Back to School!

I cannot believe this is my 3rd post of the Day!! It’s a MIRACLE!!

I’ve just got back from spending the afternoon with my son’s Kindergarten class! Today was his first day in Senior KG and I’m happy to report that both of us had a blast 😀 This despite the fact that my derriere is aching from sitting hunched in tiny rigid made-for-4-yr-old-butt chairs 😉 and notwithstanding the general brouhaha that occurs in a room full of 15  hyperactive, enthusiastic 5-yr-olds!!

I continue to be impressed with the teachers in the Podar Jumbo Kids Plus IB section. There are three teachers to attend to 15 children – a main teacher and two assistants, without whom I cannot imagine how they would manage to keep order 😛 These children are a handful – curious, impatient, fidgety and unique –  each in their own way. Getting them to concentrate on a single activity for 5 minutes at a time is in my opinion worthy of a Nobel prize 😉 The teachers at Podar do so with aplomb and have my utmost respect! Take a Bow Ladies 🙂

It was fascinating to see how far the education system has come since way back when I was a kindergartner myself! The children played, sang songs, modeled clay and watched stories all in the space of 4 hours, during which they also wrote their names on the board, drew objects that started with the first letter of each of their names and counted numbers! The learning is skillfully woven into fun activities so that the children scarcely regard it as a serious study process. Instead they imbibe knowledge true to the little sponges they are, by instinct and osmosis. I was pretty impressed with all the kids and happy to see that my boy – shy as he is in public, can hold his own in the classroom 🙂 It was an eye-opener and a wonderful experience and we Moms would be very happy to do it again some time 😛

Senior KG 1st day

I’m looking forward to another rewarding school year 🙂

International Evening @ Podar

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My Little Parrot 🙂

Yesterday, Ishaan’s school had an International Evening, for which yours truly had to go scouting for a bird costume! Yeah…the kids were doing The Animal Boogie song and my son was a bird 🙂 So, after managing to source a parrot costume and practicing at home (endless prancing around the house and on the bed singing at the top of our voices :P), I dropped him off and settled down with the other Moms to enjoy the event. It was an hour-long wait, until the Principal arrived and after a few short announcements, declared the Fete open.

Every grade had a stall in which they displayed their chosen concepts and themes. It was quite an eye-opener in terms of how confident and put together they seemed, even the first-graders 🙂 and how well thought out and presented their ideas. The Pre-Primary section (the pre-schoolers), did a song and dance routine as I mentioned earlier. I watched proudly as Ishaan and his friends sang their Animal Boogie with the effortless enthusiasm that only children seem to possess 🙂 They were all adorable and here’s the video to prove it! Ishaan is in the upper left corner next to the teacher, although for the most part, only the giant parrot head of his costume can be seen bobbing to the music 😛

Then we were off for a tour of the stalls. One was a ‘Country’ in itself, called ‘Estrella’, which means ‘Star’ in Spanish; complete with its own constitution, culture, and citizens; founded on the concept of universality – which the students described as equality for all. They were very popular, although I think their offerings of food and live music might have had to do something with that 😉

There was a stall on Organic food where 4th graders taught us how to detect adulterations in food stuff. Did you know that if you sprinkle salt on a slice of raw potato and squeeze a bit of lemon juice on it, a light bluish tinge indicated that the salt indeed contains iodine like it should? Pretty cool that! They even had a student dressed up as a lawyer who we were informed would take up any complaints we might have about the quality of our produce!

Another stall I enjoyed was The Fu-School (Fu being short for Future! Of course;)), where a bunch of 7th graders walked us through their vision of a school of the future, with playgrounds in the air (an innovative use of anti-gravity to make up for a lack of ground space!); shoes that doubled as storage, eco-friendly Tri-bikes with built-in speed limits for safety; beautiful recycled paper jewellery; and smart backpacks with sensors that beep when they cross an accepted weight limit! Truly an iSchool for the Future this! And aptly named PTS – Pathway To Success 🙂 They had even invented their own alphabet and we were invited to play scrabble with the letters! We won a few chocolates which was rather nice! Took me right back to my school days 🙂 

We couldn’t visit all the stalls, there were so many of them – stalls featuring futuristic medical devices, music therapy, art, environmental issues, fitness, alternate sources of energy, living in outer space, wildlife protection and many more. But the children were done with their singing and exhausted from all the dancing and excitement. It was a great evening though and one that showcased the children and their creativity. It was their time to shine and they rose brilliantly to the occasion. Kudos to all the teachers and staff for their hard-work and inspirational guidance! Congratulations to the students – our bright young minds of the Future. We’re depending on you to do a better job than we’ve done so far 😉 Well Done Podar!! Keep up the good work 🙂

Well Done Podar!! Keep up the good work 🙂

Teachers Day

 

Every year, India celebrates its teachers on the 5th of September, the birth date of its second president Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, an educator and statesman of the highest calibre. I must confess I knew next to nothing about him and I’m glad I took the time to find out a little more. Like most famous Indians born in pre-Independence India, he came from humble beginnings and rose to great accomplishments on the back of his intellect and integrity, the latter so dreadfully lacking in the present generation of us free Indians 😦 Here is a great quote attributed to him “When we think we learn we cease to know.” Personally I would like to add, and vice versa! “When we think we know, we cease to learn.” I firmly believe my country is in dire need of better teachers – teachers of the old school, selfless, dedicated and passionate about their vocation. Not the cash-crazy owners of tuition classes that have sprouted all over the country 😦 

Today is the day and inexplicably my son has a holiday! No celebrations in school which is rather disappointing and the card we made sits rather sadly waiting to be happily received by his class teacher tomorrow. Well, be that as it may, these are some of the thoughts running through my head on this Teacher’s Day…

I’m remembering my 5th grade teacher Ms. Olive Callan, in Stella Maris, Kobe. She was a wonderful human being and an excellent teacher. She was loving and yet could be firm, even stern without ever being demeaning or cruel – in my opinion the hallmark of a great teacher 🙂 Her warm smile could light up the most miserable day and she loved us unconditionally as we did her. She left school the same year I did, me to come back to India and she because her son had been diagnosed with a brain tumor 😦 I can’t remember details clearly, it was so long ago, but I remember that that was an important reason in my wanting to become a doctor and a neurosurgeon! Didn’t do the latter, but did eventually manage the first! I tried looking for her recently through random searches on FB but I know nothing about her or where she lived except she was from the UK. How I wish we could connect again! Thank you Ms. Callan for a fabulous 5th Grade and for planting the seed that flowered into my present life-path 🙂 Love you!

And then there’s Teacher Lydia…my brother’s teacher…a woman who mentored him through some of the most difficult times of his life and I’m not talking academics here. My brother had Duchenne’s and had to be home schooled. This is why I believe in miracles people…at a time when my parents were exhausted from looking for a teacher that would agree to come home and teach him, Ms. Lydia entered our lives and nothing was ever the same again! Before we knew it, she became a valued member of our tightly-knit family & continues to be to this day 🙂 She’s one of the most positive people I know and although she was my brother’s teacher, she taught me a thing or two about life and attitude! She loved him, scolded him, cajoled him and loved him some more and I know he adored her. We all did. My eyes are tearing up just thinking of their bond – they were lucky to have each other and me, I was lucky to have them both. I’ve lost him and I don’t see Ms. Lydia as often as I should anymore (what with me being in Bombay and she in Goa, battling arthritis), but if you do happen to read this Teacher, I want you to know, you are never far for my thoughts and I love you always. Always.

My favourite ‘Teacher’ movie has to be ‘To Sir with Love’, starring the inimitable Sidney Poitier! I adore him and I adore this movie…the scene where he finds the sanitary pad burning away in the fire is forever etched in my memory. I first read the book when I was in school myself and I remember thinking how terrible those children were and how brave and strong their teacher! I remember wanting him for my teacher! Much later I saw the movie as an adult and the feelings came flooding back. Again and again in my life, the best teachers have been those that combine a healthy dose of discipline with genuine concern for my well being. It has often taken me a long time to acknowledge the latter in the face of the former! It’s a failing I’m happy to report I got over with time, age and experience 🙂 There have been many teacher films made over the years… great ones too…but this one remains for me the Gold Standard against which I compare them all.

Another ‘Teacher’ memory is crying copious tears while reading ‘Goodbye Mr. Chips” by James Hilton, a slip of a book borrowed from my Dad’s bookshelf! It’s such a poignantly heart-warming tale of a teacher who struggles to connect with his students initially and then goes on to become an institution of sorts! I remember him reciting the names of his students and at that time thinking it rather funny and silly 🙂 He was that sort of teacher Mr. Chips was…unintentionally humorous, sensitive and quietly affirmative – the best kind!

Goodbye Mr. Chips – Cover of the 1st Edition

And of course I have my very own ‘Teacher’ story given that I married mine 😉 Oh don’t get all het up! Nothing illegal I assure you 😉 Hubby was a senior resident in Preventive & Social medicine and took classes for us when I was a student in my 2nd year of Medical College. He was an ok teacher I suppose but I’m not really the best judge of his teaching skills now am I? Given that I was busy concentrating on his rather sweet smile 😛 We were married after 3 years of courtship and have been married now for 2 decades! We’ve both learnt from each other and taught each other about life, love and marriage. It’s been one long lesson – mostly fun 😉 Thank you Darling for sticking with me 😉 I know it hasn’t been easy. Love you.

Now of course the tables have turned and I find myself transformed into a teacher 24/7, as every parent does. Being ‘teacher by default’ to my 4-yr-old son is really the hardest & most exhausting thing I’ve ever done – watching my language and actions and controlling my thoughts constantly is tough and often I just let go and rebel against the high standards I set myself! I don’t think I would have been a great teacher in the traditional sense – I would have been fun but not very consistent and too impatient for my own and my students’ good! It takes a lot of self-discipline and that’s not my forté! And yet the thought of moulding minds & influencing others is powerfully seductive…I’m glad I have only the one student to potentially ‘screw up’ 😛 Good Luck Ishaan…you’ll need it 😉

So here’s to Teachers everywhere & in every form! May they continue their good work, live long & prosper! Happiness always 🙂

 

 

 

 

Homework…Ishaan’s First Assignment, Undone!

Where there’s school…can homework be far behind? And one mustn’t forget, this is India, where ‘learning’ is sadly secondary to exam results.

So I wasn’t quite surprised (just a little sad) when Ishaan brought home, his first ever homework assignment – coloring, just surprised at the detailed picture he was supposed to color! It seemed way beyond anything a toddler would have the skill or patience to do. Ishaan like all almost 2 and a 1/2 year olds is incapable of sitting still for more than a minute at a time. The only exception being when he’s watching cricket (with Sachin Tendulkar in it), when that period can stretch up to two minutes 🙂

The picture he had to color was one of ‘Shera’, the mascot for the Commonwealth Games to be held in India next week. My only knowledge of said Games is that they have been mired in controversy…everything from the actual ‘bid’ to the construction of the stadia and athletes accommodations has provided sensational headlines & fodder for the Media, tainted as they are, by scandal, corruption and shady politics. Sadly, none of this surprises me, cynic that I am.

"Shera"...the Tiger. Mascot for the 2010 CWG to be held in New Delhi. Pic from Google images.

But I digress. Some quick research on Google (Where would I be without it? Indeed where would any one of us!) and within minutes, I had a print-out of the Mascot for ready reference. He is rather cute! Ishaan however was completely uninterested! The most he would do was repeat ‘Shera’ after me a couple of times and after the fifth time, he just grabbed the printout, crumpled it up into a ball and proceeded to play cricket with it…sigh…what am I going to do with this boy? I persisted…mostly because the worksheet had two tiny clock-faces on it with start and end time to be indicated, one could only presume, by drawing tiny clock hands on them! But Hey! No Pressure! I handed him his crayons and the test of wills and patience begins…and please, no prizes for guessing who comes out tops! I’m just human after all 😛 He picks every crayon and either flings it across the room or lays it aside with contempt (Yes, toddlers do feel and display contempt!), and eventually the living room room floor is colored with bold strokes of green and blue, while Shera remains quietly watching on the sidelines, pristine, untroubled by color (except for a few blue strokes that bisect him in two), black on white! I give up after 10 minutes…I’ve decided to write a note to his teacher saying I tried but he’s not interested, which is the truth. I glance at the paper and read that the objective of this exercise is for Ishaan to identify Shera with India, his country! Ambitious! Too ambitious methinks!

I postpone the note-writing until late Sunday night. As I write, I’m aware of a vague sense of failure, probably, coz somewhere within, I feel like I haven’t done my homework, like I’m failing some crucial test, and worst of all like I’m failing Ishaan, in a way that will forever scar his future ‘homeworking’ ability! I should, I could have tried harder, longer, been firmer…sigh…I know I’m over-reacting, of course I am! My rational self scoffs at all the crazy thoughts in my head, but there it is, another lesson learnt, parenting is not always rational is it? So I write the note and it goes into his school folder. Eventually it will come back to me with his teacher’s comments and staying with irrational, I dread the day, as if her assessment of this one thing left undone will decide Ishaan’s academic future! Why do I allow so much power to slip away from me to another human being where my child is concerned? Another unanswerable.

And so this story ends here…a tale of homework undone but lessons learnt. I’ve learnt that I need to trust my knowledge of my son’s ways & interests and leave the homework-obsession to those who care 😛

Getting better…Day 3

The dawn of day 3 is a little scary since Ishaan hasn’t had a good night. He’s been restless and I can sense a cold in the offing…sigh…

We get to school in time, but today the crying starts as soon as we park and he sees other children milling around waving their goodbyes…it’s not the start I was hoping for! He’s beginning to cry and cling and pretty soon the tears flow freely. I harden my heart (I’m beginning to realize that it’s the one skill I’m going to have to master in as short a time as possible, if ever there was one!), and carry him down into the waiting arms of his teacher.

He disappears into the room, still calling out to me, arms outstretched…leaving me standing there, feeling like Monster Mom! Such are the joys of Motherhood! Today, I’m alone and as I sit on the ledge outside, my back to the school (lest he catch a glimpse of me), swinging my legs, I feel a lot like a school-kid myself – unsure, insecure, nervous and scared. If I feel like this at 41, how must he feel at 2? No…this is not helping…this is just making me feel worse then I already do. I feel like a coiled spring…watchful & tense, with no avenue of release. Positive thoughts…think positive thoughts…think positive thoughts…meanwhile the silence inside is vaguely disquieting but oddly comforting…

I look around the garden and decide to take a few pictures so I can show them to Ishaan later and because it gives me something to do (in typical hare-brained fashion have forgotten to bring a book and my camera!). I use my phone to click pictures of the two turtle statues and an earthen flower-pot shaped like a shell. I take pictures of the black-board outside, with its quote by Dr. Maria Montessori. I peer surreptitiously through the long window panes, trying to catch a glimpse of Ishaan, but he’s nowhere in sight and the silence persists. I should be happy…shouldn’t I be happy? He’s probably enjoying himself somewhere, having forgotten all about anxious Mom waiting outside. Why then do I mistrust the silence? Why is my heart not jumping with joy?  Why is everything to do with children a double-edged sword? Questions, questions…where are those positive thoughts when you need them?

The turtle!

A butterfly catches my eye…there are many and they offer welcome distraction. There are large Monarchs, others with opalescent wings, still others with white-rimmed, light-brown speckled wings and yet others with green and lemon-yellow wings that catch the sunlight and shine like green-gold! Pretty, delicate and uplifting. Then I catch sight of the centipedes crawling all over the garden…their fat chubby bodies moving smoothly, with equal ease both forwards and in reverse, on the wave-like motion of their hundred legs. Not so pretty (I’m not an insect person, except for butterflies), but still fascinating. They seem so purposeful, I envy them, sitting here swinging my legs, purposeless! The teacher appears and asks for his shoes. They’re taking him for a walk in the garden out back. Before I can ask, she assures me he’s fine. If only I were too!

The Shell!

I go back to my meandering thoughts and old school-memories come flooding back. I loved school and had a wonderful time, especially in Japan at the Stella Maris Convent, where I studied from grades 2 through 5. I think of Mrs. Rosario, my Grade 4 home room teacher, a stern-faced disciplinarian with a heart of gold. An excellent academician to boot! It’s hard to find teachers like her now. She took us girls in pairs to spend a night at her house, a great honor it was, though a little scary, and I remember walking down the lane by her home to watch the cherry blossoms in spring, while she spoke to us about seasons and nature 🙂 A practical lesson in science and a wonderful memory! Then there was Sr. Mary McDonald, the Principal, I still remember her calm countenance and smiling face. I don’t once remember her flustered or angry. And Mrs. Callan, my Grade 5 teacher, the first one to recognize my love for writing and encourage it. She had me write a letter in response to an appeal from a zoo where an elephant was sick. We collected money and sent it along with my letter and we received a letter of thanks in response. I remember feeling proud, the pride that comes from making someone you love and respect, happy! It’s a great feeling and it’s what I want for Ishaan…happy memories from school that he will treasure ever after! There are many more memories and I’m pleasantly lost…until I look down at my watch and it’s past 10 am!

The Quote!

The one hour is up and I am eager to see my boy, but it’s not to be…today they’ve decided to keep him for another half-hour (sigh), and he seems to be doing Ok. Suddenly, there he is at the window and he sees me as I’m talking to the teacher.’Oh Lord!’ I think, ‘Now he’s seen me and that’ll set him off again!” and I try to hide my bulky self as best and as quick as I can. He’s calling Mama and he’s tearful but he’s not howling. He’s told the teacher he needs to use the potty, and she leads him to me, but it’s a false alarm and he has to go back, which is when the crying begins again, which I confess (Monster Mom that I am), is oddly comforting!

But he goes back inside and quiets down and I stay outside. Hubby joins me and we wait together a while, before it’s time to leave. This time he walks out to me, holding his teacher’s hand and he’s not crying. He’s happy as a button to see hubby and runs straight into his arms 🙂

And so, another day is done…not too bad at all…rather well done methinks…I pat myself on the back before I bury my nose and inhale the sweet, sweaty fragrance of his hair 🙂

Ishaan starts Playschool!

All set for school!

He went. He saw. He cried.

I watched. I wondered. I cried too…a little. Unseen, silent tears.

That would be the short version! And yet it was one of the longest hours I’ve ever spent, as I’m sure has he!

The night before, I was pretty with it, trying to soothe my nerves doing the little things – laying out his uniform, getting the toddler bag ready, setting out his blue crocs, all the while mumbling muted prayers to the Almighty, to get us through the day without a major mishap. This whole shebang is spanking new to us both and once again I doff my hat off to mothers everywhere! You Rock!

This morning was smooth (Perhaps that should have served as warning? I’m a naive mother, with much to learn…sigh), Ishaan was up at 7 am, breakfasted on fruit and a sandwich, played cricket while hubby and I did the same. We dressed and so did he and I took the regulation picture – the one in uniform, like every kid has in their album, duly titled ‘First Day of School’. He had no idea what school was but he was happy to be driving somewhere in the morning.

How does one prepare an almost 2 and 1/2 year-old for school & separation? Especially one who has just begun stringing together three words into a sentence? How do I explain that it’s a place where he’ll meet other children and adults called teachers, who will play with him and teach him things and hopefully love him well? How do I tell him, that from now on, he’s beginning a new journey, one that will take him away from home for a while every day but will hopefully be as rewarding as it is exciting? How do I let him know that when he’s howling his lungs out inside, my heart is breaking & I’m crying too, just on the inside, so he can’t see, trying to stay strong for him on the outside? How do I assure him that after a week (Hope springs eternal in this naive mother’s heart!), he’ll forget these tears and be like all the other kids, happily playing, learning, settled? How do I convince him that all of this is for his betterment? How? How? How? I don’t know how and so I just hug him tight and kiss him and silently praying, let him go…

And he does go too, holding a teacher’s hand he disappears into the large schoolroom. I wait outside as she’s instructed ready to rush to the rescue when needed, fingers and toes firmly crossed. He’s whimpered a bit when hubby left, but now seems to be holding it together although a bit confused. He’s never been around so many children before. He wants the teacher to carry him all the time but she gently dissuades him and he seems ok, just sticks to her like glue. I exhale and think we might just make it through…Hah! The phone rings and a cousin wants details of an employment agency in Bombay. Her maid just gave notice! I’m on the phone for 5 minutes, when I hear the unmistakable sound of his crying. He’s caught a glimpse of me through the window and that’s when everything starts going downhill…

After that, although I go inside and hold him, wipe his tears and his runny nose, sit down with him and try to get him interested in an activity, there’s no stopping the boy. There are a pair of turtle statues in the garden outside and he wants to go near them, he wants to be anywhere except where he is, he wants to be held constantly, but I’m firm. Where do mother’s find the resolve to stay firm with their children? I have no clue but I’m sure glad they do! I hold his hand and walk him around the room, still crying but trying so hard to be brave, and point out the colorful artwork on the wall (I am embarrassed, and angry that I am. I confess!). He tries his best to identify some of the pictures, a tiger, a fish, a clown. A few of the children stare at us but they remain remarkably undisturbed, not particularly interested in or affected by his continuous crying! I am impressed! If this is what school does, I’m all for it! They are wise these kids, in the quiet, assured manner that children are wise (they are!). They’re probably reliving their own initial misery and I imagine most of them looking at me with an expression of knowing pity! He quiets down every time a teacher appears to soothe him and call him darling and sweetie, but he clings to me like a koala!

It’s almost 10 am and the teacher says, I can leave now. Apparently, he’s had enough exposure to the new environment for Day 1! I agree! Him and me – both! He perks up, realizing with that intuition peculiar to children that the tide is now in his favor and Dad is on the way to rescue him! Suddenly bright, he waves Ta-ta to the teachers and jumps straight from my arms into hubby’s! While we’re leaving, a senior teacher advises me to avoid talking too much to him about school, staying firm but gentle and reassures me that he is by no means the worst child to have crossed their threshold! She makes me feel better 🙂

In the car, he’s absolutely normal although a little circumspect. He knows he’s behaved badly and Mom is a little cross. He knows me too well for his own good! All the way back home, he points out cows, goats, and dogs. The phone rings again and I ignore it. When we get home, Mom and Granny are waiting at the door, having heard the car approach. Mom especially has been miserable and out of sorts since we left, sick with worry! I tell all as Ishaan leaps from hubby’s arms into Mom’s bear hug (and he’s just barely been away the one hour!). Back in familiar territory, he is once again Prince of all he surveys, but he glances at me occasionally, he knows he’s not out of the woods, not quite. Then showered and juiced, I sit him down with two bowls and some almonds and ask him to transfer them from one to the other (an activity that met with much resistance, when his teacher tried to get him to do it in school), and he happily complies, his little face screwed up in concentration, for 40 minutes flat! I realize then that through all those tears, he’s still seen stuff and absorbed it! I smile and his face lights up 🙂 Children…mysterious souls 🙂

And so tomorrow…we do it all over again!

Wish me LUCK!!

p.s. Many thanks to the wonderful staff of The Ardee School for their wonderful encouragement, gentle manner and support. You truly made this nervy Mom’s day easier 🙂