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!

Unresolved Misery, Remorse Can Be Fatal


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There are moments in life when nothing seems to be under our control. An incident from the Ramayana enumerates one such situation. When king Dasharatha fixed the coronation of his beloved son Rama, he hastened to his favourite queen’s chamber to break the news to her personally. Little did the king realise that Kaikeyi’s mind had been poisoned by her maid Manthara. He was shocked beyond words when he heard her demands to redeem the two boons given by him long ago. He could not digest the idea of exiling his dearest son to the forests for 14 years after fixing his coronation. He was also not very open to the idea of crowning Kaikayi’s son Bharatha as the king of Ayodhya. Repeated pleas to his dear wife got him nowhere and he swooned from time to time. The king was truly caught between the devil and the deep sea.

On the one hand, he could not even dream of going back on his promise because he was a man of his word. On the other hand, he could not bring himself to inflict an undeserving heinous punishment on his faultless son. He tried to cajole and coax his beautiful queen. When she refused to respond, he berated her and even threatened her about her impending widowhood. When she refused to budge from her obstinate demands, he wondered if he was at the receiving end of his own Karma. He imagined that he must have separated thousands of cows from their calves, mothers from their sons and wives from their husbands to have merited such a state. He tried to recollect all the possible evil deeds that may have been perpetrated by him to reap such misery. He succumbed to his end without putting up a fight as he was depressed beyond measure.

Natural disasters, death of a beloved person or separation from a loved one can leave us devastated. Any amount of solace cannot reverse the incident. When misery and remorse envelop us, it will be better for us to accept the situation and contemplate on the next step forward. On the other hand if we choose to wallow in our despondency we might tumble into a bottomless pit of sorrow which can push us to a state of depression or death.

The Duty Bound Are Uplifted


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It is not what we do, but how we do it that makes all the difference. Perhaps, this is the reason why, we are often counseled to work with passion, dedication and discipline if we hope to achieve success. This concept is also expounded as Karma Yoga by Lord Krishna in the Bhagvad Gita. Sage Dhaumya reiterates this tenet by narrating a story to the exiled Pandavas in the Mahabharata.

Once, Sage Kaushika sought alms of a housewife. She happened to be serving lunch to her husband. She requested the holy man to wait till she completed her job. The enraged Kaushika glared at her. The lady of the house told him very calmly that she was not the crane which was burnt down by the sage’s ire. Kaushika was taken aback. The lady had just referred to the incident that had happened on his way to her doorstep. A crane had relieved itself on the sage. It was burnt down to ashes in a moment when the sage had glowered at it. The sage who was proud of his yogic power could not figure out how the lady came to know what had transpired. When he could not contain his curiosity any longer he blurted out his question. The lady told him to meet the butcher Dharmavyadha to clear his doubt.

More surprise awaited Kaushika, when the butcher enquired whether the former had been sent by the lady especially when the sage could not figure out any medium of communication. The sage spelled out his confusion. The butcher gave him a long look, asked the sage to wait and slipped inside his shop. Apparently, he had to attend to the needs of his elderly parents. He emerged after a while and then told the sage that he was committed towards his duty just as the lady was committed towards her husband. The sincerity of purpose with which each of them carried out their duties bestowed them with a superior spiritual power. This in turn helped them to anticipate and understand the events that take place in and around their lives.

Kaushika was enlightened with a new dimension of knowledge. He realised the value of dignity of labour. He learned that whatever is worth doing is worth doing well. He had indeed stumbled on a universal truth that being duty conscious can uplift our spirituality quotient.

Teach Them To Cheat Not


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The examination season is on. This year appears to be no different from the examinations conducted over the previous years. It has almost become a habit for most under-performers to try their hands at some hanky-panky.

Students have been caught cheating, warned and even debarred when they have proved themselves to be incorrigible.

Diligent students who have worked hard right round the academic year feel let down when they find themselves being treated on par with some of their classmates who have been promoted as they resorted to copying in examinations.

On the other hand, students who do cheat feel that if they did not risk the malpractice, they would never hear the end of it from their parents besides being looked down upon by their peers and siblings.

Then there are instances of students running away from home and even attempting suicide when caught red handed in the act. When such a case is visualised in proper perspective, it is evident that the squad had meant to check the smooth functioning of the examination entered the room where the errant student was writing the examination, sending a chill down his or her spine resulting in the unfortunate decision of the student.

The copycat who deserves punishment ends up as the hero at the end of the day by sometimes making it to the newspaper headlines. The squad, the principal, the teaching and non-teaching staff are sent on an undeserving guilt trip for simply carrying out their duties sincerely by identifying the malefactor’s blatant blunder.

Then, when the surface of the matter is scratched and deeper introspection is employed, one can see that a lot of invisible hands are involved in doing the dark deed quite unintentionally.

‘Great expectations’
The system and the expectations of the parents, teachers and the peer group are collectively responsible for the immature decision of the wrong doers. Students are pressurised to give their best shot to excel in examinations so that they can emerge as victors in the rat race.

One cannot really discount episodes where the students are led to believe that they could get away with unethical practices.

There are instances where the invigilators actually promise candidates to look the other way for a price when the black deed is being carried out in the examination hall.

There is also a section of candidates who opt to pay for a fake course certificate to university crooks to facilitate their job search.

Compromise in integrity

Compromise in integrity and ethics in the examination happens with unfailing regularity because the educational calibre of a person is determined by the marks obtained by him or her as a student in the board and university examinations.

Personal interest of the student and the core competency for studying the subject appear to be the subject of little or no interest to most of the parents and teachers.

It is a common practice in our country for students scoring high marks to be absorbed in the mainstream or the science stream by the colleges impervious of the fact whether the student has the aptitude for the subject. The cream is expected to opt for professional courses like medical or engineering.

These toppers are the most sought after in the marriage market and job scene, and are regularly placed in the summit of the social ladder.

Those who do not fare well in these examinations are largely doomed for the rest of their lives because they could not prove themselves academically. This practice has almost become a tradition in our educational system much to the chagrin of the students who may have talent and aptitude for other aspects.

It is high time we as a society start respecting the individual’s decision and his/her field of interest. Youngsters should be told that it is important for them to do well in the chosen area no matter what it is.

Innate qualities like honesty, sincerity and sense of purpose should be nurtured in young minds by both parents and teachers to build their moral profile. They should be sensitised to the fact that it is better to fail in honour than to flourish by cheating. Only then can we hope to populate our nation with responsible, dependable and sensible citizens who realise that education is a means to the end and not an end in itself.

When Wit Goes Wrong


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Good humour is a very sensitive emotion. It succeeds only when both the perpetrator and the person or the people in the receiving end are both sensible and sensitive about the contents of their joke. In other words, a healthy joke will steer clear of vulgarity or exploiting a weakness of a person or a community. Sometimes, the most well intended humour can go awfully wrong creating resentment and even enmity for the humorist.

A tale from the Shiva Purana recounts how even the mighty Lord Vishnu was not spared for having played a practical joke on his dearest devotee Narada. Once, Narada was besotted by the beautiful princess Shrimathi. He wanted her to choose him during her Swayamvara. He realised that if he wanted his dream to come true, he must be the most attractive suitor. Narada was also aware that Mahavishnu possessed the most charismatic face in the universe. Therefore, he sought to be blessed with Harimukha (the face of Vishnu also known as Hari) for the Swayamvara. The amused Lord decided to play on the pun on the term Hari which also meant monkey. Narada’s visage was transformed to that of a simian, but he was unaware of the joke. He went along to the Swayamvara only to be laughed and jeered at.

When Narada realised that he had become the laughing stock at the court, he was deeply hurt. He cursed the Shiva Ganas who prompted him to look into the mirror and embarrassed him. He marched to Vaikunta and confronted Lord Vishnu angrily about the breach of trust. He cursed the very Lord he adored to experience separation from his spouse. Once Narada gave vent to his rage, Mahavishnu explained that he had made Narada the butt of his joke to make him realise that he had swerved from his chosen path of eternal celibacy. In fact, the whole episode was structured to awaken the sage from his disillusionment. Narada understood his mistake and made haste to retract the unreasonable words blurted out in a fury. However, Mahavishnu accepted the curse gracefully because it would facilitate him to play out his manifestation as Rama, but more so because he wanted to establish the fact that when humour does not go well with the recipient then things can sour up.

Sky is the Limit For Unshackled Women


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The world of women has always been oscillating, especially in our sub-continent. Recorded history and sociology vouch for the fact that women were enlightened and emancipated in the best possible manner in the early Vedic ages. Conditions regressed in the later periods, only to deteriorate steadily. Women were weaned from the right to education, equality, economics and even dignity.

Foreign invasions and inland political insecurities which prompted the use of the purdah system caught on to the point of shrouding our sisters in some parts of the country till date.

Dowry system which was paved with the intention of passing on the rightful fraction of the family heirlooms and property took demonic proportions which started smouldering and singeing young women in their marriages. The rigid caste system, polygamy and the system of honour killing almost decimated the status of women to non-entities.

Our society slowly fell into a decadent pattern that proved to be a dreadful nightmare for women in particular. So much so that even five centuries ago, there were formulae for bringing up children. A separate set of rules for sons and daughters. By the time they were responsible young adults, they were prepared to slip into their slots and play their part within and outside their households. This methodology worked quite well through several centuries.

Several centuries later, the fairer sex stepped out of their hearths and homes pursuing education and professions. They did face teething problems till they emerged successfully. Then the trend became an accepted norm.

Young women blossomed at every given opportunity while their less accomplished sisters experienced the much needed exposure. This encouraged them to dream for a bigger platform for their daughters. If this phenomenon of getting better with each passing generation were to become a reality, then the world we live in will transform into Utopia.

Alas such is not the case. Parenting has become a challenge. Despite all the talks and convictions about creating a level playing ground for children of either gender, the harsh truth remains contrary. To be fair to parents of our sub-continent, many of them do walk their talk. There are lakhs of couples who have parented only one girl child and have helped her achieve wisely and well. Yet, sadly the fact remains that many of these young women are considered to be round pegs in square holes because the world at large openly or secretly consider them to be second class citizens.

Freedom for girl child

More than ever, there is a serious threat to the security and freedom of the girl child, especially in urban set ups. We are living in times where stories of molestation, rape and the fairer sex being subjected to indignities have started making headlines almost on a daily basis. While rationalists would like to smother this news content as the hype created by media, we must also remember that there can be no smoke without fire.

Let us face facts, looks like we have reached a stage where debauchery has begun to become a byword in our country. At one glance it is obvious that there is something essentially wrong in the way we bring up our children. It is not just about gender inequality which begins at the foetal stage.

The health and education sectors which make a staple contribution during the formative years wallow in corruption. The families and immediate society which moulds the child’s thinking and shapes its character unthinkingly imposes its biased convictions and baseless theories which undermine its personality in the long run.

Intrinsic human values like truth and compassion have given way to superficiality and wanton display of materialism. Certificates and documents have substituted learning and imbibing knowledge. The global village which leaves us spoilt for choices have made us blind to the positive qualities of our vicinity. There seems to be no censor over the entertainment sector which is dishing out brain candy and promoting medieval beliefs and superstitions. The scenario is bleak.

Despite this drawback, it is heartening to note that quite a decent number of the fairer sex in our cities have not only managed to survive but also thrive. If women can stand up against all odds and prove their mettle, just imagine, how much more they can achieve if they are unshackled of obstacles? The sky will be the limit!

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!