Every child needs Special Ed

“We want our children to get the best education” – Most parents. But “Most Parents” have the idea of education skewed to such an extent that they compare it with grades. I recently met one of my clients who started discussing her daughter’s grades and she compared it with her classmate. But that led me to thinking – Do our exams test everything? No. They assess only memory. What if a child’s strength is dancing, or art, or athletics? How do our schools determine these aspects of a child’s life? Each child is different, so each child should get a personalized educational plan.

Assessment should be less restrictive as well. We should not limit tests to paper-pencil test. Alternate methods of assessment can also be used. Observations, on-field activity, analytical thinking matter too. Tests should also not be standardized as the learning pace of each child is different. So how can we make every child get special education?

Teachers can use newer techniques in teaching and try to practice blending learning. Questions can be more analytical which helps the child to think creatively and practically. Most important of all, teachers should create Personalized Educational Plan (PEP) for each child.

Prepare a PEP

To start off, you first need to have a team of people who know the student, to create a PEP.

PEP Team should have

  • The students’ class teacher
  • The school resource teacher / Special Educator / Counselor / Medical specialist
  • Parents/ Guardians
  • School administration (vice-principal, headmistress)

What should the PEP Team focus on?

  • Social and academic strengths of the student
  • Social and academic needs of the student
  • Educational goals and objectives for the coming year
  • Best way or combination of different assessments requires for the student

With the help of these steps, a teacher can enhance the strengths and address the needs by creating a plan with specific goals and objectives. The progress can be monitored while teaching takes place or after various assessments. Although planning of a PEP should take place before the course starts, regular planning and follow ups with parents and professionals is important to get the over all feedback of the child, which again helps with creating or improving the PEP.

(If you have created a PEP for your students, comment how it has helped you.)

Unwrap the “Secret” of menstruation

Menstruation has been a taboo topic in India. A majority do not want to talk about it, many woman are shamed or treated as untouchables during those days. When a girl begins her first menstrual cycle, she is just shown what to do and wear and that’s about it. I had a workshop in school recently about the menstrual cycle and the girls there had so many questions – Why do we have to sit separately? Why aren’t we allowed to go to the temple? Can we tell our dad if we get it? Why do we have to keep it a secret from males?

Why is it looked down upon?

That got me thinking. The menstrual cycle is a very natural process in a female human. She reaches puberty, hair start growing in places, breasts start growing and then the period. It is a completely normal thing a woman goes through. So then why is it that only the period is shamed? or kept secret? or makes a woman an untouchable? 

It is time we start teaching our children about accepting it as a part of a woman’s life. If we tell our children (boys or girls) from a young age, about the process of menstruation, they will get accustomed to the pubertal changes that happen in a woman and the “secret” would get diluted.

So, after I had finished the workshop and got home, my mother asked me a simple question. ‘How would you start talking about it?’. This may be a question many parents may be stuck with which makes it difficult to initiate the conversation.

So, here are some tips about how to start talking about puberty.

  1. Make the child feel comfortable about this topic. The child should understand that this is a natural process of growing up and there is nothing awkward or embarrassing about it.
  2. Start the conversation on a nice happy day when both of you have time, not when you or your child is stressed about something or in a hurry. Rushing the topic will lead to incomplete information and unanswered questions.
  3. Use scientific terms. Instead of using baby names or slang such as “pee pee” or “hoohaa”, it is better to use scientific words.
  4. If you have a son, explain why it is important for a girl to get her period. Give him details about it because it would help your child to respect a woman more.

(If you have any tips you have used to talk to your child about puberty and menstruation, post in the comment section.)

Importance of Art education in Indian Schools

Art has been a pivotal subject in Indian history. In the form of sculpture, paintings, architecture, fashion, design and lifestyle of ancient India, art has had a gargantuan impact on defining India as it is today. India’s opulent history has always boasted of the temples with aesthetic sculptures. It has proven time and again the magnitude of glorious monuments sprawled across the land. So why is it that in our schools today, we have side lined this subject, which involves creativity, innovation and divergent thinking?

After talking to a few art teachers in schools, I found that their training for teaching art is very limited. The art examination has been using the same topics on still life, imitating a flower and memory drawing. Is that all there is to art education? These forms of art, although helpful in learning techniques, are not creative. They test the memory of the child and some basic strokes of brushes. Even from a young age the child has been taught of how to draw a butterfly (let me not forget the scenery with the mountains the sun and the river). But why haven’t we asked them to draw what they think a butterfly looks like, or create an imaginary animal or things they see around them. Children perceive items in a different way and exploring their minds at a young age is the best time to test the child’s creativity.

Museums, art exhibitions and creative workshops are all means of exploring art. Visiting museums are a great way to understand art history and design. Art exhibitions promote young talented artists and act as a stage for new artists. Creative workshops stretch out to help divergent thinking amongst children.

Another factor which has lead to the downfall of art as a subject is the belittling of artists in India. They are known to strive and suffer before coming up with their magnificence. Engineering, doctor, lawyer are known as successful professions. But we have failed to see that art intertwines with quite a few professions such as architecture, photography, film making, fields of design, teaching and science. Art teachers do not get the recognition or the salary they should.

There is a dearth of institutes who focus on art and design across India. A few well known institutes are National Institute of Design, JJ school of arts, Shrishti, MIT (Pune) , Symbiosis Institute of Design and IIT Kanpur.

“Art Education is India is looked upon only as a hobby, having 2 sessions a week in school. Teaching art and craft has been limited to technique and not a way to express emotion or ask questions. We teach water colour and acrylic step by step instead to giving them the medium to explore and experiment. When techniques are taught, all students will use it the same way and there will be no ‘mistake’ or no innovation.

I think its also important to introduce creative thinking as a module in schools today. This along with art exploration will encourage students to be creative and show them value beyond aesthetic representation. Discussions in higher classes about – what is art? what is its purpose? what are the global art movements? what mediums are used in art today? – will give them a new perspective. “

– Trishla Talera of TIFA working studios, Pune, suggests how schools can embrace art as a major contributor towards education rather than being just a “recreational” subject.

Get Inspired by Kids!

Why do we tell our kids “don’t do this” or “stop asking so many questions” and try to limit our children from exploring their potential? It is a sad truth, that our education system is teaching kids to become followers rather than becoming leaders. We do not let them explore their surroundings, we do not let them ask us questions we just want them to do what we say. Schools follow a syllabus, and mostly teachers are trying to complete the given units at a stipulated time. I agree it is not easy. But I believe that teaching outside the syllabus is also education. An accomplished teacher incorporates the syllabus and world knowledge into the lesson. Knowledge about the world, basic politics, technology advances, space and news updates are what the next generation needs to know.

So here are some talented teachers who, although young, have tried their best to educate the world and help others.

This is one of my favorite videos where a Logan LaPlante actually talks about how homeschooling, or in this case “Hackschooling”, can be done. He also provides a list of things children need to learn when they are young and growing. Let’s not forget to mention what he wants to be when he grows up – HAPPY.

Very often we forget that our ultimate goal in life is to be happy. We can be happy doing various things like teaching others, building something, creating something new, doing what we love or giving back to society. Logan pinpoints at major disciplines which we forget to embody in our over all education.

Shubham Banerjee, aged 13, invented a Braille printer! Well that’s something you will not hear quite often. But wait, there’s more. He built the braille printer out of LEGO!

The video shows us how Shubham tried to find the answer of a simple question on Google Search. His search results led to more questions. This made him think about building something that could be used in developing countries. An efficient and affordable braille printer. An innovation that would do wonders for the blind community and hopefully it would help them to help themselves some day. Furthermore, this video answers the question of why we should let kids play and create.

 In this video, we get to watch how Thomas Suarez, a young app developer has created his own iphone apps. Learning can be easy if you want it to be. All you have to do is – Ask the question.

Thomas was passionate about learning how to code and he did so by using multiple sources. Learning does not happen by using one book (hint: the textbook). Learning happens by using multiple sources and mediums. Youtube videos, khan academy, codeacademy, leapfrog, disney are a few out of the many sources a child can learn from.

 To think or not to think – contemplations of young Varun Agarwal when he started a million dollar company without aiming for it. A motivational video for everyone with a simple message to ” follow your dreams”.

Varun also pushes us to think about how the society we are brought up in forces us to do something we do not want to do. Engineering, doctor, CA, lawyer are praised upon but what about hair dresser, chef, musician and journalist? If the child dreams to become a writer we must nurture him and guide him. The video inspires us to “Stop thinking and start doing” as time will not wait for anybody.

Can you make a gaming arcade out of cardboard boxes? Well Caine Monroy definitely can. He may be a shy speaker, but he has a bold imagination.

Caine invented some games out of the toys he had, made the rules, decorated the boxes and also came up with prizes for the winners. He shows us how a young child can learn to become a business man and run a business. Caine did not need an MBA, he just did some trial and error. Through experience he improvised and marketed his arcade and voilà he had a queue outside the arcade.

After a loss of a close relative, Jack Andraka decided he wanted to develop a test for pancreatic cancer. Along the way, he met a lot of challenges and overcame them with one thing in his will – persistency.

Life is like a mathematical problem. We first need to learn and understand the concept of how it works, try to find the answer, face some challenges, overcome them and then get it right. Similarly, research is very important for education. Unless we search for the answer ourselves, no real learning is done. Research gives us millions of options which we have to comb though and get the perfect result we are looking for. Jack researched. Found what he was looking for and got the opportunity to work on his idea. We must teach our children to look for answers. If they get spoon fed, they get lazy, they will not try, they will expect life to be easy which will lead to stress and then emotional and mental issues arise. Let the curiosity be alive in our children.

Maya Penn is a bunch of cool things – cartoonist, animator, entrepreneur as well as a social activist. She dreams of having a better world in her own imaginative way. She works hard towards sharing her message across the world and giving to the world for a better tomorrow.

Maya shares a strong message in her video – GIVE BACK. Give back to the environment, to the society, to the community, to your family and to your world. Giving never makes anyone poor, it makes one rich with pride and joy.

Educational travel in India for children and teenagers

Childhood has always been a blithe memory, for most of my vacations were spent travelling with my parents around the country. They took my brother and me to historical monuments, traditional temples, geographical wonders, planned cities and cultural villages. India’s diversity has been an attraction for tourists from all over the world, but the beautiful stories every place had inspired me as an Indian.

India has a ton of educational places where students can learn about its heterogeneity. Very few schools take their students for these study trips, but that is what should be addressed. Planning and organizing edu-visits are not as easy as they may seem, but it is cheaper for schools to collect funds and plan an edu-visit rather than parents, who may not have the proper resources to do so. Although, there are some parents who take time out from their busy schedules and take their kids for such visits.

Learning happens best when it is experienced.

What is a field trip/ an educational visit ?

A planned and organized tour of places to visit, food, cultural and traditional exchange between locals of the particular place and the students, as well as activities related to that specific area of study or place.

What is the difference between a field trip and educational visit?

Field trips are short in duration, usually close to the city or not more than 3-4 hours of travel. Educational visits tend to be of a longer duration.

What are the different types of field trips?

Visiting a farm, a zoo, a factory, hiking, camping, heritage walk, photo walk, museum visits can be named under field trips.

What are the different types of educational visits?

Since educational visits are longer in duration, staying at that site, learning about the place and interacting with locals is what makes it experiential. For example, staying in Auroville (planned city) to learn about the foundation and infrastructure of the city or visiting the Gir National Park to learn about the wildlife in Gujarat.

Here is a list of places where students can explore, learn and muse over what they see.

visitingMy Favorites

Hampi – The ruins of Vijayanagara Kingdom with the backdrop of boulders gave me the unique picture of ancient history.

Borra Caves – An exploration of stalagmites and stalactites with deep and high ceilings was amazing to the urban eye.

Konark Temple – An amalgamation of architecture, history, spirituality and art, one word, mesmerizing.

Dubare Elephant Farm – A day with the elephants will tempt you to stay there or visit them again.

Udaipur – A planned, historical and beautiful mixture of urban and rural India.

National Science Centre – Got mind-blown by the science and technology.

If you wish to suggest a few more places, share your personal experiences or just say “hi”, please comment in the comment section below.

Movies that educate

A story can teach a child about value, forgiveness, care, motivation and inspiration. Movies are a great way of teaching these lessons to children. The audio-visual medium of communication attracts children and the message is usually received by them.

Some movies have historical influences and timelines like Lagaan, Mangal Pandey, The legend of Bhagat Singh. Some are Inspirational like Iqbal, I am Kalam, Swades, Laakshya, Mary Kom and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Some are value lessons like Chillar Party, Munna Bhai and The Blue Umbrella.

BOLLYWOOD Movies for kids

  1. Iqbal
  2. Chillar Party
  3. Harishchandra chi factory
  4. Mr. India
  5. Chachi 420
  6. Taare Zameen Par
  7. Lagaan
  8. Munna Bhai MBBS
  9. Lage Raho Munna Bhai
  10. I am Kalam
  11. Swades
  12. 3 idiots
  13. Mary Kom
  14. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
  15. Laakshya
  16. The Blue Umbrella
  17. The legend of Bhagat Singh
  18. Mangal Pandey

Of course there are many more. Comment below and I will add them to the list.

11 Ways Finland’s Education System Shows Us that “Less is More”.

Indian Schools should start with smaller changes if not big ones – Training quality teachers should be #1 on the list.

Filling My Map

IMG_0062
When I left my 7th grade math classroom for my Fulbright research assignment in Finland I thought I would come back from this experience with more inspiring, engaging, innovative lessons.  I expected to have great new ideas on how to teach my mathematics curriculum and I would revamp my lessons so that I could include more curriculum, more math and get students to think more, talk more and do more math.

This drive to do more and More and MORE is a state of existence for most teachers in the US….it is engrained in us from day one.  There is a constant pressure to push our students to the next level to have them do bigger and better things.  The lessons have to be more exciting, more engaging and cover more content.  This phenomena  is driven by data, or parents, or administrators or simply by our work-centric society where we…

View original post 3,293 more words