Gearing for 2012

2012 is almost there…knocking at our doors. We are at the threshold of a brand new year… It’s time for new beginnings, revivals and renewals.
Looking back at 2011, one has to admit that it goes in India’s history as a year that saw us slipping into the stigma of a corrupt nation, for scams galore benumbed us. We also saw the Anna phenomenon unfold! Thanks to social and online networking, we hope the political class will be a lot wearier of us – common people! 

Notwithstanding these turmoils, how can we make the year one with a difference? I am going to tread these nurturing paths so that each day, I become a better individual.
Meditation:
Invest 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes just before going to bed on Meditation. In the first week of December 2011, I got access to a wonderful meditation that has kept me sane and healthy amid the frenetically paced life. I am resolute about continuing this in 2012 as I find myself rooted in peace (amid the chaos around!) and my pre-hypertension reading have stabilized to a healthy 120/70. Meditation has long been considered one of the finest practices to gain peace & clarity of mind along with its other therapeutic benefits. What ancient rishis and seers practiced ages ago has been confirmed by modern science to be a potent tool in quietening the mind and its constant chatter.  To those of you who would like to start the New Year with the remarkable benefits one can offer oneself, please visit http://www.ishafoundation.org/Ishakriya. The tagline of the free meditation cannot be more apt: Be, Breathe, Blossom!
Gratitude:
Keep a Gratitude Journal. It is always easy to find fault with everything around us. Pause and ponder… we are sure to find countless blessings that have come our way. In fact the most difficult people in our lives happen to also be our best teachers, in retrospection. Today’s obstacles will no doubt seem to us as fine opportunities, five years from now. So instead of focussing on the troubles and imaginary fears, let us focus on the bounties we have.   It would be a great idea to write down in a note pad 5 blessings of the day, before we go to sleep. This has manifold effects as the subconscious mind registers the gratefulness. Researchers have found that when we think about someone or something we really appreciate and experience the feeling that goes with the thought, the parasympathetic – calming-branch of the autonomic nervous system – is triggered. This pattern when repeated bestows a protective effect on the heart.
Smile:
Smile a lot. A smile induces warmth in the beholder’s heart. Frequent smiling is indeed therapeutic in its effect on the body & mind. Besides it is so contagious that it can even uplift the overwhelmed and depressed. It improves appearances and makes people look younger & attractive. It is mood changing and is an instant stress buster. Research has shown that smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers, and serotonin. Together these three make us feel good and therefore happier. Smiling therefore is a natural drug.

Mindfulness:
Seize the moment – Carpe diem, they say. Being mindful is focusing on the present moment. Many a time we are engulfed in the ruminations & regrets of the past and worries & anxieties of the future. Hence we are unable to live in the present. When you are mindful, you look at yourself in a non judgemental way. You realize that you are not your thoughts. You become an observer of your thoughts – you neither grasp them nor push them away. Thankfully, the meditation that I do is aiding me superbly in this process. The venerable Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh advocates practicing mindfulness of ourselves and others – mindful acts cultivate understanding, love, compassion, and joy. In our strife ridden world this is a panacea.
Forgiveness:
Forgive others and more importantly yourself. Many a time we make mistakes. Others make mistakes. Push comes to shove, we are easy on forgiving others but quite harsh on ourselves. We need to let go of our grudges and bitterness, and embrace peace, hope, gratitude & joy. Embracing forgiveness is a clear way forward. If we probe further, it is the perfectionist in us that wants us never to make mistakes. Weed out this disease. It can cause guilt, rigidity, pessimism, low self esteem and obsessive compulsive behaviour in us. To overcome this we need to acknowledge that we are liable to make mistakes. We need to forgive ourselves for our mistakes. Backsliding is just not the end of the world – we can always pick ourselves up and start all over again. In this sense every mistake is a profound learning experience.
Exercise:
Go for walks. Do back stretches to ward off aches & pains. I aim to go for a 30-minute walk everyday plus do the stretches recommended by my orthopaedist. I have the benefit of a huge park nearby where I stay. So there is no reason why I should be lax on these, given the benefits of one of the most inexpensive yet easiest & effective of exercises. Besides making me physically fit, it will also promote better sleep.
Hydrotherapy:
Drink lots of water. In fact I start my day by drinking 3-4 glasses of water. The elixir of life is by far the best liquid to intake. Dr. Batmanghelidj who is the author of “Water for Health, for Healing, for Life” is also the founder of the National Association for Honesty in Medicine and author of, “Your Body’s Many Cries for Water”, in his interview with Mike Adams speaks eloquently about the healing power of water. I find drinking 8-10 glasses of water everyday very energising.
These and other good practices that I indulge in like doing Reiki, reading plenty of inspirational literature and regular prayers will also keep me in good stead through 2012.
Do you have any nurturing practice to share??? 

Study Skills for your Students

With examinations round the corner, here are strategies for pupils.

M.U.R.D.E.R (Ah! What a pleasant thought for those struggling with studies!!!)

Mood:
Set a positive mood for yourself to study in.
Select the appropriate time, environment, and attitude
Understand:
Mark any information you don’t understand in a particular unit.
Keep a focus on one unit or a manageable group of exercises.
Recall:
After studying the unit, stop & put what you have learned into your own words.
Digest:
Go back to what you did not understand and reconsider the information.
Contact external expert sources (e.g., other books / your teacher / your study buddy) if you still cannot understand it.
Expand:
In this step, ask three kinds of questions concerning the studied material.
If I could speak to the author, what questions would I ask or what criticism would I offer?
How could I apply this material to what I am interested in?
How could I make this information interesting and understandable to other students?
Review:
Go over the material you’ve covered.
Review what strategies helped you understand and/or retain information in the past and apply these to your current studies

Adapted from Hayes, John R., The Complete Problem Solver, Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers, Hillsdale, NJ: 1989. ISBN: 0805803092

P.Q.R.S.T

PREVIEW
Skim the headings of the entire chapter. Your most important goal is to find out how the chapter is organized.
If the major terms in the headings are unfamiliar – look them up.
The same material could be organized more than one way. If the way it is organized helps you to remember the main topics, then use that organization. If you notice some other way it could have been organized that makes more sense to you, then use that method.
QUESTION
Turn the subheadings under the major headings into questions that you expect to be answered in that part of the text.
READ
Try to see if the questions you anticipated are answered. Reflect on what you read; put it in your own words. Try to connect what you are reading to things you already know. Don’t mark or highlight words or passages as you come to them the first time. Wait until you have reached the end of a small section, maybe a paragraph or two and look back to decide if there is anything there that you probably wouldn’t remember without highlighting it. Try to learn through trial and error how much marking is the minimum you need to do to remember all the material.
SELF-RECITATION
This is the most critical part.
After reading a small section, perhaps a page or two CLOSE THE BOOK and try to write down the main ideas and as many details as you can, and then check yourself.
Put  main ideas & details in your own words; don’t just memorize exact words in the text.
When you check, look for important things you omitted or got wrong.
Do it again. Do it as many times as you need to until you can close the book and reproduce the material accurately, but meaningfully, not just by rote.
Once you can do that immediately after closing the book, then start trying to do it after being away from the book for a while. First take short gaps, like an hour, then longer gaps, like a day or two.
This is hard work. You might start by first trying to be able to make just a skeletal outline and build up the ability to fill in details.
Develop your own mnemonics for memorizing points that you find confusing.
TEST
After some time has passed, try to reproduce the material as you did above. The key here is that you must give yourself enough time to forget some of the material so that you are forced to really re-generate the material. Re-generate means that you use your mnemonics and connections from the easier-to-remember main ideas to pull up the details.
Research has shown that reflection, spacing your study, and organizing all improve learning significantly.

Found this method in Atkinson, R. L., Atkinson, R. C., Smith, E. E., & Bem, D. J. (1993). Introduction to Psychology Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace, but could not trace its original source

S.Q.3R (S.Q.R.R.R)

Survey (1 minute):
Before beginning reading look through the whole chapter. See what the headings are — the major ones and the subheadings; hierarchical structures seem to be particularly easy for our brains to latch onto — check for introductory and summary paragraphs, references, etc. Resist reading at this point, but see if you can identify 3 to 6 major ideas in the chapter.
Question (usually less than 30 seconds):
Ask yourself what this chapter is about: What is the question that this chapter is trying to answer? Or — along the curiosity lines — What question do I have that this chapter might help answer? Repeat this process with each subsection of the chapter, as well, turning each heading into a question.
Read (slower for some of us than others!):
Read one section at a time looking for the answer to the question proposed by the heading! This is active reading and requires concentration so find yourself a place and time where you can concentrate.
Recite/write (about a minute):
Say to yourself or write down a key phrase that sums up the major point of the section and answers the question. It is important to use your own words, not just copy a phrase from the book. Research shows that we remember our own (active) connections better than ones given to us (passive), indeed that our own hierarchies are generally better than others.
Review (less than 5 minutes):
After repeating steps 2-4 for each section you have a list of key phrases that provides a sort of outline for the chapter. Test yourself by covering up the key phrases and seeing if you can recall them. Do this right after you finish reading the chapter. If you can’t recall one of your major points, that’s a section you need to reread.

Adapted from: Robinson, Francis Pleasant (1970) Effective Study (4th ed.). New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 9780060455217

Survive Exams!

It’s December and we are on the threshold of a brand new year…one with immense promise and potential. While many of us adults look forward to the New Year, there could be some of you students who want time to stand still! You guessed it right, exam seasons begin from now to March / April and these Board Examinations – be it in Grade XII or X will make or even mar your future.

Many in this part of the world at least do not want to take chances with a school based examination. I am inclined to agree with the parents of these students – with the veil of recession still enveloping and engulfing the gulf region, it is not surprising that parents do not want their wards to opt for a school based examination. They aver – what the future hold in store no one knows!

So how can you survive the onslaught of exams and still be a winner? These tips on handling the pressure of exams could hold you in good stead, hopefully and make you a SURVIVOR who can last the onslaught of examinations.

Start early. Well, easier said than done. And let me tell you only a handful of students ever do this!! You can’t turn the clock backwards. Besides it is futile trying to cram everything on the eve of the exam. So the thing left for you to do now is start from today. Now!! It is not late even now. Believe it and plan a schedule for yourself. And be truthful to yourself and to your plan.

Understand. Do you know the syllabus well? At least, are you acquainted with the topics and areas? Do you know the pattern of the question paper? Do you know the weightage as per the Board’s blue print of the question paper? If you don’t, go to  www.cbse.nic.in and click the examination link. You will find sample papers, weightage and blue print details there. Do you know to manage your time? It would be a good idea to do a full paper or two under exam conditions. Keep the phone off the hook, cut out distractions and disturbances. Seek the help of your parents and they will delightfully do it for you.

Routine – plan and keep to it especially during holidays / study leave. Set aside 8 -10 hours every day for study. You know your peak times and off peak times. Use time judiciously as there is no point in waking up early and dozing off and on if you are not a lark by constitution. You could be an owl; so sit up late. Look at what you have to learn and break it up into manageable chunks. And don’t put it off!

Vanish – from distractions. Select a place where you will not get distracted. I know, your friends mean a world to you. However, it is a truth that you will accomplish more if you study on your own. TV, mobiles, I-pads, blackberry, social media and internet … all are out there to demolish your concentration and shred your plans. Keep your balance; you need inner strength the most to say a firm NO to distractions.

Immerse – yourself in your studies. Condense, summarize, and make notes … do what you are comfortable with. Mnemonic devises are a great aid to memory. You know what they are right? Rainbow colours, for instance, can be remembered as VIBGYOR: Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and Red. Create your own to memorize important information. Develop memory enhancers like flash cards, content / mind maps.

Vow – to get some sleep. Many students make the worst mistake by studying sleeplessly on the eve of the examinations. This spells disaster. You need at least 4-6 hours of sleep every night to function normally. Being sleep deprived will not help you face the challenges of an examination. In fact, you may even black out due to sheer exhaustion or blank out while sitting with the question paper in the exam hall.

Omit – cramming on the eve of the exam. This can only confuse you. Relax and take deep breaths before an exam. This supplies the much needed oxygen to the brain and enlivens the grey cells. This will also help you to focus.

Review the lessons. Do practice and work out past papers. Many websites provide them. This will also give you insight into the oft repeated questions which exam paper setters are fond of. Practice diagrams. On the day of the exam read instructions and questions properly, make good use of the reading time CBSE allows you. It would be good to answer easy questions first to gather momentum. But at the same time remember to write in sequence. Neat and clear presentation leaves the evaluator with a good impression. Don’t waste time on 2 mark questions when you have 10 mark questions to tackle. Don’t write too much – it is another time waster. Keep a time schedule and see that you have answered all questions.

So, be a SURVIVOR, & wish you productive study hours and successful examinations.

Ridiculous, isn’t it???

Dear Mr. Sibal

I am not a lawyer. I am not in politics nor am I in position of power like you. I am not a cyber specialist. I am just a simple citizen, an educator who exhorts my students to think for themselves, have an opinion and make sure that they express it.

My pet peeve over the last few days has been you. First when I read this report in the India blog of New York Times through, you guessed it right, a Facebook link, on the 5th of December 2011, http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/05/india-asks-google-facebook-others-to-screen-user-content/I just couldn’t believe what I was reading. (Our Indian media caught up a little late!) I can understand if monarchies & autocracies demand this. But a demand of this nature from a legal luminary-cum-elected-representative (Aside: – the board to which I belong to was under your care – and you made so many radical changes there!) from the world’s largest democracy was far too much to digest. And that too at a time when social media is playing a vital role in engineering change in many countries globally; and when young and old are equally members of such online communities that foster a sense of camaraderie and oneness in them.

Why do you want Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to screen content? What kind of content are you particularly keen on removing? Anything that is anti-government or anti-congress? With millions of web users logging in and out, posting anything from tweets to status updates, to photographs to videos, writing blogs to discussing in webinars, how on earth are they going to monitor that? Besides, I fiercely value my freedom of speech. As long as I am not using objectionable language and graphics, why should anybody screen the content that I post?

I have three blogs. One question that I had to answer before I started them was whether it has adult content. I could set up one only when I said no to it. I write something disparaging about X / Y / Z, someone can always report me for abuse of the virtual space. Which means that there is a built in mechanism for social media to purge unwanted / abusive material, right? Why, then, did you want to be the super cop, ask for content censorship of kinds & earn the ire of millions of Indians in the cyber world? What is more shameful is that you are using this as a ruse and saying that by indulging in such free exchange of views & ideas, religious sensitivity will be exploited. Come on, Mr. Sibal, the internet is not a new thing now. If such instances gave rise to communal riots, India would have been in shreds by now. In fact, I have heard many a time that it is your tribe who engender communal issues and use it effectively in vote bank politics.

I am aware of the IT act. Section 66A is about punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc which is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine. Section 66E is for violation against privacy; 66F deals with punishment for indulging in cyber terrorism. Section 67 is about punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material. As a legal expert you know it all too well. And perhaps you know the loopholes too. Is that why you can’t invoke these sections against erring individuals? So how about plugging the loopholes instead of gagging us?

Mr. Sibal, common people like me have tolerated nonsense for very many years. A new found enthusiasm is coursing through our veins, thanks to our communities in the very same social media that you have targeted. India will not go the China way! Do read the writings on the wall!! Or you will not have any wall to write over!!!

An Awakened Citizen

C for Corruption – a Blot on India!

Corruption is no doubt a global phenomenon. There have been many instances of corruption all over and thanks to the media many were exposed.

Today, with technological advance and an alert print and visual media, things have become a lot easier for exposes. Whistle blowers too have played a vital role in informing us about corruption.

The Transparency International, a leading anti-corruption watchdog, published its Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2011 on 1st December 2011. In this index they actually name the least corrupt to the most corrupt countries in a scale from 10 to 0. While the top slot with 9.5 rating goes to New Zealand, they are closely followed by the Scandinavian countries of Denmark and Finland with 9.4 as their score. The ignominious last two places go to Somalia & North Korea with the lowest 1.0 scores. Where does India figure in the list? India is 95th (out of 183 countries covered by the index) with a 3.1 score. It is worth pointing out that in 2010 we were at 87 with 3.3 score and have dropped 8 places, thanks to the innumerous corruption scandals involving the ruling governments in both the Centre and the States unearthed.

On 8th December 2011, Bibek Debroy and Laveesh Bhandari have touched a raw nerve when they calculated the figures that the corrupt earn in India – a mind blowing Rs. 92,122 crore ($18.42 billion) which works out to 1.26% of the GDP! In their book aptly titled, “Corruption in India: The DNA & RNA”, Debroy who is a professor with Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research and Bhandari who heads Indicus Analytics, monitoring the performance of the Indian economy, lists out the various public services that are plagued with the mire of corruption. This includes industries of transport, real estate, illegal mining, government procurement, agriculture, forestry and logging, fishing, registered manufacturing, electricity, gas and water supply, construction, trade, hotels and restaurants, railways, storage, communication, and banking and insurance. Well, reading the exhaustive list, it occurred to me that it would be a lot easier to point out where corruption does not happen in this country than the other way around! It is sad that India’s economic growth is undermined by corruption that permeates the entire warp and weft of the nation.

Today, though there are anti-corruption laws, they are toothless and powers that be can easily circumvent them, break them with impunity, sneak away through loop holes and walk out of prisons & courts with ease. Coming out of prisons, they target whistle blowers (we have had so many – Manjunath Shanmugham, Shehla Masood, Niyamat Ansari – just to mention a few names that cannot be forgotten) and meticulously eliminate them, leaving no traces. RTI activists find themselves at the receiving end.

Where does all this leave us? Surely the need of the hour is a strong Lokpal Bill which will ensure stringent punishment to those who indulge in corruption of any kind. Let us all support it in every possible way. Let us hope that we are able to chain the monster of corruption and signal the awakening of the giant that India is – thanks to her man power, resources and timeless national values. Let’s remove the blot on this land which has “Satyameva Jayate” (meaning Truth alone triumphs, from the ancient scripture – Mundaka Upanishad) as its motto.

I want to end this post on a very optimistic note borrowing the immortal lines of John Keats in the Ode to the West Wind.

“The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”

Sharing Resources

This post is dedicated to all Teachers. In this 21st Century education scenario, there is so much material that is available on the net. My purpose is to share these resources with you so that you can enrich your teaching as well as provide your students a fine learning experience. After all you are dealing with the digital age learner!

Here is a long list of websites you can look into for resources. Each website has other links and you can go on and on into an exploratory journey into how materials can be used in your classroom and weaved into your lesson plan. This and some creativity will surely be a magic wand for you to look at classroom activity and resources in a new light. Explore and make interesting learning connections for students!

http://www.teachingideas.co.uk/ Good teaching ideas for Primary 
http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dg3mtjfp_12fq9wkn&pli=1 Teaching ideas which can be used across the curriculum 
http://english-avenue.com/index.php  Printable ESL Kids activities 
http://www.ei-india.com/  ASSET exams and other articles on education & teaching 
http://teachingenglishgames.com/  100s of ideas to make EFL / ESL teaching easier & fun. 
Multiple Intelligence – finding out about you. 
http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/index.html Concept to Classroom. Tapping into Multiple Intelligence
http://www.chariho.k12.ri.us/curriculum/MISmart/stndunit.html  Multiple Intelligence integrated units 
http://www.chariho.k12.ri.us/curriculum/MISmart/tools.html  Multiple Intelligence teaching tools 
http://www.visuwords.com/          Online graphical dictionary 
http://www.manythings.org/  ESL with CALL computer assisted language learning 
 http://www.learnnc.org/        K-12 teaching & learning
 http://www.earobics.com/  Helping readers reach
 http://www.cdlponline.org/  For reading & life skills
 http://www.nationmaster.com/education.php  Link to Revision Checklist: Population dynamics and general
http://www.tutor2u.net/  For economics and Business Studies
http://www.thetimes100.co.uk/ Teaching business studies by example
http://www.sitesforteachers.com/ A comprehensive list of sites for teachers
http://teachers.teach-nology.com/ A web portal on the best sites for teachers

If there is any link that is broken, please let me know via the comments column. I will endeavour to give you the correct one. 

An Icon to Emulate

2012 will dawn soon without the remarkable services of an Icon who is stepping down…Do you know whom???
His name springs to any Indian’s mind when you speak about the Delhi Metro.
Ever heard of E Sreedharan, guys & girls?
So what about him? Many people step down…This stepping down is different. He is turning almost 80!
And he is still working? Yes…
That is why he is an Icon. I write icon with a capital I because in a great nation like India where there are billions of people and where there are hardly few whom the young like you can look up to (thanks to our netas and babus), here is one who made a difference by being in within the system and remaining unaffected by the system.
The Wikipedia page on Mr. Sreedharan speaks of an astonishing anecdote: “In 1963, a cyclone washed away parts of Pamban Bridge that connected Rameshwaram to mainland Tamil Nadu. The Railways set a target of six months for the bridge to be repaired while Sreedharan’s boss, under whose jurisdiction the bridge came, reduced it to three months. Sreedharan was put in-charge of the execution and he restored the bridge in just 46 days.”
An engineer with the Indian Railways, he was the architect behind the successful commissioning of the Konkan Railways. When there were hardly any links connecting the commercial capital of India – Mumbai – with the southern states of India, a 760 kilometre railway track was conceived, crossing many mountains, rivers and streams, along the Konkan Coast. With over 2000 bridges and a maze of nearly 100 tunnels, the project was a mammoth one given that it would be over undulating terrain. Truly an engineering marvel!!! It was executed in such a clinical way that it took only about 7 years to complete it. Mr. Sreedharan felt it could have been completed about a couple of years before but for the Harshad Mehta scam that shook the financial edifice of the country at that time.
From Konkan Raliways to head the Delhi Metro was an even more challenging affair and that too to remove the travel woes of the people in the national capital Delhi. Now as he steps down, he leaves a void – one that no one can fill in!
What is the success of Mr. E. Sreedharan? What can you emulate from him that can make you too successful?
On extensively reading about him, methinks it is this acronym: INSPIRE. In fact his middle name is INSPIRE! And pray, how does he INSPIRE?
Innovate: Sreedharan innovated in every field possible – financial, technological and managerial. At a time when the practice was to use only money from the government treasury to fund projects, he innovated by raising public bonds for funds! This is just one – his professional life is replete with such practical innovations.
Nurture: He nurtured the spirit of togetherness in his team. He practised and stressed on the fact that it is imperative to work towards common goals and the paramount one was of the well being of the society at large. 
Spiritual: Sreedharan clarifies that being spiritual is not religious. It is the respect and empathy you have for every living thing in this universe. “The essence of spirituality is to make a person pure in his mind and his thoughts.”
Professional: He is very professional and believes that to be successful in professional life one must have certain attitude and commitment to values. Sreedharan achieves timely completion of projects by dividing the project between sub-managers and giving them each a deadline and reviews daily progress reports. He also meets with top staff and consultants on a weekly basis. Every department displays a digital board that displays the date of completion of the next target. For him, ‘work is worship’ and he is known for his consistency and deliverance throughout his entire career tenure.
Integrity: Donning a crisp white shirt and an affable smile, Sreedharan is the epitome of everything that is punctual & honest. In the six decades of yeoman service to the nation, there has not even been a single instance where his integrity seemed questionable. In a world getting increasingly devoid of integrity, he is confident that a change will happen. In fact, he has gone a step ahead in that direction, forming a group of like-minded people to launch the Foundation for Restoration of National Values (FRNV).
Role Model: In his professional as well as personal life, Sreedharan is a role model. He walks his talk. It is said that he was offered lucrative jobs globally, some even about sixty times what he earns, yet unfazed, he stood by his passion and ideals. Such role models are very hard to come by. Very rarely do we come across role models who radiate remarkable success as well as impeccable character and virtues.
Enthusiasm: Passion for what one does is what generates enthusiasm. Sreedharan brims with vim and vigour. It is this that gives him the focus to go on even at a ripe age of 79!
And when he steps down from the top job as Managing Director of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, the nation salutes him – for being a trend setter, a change agent and more importantly a wonderful role model for youngsters to emulate.
So what are the lessons to learn from the life of this man who takes on high-tech complex projects, but leads a simple lifestyle? He is said to be a vegetarian and a frugal eater who doesn’t consume milk products.
Innovate, think and take the untrodden path.
Nurture in yourself the spirit of teamwork for common good.
Spirituality provides you the right kind of values to succeed.
Professional ethics determines your success as a leader.
Integrity gives magnetic charm to your personality.
Role Model – be one and practice what you preach.
Enthusiasm is infectious & generates focussed work.
You will be an employee in the near future. I sincerely hope that ES will INSPIRE you too to be a transformational leader and who knows, an ICON, too!!!
(I am proud to say that I share two things with this great Icon – he is from Palakkad in Kerala and studied at Government Victoria College, Palakkad – Me too!!! J)
Sources:

Scaffolding in Education

Scaffolding is usually a term used by the construction industry. However it has also been used by educators for over 15 years now. Scaffolding in education is a temporary support mechanism and is essential in teaching students new information. It consists of examples and instruction given by the teacher, guided practice with students and eventual mastery of a skill.
Origin
The concept of scaffolding originates from Lev Vigotsky’s theory, the “zone of proximal development.” Scaffolding is defined as what a child can do alone and what he can do with the help of an experienced adult.
What Is Scaffolding?
A “scaffold” in this sense is used temporarily, then removed, to help pupils complete challenging tasks. It offers support until the student can stand alone with his own mastery of the skill involved.
Scaffolding in Education
Teachers use scaffolding as a tool daily in their classrooms. First they demonstrate a task or skill to students, then they provide assistance as the student works toward independent mastery.
Transfer of Responsibility
The ultimate goal of scaffolding in education is to transfer the responsibility from the teacher to the student. While students may need initial assistance, eventually educators want them to complete a task on their own.
Classroom Example
An example of scaffolding in the classroom setting could include a teacher first instructing her children on how to write a sentence using commas and conjunctions. As the week goes on, she has her students practice writing these sentences with peers, gives students feedback and eventually has the kids to complete this skill without her guidance.
Scaffolded instruction may best be understood as a sequence of prompted content, materials, and teacher or peer support to facilitate learning. The emphasis is placed on the teacher the student in the learning process with individual prompting and guidance, which is tailored to the specific needs of the individual student to offer just enough support (i.e. scaffold) for the student in a new task. The student is initially considered an apprentice in the learning effort; thus too little support leaves the student stranded and unable to comprehend the assigned work and complete the task, whereas too much support would prohibit the student from independently mastering the task. Therefore, the level of support must be specifically tailored to the student’s ever-changing understanding of the subject/topic/problem. Also, that support would gradually be withdrawn, allowing the student to eventually “own” the task performance.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
 A Scaffolding Example: The Story Map

Name ______________________                                                           Date _______
Story Title: __________________________________________________________
The story setting was __________________________________________________
The main character was ________________________________________________
Other characters were _________________________________________________
The problem began when _______________________________________________
Then several important things happened ___________________________________
After that ___________________________________________________________
The problem was solved by ______________________________________________
The story ends when ___________________________________________________
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Guidelines for Effective Scaffolding
  • Identify what students know: Effective scaffolding requires that teachers are cognizant of what a student already knows (background or prior knowledge) and of the students’ misconceptions.
  • Begin with what students can do: Be aware of individual student ability levels. Provide tasks which can be independently handled or with little teacher assistance to students with learning disabilities (LD).
  • Help students achieve success quickly: Accommodation is the word here. Help students with LDs in whatever little way so that they can cherish their success.
  • Help students to “be” like everyone else: Students with LDs have an overwhelming desire to be regarded like other students. Assure them assistance at the same time & provide it whenever required.
  • Know when it’s time to stop: Overkill erases. Continued drill and practice may not be effective. Ensure systematic review and purposeful practice.
  • Help students be independent when they have command of the activity: Effective scaffolding means that teachers need to listen and watch for clues from their students as to when teacher assistance is, or is not needed. Obviously, teachers do not want students to fail, but they should not allow students to become too dependent on the teacher. Teachers need to help their students gradually move from teacher assistance to student independence as students demonstrate command of the task or activity.
Source of the example: Differentiating Instruction for Students with Learning Disabilities: Best Practices for General and Special Educators by William D Pender

Why "Luminesce"?

Words are such magical things! 

I have chosen the word Luminesce as the name for a blog for the student community because it aptly captures what today’s students need. If you check the online dictionary it means: 

Main Entry:
luminesce /ˌluhttp://sp.dictionary.com/dictstatic/dictionary/graphics/luna/thinsp.pngməˈnɛs/ http://sp.dictionary.com/dictstatic/g/d/dictionary_questionbutton_default.gif Show Spelled
Part of Speech:
verb
Definition:
glow
Synonyms:
be suffused, blare, blazeblush, brighten, color,crimsonfillflame*, 
flareflushgleamglimmer,glisten, glitterignite, incandesce, kindle
light, mantle, pink*, pinken, redden, rose, rouge, shine*,smolder, thrill
tingle, twinkle
Look up Luminesce in the link below (a screen shot of which is given). 


The two key words are “shine” and “reflect”. If you shine and reflect, you will luminesce.
These two words are very important for you are tomorrow’s leaders. The 21st century world beckons you and has pinned its hopes on you…

That you will be trail blazers, flame kindlers, torch bearers…

That you will flare hopes, gleam, glimmer, glisten and ignite genuine passion

That you will don mantles with mettle, rise and then shine

That you will smoulder at inequalities and injustice

That you will be your own twinkling little star!

To “Shine” in your chosen field you need to have the required knowledge. True Google is God with you; yet you need to know what is true knowledge – I mean sift chaff from grain.

To “Shine” in your work place, you need to be more than anything else a fine human being.

You need terrific inter personal skills.

You must be a lifelong learner & keep updating your skills.

You must be a fine team player.

You must be sustainable in your thoughts, words and deeds.

To “Reflect” all these, you must eloquently model them.

You must have in you the spirit of sharing.

You must be a happy person with a positive outlook.

You must persist and persevere.

You must remove the scars of yesterday and the fears of tomorrow – live for today!

Hopefully I will endeavour to provide insights into all these for you.

Cheers & wishes for a happy journey of life ahead!!

Notes from Roger Gower, Diane Philips & Steve Walters: TEACHING PRACTICE

These tips will keep you in good stead when dealing with colleagues as well as your students:

Behaving professionally with colleagues:
  • Clean the board when you finish
  • If you rearrange the furniture, return the room to the state you found it in 
  • Return borrowed materials
  • Start and finish lessons on time
  • Make sure you know how to use the machinery. Try not to break it & if the worst does happen, report it.
 Improve your Attitude in the Classroom:
  • Smile – it shows a friendly attitude and warms the students to you.
  • Respond to what students say as communication – respond naturally and show interest in what they say
  • Find out about students, get to know them; address them by name. 
  • Take time, show interest in both the learning & the personal interests of the students. Talk to them before and after the lesson. Notice if they are absent.
  • Try to enjoy their company as a group
  • Show them that you are enjoying teaching them
Use eye contact to manage the class:
  • To ensure students have understood what they are supposed to do & know what is going on
  • To indicate who is to speak
  • To encourage ideas during eliciting ideas / responses
  •  To show a student who is talking that you are taking notice
  • To keep in touch with students – especially those whom you are not dealing with at that time
  • To stop, to hurry up or to signal an activity like pair work
  • To check everyone is participating
Use students’ names:
  • Helps to establish rapport; it creates a friendly cooperative atmosphere
  • Shows you are interested in them as people
  • Makes possible to discuss students with colleagues / superiors
How to learn names:
  • Get students to introduce each other and go around the class in random order, saying their names aloud to check if you remember
  • Keep a register and call out if needed to learn names
  • Associate names with physical features
  • Use names consciously in the first few lessons
  • Finally, if you can’t remember a name, admit it and ask!
How to make instructions effective
  • Use simple language & short expressions
  • Be consistent
  • Use visual or written clues
  • Demonstrate
  • Break the instructions down
  • Target your instructions
  • Be decisive and use words as signals, like Right / Listen etc.
Why are pair work & group work useful?
  • Gives students more valuable talk time for practice, especially language
  • Allows you to withdraw and monitor individual performances
  • Encourages rapport between students
  • Increases cooperation and independent of teacher
  • Gives opportunity for shy / unconfident students to participate
  • Provides change in pace
  • Adds variety to a lesson
How to monitor Group Work
  • Stand back
  • Quickly check
  • Don’t interrupt unless there is a real need
  • Spread your attention
  • Be easily accessible
  • Feed in ideas only if needed
  • Provide encouragement & be positive
  • Give correction and / or gather data for feedback
How to establish rapport and maintain discipline
  • Have the right style that suits your personality
  • Don’t prejudge a class
  • Enjoy your job / look as if you enjoy your job
  • Be positive about the activities and materials you are using
  • Show personal interest in students
  • Personalize materials and activities
  • Respond and react to what students say
  • Be interested in their progress
  • Ask for comments on the class
How to gain respect from your student
  • Be punctual
  • Be well prepared for the lesson
  • Return homework promptly
  • Do what you say you are going to do
  • Treat students & people consistently and fairly
  • Try not to let your personal feelings about individual students influence the way you treat them as members of the group
  • Don’t ignore their problems
  • Never make threats you are never able or prepared to carry out
  • Never lose your temper
How can you encourage students to write?

Have a positive & cooperative attitude towards writing: encourage real writing tasks; plan sufficient writing tasks; encourage peer discussion & advice; give encouraging feedback; be selective about the mistakes you are going to mark so that you don’t have to mark every single mistake made; display finished tasks in a class file / wall

Prepare students for writing: brainstorm / help gather ideas; talk about layouts

Structure writing tasks: plan writing activities carefully so that there is controlled/ guided / free writing; provide clear models; monitor carefully; show that you think neat, accurate writing is important.
Plan guided and freer practice carefully.

Guidelines for a process writing activity: 

Introduction – stimulate interest through a listening / reading text / speaking activity such as role play, visuals etc. Create a situation where a piece of writing is required. Discuss text type – letter / poster / essay / report etc. Think about reader(s). Who are they? What will interest them? What do they need to know?
Working with ideas – get ideas from students through brainstorming / using word pools / word clouds / mind maps etc. Note down ideas. Develop the ideas. Choose those ideas to keep and those to be rejected. Order the ideas. 
Planning – remind students of format of text types. 
Drafting – encourage them to write drafts in pairs. 
Reviewing / editing – students correct and improve their first draft. They look at content, language, accuracy, organization, style etc. At this stage you can take the work in and make comments. 
Re-writing – students write out the final version and submit to the teacher for checking & assessment.