Monthly Archives: February 2015

A rave and a rant

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My boys are not even four, but there is so much they are able to do. Nish and Sid have started trying to read…albeit 3 and 4 letter words…Amu is picking up from them. They can narrate stories, tell you what they like about a book, identify names of authors, count to ten, follow and copy patterns, identify different plants and birds around us…they even have as rudimentary understanding of gravity. Not even 4 and yet they have had access to so much in these super important formative early childhood years. Its like exponential growth happening all the time…language development, curiosity and learning by discovering and doing, readiness for formal school, socialization processes…the list seems endless. So much that i take for granted till i wake up and look at the reality around me…

every visit to a low income school, an interaction with some of the school teachers from govt aided schools and the GAP hits me in the face. When a teacher of a group of 5 year old expresses to me how low her expectations are of her class, her lack of belief in them or their abilities (and ironically and sadly she actually means well), her complete dismissal of any social or cultural capital that they come with..it hits me…and i understand the meaning of privilege and feel its weight.

The right to education act is a step and i really hope that we are able to work towards it. It needs significantly more though and needs to be implemented in a way that makes sense. At least kids between 6-14 will have access to education….it is supposed to be quality education…and quality is the key, important and yet missing and elusive word.  But by the time kids are 6 would they not have missed out on significant opportunity for development and learning? What about those formative years? They are not on a level playing field…there are huge gaps between them and their significantly affluent peers…even if one does not compare the kids to their peers, they are significantly below the expected learning levels for starting first grade. Also, sure -the private schools have a responsibility to educate our less privileged children..but what about the government’s responsibility? Simply palming it off to the private sector seems to me almost like a dismissal of the possibility that government run schools could achieve this basic right for our children.

I don’t have  answers..just questions that make me uncomfortable, observations that make me upset…and I am trying to do my little bit to work at it…but at this point it is too little and I know I can do more.

As a country, I feel we need to focus so much more on this basic issue and basic right – education. Not just by building schools and equipping them with toilets…but by creating a true learning environment that gives kids a chance to realize and optimize their potential, a system that values them for who they are and works with them and for them, teachers who are trained and who recognize the enormity of the task ahead..yet who take each day at a time …each child at a time…to truly liberate us through education. I feel that we need to look at more than just starting at age 6…that is much too late already…we need to start younger and sooner. And while individuals and corporates have a responsibility, the government needs to recognize its responsibility too and work towards this too…on an urgent footing. This is (yes i know it is a cliche) the future of our country and this is what we need to invest in…invest not just money, but serious thought, energy, training into. We need to focus on quality, on really making a difference…not because of a law or an international mandate on literacy and education…not because of some statistics that declare a state or country literate, not as a political vote garnering gimmick…but because we truly believe that this is the way forward, because we finally recognize that our human capital is what will actually define us as a nation, because we know at the end of the day that we owe it to our kids and ourselves.

Each one of us can make a difference and needs to start…There are public private partnerships that are showing us that things can work, models like teach for India are bringing highly motivated and trained young leaders into low income schools to work with kids and make a difference, there are individual volunteers and non profits that are working with children from low income backgrounds as well…but I sincerely hope that the government also really gets this as an urgent and important area to look at and honestly focuses on more than buildings, toilets and mid day meals. Those are important accessories …not the actual thing we have to focus on.

We need to rethink our objectives, up the ante as far as teacher training courses go, invest in looking at models that have worked around the world and really learn from those as well what we already have that we can draw from. We need to take responsibility, be accountable for our kids and their learning…and by learning I am not talking about merely performing on exams…We need to start early and sustain our efforts. We need to be able to step back and reflect, give each other feedback and learn and grow. Let us not stop at gleefully declaring ourselves literate because everyone can now sign their names…there is much more work to be done and we all need to get started.

Any thought and ideas?

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When I’m ready mom…when I’m ready

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I know it is unrealistic to expect kids to do things when you feel they should be doing it. Right from the very first day, my twins started training me to stop thinking like that. Yeah i know developmental psych tells you that each one will develop at his pace…and yet it sets developmental guidelines that we keep looking at and referring to.  So when one of them is walking and the other isnt, there is a little niggling worry at the back of my mind though i often tell myself to let it go. The balance between being laid back, informed, aware and over-cautious…a difficult trap for a parent to not fall into.

Sid and Nish started working on me early. From the day i delivered them…Sid was in a hurry to get out…barely a couple of pushes and out he came with loud lusty wails…Nish continued to chill out in his little universe inside me…he had to be rudely plodded and guided out…barely a sound from him much to our worry and consternation.

They did everything at different paces…one started crawling early, one walked very late. One was gregarious, the other clung to me when in company of strangers. and it continues even today.

I would worry about Sid not being interested in books and now he is totally into them. My youngest Amu thought hardcover books were for teething and I wondered how we would change that…today he never lets a day go by without getting any available adult (or brother) to read as many books as he can get us to.

I was thinking of this last evening when we went out with friends to a play gym. Usually, in the past, Sid has always kept sticking to me, running off to play but returning like a homing pigeon to ensure that I was right there watching him…and then, last evening it was like he took flight. As soon as we reached the play area…a completely new space for us, he barely waited to take off his shoes and then he was off, running and playing with his brothers, not remotely worried about whether I was around or not.

It’s been like this with so many little things…music and singing (i kept asking the boys to sing along with me as we strummed the guitar and they never would, instead asking me to sing for them. Now Nish is happily belting out Beatles and Carpenters and grooving to the music and the beat. Amu sings incessantly as he goes about his day and Sid enjoys rhythm and beats).

Every now and then, i need to take a step back, breathe…and simply allow them to be. they will do what they have to do…When they are ready!

Some books you can use with young kids in school

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I was putting this list down for a friend who asked me for suggestions for books to use in his school. Sharing the book list here as well in case anyone else finds it useful 🙂

List of recommended Picture Books for K-4

The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
Ages: Pre-K through Grade 2
The book can be used with different age group as the teacher can choose to focus on
 multiple aspects – days, numbers, names of different fruits, collaborative reading,
 writing based on the book, life cycle of a butterfly and metamorphosis.
It looks at pre-math and math skills – sequencing, counting
, Literacy skills,
 Writing,
 vocabulary,
 science – life cycle
Can be connected to art activities based on Eric Carle’s style, an actual study and  exploration of metamorphosis
Can use puppets for retelling

No David – David Shannon
Ages: Pre K- grade 1
Great as a beginner book for emergent readers and perfect as a read aloud for non-readers.
Can be used to set up class rules and expectations
Can be used as a model to create your book book of “No” things
Great to elicit dialogue based on the illustrations

Swimmy – Leo Lionni
Lio Lionni has some spectacular books for kids and Swimmy is a great introduction to his writing and illustration style. 
Can be used with K-4
Introduction to the concept of working together as well as the power of One
Can be used as a study of his art techniques as well
Can be used as an exploration of marine life and an introduction to some sea creatures
Another book to talk about Marine life is Mister Sea Horse by Eric Carle

Books by Julia Donaldson 
The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, The Snail and the Whale, etc.
Ages: K-3
Great for introducing the concept of rhyme
Deals with sharing, imagination, friendship, exploration, etc.
Can be used to discuss creative thinking, looking for solutions, following one’s dreams

When Sophie gets angry – Molly Bangs
Ages: K-3
A
great book to talk about anger and managing one’s temper.
Looks at temper tantrums and is an interesting way to talk about anger, conflict, resolution, etc.
Can be used to model writing
Great as a discussion tool for circle time

Something Else – Kathryn Cave
Ages: Grades 2 and up
Deals with difference and inclusion
Great to start a conversation in class about difference and acceptance
Also to focus on the individuality of each person
A good teacher training tool as well – something that can be on a reading list for teachers
Can be used for class discussions and for an exploration of difference and how to accept it

Will you Still Love Me – Jean Baptiste Baronian
Ages: PreK – 2nd grade
A heart warming story of a young polar bear who is expecting a sibling
Great for prek – 2nd grade – typically ages when siblings arrive!
Good book to initiate a conversation on siblings, insecurities and change
(My New Baby and Peter’s Chair are two other very nice books to discuss this topic)

One – By Kathryn Otoshi
Ages: PreK – grade 3/4
Great to introduce colors to younger kids
Interesting way to discuss the importance of One and how each one of us stands for
 something

Books by Sandra Boynton
Ages: PreK and K
Silly fun and lovely rhymes – Sandra Boynton books are great for introducing children 
to books.
Poetry by Shel Silverstein

Pot luck!

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What are little boys made of?

Frogs and snails and puppy dog tails…..

Not to sound like I buy into a lot of the gender stuff but…yesterday we baked delicious bread at home. My youngest asked for a nice hot slice, had it generously buttered, spread with marmite and then he proceeded to run to the loo and dunk his toast straight into…yup…the pot before proceeding to chomp a bite off. I was blissfully unaware, little imagining how much the fellow was enjoying the freshly baked bread….till a shriek (and a most unnervingly fascinated face) from Sid drew my attention to this!!!

Sorry…gross but had to share…

Note to self: never (NEVER) assume the little boy is innocently and quietly enjoying a bite…if he is that quiet then there is definitely a STORM brewing (you may not want to find out about it and simply enjoy the calm…but then again…maybe not)