Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Share a Meal

In a world full of expanding class sizes, endless paperwork, and too much to do with too little time syndrome, getting to know a student often feels like a Herculean task. We have been caught in the rut of quantifying people, aspirations, feelings and opinions that we forget that our purpose is not to toughen kids up but to raise kids who make the world less tough and heartless.

We would all agree with the fact that children learn best when they like their teachers. But how many opportunities are we creating in the classroom to make each student feel that special teacher-student bond?

Cultures across the globe give immense significance to the tradition of eating together. African traditions believe that meal sharing fosters unity and peace in the community. In an Indian context meal sharing has been given such value that even guests become part of the family when food is shared.

Our gadgets may have got us closer to the world but they definitely have pushed us further away from our family. As parents, we need to rethink about how we perceive and value our family meals. Research spanning nearly 5000 teenagers has shown that when children eat with their parents regularly, they are more likely to be emotionally strong and have better mental health. Family meals foster warmth, security and love, as well as feelings of belongingness. There is also evidence that a family dinner regularly acts as a good vocabulary booster for younger children. Perhaps we need to start by considering  eating together not as another appointment on a busy schedule, but rather as an opportunity to let go of our individual pursuits  and make room for our loved ones.

If meal sharing has been such a valuable resource then why hasn’t it been considered by educators yet? It is this intriguing question that led teachers of Seth M.R. Jaipuria School to further tap on this tradition giving birth to a concept called 'Lunch with Me'.

'Lunch with Me' is an effortless way to build genuine behaviour influencing rapport by providing opportunities on different days of the week for a student and teacher to share a meal together. Eating together helps teachers see students beyond grades and assignments and form a human connect by engaging in heartfelt conversations that express unconditional positive regard for who they truly are. It also helps to connect the less connected - the shy solitary students who in the realm of social awkwardness are not able to express themselves in a crowd. The mere act of showing up for lunch without an agenda is powerful proof that in our classroom every day is a new day- that it isn't just lip service but central to who we are as educators.

We strive to make every moment at the Jaipuria School a teachable moment and we hope ‘Lunch with Me’ will reinforce the student –teacher rapport which is a cornerstone of our ethos. Sharing a meal helps remove inhibitions and the insecurity of being judged or like one student said: "My teacher becomes my friend when we eat together”. I guess as a child what really matters is to have someone who values what you have to say and what better way to do it than over some good food!

Anam Zaidi
Seth M.R. Jaipuria School

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Blessed with failure

It has been said in spiritual traditions that success is often a harder test to pass than failure. Truly, if we compare the effect that the two have upon us we can see why it is so.

Success can make one dizzy, haughty and even arrogant. Men drunk with success often forget the great Power working from behind that has pushed them to victory. They begin to believe and sometimes even delude themselves that they are someone special and extraordinary. Very soon their confidence passes into an overconfidence that loses contact with earthly realities. Flying upon the wings of vanity they presume, like Icarus & Sampati (mythical characters who burned their wings while flying too close to the sun), that they can touch the sun with their beaks. Success is indeed a heady wine that one enjoys in the beginning but ends up by being swallowed by it.

Failure has another effect, if one can endure and bear and go through it. While success hypnotizes you and gets you stuck to one option, failure dehypnotizes and unstucks us. It forces you to humility and makes you aware of the realistic limits, so that you may work steadily and patiently to exceed them. Success creates the illusion of power and control except in exceptional cases and even there one can easily fall into trap of confusing a limited and ignorant power for a genuine and supreme one. Failure strips us of all shows and shams, those facades and images that men hang on their outsides to deceive themselves and the world. It teaches us how to distinguish the real from the artificial, the genuine from the imitation by robbing of the sheen and shine and the glitter and glamour that falsehood uses sometimes as a cover and a cloak to hide its ugliness. Failure bares us all, so that we can confront us in our utter nakedness and walk, even if slowly, in the light of truth. Indeed failure has a much greater potential than success to bring us closer to truth… and open new doors for us.

Indeed when all outer doors close upon us one by one, we have this one rare chance to open the inner door and find ‘the One’ who never fails us; ‘the One’ who is the source of all security, satisfaction, strength; ‘the One’ whose touch upon our lives brings such a peace and joy that no outer success can ever bring. Success often depletes us by expending our energies over perishable goods and toys that break and by crowding our life with flowers that are scentless. Failure increases us by teaching perseverance and endurance and helping us discover our own inner strength. It allows us the possibility of new perspectives, and invites us to fresh goals, different aims; alternate life-views that are more complete an enduring. Indeed he is most unlucky who has never known failure for such a one has never known God and His Grace. And fortunate is he who has weathered the storms of failure that toss against his boat. He has seen through the mask of night and when the storm and the dust settles he is ready to receive wider horizons & the light of wisdom. Success creates a zone of artificial light within the dark night. Failure ventures into the heart of night and pucks out of its folds of secrecy the jewels that hide within the darkness’ caves. Indeed blessed is misfortune for through it one can see the face of God.

This does not mean that we should seek for failure. We should seek neither for failure nor for success for they are two sides of the same coin. As we have seen every success carries in itself the seed of failure and every failure hides within its crust the fruit of success. We should seek neither but simply do the deed that God has put into our hearts, to fulfill the purpose for which we are born, to be in tune with the ‘Will’ that moves the world. Or at least be true to our own real nature, the innate turn and temperament that is gifted to us by Nature, inbuilt and ingrained within us as the Swabhava and Swadharma. And this indeed is true success, the sign of a life well-lived, a life worthy of man. To go ahead and do what we must and are meant for without caring for success and failure, victory or defeat, the jeers and cheers of the crowd, the praise and insults heaped by demons or the gods. Better it is to fail and fall fulfilling one's true calling rather than succeed while following what may come natural to another but is alien to our own deepest self.

Alok Pandey

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

From Humans to Numbers

They said he was going to make it big. If sitting in a 4 walled room and staring at a pile of work written by others, was what being "big" was all about, then yes he surely had made it big . They said he would be successful, if having  stacks of money accumulated in his account and never having the time to spend even a penny, was what success was all about then yes he had definitely reached its epitome.

At this very thought, Joshua's shoulders drooped further and his body posture indicated to the world that he was exhausted, weak and feeble. To which he took a deep breath; this according to him was the most effective technique that he had mastered by now.

He glanced at the soiled calendar on his office desk. The digits indicated something, it was his birthday. Today Joshua turned 35. Yet another number he had to get use to in his life. All these years he was running and exhausting his time, energy and peace of mind to reach a particular destination in life. People told him it was the greatest place to be .Today at the age of 35, he had reached that place, that destination, the so called "ultimate dream"! And guess what it didn’t feel good, instead it felt as if he was crumbling under truckloads of bricks. This destination was something he never wanted in the first place. In the psychedelic chase of living up to people’s expectations, Joshua forgot that he too had the ability to dream for himself.

"7th January, 2016 at the age of 35, Mr. Joshua Davidson Jr. had lost his inner voice" he smiled and said it aloud, as if he was mocking his own self. This was catchy he thought to himself. The world would get yet another way to define him in terms of numbers.

 Growing up, it was all about not being a human but being an efficient commodity that would mould itself based on the already set stencils. His life was not about the moments spent in the backyard smelling the grass; it was about the profits and losses. His life like most others was about numbers. The numbers on the report card evaluated his success for his parents. By adolescence, his peers viewed him as a culmination of numbers; his height, weight, victories and he was never the so called appropriate number. It was the digits on a piece of paper that were more important to his family than the uncontrollable hurt he felt being bullied in school. At work, it was not about the difference he made in people’s lives but about the amount of money he brought to the company. In the world Joshua lived in people looked up to him because he showed consistent efficiency in the given mechanical mundane task. At home it was always about reaching one milestone after the other. Number game, Number game! He chanted and crushed the papers scattered on his desk.

 "You aren’t supposed to fear things, fear is for cowards. Be a man!" is what his father always told him .Yes! He did exactly that and look where it got him. Somehow the pain and anguish of his childhood never left his adult life. Somehow those shadows of unmet dreams haunted him in broad daylight. Joshua shut his eyes exerting all the strength he had left in him and a painful tear trickled down. I guess he was still human even if the world denied this breathing truth. 

Anam Zaidi
Counselling Psychologist
Seth M.R. Jaipuria School

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Story of Evolution

My beloved parents, teachers and students, I shall tell you a story today. My story begins from that point in history when I was still an ape. I heard a whisper. The whisper said, “Change, for you must change, you will change.” I set that voice aside. It made no sense to me. I was such a perfect ape. I could stand on my two feet, I could peel my banana so gracefully, and I could swing deftly from tree to tree. What change could I need? She kept on whispering, “You have no choice, and you will change.” I again set her aside. But, that voice of Shakti, the Evolutionary Force, did not relent. She used my body as Her laboratory and created a human being from within it.

Some apes evolved into man. The rest of the apes shall remain tree-swinging, banana-eating apes for generations ahead. And mind you, only those apes were selected whose bodies were fit for this leap of evolution. There was then, the process of natural selection.

I ask you, had I, the ape even understood what Shakti meant, would I have believed Her? Would I have believed, that me, a jungle-treading ape, could ever evolve into a human who could become an Einstein, a Gandhi, a Bill Gates?  

The human was born and with him evolved the mind. Millions of years of striving, of the throbbing aspiration of the soul within, have led the evolution from non-living rock, to a living plant, to animal, to ape, to man. Today, we believe ourselves to be the epitome of creation. We find it hard to believe that this too is only a transitory phase. 

 I admit that in the mental and scientific realm mankind HAS  made immense progress; and yet the crisis is felt, because, in the realm of ethics and spirituality, we have chosen to remain dwarfed. We seem to be rotating in a vicious circle from which our deepest aspirations for self-exceeding, for evolution escape us. We are in a state of crisis.

Sri Aurobindo has said, “Man is a transitional being. He is not final….For in man and high beyond him ascend the radiant degrees of Supermanhood.”

My dear students, it may be hard to believe but today, the door is open for all mankind. We all have a choice; a choice to remain content in our mediocrity or choose to collaborate with Shakti, whose Evolutionary Force cajoles us, compels us, caresses us to collaborate with Her, to take with Her the next leap forward in Her evolutionary march, to become luminous beings of light, love, power and bliss.

I still hear Her whisper. It says, “Change, for you must change. But this time, the choice is yours.”

Anjali Jaipuria
Seth M.R. Jaipuria School

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Power of Love

Today I would like to share a short but inspirational story on parenting – the story of Thomas Edison, the scientist who is famous for inventing the Light Bulb, the Motion Picture Camera, the Record Player and many more.

When Thomas Edison was a young school boy, one day his teacher gave him a letter for his mother.  Thomas had still not learnt to read and write.  He came back home and gave the letter to his mother.  His mother’s eyes were tearful as she read the letter out loud to her child: “Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn’t have enough good teachers for training him. Please teach him yourself.”  And, Thomas Edison’s mother taught him through his pre-primary, primary, middle and secondary years all by herself.

Many  years after Edison’s mother died and he had become one of the greatest inventors of the century, one day, he was looking through old family things and he stumbled upon a folded paper in the corner of a drawer.  He opened it.  On the paper was written, “Your son is addled (mentally ill). We won’t let him come to school anymore.”

Edison cried for hours and then he wrote in his diary, “Thomas Alva Edison was an addled child that, by a hero mother, became the genius of the century.”

 This is the power of love.  All parents love their children, but let us analyse a parent’s love for the child with a little more clarity.  When we pressurize a young child in his junior years in school to perform and we believe that we are doing it out of love so that he/she may achieve, so that he/she may become great, it is not love.  It is the ambition of a parent in the garb of love.

Edison’s mother loved Edison immensely.  She worked on educating her son with the firm conviction that he was brilliant. She worked on Thomas in a systematic manner, without pressurizing her child with names and numbers. And this gentle love of a mother created the world famous inventor and scientist- Thomas Edison.

What is it that we can do as parents to sculpt a systematic growth of our children? 

To become a surgeon one has to know and understand one's surgical equipment's before learning to use them. A carpenter is first taught about his saw and hammer, nails and screws before he is taught actual carpentry. 

The senses are the tools for gaining knowledge for a student. 

Therefore, my dear parents! First make your child aware of his senses. And then make the senses aware of all the truth, beauty and goodness which surrounds them. Fill their surroundings with so much beauty that beauty overflows from 
within them.

Let their sight enjoy the beauty of a sunrise, the colours in the wings of a butterfly and flowers. 

Let their hearing awaken to the sweet sound of chirping of birds, the pitter patter of rain, the purring of a kitten. 

Let their sense of touch thrill by the touch of the drops of rain, the softness of their grandma's hands, the coarseness of their helper's hands which have become coarse in the course of serving the child.

Let their sense of smell recognize the smell of rain in the mud, the smell of mummy's cooking, the smell of papa's cologne. 

Develop their taste buds so they understand the subtle difference between sweet, extra sweet, sour, bitter etc. 

Make them aware of the different emotions they experience - happiness, sadness, anger, love, compassion, jealousy, the strange mood of throwing tantrums, moods when they just want to act like a clown and make everybody laugh etc etc. Make them aware of their deepest emotions so when they experience them in their beings, they do not let the emotion flow through an unaware person. This 
exercise when done with care and love in the childhood will turn them into self 
controlled adults, which is a great tool for learning.

All this we can do for our children my dear parents when we substitute our ambition for our children with genuine and true love for them. 

Love is perhaps one of the strongest forces in the world. Albert Einstein, the world famous scientist, the Noble laureate, famous for his discovery E = MC­2 wrote in one of his letters to his daughter, Lieserl, and I quote:

" There is an extremely powerful force that, so far, science has not found a formal explanation to. It is a force that governs all others and has not yet been identified by us.
This universal force is LOVE.

Love is Light, that enlightens those who give and receive it.
Love is gravity, because it makes some people feel attracted to others.
Love is power, because it multiplies the best we have.
Love is God and God is Love.

Perhaps we are not yet ready to make a bomb of love, a device powerful enough to entirely destroy the hate, selfishness and greed that devastate the planet.

However, each individual carries within them a small but powerful generator of love whose energy is waiting to be released.” 

Each day lets make efforts to  find that dynamo of love in our hearts, concentrate on it and release waves of that love from within us – with this love let us heal all plants, animals and human beings on this planet and thereby Mother Earth Herself.

Anjali Jaipuria
Seth M.R Jaipuria School

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Healing Habitat

How did your time in school shape the person you are today? For most of us it was the most significant part of our childhood. Yet we somehow have a tough time recalling the grades we got or the syllabus we covered but what we truly remember are those brief yet deep rooted moments like the ones where we celebrated our first victory or faced fear in the eye or when we made bonds that would last a lifetime.

If it’s so evident that as adults we look back at how we felt in school as compared to how we fared in school. Then shouldn’t schools value emotions in the same way they value math and reading? It is this intriguing question that led educators of Seth M.R Jaipuria School put on their thinking caps.
The Healing Habitat was just an idea, an idea born out of a compelling urge to provide kids an outlet to express their emotions. A place where being authentic selves was more important than being popular selves.

We began our 7 day journey by taking a patch of bare land in the school campus and giving our enthusiastic students the ownership to take it forward. Giving kids an opportunity for experiential learning brought about outcomes that went far and beyond a mere textbook lesson. It was fascinating to watch multi-age grouping in real play where middle schoolers took up leadership roles and mentored students of higher grades. The sense of dignity of labour was quite visible when we observed students brainstorming with our service staff; be it our gardeners to learn about which plants would thrive in the current season to our carpenters teaching them about measurements and aesthetics in wood-work.

Today the Healing Habitat is much more than we ever imagined it to be. It’s not just another place in school instead it is a symbol of hope, optimism and most importantly dedication to achieve the unthinkable.

The Garden of Kindness

If you can be anything, be kind. Every time you go out of the way to help the other person in need you get to plant a sapling in the garden of kindness. 

The Tree of Self-Forgiveness
Forgiving yourself is the first step to accepting yourself. The tree of self-forgiveness asks you to write what you forgive yourself for. This space of acknowledging imperfections boosts our self-confidence.

The Let It Go Pond
Sometimes as adults we teach kids that certain emotions are ‘bad’ and they should be repressed. But the truth is each emotion has in it itself the power to change oneself and thus we ask children to identify one thing they would like to let go off .Pick a marble write on it and drop it in the pond and see it disappear. This symbolic way helps us to realize that the power to improve oneself lies within.

The Gratitude Tree
The tree of gratitude is a gentle reminder to all of us that no matter how busy our lives may be there is always something we can be thankful for.

The Tree of Silence
The tree of silence provides shade for introspection and meditation. It is especially useful during conflict resolution where we encourage children to reflect upon their actions by observing a moment of silence.

At Seth M.R Jaipuria School we believe in creating learning spaces under the leadership of children so as to instill in them the courage to bring forth their ideas of change; The Healing Habitat is one such example.A constant reminder to all of us that we adults have still so much to learn from our children.

Anam Zaidi
Counselling Psychologist
Seth M.R Jaipuria School