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.)

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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.

The Bully inside us

I watched a video on TED by Monica Lenwinsky  about her personal experience with bullying. What I realized was that, like her, everyday, many children as well as adults go through this traumatizing experience. This act is two way – one is the victim and one is the bully. There are many posts to educate the victim and how to avoid being bullied, but we have failed to educate children that we can become bullies unintentionally. words Indian schools need to start spreading awareness and informing children from 1st grade onwards. There are numerous activities to help children understand the types of bullying, how to stop it, and how NOT to become a bully. Here are a few tips which teachers and parents can use for their children.

Bullying can be of any form – physical, social, verbal and cyber.  

Kids may not understand the forms of bullying. They may emote imperceptibly. The act may be to prove themselves to be strong, or to get back at someone, but they neglect the consequences. They may post or say something about someone in form of a joke, but it can hurt the person who is mocked.


Are you a Bully?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself. Mark 1 for “Yes” and 0 for “No”

1. Have you told anyone not to be a certain person’s friend?

2. Have you called anyone names?

3. Have you kicked, tripped, punched, broken someone’s things on purpose?

4. Have you laughed at someone’s dressing style on their face or otherwise?

5. Have you teased someone about their body type or looks?

6. Have you intentionally not included someone in a group?

7. Have you threatened someone in any specific way?

8. Have you ever shared, posted, liked, posted nasty comments about someone’s picture, video in an embarrassing moment or moment of failure?

9. Have you ever picked on anyone for your own amusement or to impress your friends?

10. Have you made up stories, shared false information about someone because you dislike that person?

(If your score is 2 or more, you are a bully.)

Quick classroom activity

Take a large piece of plain stiff paper. Ask the children to say hurtful and mean words. As they do, crumple a bit of the paper. The children enjoy watching this. Then tell them that the mean words that they said had hurt the paper and now it’s crumpled into a ball. Ask them to say kind words to ease the paper. Once the paper is eased you can point out that the veins on the paper and the mean words created scars which can not be repaired.  A more graphic visualization for greater impact can be by making silhouette of a person, then make the children say hurtful words, and when they do, cut out a piece of their limb. After the words are said then stick them back by saying kinder words and using tape. The scars remain and the message is understood. Discuss how they felt when they said those mean words and how they felt after realizing that the mean words created scars. Make them write for lasting changes.


A word to live by – THINK think The best way to stop us and our children from being bullied and being bullies is to spread the word, share the knowledge and talk about it with friends and family.

Drug Education in Indian Schools

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In countries like USA , drug-education experts agree that targeted, age-appropriate elementary school drug education is essential to safeguard students against the hazards of drug use and addiction. Access to the web and technology have made communication easier that can be misused for a variety of purposes. Drugs and alcohol are one of the primary reasons for failure in children or young adults, which lead to addiction, depression and suicide. So, should Indian schools introduce drug education, along with sex  and alcohol education?

The growing number of teens and young adults in India who consume drugs has been on the rise. Majority of the Indian population being under 35, implies that their peer group and kids would directly or indirectly be influenced by drugs.

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“Awareness is necessary” – But how do we break the shell that we have so generously built around our children?

Talking about it is what could be a positive step to avoid, or let’s say, reduce the chances of children taking drugs. Children, whose parents talk early and often about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and drug use, are 50 percent less likely to succumb to alcohol, abuse and drugs. If schools were to adopt similar measures, the percentage of children who are less likely to use drugs, tobacco or alcohol may increase.

Drug education in schools can be structured, informative, and educational. There are several methods where elementary and high-school teachers can create awareness about these issues. Creating project-based or art-based activities for elementary school children can be employed. Graphics, information, group counseling and social work for high-school children acts as a theoretical and experiential knowledge for them. Information, videos and images that show the causes and effects of drugs and alcohol can raise awareness and help children to make better life choices. Indian schools ought to impart information about the repercussions of drug use or drug dealing, types of drugs, and their effect on health and laws that revolve around drug use and drug dealing. Schools can also involve parents in the awareness activities and give them guidelines for talking about alcohol and drug use.

talk about drugs

Drug consumption in India has become more of a social symbol. Popular media has played a significant role in glorifying the use of various narcotics. It is now “cool” to abuse prohibited substances. Teens pick up on these trends without considering the harsh consequences. Schools in India must envisage the threat that lingers at their school gates. Turning a blind eye towards this issue may cripple the future of India’s kids and eventually, the future of India.