Thursday, 27 November 2014

Spark creativity in children

Recently in my conversation with one of my students, I asked him to think out of the box. But I guess, that wasn’t enough for him to act out differently in the given situation as the assignment seemed little complex. Later, I kept thinking about the whole episode, I had in my class for that day. After contemplating I realized it was not the questions, basically the situation and the plan that needed correction to elicit a response from the student.

Well, this reminds me about the talk that I had with Lisa Bonazza, a PYP teacher, and an IB Workshop Leader. A little while back, our school had organized an In-school workshop on Teaching and Inquiry, and there I got the chance to know more about teaching creatively and teaching for creativity. It was a wonderful experience as we acquired new ideas and ways of looking at the term "creativity" differently. We cannot define creativity in a single, commonly accepted way. Definition and interpretations of creativity varies from person to person and from situation to situation. I hope that I’ll be able to do some justice to my learning while writing about it.  

I included various thoughts during my conference with my grade team and also shared few learning with my PLN (professional learning network) using Twitter. It is indeed very exciting to look at the planning and execution through a different lens. I remember one task where we teachers were asked to rank 5 different people whom we think are creative people. And I could not think of anyone other than the people around me and two of my students. At that time my question was, why should I only look out for the people who are successful and not others whom I know are hardworking and full of creative ideas and thoughts.

‘Wow’ Is the word I would use it for the people and my students who inspire me, give me lots of new ideas to include in the planning, think differently and also help me become a better educator. My students are my co-facilitators in various disciplines. Aren’t they also creative?

I recollected their responses during various class activities. They were creative while playing ‘I need a Synonym’ in order to build vocabulary for their grade section names, ‘I know a word,’ ‘Number Number,’ ‘Rapid fire round,’ ‘Scamper’ for their ice breaking activity, and many other. Besides these , there were numerous ways in which they displayed their creativity. They relied on each other for resources, grouping strategies, station models to help them revise the concepts and build on their prior knowledge, strategies that leads to mastery based approach and personalized learning, and the list goes on.

Is creativity 'innovation'? Is creativity thinking out of the box? Is creativity lateral thinking? Is creativity being a risk taker? Is it a passion? Well, if the answer to all these questions is YES, then definitely, we are teaching creatively and teaching for creativity, as we all are lifelong learners.

But as parents, how do we create environment in which child blossom? How do we help them live up to their potential? How do we help them develop their own genuine selves? These are some of the questions that we need to inquire, to reflect on, to work upon. As parents’ given all the moment in time, riches, concern, and love we expend on our child, let’s make sure that we are focused on the questions that really matters. Let us be committed in developing the potential of our child and be more observant about their physical and mental health.

Undoubtedly, Parents are named as children’s first teacher. Therefore, encouraging curiosity in them, by asking the right questions, keep on inspiring their imagination through various provocations; weave creativity through day in and out experiences; help them build their confidence; take their concerns seriously and look at their work positively; persuade them to try new ideas and diverse approaches; enthuse them to perk up their skills through practice; try out some good discussion starter; show appreciation; share your opinion on how the child worked and help them elevate his/her own targets, are some of the ways that helps us build the surroundings. Spark your child’s creativity by boosting their confidence using the art to spark conversation.

Children need to be unconditionally loved, grant them an efficacious and virtuous childhood, encourage them to challenge themselves, disciplined them when necessary, and value their uniqueness and capacities that they bring to this world.

Marshall Dimock in his writing "Currents and Surrounding" on creativity mentioned that, Creativity is different for different people, because the ways in which we articulate our thoughts and ideas differ. The word rightly describes the human courage and achievements.

My evolving action as an educator is to foster creativity right from planning/designing a curriculum to classroom environment that includes various models and categories. Also ensuring to make right trans-disciplinary connection that helps students think globally and become internationally minded lifelong learners. The values of creativity lie in what useful outcomes are produced. Creativity is a process of generating and testing ideas.

There is lot to share and talk about creativity, but to conclude, I would press upon the point that it is a process and it needs lot of courage to be creative.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Ganesh Chaturthi

Vakratunda mahakaya suryakoti samaprabha
Nirvighne kuru me deva sarva karaye shu sarvada

Surat city has witnessed the blend of rituals and customs and is much diversified. The pleasure-loving people of Surat have a very classy and influential perspective. They are very joyful and are quite composed. Being cool, calm and at ease is what they believe in. It isn't a matter of surprise that Ganesha is worshiped in Surat with not just devotion but also enthusiasm. Any celebration is incomplete if Suratis' do not gather or rejoice with their near and dear ones. And yes, the occasion like Ganesh Utsav provides just the right opportunity to them to celebrate and enjoy their intimacy.

Suratis' inwardness has been like a roller coaster ride. They have witnessed the tragic incidents of flood and diseases, but in spite of that, the people have always been in concert. Their culture and beliefs have bound them together and they have been contented and gratified with their emotionalism. In fact, these people are very religious, irrespective of their social group or religious conviction they celebrate all the festivals with great happiness and delight. ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ is the auspicious occasion for the people of Surat, as they are bringing home their beloved deity, Ganesha, the lord of good luck, wisdom and prosperity.

As this diamond city is geared up to welcome the deity, Suratis' have created pandals showcasing their creativeness’ and are ready to celebrate 10 day Ganesh festival with great vigor and fortitude. They scrub clean the area created for Lord Ganesha and decorate the place with garlands, colorful embellishments, and bright dark colored curtains in order to liven up the place. Alternatively, they add beautiful illumination to make the corner look more stunning and ravishing. They make candied home cooked meals and Prasad. The city is echoed to the mantra of ‘Ganpatti Bappa Morya.’”Puja” and “Aarti” are performed every morning and evening; everyone gathers to sing “bhajans” hymn. There are different groups that are formed and various activities are organised to add more joyous to the celebration. Undoubtedly, Suratis having a whale of time celebrating these 10 day Ganesh festival. One must spot the aura of this wonderful procession in order to experience it’s the real beauty.

Perhaps, Hinduism’s most popular divine figure, riding on rat rules the hearts of the Suratis like nothing else. Ganesha is worshipped foremost before launching any new venture, be it starting of a new factory or entering a new home. He is considered to be immediately accessible all around us, and takes many forms for those who imagine him in a more personalized fashion. Nevertheless, Suratis' wide-ranging systems of beliefs are quite flimsy.

My family is quite theological and spiritual. In 1994 when they migrated to this city, they did witness the aura of this carnival although on a very small scale. But sequentially they have watched this procession showing an upward trend. In fact, they too are now a part of this phenomenal rally and have started celebrating these days with great delight. Since 2008, we bring the idol of Lord Ganesh at our work place and perform all the rituals for 10 days. The excitement and pleasure of bringing Ganesha, within the staff and family are incredible. We buy the idol before 2 days of the Ganesh Chaturthi and clean up the whole place created for Lord Ganesha. My father in law and husband sits to decorate the idol with the decorative materials that are pleasing to the eye. They get mesmerized in their own dreamland and would work till late hours. My husband would predominantly design a unique stall for Lord Ganesha ensuring of superior quality. The happiness and contentment within the house are simply unimaginable.  
My son waits for these wonderful days, as he enjoys the drums, the aroma of the home made food and Prasad, bhajans and chant of ‘Ganpatti Bappa Morya,’ and ‘ek, do, teen, char.” Before this day, he would come to me asking several questions and would insist on to listening stories relating to Lord Ganesha. He loves listening to the one when Parvati asked her son to guard the door while she was taking bath. At that time, Shiva arrived there and wished to enter, but Ganesha did not allow to let him in. Shiva got so infuriated that he cut off the boy’s head. When Parvati came, she was horrified to see Ganesha’s body without the head. She pleaded Shiva to replace it, and he obliged with the head for the first creature he could find, an elephant. Thus, Ganesha became an elephant-headed God.
But mumma, “my son would ask me,” Is this true? Hmm, and I get clueless as I am little skeptic about the facts. Anyways, he simply loves the story about how Parvati asked her two sons, Ganesh and Kartikey, to go around the world in a race. Kartikey the more vigorous and martial minded of the two, set off at once, so that he wins the race. But Ganesha had other ideas. He requested his parents to sit together and encircled them.  On being asked by his parents what he was doing, Ganesha very cleverly answered that his parents were his world and he has gone around his world to complete the race. Thus, Ganesha won the race with his intelligence.

Ganesha is worshipped for 10 days, from Bhadrapad Shudh Chaturthi to the Ananta Chaturdashi. This year, in a diamond city, the devotees on Monday took the idol through the streets and pavements in a procession accompanied with dancing, before a live audience. Nearly 42,000 idols were then immersed in a river symbolizing a ritual see-off of the Lord in his expedition towards his house in Kailash. Suratis' strongly believe that on this day, Lord Ganesha will take away with him the misfortunes of all man. People involved in this final procession march shouting "Ganapathi Bappa Morya, Purchya Varshi Laukariya."
Suratis' get quite emotional and sad to see the idol disappear beneath the waves. However, they still hold on to their belief system and continue to worship lord Ganesh; the inseparable relationship between devotee and God. But how does it connect to the getting Ganesh idol immersed? Anyways, that is questionable.

All in all, Surati culture though very diverse in its flavor it still reminisce the essence of the Indian culture. Most of the foremost Hindu festivals are celebrated here with great conviction.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Narmad Library is great news for Surat’s book lovers!

Do you enjoy reading? Are you a book lover? What’s your reading personality? Are you interested in providing a learning environment to your kids. ‘Yes’ I am chattering about the people who are mostly quiet, mild mannered people and who love to sit on comfortable chair, get lost in their own dreamland and not talk to people for the extended period of time. I hope it doesn’t get that unexciting while writing about such a blissful place. 
Undoubtedly, I am writing about Kavi Narmad Library, one of the most important places in Surat.It is situated in the heart of the city. The site and the location are splendorous as it is free from the industrial pollution and the sound of the intense traffic.The library was set up by the Surat Municipal Corporation on 24th August 1991, at Ghoddod Road and named after the renowned and the greatest Gujarati poet Veer Narmad.
In December 2003, when I first came to Surat, I was absolutely clueless about the place and the community. I have always been fond of reading books on different subjects and would prefer to be in calm and a cozy environment. I remember, in 2008, while preparing for Banking & Insurance, I started visiting Kavi Narmad library over and over again. The serenity and tranquility of the place; the outstanding collection of the books on various subjects; outstretched reading rooms and sections; computers and manipulative for kids to challenge their thoughts; grabbed my attention and I was completely spellbound. While writing this article, I am reminiscing about the glorious moments that I have spent at the library with my son.
My son and I often visit library on Sundays, as it is a ‘Sabbath day’ meaning for rest and leisure; basically diversion from routine work; and we are keen on spending time reading books and also in checking out different classifications of published documents. He gets very excited at the thought of going to the library and is mostly interested in looking at the book series of Enid Blyton, Geronimo Stilton and Harry Potter to name a few. He makes it a point to read a chapter in the library and then spends time playing games on a computer, stroking a few lines and creating pictures on the board and exploring the section on new arrivals. I must say, it’s an absolute pleasure to watch him engrossed.
Last week, when I visited the library, I went with a clear vision to look around the books on sovereignty and I found exceptional, well-reasoned, thorough and provocative books with personal experience, fiction and memoirs written in striking and compelling prose. Indeed the administration of the library is exceptionally great,  as I could discover the support staff and librarian arranging books and providing access to electronic resources to the people. It’s such an enlightening and enriching experience at this place that I often get enthralled being in a different world altogether. The ambience of the library is incomparable.
Before its renovation, the community had very limited exposure and material to acquire information of their field and a choice. But with its redevelopment the library now makes available nearly 30000 books on various subjects. People have enough space and privacy to explore the books at their own pace. The library charges very nominal fees to the investigators and the enthusiastic readers; so that they can read newspapers and magazines there and if they wish they may carry books at home. The kids have computers and educational games to enhance their vocabulary and knowledge. The administration of the library is really commendable.
To press upon, the SMC and its administrative team have left no stone unturned to the development of the library and in volunteering to establish a Central full-fledged library in Surat. Undoubtedly, I am overwhelmed to witness the progression of this valuable place and would strongly recommend to the book lovers of Surat to visit this place on a regular basis.

Friday, 2 May 2014


With the changing time and period, people have acquired good exposure towards their health. The situation has improved today across the world. There are now various opportunities and programmes to help people remain healthy and improve their lifestyle. Recently, an article from global health organisation stated that now people are contented to access to safe and clean water. Additionally, the research and development teams have started with various schemes on providing adequate sanitation, an adequate supply of food, nutrition and housing, healthy occupational and environmental conditions, and access to health-related education and information, including  sexual and reproductive health to the people.

Not only communities have availability of goods and services relating to public health care, but economic affordability and accessibility too. On the other hand, they have become quite open minded in understanding and accepting the responsibility towards their social and physical well-being.  Therefore, the only need is to be optimistic about the situation and have a holistic view towards its implementation. A broad planning is definitely required in this direction along with its action plan. Hence, this scenario will definitely demand evaluation and can be re-examined at regular intervals. This reminds me about the lines quoted by Dr. Anders Nordstorm, Ambassador for Global Health, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Sweden, in his article, “It is the right time to focus on health and not merely on disease.”

Unfortunately, in spite of various measures to bring more improvement in these phases, the world is still undergoing some major problems. These problems are poverty and inequality, health, profit making pharmaceutical companies, lack of funds for health care and educational services. There are different NGOs and organisations that have provided the statistics to show the challenges that the people are experiencing globally. In spite of various new schemes and provisions in health care since 1950, people are still suffering from non- communicable diseases and malnutrition. Sir Michael Marmot, a professor in Epidemiology and Public Health at University College, London, stated in an interview that most health problems are due to social, political and economic factors. “The key determinants of health of individuals are the circumstances in which people are born, live, work and age, “he says. He further added that the social and economic environment affects those circumstances.

The research and the data stated by the World Bank say, that life expectancy worldwide has risen on average by 4 months each year since 1970. Furthermore, the infant mortality rates fell from 80 per 1000 births in 1980 to 49.4 per 1000 in 2011. It reflects the health of the people and the quality of care they receive when they are sick. Although, the overall living conditions are improving but still various sections of the society require to be worked on. This is because of the wide disparity in the living conditions worldwide. The figures show that the infant mortality rates in developed countries like Japan is as low as 2 while in underdeveloped countries like Afghanistan it is as high as 136. There is a need to reduce this disparity.

85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet. 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. 6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.

Global population growth projections of 2–3 billion people over the next 40 years, combined with changing diets, result in a predicted increase in food demand of 70%. Over half of the world population lives in urban areas, and the number of urban dwellers grows each day. Urban areas, although better served than rural areas, are struggling to keep up with population growth (WHO/UNICEF).

From my personal perspectives, better health plays the very important role towards the happiness and well-being of humankind. The country still needs to work on public health care sectors, and should attain proper database to work on. The above known reasons indicate and draw attention to a strong implementation of schemes and other provisions. To faster the process and benefit people in this direction, the capital acquired must be evenly distributed amongst various sectors of the society for the growth and development of the nation.

Another important aspect that draws our attention are the illness or disease due to improper medical facilities or the prices of the various drugs offered by the profit-making pharmaceutical companies. The fact is that each illness or disease has some effects that may be long lasting and these effects could be emotional, economical or due to social concerns. Poor health indeed holds back an ability of an individual to work better, that ultimately effects the productivity of the state. Nevertheless, some components drive passion and determination to change the prevailing scenario and hence we need to look at the strength and power of an individual instead of completely relying on the elected officials.

Richard Hooker, an American writer and surgeon said, ‘Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better.’ Therefore, to work better in this direction, people needs to be aware about what needs to be changed or where the change is required. In simple words, the focus should be very clear. In my opinion, the more number of guided and trained health professionals will be able to overcome the barrier to change.  At this moment, before one starts to look up at the difficulties faced in the health care department, there is need to pay more attention to different individuals around you.

Therefore,  as an individual we can spread awareness about basic practices like maintaining hygiene not only at home but also at public health services. The regulations and policies need to convey to the state through proper media ensuring about the understanding of the community.  We also need various organisations who can work with families, governments to provide useful good and services that help them stay healthy and become stronger. I can get associated with the organisation and can help them spread awareness in the society. I can be more responsible towards my own physical and social well-being.

It is rightly said by Dr. Margaret Chan, director- General, WHO “The world needs a global health guardian, a custodian of values, a protector and defender of health, including the right to health.”


Monday, 3 March 2014

Skype classroom - Writing Project

‘WRITING,’ the word itself reminds me of the letters, characters, and scripts and of various other synonyms. It is such a complex and a multifaceted blend of skills altogether. However, indeed writing is a process and not a product. Hence, various steps are involved and followed in order to create a refined piece of writing.

Therefore, I planned for a global collaboration and a team teaching to help my students get more acquainted with this process. I am grateful to Christopher Tozier, an author of the book Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus, for such a noteworthy collaboration.

My class had two informative and engaging sessions with Christopher, where they gained good insight about the process and the various other elements involved in writing. They even became more aware of what it means to be an author and the patience, thought process a writer goes through. Indeed, it is not an easy job to gather your ideas and sequencing your thoughts. Well, Chris and I have a good planning in this direction for the students. We are constantly giving the students the inputs to write better and to make it more interesting for the readers and themselves as well. We are going to work in this direction until each student is able to refine his or her own writing piece and is ready to publish their work.

As an educator, I can say now that my students have started enjoying the constructive feedback given to them and are progressively enjoying the writing process.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Skype Classroom - Book Review

This academic year is very special for my students and me as an educator. My journey began when I first introduced my students to their  academic goals. One of the goals were to do a book review. They started taking good interest in reading the book and understanding the content of the story. In addition, they practiced putting down their ideas on paper too. However, they  made quite a few  errors and  asked for clarifications, inputs to make their write up more fascinating and interesting for the readers.

Therefore, as an educator, I thought of giving them an exposure towards the online book review. Keeping in mind their oral skills, I believed that expressing their ideas in words would definitely help them understand the elements for book review  better. So, I planned for a team teaching and approached Lisa Cohn. When I shared the ideas and other details with her, she responded positively. We had a detailed discussion on the process of how to go about it and finally, the session was scheduled and students remained engaged and engrossed while listening to her and her experiences as an author. They even interacted with her 5-year-old son Michael Cohn, and were impressed with his love and passion for books.

After the first introductory session, we thought of checking their understanding about the book review and hence made a trial. Well, the students really performed well compared to their writing task. Now going further, we are planning to train these students for the book review in a more authentic and organised manner.
The journey has just begun..


Saturday, 1 February 2014

Every child is born a scientist - Daniel Florein

On 10th Oct.2013, Grade 5, celebrated the spirit of Science during the 'Science day' by conducting a wide-ranging science activities and experiments. This was part of their unit of inquiry on materials, during which the learners set-up science stations in the Grade-5 gallery to present their learning, experiments and discoveries to their schoolmates and also 60 odd visitors from Jhusmbish (students & teachers from an SMC school in Surat), who visited in rotation, participated and shared the learning of our learners.

It was a rich learning experience of showcasing the newly acquired knowledge of physical and chemical changes in materials which the learners enthusiastically displayed on this day.

The learners, during this unit on materials, had a variety of experiences through field trips, lab activities and hands on activities, which imparted knowledge, confidence and skills and were completely in-charge of their experiments and sharing their learning with the school community. They identifies experiments( in some cases), gathered the materials required and took upon themselves to pass on their learning through the newly learnt science vocabulary to their audience. They left no stone unturned in sharing their knowledge about the various changes and the processes that a material undergoes to meet human needs. The curiosity and enthusiasm was visible amongst all students; and adding fervor to this show, was the appearance of these young 'scientist' learners dressed in lab coats - aprons, safety glasses, gloves etc. for the demonstration of their experiments.:)

This learning engagement sparked various 'Aha moments', and also an event to cherish for the learners, which they will remember and build upon long after this unit is over. It was a new endeavor taken up within this unit, giving students the opportunity to display thier acquired knowledge and concretize their learning. They were risk-takers in attempting this new assignment which increased their confidence level and gave them new insights on their learning.

"Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact." - Carl Sagan.

We at fountainhead, want to preserve the scientist in every learner, and events like the 'Science Day' provide the perfect platform.

(- Ritu Chopra, Hasina Saifee & Sumaiya Saiyed)

Transformation in Teaching Methodology using Digital Media

Which tool am I going to explore today to enhance my knowledge for innovative teaching? What are the different methods I can investigate to exchange my ideas and opinions? These are some of the questions that boggle my mind as a teacher, when I am trying to integrate the ICT world with the 21st century pedagogy of education.

Learners are keen observers; they evaluate the world with the consistent change happening around them. Digital Media - one of the most revolutionary changes of this century - has become an integral part of today's educational system. Newspapers, TV channels, internet, social networks, and people around - all creating a hype and talking about some or the other new device with new technology. The emphasis of this digital media has seeped into our classrooms today.

This year our Grade 5 students explored and experienced some beneficial web 2.0 tools focusing on collaboration, creation, presentation, research, organizing ideas, and planning for their given tasks and assignments. Using Ted and Youtube videos, Wallwisher, Scribblar, Classdojo and Khan Academy etc. are some of the many ways we explore and integrate our learning.

Apart from exploring these creative tools, we had a virtual skype session with Australian author, Ken Spillman, in order to understand the use of digital media - integrating with language. In addition to that, a Google hangout session with Mr. John Graves (from New Zealand) and our HoS, Mr. Vardan Kabra gave our students a variety of perspectives concerning a topic. Students have accustomed themselves to sites like 'Edmodo' to collaborate with each other in a safer social networking environment.

Is is amazing to see how technology has evolved over time - giving rise to new forms of education that we never imagined. Our students are more digitally focused than ever before. There is no doubt about the fact that the type of students we teach today are drastically different from the past century. We as teachers are more inclined to upgrade our skills in order to put forth new challenges for these digitally advanced learners.

As an educator, my journey began when I looked at the teaching profession in terms of the needs of those who are its beneficiaries. I created my Personal Learning Network and enhanced my knowledge while gathering some interesting ideas to execute in class.  I understood what it meant to be a 'Teacher' in today's world. In fact, I am able to deliver 21st century skills that help me connect to my students in a much powerful and meaningful manner. Emphasizing on the fact that this pedagogy not only highlights the age of collaboration, but also focuses on the information age as well. Its truly said,"We have to stop thinking of an education as something that is delivered to us and instead see it as something we create for oursleves" - Stephen Downes.

(Academic Year: 2012-13)