Sunday, 18 March 2018

Demystifying Educational Jargon

Educationists all over the world love jargon, and for the poor initiate, this is rather confounding! However, one way out is to look at what these much-bandied terms do not mean! Excessive use of jargon is often rather intimidating, and when jargon is used without the accompanying glossary, it falls on deaf ears! When one uses jargon excessively, it is not only intimidating but also smacks of vanity and pride. So, in order to uncomplicate educational terminology, this is a list of what these terms should not mean!

1. Vision: The Head of the school is certainly not talking about Tunnel Vision! Tunnel Vision refers to what happens when the Boss has a vision for the Institution, College or School which does not match with ground reality! This is a Vision that is more of a fantastic dream that has not taken into consideration constraints and obstacles in the classroom. Tunnel Vision does not consider the learner and the teacher as the basic unit in a school around which pedagogy is woven. It is good to have dreams, but better still to have dreams that can fructify into reality!

2. Big Idea: For God's sake how do I know whether or not I will be in Hades or Nirvana five years from now! The reason behind the Big Idea is to have what is known as the enduring understanding of where one is headed, a future picture, finding relevance in what one is doing in school, and this includes not just students but also teachers. Students will, in any case, aspire to be teachers, lawyers, doctors and engineers, but then their teachers too will aspire to be Senior Teachers, Head-Teachers, Programme Leaders and even Principals. To answer the question about what Big Idea means, one should ask oneself what one is doing in a particular class and stream, why is one doing what one is doing, would it have any relevance five years from now?

3. P.D./SLP: Professional Development Programmes: The YUVA School Life Programme is a workshop for Government and Government school Teachers wherein refreshments, a certificate is given and you have to attend an eight-day workshop right before the Summer vacations. The fact is that Professional Development Programmes are a necessity for constant honing of teaching skills. However, having too many Professional Development programmes or in-service programmes might be a cause of excessive sleep.

4. BaLa: Don't paint the periodic table or the three laws of motion on the school building just for covering up the poor quality of the plaster. Nor is it about hiring an artist at an exorbitant amount, simply because he happens to be related to the Boss's. Rather, the idea of using the Building as a Learning Aid stems from the belief that looking at pictures, diagrammes, written principles, and theorems will embed themselves in the learners whenever they come across these images! Visual learning is powerful, so use your school building as a learning aid! This runs true, not just for Government schools but also Private schools!

5. Experiential Learning: This is certainly not about letting the cat amongst the rats! This is certainly not a situation where everyone is left wondering what all that brouhaha was all about. Experiential Learning doesn't do away with a Lesson Plan, Learning Targets or Learning Outcomes. Teachers in an Experiential set up are quite in control of the learning process, they are simply not mute spectators watching a free for all in the class! In fact, a lot of planning goes into each class involving Experiential Learning. Far from being a mute spectator, the Experiential Learning Teacher steps in wherever needed, he or she is a guide and in control of his or her ego. You, as a teacher don't step in with exasperation when your students fail to answer questions, you give them leading and probing questions so that the students themselves arrive at the answer. The students take pride in the learning process, they own the learning process, and it gives them immense joy.

6. Distributed Leadership: This is simply not a situation where the Boss doesn't want to stick his or her neck out in a dangerous situation, take for example a situation where the Principal of a school cowers inside his or her office when faced by a crowd of irate parents demanding a rollback back in discipline policies after having instructed the Coordinators and Programme Leaders to take the rap on the knuckles for him or her! Distributed Leadership in a school is about sharing of responsibilities for the larger good of the school. Discipline, Learning Walks, Training Sessions, and Meetings can be offloaded on to the able shoulders of capable Educationists.

7. Out of The Box Thinking: This is definitely not about doing anything but answering the question! Out of The Box, Thinking is about finding different ways to answer a question. It is not an excuse for deliberately hijacking the class by asking silly questions and getting into a discussion that is misleading, digressive, and meant to give the students and the teacher a chance to do anything but learn.

8. A Cool Teacher or A Good Teacher: This is definitely not someone who does anything but teach or guide students towards certain Learning Targets! This is also not about a teacher who bonds very well with students but has bad professional ethics. Nor is this a teacher who has poor knowledge of the subject but hides his or her professional inadequacies by being too friendly with students. A Good Teacher is one whom students initially love to hate but then love to worship at a later stage. This is a Professional who has a good command over the subject, is a friend of the students, but places importance on ethics, values, and timelines. He or she is as ready to tick off misdemeanours and wrongdoings as to show appreciation for exemplary work.

9. BYOD: Students do not Bring Their Own Devices to school to connect with friends, chat online, play games or research latest fashion trends. BYOD is about bringing in internet-enabled devices for the sake of doing collaborative work, researching important information, and attempting online tests, surveys and answering questionnaires. Unfortunately, well-meaning organisations are not able to regulate usage of internet on student-owned devices. Firewalls and filters are easily circumvented by students who are smarter than their teachers.

10. BYOB: Students Bring in Their own bottle, but this doesn't mean they don't have the sense not to keep drinking water in the class so that they have to go to the washroom frequently. While the drinking of water is an important right, this right is however misused for the wrong reasons. Their something rather childish and regressive about grown-up children picking up their water bottles and glugging up the contents of the bottle even as the sucking noises cut across the silence of a class that is working on a task. Wonder if the contents of the water bottles might not warrant a closer look to see whether it is indeed Aqua Pura!

11. Big Data: Folks, this term does frighten one so much! The Secret Police collected tonnes of Big Data on some of the dissidents in the Socialist countries. Big Brother is watching us. Does Big Data refer to a list of misdemeanours listed in that ubiquitous 'Pink Register'? No, Big Data refers to data that can be used effectively to improve student performance in academics. Big data refers to data that can help improve teaching processes and pedagogical practices. Big Data refers to Demographical data, examination/test performance scores, attendance percentages, a frequency of notebook submissions, performance scores across grades. It is on the basis of quantitative data that a teacher is able to provide predicted scores for students desirous of getting admissions in colleges abroad. Letters of Recommendation are based on qualitative data.

12. LOR. : Gracious me! This is a hate letter that a teacher gives to a student who needs to get admission in a college abroad. This is a love-hate letter that can make or ruin a student's chance of getting into MIT or Harvard, to make matters worse, a student doesn't get to see what his teacher has written since this is a confidential letter that is posted directly on a link sent by the college to the teacher. Fact: the Letter of Recommendation is an important letter from a teacher who has taught the student over a period of time stating that he knows the student and vouches for him as a student who will do well in college. Remember Einstein? His maths teacher gave him a Letter of Recommendation which helped him get into college to study maths.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Save our Wetlands!

Sunday, 4 March 2018

The Black Necked Stork

This time when I last visited the Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary close to Garhi Harsaru, Haryana, I was able to spot quite a large number of birds, especially red-billed geese, Sarus cranes, and ducks, different species of ducks. What struck me the most, however, was a Black Necked creating some of the most elaborate stances, all angles and corners even as he fed on the lake. The silhouettes this fellow created were some of the most striking ones. I knew from the very moment that I clapped my eyes on him, I would aim for silhouettes. I have pasted a few of them below:

The Black Necked Stork seems to be a solitary bird that is happy in its own company. Looking at the next snap, one would wonder if the Black Stork might not also be a bit of a Narcissist! I guess the golden cast of the snap adds to the effect!

But then, Narcissism apart, one would certainly not deny the fact that this is one of the most majestic birds one might see. The stance, head held high, one foot at right angles to the torso, the proud head, and the general demeanour suggests that the Black Necked Stork is indeed, not to be trifled with!

Silver Dawn-A Poem

Stray fingers stretch into the sky, steel-skeleton structures,
Seeking warmth from the rising orb, fog and mist obscure
The morning air, and none to greet the rising sun! For
Where are they that  would stride or jog for cure or health
 In the morning air, but now hide from the Silver Dawn
That greets none but cold steel fingers of cell-phone towers?

The fresh air, the chirruping birds, the wetlands and forests
Are all gone like a dream rudely awakened, by the chink of
Golden, promises of development and progress! Alas! What
Have we done to our forests, and wetlands and fresh air?
Sold them out to corrupt officials and sick politicians who'd
Only want to line their own pockets despite their children's health!

The sun does rise in the morning, but none do greet it, people
Remain indoors, cowering beneath quilts and blankets breathing
Artificial, purified air, bottled air, tailor-made air, smelling of citrus
Fruits, or exotic flowers, that none do find in real life! A few, ashamed
To step outdoors for fear of being lynched for destroying the world cower
Indoors.  And all this while, the glorious sun does rise to greet none but:

Steel skeleton structures seeking warmth from the rising orb!

Alas! Those greedy officials and selfish politicians did sell off all our
Clean air and fresh water, and promises were thrown into the winds, in
The name of development, all they left us are concrete and steel atrocities
In the name of art, for development without care, is not but willful destruction Of resources! But then who'd sell air-purifiers and water-purifiers if not for
A Silver Dawn? They say it's good to have Silver Dawn to line the pockets of few!