Education in India: Miles to Go!

Two events that happened one after the other have put the spotlight on our education system. What ails it? Where are we now? Quo Vadis???

On 15th January, the global rankings of the 73 countries that participated in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conducted Programme for International Assessment (PISA) was released. PISA is annual exam administered to 15-year olds to evaluate educational systems worldwide in Reading, Math and Science. The penultimate position, i.e. 72nd was that of India only overcoming Kyrgyzstan! Second from last!!!

China’s Shanghai province, which participated in PISA for the first time, scored the highest in reading. It also topped the charts in mathematics and science.”More than one-quarter of Shanghai’s 15 year olds demonstrated advanced mathematical thinking skills to solve complex problems, compared to an OECD average of just 3%,” noted the analysis.

On 16th January the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2011 was released. The seventh ASER of rural India by the NGO Pratham nearly validates what the PISA analysis has revealed. Reading and Math skills amongst 6-14 year olds are on the wane. Academic levels have declined. Enrolment in schools has increased but attendance is deficient. While enrolment has increased in private schools, there is great deal of dependence on private tuitions. Considering that 70% of India’s population lives in its rural regions the report needs to be closely looked into to stem the rot. Even before we do that we need to understand what ails our educational system.

At this juncture I am reminded of the findings of yet another study done in urban schools by Education Initiatives and Wipro. Called the Quality Education Study (QES), it covered over 23000 students, 790 teachers, 54 Principals and 83 ‘top’ schools across Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai were part of this survey. This one too, which was released late in 2011, revealed disconcerting facts. All these children came from educated and affluent families, and the schools they went to had all facilities and were technologically savvy. Yet these children showed signs of rote learning. They lacked critical thinking skills, higher order thinking skills, creativity and hardly responded about current social, cultural, civic and ecological issues. So things are not fine at the urban level too.

All this made me look into the Finnish model of education which has come for immense praise globally. I will write about that in my next post.

The Power a Teacher Wields

“If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some who didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor or lawyer or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.”
~~~ Donald D. Quinn ~~~

Teachers are the change agents of the future. They train young minds and lay foundation for the future. It is a challenging task with diverse kinds of learners with even more diverse backgrounds and cultures in the melting pot of a classroom. Yet, the power of a classroom teacher is enormous. This is why Henry Brooks Adams said that the teacher affects eternity; he can never tell, where his influence stops.

Yesterday I was chatting with a friend who also happens to be the mother of a teenager. After discussions about all and sundry, the conversation veered to school, learning and of course teaching. She shared some insights into the nature of teachers at large in a classroom. And that brought me to write this post on teachers’ conduct inside classrooms.

Imagine these scenes.
Location – many Indian Schools especially board exam classes.
Time: January & February as many Boards have final exams in March / April. (This can happen in any class at any time, but when the fear of exams looms large, it impacts young minds more.)

Case 1: Teacher walks into a classroom. A revision lesson is in progress. The teacher has set a target for revision and starts the QA session. Children answer questions. Then a Q is asked to one student who has not been doing well academically. The child is not able to answer. The teacher launches a tirade. She starts from how hard parents work and struggle to send the child to school and ends with accusing the child of not being responsible enough.

Case 2: Teacher walks in and asks questions. This time the first student to whom the question is asked is unable to answer it. The result – the teacher literally flies off the handle and screams at students. She says she is already stressed out and swears that she does not need more. (A smarty mumbles in an undertone – “is your board exam writing child also giving you trouble like us???”)

Case 3: This teacher is also revising lessons. Whenever students don’t answer questions she goes into hype about how well her own children did when it came to studies. They never gave her trouble like these students. Why can’t you be like that? She rants.

Mind you these are no hyperboles. Let’s accept that these do happen in Indian schools and classrooms. Now look at the effect these responses / reactions make in children.

Case 1: The entire class empathizes with their peer and shuts out the tirade. They switch off. The class gives the teacher a blank ‘there-she-starts-again’ look. The teacher has lost and antagonized the whole class. It takes real effort now to get the transaction back to “I-am-ok and you-are-ok” again.

Case 2: The teacher conveys her own stress levels and reveals the picture of a totally not-in-control kind of person. Instead of having her students look at her in respect and with dignity, her body language conveys the message that when one is angry one raves and rants and that it is okay. Children covertly and overtly make fun of her.

Case 3: The teacher here demonstrates a grave mistake that many including parents make – that of comparing children. When even siblings show enormous differences betwixt each other, the teacher expects her diverse class to be like her child!

It goes without saying that these are totally negative strategies for the classroom. Raving and ranting in the classroom has never ever succeeded in its mission – be it making students learn or behave better. The earlier we stop this the better for us. Or else just like how corporal punishment is a crime now, teachers will soon be made accountable for mental harassment in classrooms.

As a teacher I always believed that we need to leave our baggage outside the classroom – be it mental or emotional. Approach the class without preconditions and judgements. Each class is a clean slate. And when we leave the classroom, erase everything from the slate. Don’t carry it to the staff room and make a mockery of children. More than anything else, it shows us in poor light and in poor taste, as undignified human beings. Let us not be the kind wherein we have to say, “I taught them, but they did not learn!”

Research* proves that effective teachers have high energy and the ability to help all students learn—the low achievers, the average achievers, and the high achievers. So let us demonstrate this in our classrooms. The teacher has to be a fine human being in the classroom. Understanding, care and concern and empathy along with firmness of purpose are hallmarks of a fine teacher. Our small actions can have lasting impacts. Get our students to love us first. Then the love for the teacher will translate into the love for the subject. Without much effort, we can get our students to pay attention, listen, work hard and do well.

Exam times are times when students are highly stressed. Many parents convey their worries and stresses consciously or unconsciously to their children. Many a times they have over expectations about their own children. Poor children reel and double under this burden. And if at this time the teacher also unleashes verbal whiplashes, it is grave injustice to children. We teach them violence in one form or the other through these seemingly simple actions.

Each child is an uncut diamond. Let us love them, understand them, care for them, empathize with them and through these polish the rough edges in them. Then they will shine, love us, love our subjects and bring for them, their parents, us and our schools glory. Such children will make a great society and a fine nation. Isn’t this then the aim of education?

Sources:

*Wright, Horn, & Sanders, ’97 in “Teacher and Classroom Context Effects on Student Achievement: Implications for Teacher Evaluation” in the Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education

Active Learning: Part 2

According to Wendy Pillars, who calls herself an armchair neuro-scientist, it is time that we, teachers, realized that we are the only professionals whose job it is to physically alter a child’s brain daily. Judy Willis, accomplished neuroscientist-turned-teacher, refers to a teacher’s work as a form of “bloodless brain surgery.” Here’s how it happens at a basic level according to her:

“If a child takes in information through her sensory pathways and her brain makes the decision to keep that knowledge, the integrative process takes over and makes sense out of that learning as she sleeps.

This consolidation occurs when neurons transmit messages to one another. The messages must cross microscopic chasms between the neurons—laboriously at first, and then more quickly with each subsequent moment of access.

Eventually the learning is connected to several points within a denser and denser web of neurons, easing the information retrieval process for the conscious learner.”

As teachers, we must understand that a neural pathway is like a new path in the woods. The more frequently that a neural pathway is travelled, the fewer the obstacles, the greater its capacity, and the smoother and faster it becomes.

This means that we must help our students make connections to prior experiences, knowledge, and learning—and connections to other curricular areas. The more connections we make in class, the more we are physically altering our students’ brains by creating and strengthening neural pathways.

Knowing this, it becomes all the more crucial to maximize learning opportunities during the 1,050 hours our students are with us during the school year. So the first way to engage students in active learning is through interactive teaching.

What is Interactive Teaching? Do we do these in our classes?
In the course of explanation, do we ask students questions & encourage answers from them?
Do we ask them to work on a problem to gain clarity on the concept?
Do we pose a question and elicit a series or responses / engage pupils in a discussion?
Do we initiate pair work / group work / whole class work?
Do we assign class work and walk through looking & giving feedback to pupils?

If we have answered with “yes” to all these questions, we are already indulging in Interactive Teaching.

Students learn well what they construct for themselves. We as teachers can only show them the way. They have to take in information, make connections, interpret and make sense of their learning. Therefore interactive teaching help teachers to understand what students have in them as prior knowledge as well as how much of what we have shared they have taken in. Besides learning and making connections is hard and complex work that can only be accomplished by students if they have motivation through a lively and thought provoking task. This sparks the brain into action and serves as a tool that helps make connections. Thus when teachers ask students to work together in small groups to solve a problem, the discussion that ensues not only serves in itself to build more robust knowledge structures, but also helps to motivate. The anticipation of immediate feedback in the form of reaction from their peers, or from the teacher is a very strong motivator. Moreover, when the classroom is not embarrassing or threatening, students are eager to know whether their understanding is concretizing or just drifting aimlessly in mid air. The teacher’s challenge of not allowing them to drift too far off track provides tremendous energy to continue.

Let us therefore do some thinking in this direction and engage our students interactively in order to spur active learning.

Active Learning – Part I

Recently I read about an interesting campaign. STOP MUGGING, START LEARNING CAMPAIGN! It is a movement aimed at creating an education system that promotes learning and not mugging. To surge ahead in time in this new world of possibilities, we need better minds. We need to change the way we think and help pupils under our care realize that that they need to really learn. Students must learn for learning’s sake and not just to pass an examination or earn a grade. Unless we start in our classrooms this change will be a dream.

To have effective teaching and learning in our classrooms, we must engage our students actively. When we are progressing with our lesson, are our students actively engaged or passively listening? Do we find students sitting with blank expressions on their faces? Do we find students engaged in other activities? Passing notes & chits? Giggles and wriggles?? If yes, it’s time to pause. Reflect. Relook at the classroom strategies we use. Introspect on the tasks / strategies we use. Jot them down in a sheet of paper / journal.

Unless students take ownership of their learning, they cannot assimilate what they have learnt. They must be attentive and respond to suitably phrased questions that you ask. Ever wondered how to create this kind of a classroom where students actively learn and engage with their learning?

To enhance classroom teaching and learning we have to step outside our comfort zone. We must undertake new strategies that help us to sample different approaches and thereby cater to varied needs. It keeps our teaching fresh, savoury and our students and we continue to learn.

As teachers we are expected to teach. Does this just mean taking centre-stage as the know-all and rattle off at our pace? What then is our role as teachers? Times have changed so much that our students are techno savvy and many a time we depend on them for this. A teacher’s role has undergone a sea change. In the 21st century classroom the teacher dons many hats – that of a facilitator, a guide, a moderator, a classroom manager and an overseer.

Students need to be involved in their work, whether that means a lab experiment or a role play or a seminar or an essay assignment. Teacher-facilitated and student-centered activities bring energy to the classroom. In the eyes of our students, we are showing them the benefits of the lesson in a more concrete way by using active learning strategies.

Thanks to television and commercials, we are all trained for frequent breaks – in fact research says that today’s child expects one every eight minutes. This is why it is essential to have at least two activities lined up for a 40 minute class. A lecture for more than 15 minutes without an activity brings about deadpan expression in them. It is worth remembering that the average attention span of our students is the average age of the class. Teachers in younger classes must therefore use active learning strategies naturally as they are a necessity for their own survival in the classroom. If we divide our lessons into smaller intervals mixing some teacher-centered ideas with student-centered activities, students engage well in learning the material and active learning happens. Teacher-centered learning strategies however also do have a bearing on a daily basis in the classroom.

When we add activities to enhance learning we add perceptible value to our own teaching and the learning of students. This then sparks energy and enthusiasm in the class. Ask them questions frequently. This will again keep them engaged in the learning. By being in touch with our learners’ perspectives we can make any subject come alive to them. Achieving objectives then becomes a student goal, rather than a teacher goal. Pupils then take onus for their learning. Life skills are developed and expanded and communication skills are emphasized.

As educators, when we thus become more alert and responsive to the needs of our students, our subject comes alive to each and every learner. Simply put, the students enjoy it! And with that learning simply becomes active and with ownership!!

Shall we make a beginning ??? STOP MUGGING & START LEARNING!

(The next post will deal with some strategies to make learning active.)

Confessions of a Novice-Meditator!

I have had a see-saw relationship with Meditation till very recently. I have been initiated into a variety of meditations including Transcendental Meditation (TM) which had in fact created waves all around the globe and has been validated by over 600 scientific studies by institutes, Universities and colleges over nearly four decades. However, the crux of the matter is that I have not been able to do regular meditation for I got busy with the goings on of day-to-day existence and life. Each time I learnt a meditation I would do it enthusiastically for a few days and then the activity would lose its sheen. Like a rubber band, I would stretch myself and come back to the point where I started and back to square one – a thoroughly Arian trait, wherein I lose steam and go for something new that captures my eye.
Meditation or “Dhyana” has been an age old practice. In fact Hindu religious texts even as old as 2000-3000 BC are replete with descriptions of instances of meditation indulged in by Gods, Hermits and Seers. Buddhism, which the eminent philosopher-cum-former Indian president Dr. Radhakrishnan says, “in its origin at least is an offshoot of Hinduism” also had meditation as a key practice to cultivate tranquilty (Samatha) and insightfulness (Vipassana). Yoga Sutras and Patanjali also speak eloquently of the innumerable benefits of Meditation.
Synchronicity is the coming together of inner and outer events in a way that cannot be explained by cause and effect and that is meaningful to the observer, said Carl Jung. I read of the word Synchronicity in “Synchrodestiny: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence to Create Miracles” where Dr. Deepak Chopra says that there is no strange coincidences. Everything happens for a purpose. The word Synchronicity itself was coined by Carl Jung and refers to an apparently meaningful coincidence in time of two or more events that are causally unrelated. In a society where we need validation and proof to believe things, we find it difficult to believe in synchronicity. We think that things don’t happen out of the blue. But I am convinced that the latest meditation came to me through the magic of synchronicity.  
Jobs took me to different places and now I am in the UAE. Being an administrator in education, like any other profession, I too feel the heat of work stress. The frenzied pace of life here can really get to you if you allow it to. Then you would end up day in and day out poring over Microsoft Outlook & responding to the messages, planning a host of things to improve teaching and learning, activities – curricular & extracurricular – and also engage teams in professional development. When this kind of a life started affecting my health and mental well being adversely, I took a vow a couple of months back – that on reaching home after over 10 hours of work, I will not check office mail / do official work. I realized that with a little planning and organization I can actually make this happen. When I succeeded in this, I must say it brought a broad grin to my face and a spring to my steps. I now had free time for myself – the most important investment that one can make in the hustle and bustle of life.
Initially I was able to stick to my decision but gradually work pressure started stalking me again. By end on November, I realized with consternation that even my sleep pattern was getting affected plus the tell tale black rings around my eyes. It was difficult to video chat with near and dear ones – for all were asking me what I was doing to myself! One such night I woke up at 3.45 am. Sleep evaded me and I tossed & turned. I switched on my mobile phone and heard the click of a message in my gmail inbox – the wireless was on. It was from Isha Foundation – I am a subscriber to their newsletter. Scrolling down, my eyes were riveted to a title – ISHA KRIYA – Video of the month. What attracted me most was the very enchanting tagline – BE BREATHE BLOSSOM. Having been initiated into yoga, I am more than aware of the power of the breath. By now, I was wide awake. I clicked the link and it took me to http://www.ishafoundation.org/Ishakriya It said, “Learn Isha Kriya now, View and Download Free”. There was a sign-up post for keying in your name, email address and country. I entered the details. Barely within a minute, I heard another click. Another mail had come to my inbox. As expected, another one from Isha with the download link. I downloaded the audio link with its introduction. By then it was 4.10 am. Listening to the introduction made me want to do the meditation and the next 20 odd minutes was spent on that. A new feeling coursed through my veins. The only “Guru Dakshina” so to speak was the resolve to do the meditation, twice a day for the next 48 days (a Mandala) or once a day for the next 90 days. I decided to go for the former. Thus from 4th December onwards I have been religiously investing time on this meditation twice a day – immediately after I wake up and just before I go to bed.
What benefit have accrued unto me, sceptics and cynics may ask. I have become much more composed. Peaceful, nay, serene should be the right word. I have more clarity of thought and vision. There are times when I feel an extra surge of energy coursing through my veins and especially activating the energy centres or Chakras. I am happy most of the time and have practically stopped worrying. I even perceive that I engage myself in some kind of mindfulness while doing my daily chores which I earlier used to do very mechanically – in fact, so mechanically that sometimes I won’t even remember to have done it at all. From pre-hypertension readings of 130/90 my blood pressure has stabilized to a healthy & robust 120/70! I definitely feel the compelling urge to continue all my good practices. So now I go for walks in the nearby Al Ittihad Park, find time for prayers, reading, blogging, and of course for meditation! What more can I ask for? And I am grateful that I stumbled upon Isha Kriya at a time when I needed it the most. If this is not synchronicity, I don’t know what else is!
PS: As I finish this post, I just saw this link on my FB wall courtesy, Music for Deep Meditation, a page that I have liked. http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2006/02/meditation-found-to-increase-brain-size/?fb_ref=sidebar%2F This should help all the scoffers! 😛 And methinks this is yet another… yes, you said it, SYNCHRONICITY!!!

Acing Examinations!

April is the cruellest month . . .” begins the first line of The Waste Land, the signature modernist-434-line poem by T.S. Eliot, one of my favourite poets. I will amend this to say March too, for that’s the month for examinations; truly cruel to you, dear students! This is the month which makes/mars you, in a society where examinations have become a necessary evil. There is no short cut to success may sound so very clichéd. Well, this is the first thing you should remember when you are preparing for examinations. Gear& revise well. Note that you need to prepare differently for different types of tests/exams. Competitive exams need long term preparation; final exams need systematic preparation while your school level exams may need preparation of weeks. 

Prepare a good time table.
Many students don’t know how to prepare study time table. Many a time they prepare a time table that is lop-sided – studying their favourite subjects over and over again and neglecting their difficult subjects/topics. In fact, it pays well to spend more time on the latter. The attitude should be – there is no getting away from this difficult subject/exam; therefore I might as well learn it well. Studying for exams doesn’t mean that you get rooted to your study desk. Give room for relaxation, entertainment and short breaks. There is a limit to how much you can absorb in a given time. 
Never fear or hate a subject/exam and be confident.
When you sit in front of your book with fear & hatred, be sure that it will affect your performance. Some students study well but still may be much afraid of exams. They get tense and even go completely blank before an examination. This results in poor scores / scores below one’s actual potential. So let go all your fears and free your mind before starting your study. You have to be confident and it is the most essential power you should have for attaining victory. This positive climate that is created helps not only in proper understanding but also in retaining what you study.
Where you study matters!
The study atmosphere must be conducive to learning. Do you think you can watch TV and study? Listen to loud music and study? You may say it is possible, but you won’t understand much through this exercise. So it is essential to select a place where you feel comfortable, relaxed and can concentrate. Make sure that while you are studying you are focussed.Some students can even get distracted by books that they have to learn – other subjects. They suddenly feel that they have not revised enough of this or that in that book. Early mornings and late nights are most preferred according when all the surroundings will be in silence and you can concentrate more. Even a mirror in the room or a window facing the road can distract you from your sole purpose.
Distractions galore!!
Today we live in a world where there are too many gadgets around us to distract. So be away from distracting things like story books (if you are an avid reader – e-books and Kindle too 🙂 ), I-Pods, mobile phones, PSP stations and game boys, computers, internet & social networking as well as television. Even having too many friends can be a distraction while you are on study leave. Imagine the phone calls and the status updates and the newest version of the Angry Birds!!! How can you study anything at all with these things in mind? So play cool, lie low. You can bounce back with more vim and vigour after the examinations are over.
Posture:
Posture is very important while studying. Don’t study lying, crouching on your bed or lying on a chair. Sitting straight with your spine erect keeps you alert and is also good for your posture. Do not keep your legs on the table and above the head level. This will affect the blood flow direction and cause drowsiness.
Note-making while studying:
While studying it is good to make brief notes so that you can remember all points while doing revision with the help of that note. Remember, the operative word is points not grammatically correct sentences. An ideal note shall include all important formulae and figures and also other important points.
Sleep well.
Many students resort to last minute studying and burn the midnight oil. You have to sleep well. Sleep deprivation studies shows that you need to have at least 6 hours of sleep to act and think rationally. On the eve of the exam you need to sleep well, at least for 6 – 8 hrs. Remember this will have a great effect on your exam.
Eat healthily.
Did you know that breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner can all affect how you study, and in turn how your perform in an examination? In fact, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. And it is always better to steer clear of fatty & fried food at night. Many students are so tense on exam days that they skip their breakfast and in some cases even the previous night’s dinner. Fasting on exam days is counterproductive. Nutrition Scientist Claire MacEvilly explains why it’s important to maintain a balanced diet throughout the exam period. She says:
·        Although weighing only 2% of total body weight, the brain uses approximately 20% of the body’s energy at rest. This is why regular, nutritious meals are important during exam time.
·        The brain is powered by energy which comes from broken down food. The primary source of energy for the brain is glucose which comes from carbohydrate rich foods like breads and pasta. The brain’s energy stores are very small, so to keep it functioning at its best, it needs constant glucose replacement.
·        Food influences mood, but mood also influences food choice. There is no magic food to relieve stress, but we would recommend that you avoid skipping meals at all costs.
·        There is no such thing as good or bad foods for exams, or any other time of the year. There are however bad habits! Focusing on one particular food is a bad thing, so you shouldn’t really be eating vast amounts of one particular food.
Keep your body hydrated.
Your body is about 60 to 70 percent water. Blood is mostly water, and your muscles, lungs, and brain all contain a lot of water. You need water to regulate body temperature and to provide the means for nutrients to travel to your organs and tissues. Water also transports oxygen to your cells, removes waste, and protects your joints and organs. So drink at least 8-10 glasses of water every day. When I say water, it is just water – not sodas, coffee/tea or juices. And don’t forget to have a glass of water before you go to bed, for it is essential to keep your brain cells charged!!!
Just before the Exam.
Make sure you have taken to the hall your Hall Ticket, pen(s), pencil, rubber, scale, geometry box and so on. [It is always better to pack your bag on the previous night itself so that you don’t forget anything in a hurry the next morning.] “Neither a borrower or a lender be” (Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 3 line: 75), the famous line of the Bard, William Shakespeare is more apt in the examination hall than anywhere else. In any case, no examiner will allow you to borrow or lend! Once you get the writing sheets, fill in all the details with precision. Copy the correct roll number from your hall ticket. Before you get the question paper, sit quietly, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. This can calm your emotions, reduce stress and help yourself think more clearly. When you get the question paper read it well. CBSE gives you 15 minutes reading time and make the most out of it.
Write and Present well.
Examiners look out for specific answers so that they can give you marks, but they’d rather not search through a disorganized or illegible mass of writing to do so. They won’t give you extra marks just for writing a lot either, so answer the question and move on. Present your work legibly and in an organized way, with clearly labelled question numbers and diagrams. Whatever you studied or prepared your marks will depend on how you present them in the answer sheet. Remember evaluators go through 30 to 40 answer papers. They will scan for points. So try to present answers in points. In essay questions don’t forget tounderline the important points. Your hand writing also affects your marks. Write neatly. If it is not good enough, don’t worry, if you presented it in a good manner you can score more marks. Take care to manage time well and attempt all questions. If there is any question out of syllabus, you just attend it. Usually full marks are awarded for such questions.
Malpractice is taboo.
Never malpractice in exam hall as you won’t be allowed to continue the exam or it may even affect your marks. In some cases you will be barred from writing the examination for the next couple of years. Your future is doomed. Before entering the exam hall check your pencil case/pockets and ensure that there are none of your note-making sheets there. Even it is an inadvertent slip, CBSE considers this as malpractice. Besides, this year CBSE has circulated the names of students and schools who indulged in malpractice in the form of a booklet. It’s a shame for you, your parents, your teachers and your school. If you don’t know answer, don’t write. Keep in mind that you are writing exam for you, for yourself.
Believe in yourself.
Have faith and belief in yourself. YOU CAN DO IT!!! This confidence about what you can and will can always produce pleasant results.
Believe in the Higher Power.
Ask the Higher power to give you energy, wisdom, strength & courage to face the exam. Make sure your mind is free at least 5 minutes before exam. So avoid last minute rustling of pages.
After exam what?
If I were you, I won’t discuss soon after exams. The exam is over and there is no use spending time on a post mortem! This won’t do me well and may surely affect my forthcoming exams. If my friends are discussing question paper I would avoid them and get home soon. Have a good lunch and sleep for a couple of hours before I start with my next text / subject.
To conclude, do think about your parents, their difficulties and sufferings and how they care for you. You owe them much, don’t you? The best gift you can give them is by doing well in your exams. However, do also remember that you study not for them alone, but for your own rosy future. The next three months – slog it out and you would have made your future! Competition in India is nail-biting; therefore give your exams your best shot.
I began with T.S Eliot and the Waste Land [I remember I was so enamoured with this poem that I memorized all its 434 lines… and also the one and only Dr. P Achuthan, my English Professor at Government Victoria College, Palakkad and my former Principal, who taught us this revolutionary poem. I still remember that due to college teachers’ strike, he held his lessons at his home for the ten of us!!] – and am sorely tempted to end this post with the Shanti Path “O śānti śānti śānti”! May you do your exams well and may peace rein in your mind & homes!!

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः
This post is dedicated especially to all my senior girls at Our Own English High School, Sharjah.