Gift for teacher? Classroom Discipline


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S Radha Prathi, Sep 5 2017, 0:08 IST

If teachers were asked what they would consider the best teacher’s day gift, the answer would be an unanimous chorus — classroom discipline!

Well, that happens to be the harsh truth. An average classroom in any school across urban India is almost always in a state of chaos. The teacher-student ratio is unwieldy in most. Under the circumstances, a conscientious teacher has to also double up as the bad cop, usher the students to step in mentally, not just physically, into the classroom. Healthy classroom practices like interactions, discussions and debates on the subject of study is often replaced with pontification, which has almost become a mandatory feature in the lives of teachers. Seldom can they do much else, because the law of the land forbids them from using the cane.

Most teaching staff are ashamed or afraid to rope in the help of colleagues, seniors or the head of the institutions because they do not want to show themselves to be weak or helpless. Besides, they do not want to jeopardise their chances of getting an increment by showing themselves to be lacking in class control skills. The students, for their part, ranging from primary school to the undergraduate levels seem to find it extremely difficult to sit still in the class and focus on what is being taught. Their attention span seems to be consistently declining year after year. They seem to have collectively traded the art of listening for the art of merely hearing that serves no purpose.

Such being the case, teachers have to often repeat themselves to reach out to everyone in the audience. In the process, a sense of repetition and redundancy sets in in the ones that got it the very first time. They become restless till the teacher takes the lesson forward but only after another round of disciplining. When this exercise becomes repetitive, it can get tiresome for both the students and the teacher. Precious classroom time is spent in shepherding students individually or in little groups into a state of silence before continuing with the lesson. Over a period of time, both parties get familiar with the pattern and play it out like clockwork to the point of frustration.

When teachers bare their hearts out on the subject, they are told categorically that “content is king” and the conduct of the teacher is the benchmark in a classroom. While that may be true, even experienced and passionate teachers who do know their subject and carry themselves with dignity are finding it difficult to handle disruptive behaviour. All the same, teachers agree that kids should have their fun and freedom as long as they do not constantly disrupt the classroom. They also vouch for the fact that the young are perfectly nice alone; it is only when they get together they become unmanageable.

It is time for us to unravel this conundrum. The restiveness stems from the environment the child comes from. The pressure to do well and realise the dreams of their parents has pinned them down. The gadgets they use and the amateurish exposure they get to various subjects on the internet make them feel that they know it all. The junk foods they consume, the sedentary lives they lead and the assorted pollutions they have to deal with have rendered them weak. Their preference to play with gadgets than with siblings or friends has made them strangers to empathy. The stress and strife of modern life is taking a toll on the children.

If we hope to salvage the future of our children, we must work on these issues on a war-footing. Remember, the family is the first school and the mother is the first teacher. Parents should make it their own imperative to spend quality time with children no matter what their age. Children who hail from sensible, ethical and loving homes will reflect those qualities.

Having well behaved students can prove to be a tremendous boost to a passionate teacher’s morale and her capacity to teach. Precious class hours can be channelised to sow the seeds of knowledge, nurture analytical thinking, and help children blossom into responsible, intelligent and considerate individuals. When teaching becomes a fulfilling and pleasant experience, a teacher can make a world of difference to the taught. When that happens, every day will be Teacher’s Day!

Save Yourself from Rainy Days


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Radha Prathi, March 24, 2017

problem It has been identified that water has a tendency to seep into adjoining walls that are at different levels. 

Come rainy season, and urban India is on tenterhooks, when it comes to their houses.

The reasons for these are many, ranging from poor construction to lack of a good rainwater draining system. Sometimes, a good many number of building parts, or even entire buildings have little or no exposure to sunlight. Correcting these anomalies is beyond the realms of practicality. Such being the case, it will be only wise to take the next best recourse.

Architects, builders, consumers and the waterproofing industry have identified the problems associated with moisture in buildings and have come up with solutions that can keep the building dry for the most part of the year. When the rainy season sets in, they have come up with techniques that will get the water off the building fast, so that pooling and leaking of water into the structure can be contained. Adding slopes in the roofing area wherever possible and rainwater harvesting project incorporated into buildings can stem this problem to a large extent.

It has been identified that water has a tendency to seep into the adjoining walls that are at different levels. Extra care during construction and plastering of these areas can control the damage caused due to dampness. Sometimes, water seepage can happen when there is error in the installation of the plumbing system. Then there are those instances when there can be inadequate surface preparation, improper use of primers, failure to take into account the thermal and wind movements of the structure etc which can undermine the strength of the construction over a period of time.

No matter what the problem, there are mostly ready-to-use products available that can repair possible damages to the buildings. If you are constructing a new facility, you can use them in the first instance, but if you are trying to protect an old home, you might have to walk that extra mile. Nevertheless, you can be sure that it is worth the effort.

Structural waterproofing

Open areas like balconies, porches and terrace slabs, which tend to be exposed to rainwater directly and for a longer time, will do well to mix admixes which will plasticise the walls and plug in the pores so that they do not retain water and absorb it later. As always, the market offers a range of these admixes with various grades of plasticising agents both in the paste and powder form. People looking at longevity of their constructions even have the options to fill hollow cement bricks with this mixture to make it waterproof from within.

Roof & terrace

It is universal knowledge that the roof and the terrace of any building are always exposed to the natural elements. This, coupled with bad upkeep can make the area develop cracks. Hence, waterproofing the terrace can protect it. You really do not need professionals to do this job, for the method is very simple. Sweep the terrace clean, wash it with clear water. Leak-guard pastes available off the shelf can be used to plug in cracks, dents and chipped area of the terrace.

Similarly, waterproof powder and chemical can also be bought in any hardware shop. Mix the powder as instructed in a bucket of clear water and apply the liquid to the surface with a wide paint brush. Apply a second coat after three hours and be rest assured that your terrace is safe for the next three to four years. As of now, there are no permanent waterproofing techniques for the roof; hence the need to repeat the exercise time and again.

Basement

Basement areas tend to become swimming pools during monsoons. The slope and the rainwater drains don’t help much, unless planned and executed well. You can prevent your basement from becoming redundant if you use appropriate waterproofing. While new basements can use structural procedure, old buildings have to first release the surface of the mould. Fumigation and subjecting the area to hot air blasts can clean it to a large extent. If the walls of the basement have started chipping or flaking, it will be worth the investment to get them plastered again before working on the floor.

Then, use non-metallic heavy duty floor hardener to reinforce the floor. Though this measure is costly, it has a long life and can be easy to clean and maintain. Waterproofing buildings has come of age. There are plenty of options in terms of both price and quality. The best time to waterproof buildings will be summer. Make sure that your homes and offices wear their rainproof cover before the first drizzle.

Spirit of Survival


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One winter morning, I entered the service verandah of our home in the wee hours of dawn. I picked up the little footstool which happened to be in the way only to drop it instantaneously. I had felt something cold, pokey and wet. I was too shocked even to shriek. I switched on the lights and examined my fingers which held the stool.

There were a few short, white and thick strands sticking to my hands. I clapped them off and then peered at the stool. Many more white strands were jutting out of its sides. When I felt reassured that no tiny feet were moving, I knocked the stool down to get a better view of the creature. The inner joints of the stool revealed several such white filaments. This time, I dared to bang hard on the outside of the stool to tease out the clinging life. When a few tossed out, a little observation revealed that these white strand-like structures were attached to a miniscule brown bead.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that the creepy creatures were actually ragi sprouts. Only a couple of days ago, I had sunned some ragi on the terrace. The grains had scattered, and some of them had settled in the little nooks and crannies of the inside of the stool which had been left upturned. The stool had later been placed in the service verandah, where it must have come in contact with moisture. Mother Nature had helped the seeds to germinate.

The mystery was solved. I felt extremely relieved and ecstatic to have been a part of this surreal experience. When the family awoke one by one, they were regaled with the tale. Amid much mirth, I recalled one of the earliest stories of Enid Blyton. Amelia Jane, the naughty doll, had strung a few acorns and worn it as a necklace quite to the annoyance of the others in the play area. Once she happened to  drench in the rain. The acorns which soaked up the water started sprouting; shocking the blue-eyed Amelia out of her wits. This was one of my favourite stories and little did I realise that the incident would play out later on in my own life in such an unexpected way.

Once the novelty of the incident wore out, I reflected on it. Sometimes some exotic hybrid varieties of seeds refuse to come to life despite being provided exhaustive, simulated native conditions, but here were these seeds striving to survive against all odds. This is true of people, too. Some people are cushioned by every possible support and luxury in life, but barely manage to turn the corner whereas the ones who have the spirit of life not only survive but also thrive despite everybody and everything!

Testing time For Trees


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How does one kill a tree? Axe it down silly! I can almost hear you screaming out loudly. But then, we also know that the old fogey will shed tears for a while, mope around a bit and spring right back with tender green sprouts at the earliest opportunity.

So, if someone wants to get rid of the tree forever, they must ensure that the roots are pulled out entirely and they are denied access to moisture because they can battle back to survival with the least of resources.

Man learned to do this job meticulously because he did not want impediments in the form of trees on his road to progress. Never mind, if he destroyed the green cover, he could always cross bridges as and when he came across them. Well, what has been outlined is a well known old story.

These days, the green activists, the government, its opposition party and the common man are in agreement about the importance of growing and nurturing trees for our own sakes. This wisdom has dawned across mankind around the world after mother nature has given us a sample of how climate change and depleting natural resources can actually spell disaster to us in the long-run.

So, If we are under the impression that we have turned into Samaritans who will squirm at the very thought of bringing down sturdy trees, we must stand corrected. We have simply changed our excuses to do the dreadful deed.

These days we bring down the old fellows who are threatening to fall down during the next rains. This measure has the sanctified permission of the powers that be and is carried out in full public view in broad daylight.

Inhuman way
However, this piece aims at throwing light on several other inhuman ways which are being employed to do away with the green shade. How many times have we not noticed a lot of garbage, mostly the inflammable variety being dumped around a tree?

They are regularly burnt down till the tree gets browner by the day; even as its life supporting roots are singed to death. When the tree starts resembling deadwood, they become officially ready to be brought down with official sanction. It is strange but true, that this modus operandi has been almost uniformly adopted by urban India.

Materialistic instincts

It is also a fact that these trees are invariably the ones that are found on the pavements or properties that have been earmarked to serve a greater commercial purpose driven by the materialistic instincts of the perpetrator/s.

All the same, these days, the eco-friendly lot occasionally smells a rat and bung a spanner in the destructive project. Nevertheless, there are people who are ready to go to any length to eliminate the obstacles that come in their way of their growth.

More recently a bunch of diehard tree lovers were shocked out of their wits to see a whole copse die and fall down. When the area was marked to be developed as a commercial complex, the builders wanted to get a better look at the ground and ordered the trees to be cleared.

The tree enthusiasts managed to convince the owner to retain the trees and even came up with a less lucrative plan B which would prove to be a green service to the society at large.

The matter did seem to conclude amicably and seemed to be that way for almost a year, till the day when all the trees came crashing down within a matter of a few days. A little investigation by the heartbroken group revealed that small dozes cups of poison had been dropped around the roots of the trees, one foot below the ground level. When they shared this bit of tragic news, it became apparent that this dirty secret happened to be the cause of death of many such random trees that came down across time and space.

Once the initial distaste for the morbid thought process ceases, one must realise that people will always be on either side of the fence when it comes to their equations with nature’s verdant bounty.

Therefore, it becomes the solemn duty of the champions of the cause of trees to watch out and foil the clever, furtive and sly attempts of their detractors. If we choose to be passive onlookers of the massive annihilation of our green cover, we may not even have enough time for retribution.

Eco friendly is the Way Forward -Ganesha Chathurthi


3rd September 2016

One cannot simply miss the terracotta images of gigantic Ganeshas peering through transparent polythene sheets serving as rain protection, lining the highways leading to the city and the main market places. Smaller versions of the lord and his mother goddess Gowri flank the bigger images. It is interesting to note that quite a lot of them are in earthy colours, with a glint of gold in places. They have been made by conscientious artists and will be bought by likeminded devotees whose hearts beat to the rhythm of nature. The online portals and niche studios that make and sell eco friendly Ganeshas had their order books completed several weeks ago. More and more people celebrating the festival publicly and privately are clearly responding to the cause of mother earth. It is heartening to note that little communities and social groups are coming together and working on sustainable solutions that can take care of the disposal of festive waste and the customary immersion of the idol post festival without wreaking havoc on our already overburdened lakes and ponds.

Well begun is half done! Looks like years of green campaign by the earnest are beginning to bear fruit albeit sporadically. The recent rains which flooded our cities over have also given a very clear signal that if we fail to take cognizance of violating the basic rules of nature, we must also be ready to face nasty surprises.

For those of us who are still not very convinced about all the furor over using idols that have been fired and painted gaily in toxic colours, we must realize that these idols run colour for a long time. The chemical nature of the dyes used may dissolve in water but not before first polluting it and taking a toll on the life of the fish and other creatures in the tank. Then the idol will take an extremely long time to disintegrate and disperse in water. Even the idols which use coir or hay as skeletal system to give it shape take quite as long too. The residual clay will enhance the silt layer of the water body. It will in turn enhance the height of the lakebed and become instrumental in rising water levels and consequent overflow of water during rains. Then there will be really no point in wondering how, the very Ganesha whom we worshipped reverently made life miserable for us.

An episode from Nilakanta Vijayam underlines the importance and divinity of eco friendly worship. Indra the lord of gods never failed to venerate the deities at the dawn of each day. He would complete his ablutions and then collect a handful of fresh flowers before making a beeline to the banks of the celestial river Ganga in the heavens. Then he would carefully select a couple of rounded pebbles for worship, clean them thoroughly and place them on the sands along the rippling waterline. Then he would offer his prayers and floral tribute reverentially to those little stones (saligrama). Once done, he would return the pebbles to the water, (quite on the lines of how we immerse Ganeshas today) and go his way only to repeat the process the following day.

Now Indra the lord of Gods as we all know had everyone and everything at his beck and call. If he wanted to, he could have availed the most precious of resources to conduct his daily worship. Nevertheless he chose to pick pebbles from the river and return the same to its source the very same day. By doing so, he ensured that he did not disturb the natural order of things to display his devotion or faith. When the lord of gods can abstain from exploiting nature to express his faith, can we not?

This year around, let us ensure a pollution free Ganesha Chathurthi, filled with faith and lots of fun and the one that we will remember to be a model worth emulating in the years to come!

Deconstructing Clever Signs


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Radha Prathi, Aug 14, 2016,

Reflections

The smart man had zeroed in on the real culprits who could be blamed for the inflation.

The written word has a charm of its own. It is not merely what is available on the Internet and in media and books. Sign posts, menu cards, brochures, pamphlets and billboards, bloopers and unintended puns have the power to lighten many a heart with their original content and humour. However, I would like to dwell on another genre of writing that has grabbed my attention on and off. Though I have come across many such nuggets, the following take the cake…

A Xerox shop had put up a new price list. Alongside was another sheet of paper that read, ‘We are not responsible for the pricing. If you have any complaints, please approach the CM or PM.’ The smart man had zeroed in on the real culprits who could be blamed for the inflation. The writing on the wall discreetly encouraged the customer to give the matter some thought while discouraging the potential customer from questioning the cost.

Then there was this message on a sheet of paper stuck on the front glass of a large car: ‘Kindly park your car properly or we will punkcher your tyre.’ The car was not moved. Overnight there was an addendum to the note: ‘I mean puncture,’ in block letters. I could sense the despair of the scribe who felt that there was no response to the memo because he had misspelt his threat. I also observed the change in the use of the first-person pronoun from plural to singular. In the coming days, the car was parked ‘properly’, without inviting more such nag notes.

Another time, a sheet of paper stuck on the elevator door read, ‘Please don’t press 2, dead end.’ I could not figure out the import. A staff member explained that the general entrance to the second floor had been sealed off because it had an internal lift that connected the first and the second floors. Therefore, if people did stop at the second floor, the door, which was still operable, would open to a wall that sealed the entrance. I understood the good intention and the dark humour behind the cautionary words.

I cannot forget another such piece of writing taped over a young neem tree. ‘You will not prosper if you use the leaves of this tree.’ According to the grapevine, the sapling had been planted by a green enthusiast only the previous year. The locals had helped themselves to every leaf that sprouted, for medicinal purposes. The tree had survived the onslaught and had unfurled its green umbrella the following spring. It was Ugadi and there was every chance of the neighbours stripping the sapling to its scrawny branches, hence the warning. The tree lover had cashed in on the power of curse to play mind games on the people who may be tempted to relieve the tree of its leaves.

These and many such memoranda that are laced with humour happen to be insightful. They reflect the genuine intent to communicate effectively and honestly. They mirror the feelings of disgust, anxiety or disapproval. They also testify the fact that the scribes of these notes have possibly failed to express their thoughts orally. They could have been timid, may have wanted to avoid open confrontation resulting in embarrassment or unpleasantness, or, they may have believed more in the power of the written word. Yet, the fact remains that they are generally put up with the expectation of seeing desired results. Oftentimes, these gems of prudence are written in English, albeit with some creative liberties taken with the Queen’s language, with the hope of reaching out to a larger number of people.

If it has not been already done, these cryptic notes can be compiled, analysed and studied. They will throw light on the human mindset, lifestyle, and thought processes of our contemporary society.

Integrity, Not Marks Key to Education


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A recent survey showed that the number of people fudging their curriculum vitae is on the increase. Police records reveal that there is a whole industry which methodically works on faking documents and certificates.

The earliest stage happens to be leaking of question papers, interfering in the invigilation and evaluation process. If the people who want to cheat have missed the bus in the first phase of deception, they can always avail the services of the underdog by faking their mark sheets and certificates.

Once a candidate is able to pass off his false papers successfully, he is emboldened to try other tricks up his sleeve. He scouts for ways and means to procure an experience certificate and a few other supporting credentials if he can afford it. It is shocking to learn that every year a series of brokers take up board and entrance examinations on behalf of pupils for a price.

Sometimes they also change their names and other identification details legally, to facilitate the recipient and user of the mark sheet, to fudge facts and indulge in fraudulent deals.

Potent trio

The slush that envelops the education scene seems to be getting murkier as each academic year passes by. However, a little introspection will show that the cancer that is eating away at the scene of education has been let loose by the potent trio of parents, teachers and students.

The formidable triumvirate who consider examination scores to be the “be all and the end all” of life need to be counselled on the true intent of education.

There is really no point in producing an army of engineers or management graduates or any other professionals if there is no use for their skills any longer in the job market.

It is sad to note that many of the students who have covetable degrees in socially approved courses possess the potential in a diametrically different area of expertise.

The fact that they have done very well or even decently well in a course that was not after their heart is proof that the graduate is a fairly good and sincere student.

Yet, it is but natural that their performance will amount to being mediocre in the big picture. Finding a dream job or working shoulder to shoulder with people who have the same qualification, acquired with a passion for the subject, will show them in bad light.
The underperformance will undermine the confidence of such workers. Eventually, it will have a bearing on the functioning of the organisation and the county at large.

Contradictory picture
The education scene in India is certainly caught in a series of contradictions. On the one hand, we as a nation lay a very high premium on education. Even the poorest among us dream about educating our children in the hope of seeing them lead a comfortable life sometime in future. Parents are willing to stake their time, energy and money entirely to be able to translate their dreams into reality.

On the other hand, when we find that the academic results of our wards are unsatisfactory or do not rise up to the expectations, we slip into a state of depression. The conundrums that connive to capture us in a web of deceit and dishonesty are the direct result of these doldrums.

Over a period of time, the education sector has been churning out a popular section of pedestrian populace who do not really seem to have delved into the depths of their chosen subject. Lack of expertise in any given field can lead to a dangerous deterioration which can prove to be detrimental to our country’s progress.

It is time to address the canker ensconcing the educational scene. We live in times when even parents of children who are in kindergarten or primary school feel the need to validate their children’s performance to their known circles.

As the child grows up, the pressure increases proportionately. The school, teachers and parents seem to forget the student who is literally at the receiving end of their expectations and egos.

Imagine a scene where everyone will be declared a topper, and where everyone will stand on a level playing field. Consequently, cut throat competition will become more savage, defeating the very purpose of learning.

It is time we accept that abilities and aptitudes vary. It is only when learners are sensitised to the values of integrity and discipline we can progress individually, and as a nation.