A special study.

I am glad I studied Psychology. No other subject is helping me understand and run the school as much as the knowledge to understand and comprehend human psyche and development.

To know each student well and know their mental development, I gave each one a book with blank white sheets and colors to draw, scribble and do whatever they wanted on it. Without giving any ideas I would just ask them to draw as they pleased using whatever colors they wanted. The importance and use of this would be so tremendous, I did not know.

Many drew fruits and trees, their families, some just scribbled, and some used specific colors only….But there is one kid I had trouble understanding the most. After training and talking to him for weeks, he continued to look scared, so much so that there were days I did not see him look up at me. His progress too was thus, slow.

Then one day, while going through his book, I mentioned about above, I saw a certain pattern in his drawings. He would just draw stairs and doors using mostly brown and black. I then, called his mother and was told that his behavior was much the same at home too. After some questions I found out that once when he was around two he had got really frightened at night.

Here’s where my psychology learning and understanding helped a lot. I began having talks with him about his childhood, home. He started opening up a bit. And then I asked him what scared him, and he told me “stairs and doors and guns”. I told him funny stories with doors and stairs. We did little exercises of opening and closing doors, saying aloud the names of the people he liked and imagining them coming through them.

Some more attention and praising in the classroom and he is a much better student now. He plays and talks a lot more. Sometimes, a little too much… and I can’t help smiling.

Winter’s here.

I finally get to experience true winter. All these years, Mumbai was never cold enough even for an overcoat. But the season in UP is fast changing and I get to use all the sweaters and gloves I have got.

But it is still far from the winter my uncles and brother in Washington are having. Sixteen inches of snowfall…

Here’s a little advice while you lollygag at home:

“When it freezes and bloze, take care of your noze that it doesn’t get froze, and wrap up your toze in warm woolen hoze. This advice, goodness knowze, was written in proze by someone who knowze the effect of cold snowze on your noze and toze.” –Sunshine Magazine.

Remaining Dissatisfied.

Through the years I’ve read how the path to achieve great happiness, lasting peace begins with being content. Accepting things as they are, being satisfied with what one has, shunning all desires…

But try as I might, I continued to “want”. I continued to question- What next? How? When? And thus, put myself in the double dilemma of “wanting” and then wanting to quit it.

Finally, I’ve made peace with that. I have decided- I am going to let myself ‘remain dissatisfied.’ Dissatisfied at things not being the way they should be; to the level that it drives me to do more. Time tested and proved- it’s the best way to keep me motivated.

There’s enough time to do more than just exist; Happiness and Peace are best found while in their pursuit.

Your Time Starts, Now!

Note-This post is a sincere and humble dedication to Amma- My mom’s mom. I have yet to meet another who is so perfect an embodiment of grace and selfless love.

Look at the world with your eyes

Stop borrowing thoughts from other minds

Dreams the dreams that are born free

Be the self your heart wants to be.

It’s okay to shun the things that others do

Your fate’s not bound to those gone before you

Legends they were, that took the first step alone

Heroes they were not, who stayed back home.

Use your head, and with the heart at the right place

You cannot go wrong, the whole world you can face

A Meeting of Sorts.

After teaching for about three months, and right before the mid term exam, I scheduled a mother teacher meeting at school. I sent out notices, and got phone calls from almost all the parents, asking if all was okay!!

Turns out, they were not aware that formal meeting was a thing that happened at schools to discuss progress. I had to convince them, that the school was running fine, their child was doing well and was not going to be punished. I even arranged for transportation service so I could make sure they did turn up.

The day arrived and so did all mothers 🙂 I gave my first public address to a group of over 30 women, speaking for about 30 minutes in HINDI; speaking on the importance of education, cleanliness, the necessity to speak to kids kindly, with love. I answered doubts about why my school was different, Why I was teaching only English and math in year one and why I was not spanking the kids!

After the meeting, the sincere thanks and gratitude on their faces, the long hand shakes and “Oh, your coming here is a blessing for us…” was exhilarating. No elocution or debate competition I had won in the past compared to that.

Building a Rapport

The first step in any meeting, any communication is building a rapport. If you begin right, there is a high chance you will succeed in achieving your goals or at least, begin with the ball in your court.

I was to meet 30 or more women from the village and had to engage them in an hour long conversation, talking about their kids, my school- our future. Here are a few points I put to use:

1. A genuine face (Grabs Attention) – I did not write smile because it sometimes works to frown. However, most times you are happy or glad at the meeting, so smile. Be genuine.

I started the meeting with a straight face, apologizing for the half hour delay on behalf of the women who arrived late and then a small anecdote on time. They now knew I wanted to talk facts, not just please. We were on track. However, I started my speech with that, I had entered smiling broadly- happy to see so many turn up!

2. Background study (Develops confidence which shows) – It sure goes a long way knowing the people you are about to face. It is ideal in a client meeting/ hiring process, though you can make it work in all situations.

Like, in the school meeting, I could not possibly gather information about the families/parents so I did this- As each parent settled down, I handed them books of their children to go through with an adjective best describing each child. I had prepared before. Thus, we immediately connected, because it turned out, their child was shy/ creative/ caring at home as well!!

3. A line about the weather/ latest news (Helps break the ice) – Sometimes, a little small talk helps in a big way to set the ground for further serious discussions. Of course you have to know and judge the people you are interacting with, but hey! We’ve discussed background study for that!

These are a few pointers I made after trying them at the school meeting and at other interactions. Each meeting/ communication is with a different purpose, however, the beginning of all can be similar- ‘good’ on your part!

For Myself, All by Myself.

That friend you needed now, is gone too far away

And all you have is me

And the green fields and the trees.

And all that you can do, is see me all anew

Cuz times a passing by,

And every whispered sigh,

Escapes the earth for high.

Watch rainbows in the sky,

Or birds that fly above,

Be they eagles or the doves.

And flowers will still do bloom,

And seasons- shine or gloom,

Will all thus pass you by.

Like the friend you needed now…

All you have is me,

And the green fields and the trees.

The fun has arrived!!!

The first admission I gave to a little boy from the village– When he entered my office, I was sitting at the table with the forms all neatly arranged in front of me, my excel sheet open for entering the data, and I smiled as warmly as I could.

I had expected the kids would be shy, be naughty and wreck my neat table, cling to their mothers and not even look up at me, not talk, juts stare etc, etc. But it was none of the above. The boy peeked into the room, and ran out yelling, “I don’t want an injection!!” He thought he was at the doctor’s, as that was the only other place where he had seen a neat room, with table and chairs (as explained by his mother, later) Wonderful! I am not going to pick favorites but I like this one already! 😀

After that I added chocolates, a few charts and reduced the number of papers on my table. I couldn’t possibly dirty the room, could I? I wondered.

Observations from some background study.

Take a ride across Azamgarh U.P, go through all its little villages, small market places, the two things you will definitely find are- Shops selling cheap country liquor and Schools. Schools, with and without – rooftops, tables and chairs, proper lighting, teaching staff, etc. But yes, they have students. Everyone is sending their children to schools now. The level of learning, the methods used are however, very depressing.

What I have observed is that neither parents nor the schools wish to give up the old school of teaching. Yet along with it they want their children to become doctors and engineers too. They want the kids to study the holy scriptures, their mother tongues, and begin with it right from year one. Along with that, also learn English, math, science, and everything else that will be necessary for big degrees. This leads to the child having three to four languages along with math, science, etc from the very first year and I mean – Kindergarten! And in this process the child studies a lot and learns very little. A fear of learning is created through the weight of the bag and reinforced through spanking, that’s a norm.

All I could think of, after visiting schools and looking around is, “The realization that education is important and a necessity has reached here before the skill to teach and educate.”

How it all started.

I gave my last exam of BA on the 30th of May, 2009, hoping and praying that it would be my final encounter with the University of Mumbai. I am still continuing with those prayers. Well, so my college was done with, and I had to think of, what next? And then came the long discussions with dad about the project we had in mind, and things began to take shape.

It was about a dream to start a school, a centre for overall development of a child. The place would be one that urgently needed a good school. I would be the teacher, mentor, guide, which I was hoping I would be able to be. After twenty years of a comfortable life and education it was time to take some real test.

And so travelling from home in Mumbai, I came to my ancestral hometown in Azamgarh, UP and together with dad, started ‘ZAF’s Model English School.’