Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lessons from Ducks to a Teacher

In our school we have some ducks and geese who constantly parade in the pond and on campus, so I was quite eager to know what might be the purpose of putting these geese in the school. It was Friday, quite a tiring day; I sat on one of the benches near the pond in the evening. It was relaxing to watch the children playing and listen to the birds singing. In the pond there were few ducks. 

As I observed these beautiful aquatic birds, I thought of a few principles that I think even teacher a needs to learn from them. I would like to share those with my young teaching fraternity who have to manage their students’ learning while keeping their own sanity intact. So here are some lessons that I have gathered from the ducks.  Teaching may be an intimidating profession even for experienced hands. For new faculty, it can be a daily battle just to keep their heads above the water.

Smooth on top, paddling energetically underneath

If you watch a duck, it looks as though it is sailing smoothly on the surface of the water with little difficulty. But on closer observation, you realize that they are paddling very hard under the water to reach their destination. Likewise, a teacher should put all his or her effort to ensure the class is going smoothly. Teachers need to work hard to make teaching appear smooth.  Such a disposition requires empathy and emotional intelligence. A teacher can be stressed and frustrated but on the surface s/he should show a positive disposition to achieve her/his aim.  The teacher should try to unlock the potential of the child.

Young teachers, your colleagues are your best resources. Do not be afraid to ask for help. They have many experiences, stories, strategies and innovative teaching methods that they can share with you. If you want to learn from them, feel free to ask and open yourself to new experiences. You need to create a culture of sharing and collaborating for your personal success and for the success of the student you teach. 

Duck feathers - as resilient as they come

Duck feathers are renowned for their resilience to water. Teachers should have similar levels of resilience. If you are overwhelmed by issues such as managing classes and controlling your students’ behavioral problems, try not to conclude that you are incapable of handling them. Here is some sound advice on how to maintain your equilibrium: 

o   Do not get involved with any arguments with the students.
o   Do not give incorrect information. If you do not know the answer to a question, it is okay to say so, or ask the class if anyone knows the answer.  If not, tell them that you will check and get back with the answer in next class.
This will create a good image and help you improve your personality.

Heads down…

Ducks, in order to survive; need to put their heads down below the surface of the water to reach for food sources.  Likewise, teachers need to update themselves with new technology in teaching and different strategies of learning.  Do participate in every professional development programme available in the school. Professional development not only improves your teaching skills and practice, it helps you to develop bonds with other faculty members who are more experienced.  Further, you will acquire good knowledge of different strategies and skills of effective teaching.  It is also of paramount importance that teachers respect their students and also understand that the Z generation is more technology oriented than we are. Each student is capable of being an achiever - if you are willing to help her or him unravel his or her potential and skills - and facilitate the student’s journey to achieving excellence in the course of his or her learning. 

Ducklings always follow others

I always notice that the little ones follow an adult duck, that may be its mother or an older duck. I read somewhere that once the duckling is hatched, it invariably follows the first thing it sees and remains attached to it. This is called imprinting. Similarly, teachers should develop a personality which your students can role model. Your one-day absence from class should be felt by the students.  In order to create such an impact, you need to be approachable and accessible; welcoming teacher-student interaction.  An approachable teacher with a sense of humor is a trait that young ones would prefer to someone who is unapproachable and dour.  Such an approach goes a long way in increasing students’ efficiency and good grade points.
                                                                                      Madhusoodana. Sunnambala

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Farewell Letter to the 2016-17 Batch of Psychology IB Students

Dear Students,
Here is a letter from the heart of your Psych Teacher. As you all are in the final touch of your IB journey.
One more battle is remaining that is the Final  Examination Do well in the exam and bring honor to the alma mater

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Mindfulness in the classroom

Mindfulness in the classroom
-Madhusoodan. Sunnambala

“If you let cloudy water settle, it will become clear. If you let your upset
mind settle, your course will also become clear”.
When I started to practice mindfulness in the class I had a serious doubt whether my adolescent students will accept it, though I believed it to be more effective after reading few books like How to train a wild elephant” by Jan Chozen Bays, “The Miracle of Mindfulness” by Thich Nhat Hanh, and listening to the lecture by Oxford University Prof. Mark Williams, I was quite charged and wanted to practice in the class as I have noticed many students  zone out most of the time even before I start my class.  
What surprised me is that when students asked me to continue practicing mindfulness each day if not three days in a week!  It works if teacher gets a training on mindfulness and the mindset of the teacher changes. It is not only for the students it equally beneficial to the teachers, the practice of mindfulness will deepen and transform teachers’ capacity to appreciate "the full catastrophe" - the life we are given, whatever it may be - and the preciousness, richness, and poignancy of each moment of that life, however painful or mundane. The reason of writing this article is to share my experience and some simple method how I practice mindfulness in the class, though as a teacher like many we have a common symptom of complaining about the time? I would say mindfulness practice indeed saves our time in making the students to understand the topic what we teach because mindfulness is nothing but opposite of forgetfulness. Most of the time are forgetful; we are not really there a lot of the time. Our mind is caught in worries, fears, anger, and regrets, and we are not mindful of being there. That state of being is called forgetfulness. Students physical presence we can see but they are not there.  They are caught in the past or in the future. They most of the time are not there in the present moment, that is forgetfulness.
As I understood the opposite of forgetfulness is mindfulness. Mindfulness is when we are truly there, mind and body together. We breathe in and out mindfully, we bring your mind back to our body, and we are there. When our mind is there with our body, we are established in the present moment. Then one can recognize the many conditions of happiness.
With so many easy interruptions to our concentration and mind is entangled, it's no wonder that students can find it hard to follow a classroom discussion closely. Without a solid foundation in the course material, remembering key points of lectures is next to impossible. Mindfulness exercise gave a complete new idea of bringing students attention to the class with simple tasks where students felt they are not doing new things but the regular activities, but with a difference, that is they are doing it mindfully by focusing on what they are doing. That is mindfulness.
What is mindfulness? Let me put it very briefly what is mindfulness with a definition by Jan Chozen Bays (How to train a wild elephant) “Mindfulness is deliberately paying full attention to what is happening around you and within you in your- body, heart, and mind. Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgement”. 
Mindfulness is a time-honored way of improving ones’ well-being, happiness and sense of worth. It has been proved to reduce depression, anxiety, substance abuse and even pain. The practice of mindfulness was developed in India over 2500 years ago. It was part of a path to enlightenment and awakening and most religions including Hindu, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam have meditation traditions. These ancient techniques of meditation have recently been adapted to address twenty first century pressures of modern living.
Mindfulness certainly is about paying attention. Paying attention to what is happening right now, right before our eyes ... and ears and noses and other senses, including our internal ones. What pains and tensions are there in my body, how am I feeling right now, am I aware of what I am thinking or am I on automatic, daydreaming, or perhaps going over and over a difficult encounter?  
Teachers themselves are not immune to these disruptions. The stresses and distractions that faculty bring to the classroom can also frustrate the process of teaching. But since most teachers don't have the time for or training in mindfulness practices, how can they help both their students and themselves reclaim a purposeful educational experience? Hence this article will give some motivation to the teachers who are willing to practice and get the result like how I have received.
There are number of techniques of mindfulness exercise available in different books, teachers themselves can decide on how to bring the self-awareness of the students before the class starts.  
One easy way to bring students awareness to the present moment is developing a consistent breathing practice. This core mindfulness practice "time to breathe." schedule specific times before or during class that you can stop, take time to breathe and observe how that works for you. Ideally, practice breathing mindfully for 3-5 minutes a day. Students can sit in a comfortable positon Allowing both soles of their feet to connect to the floor resting their hands on the thighs and letting the shoulders drop. Instruct them to notice how their body feels as they bring their attention to the flow of their breath. They don’t need to breathe in a special way. The body knows how to breathe. Simply notice each breath coming into the body with an in-breath, and leaving the body with an out-breath. If they notice their mind is caught up in thoughts, concerns, emotions or body sensations, tell them that it is normal.
Instruct them to Notice what is distracting them and gently let it go without judgment, by redirecting their attention back to the breath. Keep escorting their attention back to the experience of breathing.
Exploring body sensations is a nice way to introduce mindfulness to pupils. For example, you could ask students to walk slowly, or take any normal activity like I use many time if the class room untidy with chairs and desks are not in place. I instruct them, ok students now we have a small activity imagine that on the desks and chair I have kept glass of water which is full so you need to move those chairs and desks in such a way that water shouldn’t spill on the floor or on the desk. This activity works wonders as they focus carefully on the activity what they do it is nothing but being aware of what they do! Then I teach the theories behind mindfulness.
Another exercise is bringing Awareness of the body this can be done while practicing breathing, being a psychology teacher I am well trained on Jacobson’s Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique (JPMRT) which I practice in the class. Students are instructed to observe their body by closing their eyes and they need to focus on the part of the body where there is any tension or any sort of sensation then through breathing they need to relax those areas. This is another technique students love doing as they can observe any stress or anxiety, they can visualize the tension area and channelize that stress through breathing which brings that tension and stress to their awareness. 
There are many exercises where the teacher can adopt in the class to bring the attention to the present like five sense mindfulness log, it all depends on the attitude and interest of the teacher.

Mindfulness proved to be most effective and in recent years’ interest in mindfulness has grown immensely among researcher’s educators and psychologists a lot has been documented on the benefits of mindfulness especially for students who are getting distracted for many things. The model suggests that true connectedness through self-awareness, creativity, hope, and empathy can bolster fragile young children’s identities as learners. Furthermore, a teacher who can genuinely meet a child where that child is can influence his or her growth and development, because those types of positive interactions can bolster an otherwise vulnerable and fragile self-concept, regardless of whether its fragile due to learning disability, trauma, or illness. By reinforcing protective factors, you can help foster feelings of hope and empowerment in a child who might be feeling weak and incapable.
It's been an effective way of getting them to pinpoint and reflect on what it is that triggers different feelings, and therefore better recognize external stressors and find ways to cope with them. It can be used very effectively for that it needs to begin with the teacher as educators of young children, it is important to understand those internal processes because they affect our ability to connect with children and families; affect our ability to work in a learning community that supports the emotional and physical development of the children in the class; and affect our ability to identify challenging behaviors and work through them without losing site of the child’s needs. Using that information will help the teacher to see instructional biases are and how they affect the teaching methods.
All the best!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Maximum Return with Minimum Effort- Quick Fix

 A couple of months ago, a person named Richey called and asked me for an appointment to speak to me; he wanted to get some psychological help. He came at the scheduled time. He sat in front of me before telling why he wanted to meet me. First, he told me that he had come from Gulf and he would be here for ten days. He needed to go to several places and attend to some work in the bank along with having to attend a few family functions.
I wanted to focus on the issues that bothered him and how I could help him. I just interrupted and asked him ‘how can I help you?’ He continued his story and stated that he had a very short leave from my work. Within the short span of time he needed to go for a treatment for which he has come from Gulf. He has been suffering from severe headache for three years.  He added that one doctor had advised him to meet a Psychologist and then a Neurologist. That is how he had called me. Now he needed my help to overcome this problem and that he had just a few days leave. Therefore he wanted me to suggest something that will work for him and provide quick relief. He further informed me that he is also supposed to meet a Neurologist seeking relief for the same problem.
  This is the common tendency of human beings now days we are in a Quick Fix Mentality.  When I asked Richey, he tried all the techniques to cure his headache for three years. Yet nothing worked!! There have been moments of relief along the way but after some time   the problem became worse. I found that he tried to target the symptoms without addressing the root or cause reveling in its temporary relief. When he feels little relief either he will stop or if the treatment technique requires more effort he will quit and start the new technique.
Richey ended up with four months treatment for his headache. The Neurologist’s diagnosis was that he removes the myelin sheath through a surgery from the nerve of the lower part of the brain.
As the problem was a little severe at that point of time since it had not been diagnosed in the early stage; there were many side effects like inability to walk and talk. Doctor suggested that he undergoes surgery as early as possible.  Since he was also in a hurry to fix his problem, he agreed and the surgery was done.
However, due to his anxiety and fear, it took a long time for him to recover from the problem. The Doctor who had done the surgery was surprised to see Richey’s slow recovery (which normally takes less than 40 days for the person to recover).
When it comes to chasing instant result Richey is not alone.  In every walk of life from medicine and relationships to business and politics, we are all hooked on the quick fix solution. We all look for short cuts- what is known as the ‘Quick fix’ mentality. Today the ‘quick fix’ mentality has become the standard across the board in our fast forward, demanding and just –add- water culture.
 If you turn the pages of the news paper in the morning, your eyes just gets locked in the advertisement with sedative promises of maximum return for minimum effort. Lose your weight in five days! Buy this educational DVD that helps your child to become genius, work for an hour from home and earn thousands in every month.  We are all trying to solve our problems in a hurry what Carl Honore refers it ‘sticking on a plaster when surgery is needed’ might deliver temporary reprieve but usually at the price of shortening up worse trouble for later. The hard unpalatable truth is that the quick fix never truly fixes anything at all sometime it makes things worse.
I believe lately, people are obsessed with this quick fix even though there are many examples in front of them who took the quick and easy way and the policy of maximum return in minimum effort; but are struggling to come back to the normal life (IPL fixing, corruption cheating cases). So nature has a law. Since we are all part of nature, if we go against nature or try to break the rule of nature we have to pay for it.
There are many historical examples of short cut which cut short them.  In politics, war or in the business policy one who used quick fix for a problem which required a thoughtful decision has failed and they had to pay more than what is expected. Richey is none other than the sample population in the society.
When we look into the evolution of this quick fix Peter Whybrow in his book “American Mania” explains; Human brain has two basic mechanisms for solving problems-which are commonly called System 1 and system 2. According to him the evolution of human problem solving skills and tendencies are quick for our ancestors. His explanation system 1 is the fast and institutive almost like thinking without thinking when we see the dog chasing, our brain maps out the best escape route and send us hurtling towards it Quick fix.
System 2 is slow and deliberate. It is the conscious thinking that we do when we are asked to calculate 28 times 18 or analyze the possible side- effects of a new social policy. It involves planning, critical analysis and rational thoughts. Also, it is driven by parts of the brain that continue to develop after birth and into adolescence. Thus, system 2 consumes more energy.
Evolution matches with system1. Early men ate when hungry, drank when thirsty and slept when tired. There was no tomorrow. Survival depends on what you did each day. Hence inherited brain focuses on short term solutions and rewards us for pursuing them.
Now in a complex post industrial world, system2 should be the king. I am not advocating that quick fix is bad or that each problem needs to be solved slowly. We live in the society where tomorrow also equally important. We are like expecting Christ Gayle to hit six for every ball after he scored a record score at Bangalore!  I remember Samuel Johnson quote “we let hope triumph over experience”.
These days hurry is our answer to every problem and even in life, we walk fast talk fast read fast, eat fast make love fast and think fast. This is the century of speed in everything including building relationships and parting from the same. As Carl Honore says, “we are ignoring the golden rule of seven Ps: Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Performance”. We are in a hurry to get rich fast. We are in a hurry to cure our problems fast. We are addicted to eating fast food and we are in a hurry to eat already baked food instead of baking it and eating. However, all this may lead to the cutting our life short.
The ‘quick fix’ is sometimes the wrong choice to solve a problem. No algorithm has ever helped solve the global issues. No quickly made choice has ever turned around a life. No drug has ever cured a chronic illness; No educational DVD has ever transformed a child into a baby Einstein. We tend to throw money for everything to solve problems. Expecting instant miracle relief from any problem is against the law of the nature. There is no right or wrong attitude towards ‘quick fix’. It is a matter of choice whether you live a relaxed or ‘quickened’ life style.
The real trouble nowadays is that no one wants to wait for anything anymore. Before the question is understood, we decide the answer. Nature always works with a principle. We need to respect it. Our needs and expectation need to match with the nature’s law rather than depend on the quick fix mentality.

Madhusoodana Sunnambala

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Reel Hero’s and real ……….?

Since I spend two third of my time in a day with adolescence. I know how much this film actors, celebrities’ sports stars and public figures act upon young mind. Especially their life styles their opinions, their stand on the societal customs and norms. The way they respect and act on to retain the social institutions. It may be parenting, marriage or some taboos.  
The time when transition takes place in one’s life from childhood to adulthood what we call ‘adolescence’ are in search of the answer “who I am” the answer can be seen on the bedroom walls different posters of their so called role models. This may be a film hero’s sports star public entertainer who always can be seen in their TV screen. But I am sure it’s never the people who work for a cause social service activist freedom fighter at large.
The influence of the people who always hit on the main pages of the news paper who shine in the channel who’s posters can be seen in the public places are quite high with young mind.
If you want to notice the developmental stages of the of a person or to understand the developmental stages proposed by either Erickson or Piaget take a look into the bedroom of a child if its female the whole room will be filled with Barbie dolls books posters dresses Barbie cosmetics if its boy Ben10, Spider man. When the child turns 12 or 14 Ben10 is replaced by sports stars, film hero’s celebrities books are film fare, sports star and automobile magazines. This is because they are busy with identifying themselves in this process they keep some role models who will fit into their ideal self.
According to Erickson’s psychosocial stages development adolescence is the period when young adults attempt to develop identity and idea about their strengths, weaknesses, goals, occupations sexual identity and gender roles. Teens try different identities and they have so many possibilities. Since this stage of development primarily depends upon what one does to himself or in other words he takes responsibility of his growth and development. The life during this time definitely getting more complex as an attempt to find own identity.
The role of the film stars and celebrities are immense in this stage as adolescence wants attention in the society hence they fall upon to follow these people and read about them try to imitate them who fix into their image. On an average we find the role models are mainly from the stardom- the hero’s in the reel the hero’s whom they admire. But the question arises Are these hero’s good example for these young mind? When obviously there is a mismatch with the hero’s real life and reel life what appears to be depicted as flowery movies is not the real itself- life is no always with happy endings as in movies. In the reel life he succeeds in spite of all mishappenings and in reality???? Some cases of divorce, drink and drive, abuse in the public places misbehavior cheating etc which really what they fight on the screen but in reality that element is missing in most of the cases. Hence our young mind may  believe some time what their role model says it’s also because of prestige suggestion and adolescence are more suggestible during this period with respect to the self image.
Albert Bandura social learning theorist suggests that people tend to display behaviors’ that are learned intentionally or through the influence of examples. Since identity formation is the central focus during adolescence, adolescents are particularly influenced by adults in the environment. (Erickson) adolescents often look to adults in order to determine as well as to identify models of whom they want to be like.
Now in an age where we have more contact with celebrities’ gossips than we have ever had we are faced with a question. Are our young adults are getting good examples to imitate, model and set examples.
Culture idols need to think twice before making a poor decision because of their influence on their young fans and other people who may look up to them.
Media certainly plays a big role in celebrity obsession because of widespread audience and profit involved. When it comes to family and marriage the couple who lived for say 25 to 30 years together need to pay the news paper to publish their anniversary photos and good message of the mantra of staying together, in this present so called self centered society. But when it comes to separation divorce especially the stardom news papers and visual media is keen in bringing the full page information like a deductive. Media has better diary of the celebrities where when what and how of the separation and there comes a huge real story of a reel hero.   
What I stress is-Yes people do have pressure in life and every individual has a personal way of coping. But  in  divorce, drink, harassment or whatever  is it right on the part of media to leak out their private life instead of giving space required at such time?.
If media and the stardom can act more responsibly to be a good example for these tender minds not to develop negative attitude towards some of the social institutions which will spiflicate the future.
ALL THAT BEGINS WELL ENDS WELL so let adolescent begin well so that life ends well

Madhusoodan. Sunnambala