does it make sense? We are forcing the child to shed off all ‘human qualities” and be an insensitive machine which focuses on one ‘single mantra- SUCCESS’

 

S              Support

U             Uplift

C             Compassion and co- existence

C             Courage

E              Encourage

S              Support

S              Stimulate

 

Or as

S              Selfish

U             Unkind

C             Cruel

C             Compassionless

E              Egocentric

S              Self- obsessed

S              Self-serving

Obviously, the teacher has communicated the second meaning.

Will any child ever think of supporting his friend after this incident?

What is the ‘reason’ pointed out by the teacher? The child who is scared of the exam himself should come and talk to the teacher, and it should not be passed through an emissary. Let us examine her ‘reason’. Had the child been confident enough, wait, let me put it from the oppressed’s point of view- had the teacher been approachable enough or had the child been assured enough to approach her’ would such an ambassador ever had to pop up?

Had the teacher been trying to encourage the ‘child’s ability to stand up and speak up what one feels’ would she ever publically humiliate the other child who spoke his mind? Had she been thinking of teaching or dictating the’ individual’s responsibility lessons’, would she ever dare to scold the entire class for one individuals’ lack of confidence?

It didn’t end there, and the best is yet to come.

Naturally, I had to go and meet this ‘lady’ and so I went and met her. And this conversation happened.

Me:        Hi… Are you Ms. …?

Tr:           Yes. What is it?

Me:        Well, I am …’s mom and I want to talk about the incident that happened in your class yesterday…”

Tr:           No.. no… Nothing happened.  In fact I told the kids and they understood it

Me:        I am not sure what you told, but I am sure my son got it completely wrong.

….

Tr:           See, I am elder to you and your son’s teacher, so you should address me … miss

Me:        Well that doesn’t make any sense- you are my son’s teacher; and NOT MINE.

Tr:           Ah… umm… ok, I scolded your son not for coming and telling the other child’s problem, but for the body language and the tone he displayed- he had no respect in his tone.

Me:        That I am not sure, but you responded to the message he conveyed and not to his disrespectful tone; else you should have told that to him.

Tr:           It’s okay… I  have a class now.

Me:        I can wait.

Tr:           Err… nooo… but…

Me:         I hope you got the message- I am sending my son to the school to be interact with other human beings, imbibe human qualities and be a better social being- and I am least bothered about the scores and the exams.  I don’t have problem if he scores less or even fails in the exams, but I have a huge problem if he develop as an inhumane, egocentric boy. I don’t want him to be one of those thousands who would silently watch a bleeding person succumbing to death on the roads without lending a helping hand.

Tr:           Noo… you taking it very emotionally

Me:        Of course, I am… I am taking it emotionally and I want you to sense those emotions- both mine and my child’s. And also of  the kids who got the wrong message.

Tr:           okk ok… i got to goo

And she vanished!

Do I have to say something more?

If this is what’s being taught by teachers and parents, we deserve more and more old age homes, deaths on roads by sheer cold negligence and many more suicides and killings of ROHIT VENMULAS.security-771868_960_720

What can I talk to my son?

“My son wants me to talk to him always… but what should I talk?”

Vimal, My neighbor was worried. His son, 7 year old Manav loves to talk to his dad and listen to him too. Every evening he troubles his dad with en number of requests to tell everything that happened during the day..Manav  is a very eloquent child and just loves to talk and make others talk to him.

Vimal, on the other hand is a man of few words. He is quiet, introspective and observant. He doesn’t want to disappoint his son, but doesn’t know how to increase his talk time to his child.images

Many parents find it a bit difficult to select suitable constructive conversations with their kids. They either end up in baby talks or in extremely simplified and shallow conversations. We tend to underestimate the capabilities of our children. We hardly share glimpses of our day to day normal life with our kids- rather we take them to a make believe world. We present the natural real world with added hues and mild tones in front of them; else they just read out stories or sing rhymes and lullabies.

It is essential to prepare the child with all necessary inputs regarding normal and natural life outside the four walls of the comfortable home. Life is not always a cake walk. The can of worms also is part of the normal human life. Keeping the child away from all the difficult animages (1)d grim situations may make him vulnerable, naive and helpless in tough situations later in his life. At the same time, parents should be extremely careful while talking about the realities around him- it should not create a panic or trauma in the child. It should not affect his innate trust and belief in the humanity and in the world around him.

Talking about how your day was could be a good move towards this acclimatization process. In simple words if the parent could describe the entire day to the child, he will get an opportunity to experience it in a more natural way. when you share your experiences of your difficult times with the child, you are inviting the child to be part of your life. Such an open approach will reduce the possible ‘taken for granted’ mental state of the children towards their parents.

Duimages (2)ring such conversations, the parents could ask how the child feels, or what he would do if he were in your position. Thus instead of direct value teaching fables, you can let the child to be part of a problem solving process. Such constr
uctive conversations will help to develop the perception of the child to different environments existing outside the comfy home climate.

Try such normal conversations with your child and help him grow with you in real world as a normal kid.