Tuesday, March 31, 2009


There is Something about Teaching...

Worth a read, even if you've read it before:-

Some dinner guests were discussing life. One man, a CEO, explained the problem with education: "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher? You know what they say about teachers: 'Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.' " He turned to a guest and said, "You're a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?" Bonnie replied, "You want to know what I make? I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor. I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can't make them sit for 5 minutes without an iPod, GameBoy or movie rental. I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them have respect. I make them take responsibility for their actions. I teach them to write and then I make them write. I make them read, read, read. I make them show their work in math. I make them use their brains. I make students from other countries learn everything they need to know in English while preserving their unique cultural identity. I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe. I make my students stand and place their hand over their heart when they say the Pledge of Allegiance. I make them understand that if they use their gifts, work hard, and follow their heart, they can succeed in life. And then, when people try to judge me by my salary, because I know money isn't everything, I hold my head up high and ignore their ignorance. So what do I make? I make a difference! And what do you make, Mr. CEO?" There was no response.

I had got this e-mail forward a few years ago and I was "doing" something in industry then. I was in full agreement with this. Bonnie might be real or fictitious character, does not matter to me, but I am real, and I face similar questions from people. People laugh at my foolishness. "Why you have chosen this 'job', when you can get so many better jobs with your qualifications? Why can't you go back to Ittiam?". People are ready to believe any other answer except the true reason for coming to this profession. For most in this society, teaching 'job' is the last resort. I get a surprise, when people whom I thought to be sensible talk this way. They do not understand that without their teachers they wouldn't have been what they are now. It is true that for some teachers, teaching is a 'job'. In every field, there are people who take a job as job and others who take it as passion.

In 2006, when I left the industry for higher studies, some had laughed at me, for leaving such a lucrative 'job', but then they came up with explanations such as, "May be after addition of a 'degree' she'll get paid better, that's why she is doing this." I did not give any clarifications. I did not go there for a degree, I went there because I realized my limits. B.E. is not at all sufficient to quench one's thirst for knowledge. When I worked as research assistant at IISc, I do not know what they thought, they must've had unanswered questions.
For me, even in industry, work was passion. It is not that I did not like industry. It is just that I love this more. There I used to interact with machines more, here I interact with humans more. Machines respond only technically-if I write a program, they give the output. Humans are much more expressive and lively. Yes, it is obvious, but many times we miss the obvious. We often end up loving materials more than people; nothing wrong, it is one's personal choice. This is my 'choice': sharing what I know, learning along with them, finding answers for my doubts and their doubts, being on my toes all the time as we have day by day basis deadlines which can't be slipped. We must be careful while taking leave, as we can't waste some 50 odd people's time. We must arrange for alternate classes. In addition we have lot of administration work. You see, it is not as easy as it looks from outside. I enjoy it. Right now, it looks as if this is what I wanted. (Opinion may change later.) I respect my teachers, I respect this profession. It is only adding to my self respect. I love my students, like a teacher must. I respect them like a friend and love like a sister too. I am emotional like any other human and I find no shame in admitting it. As long as no one can take advantage of my emotions, it is fine. I am emotional about every class. I make notes, modify it twice, think while traveling, think while teaching and think about how I taught and what I spoke. There are times when I get momentarily angry with them and shout. Interesting thing is, they do not feel bad. They know why I tell them what I tell. They are quite innocent (relatively innocent) who think that they are not. I laugh at their stupidity, I laugh at my own stupidity more often, who knows? it may be my stupidity to think that they are more innocent!
I believe that undergrad education is for shaping the character of a person. Hence I keep talking about other things too. I urge them to develop their own set of principles, a philosophy for life. I urge them to be honest with themselves and others. It is nice to see the results of my work. I try hard to make them realize that more than numbers, what they learn about various things-technical or nontechnical-is what matters. I think some of them realize it faster, but all of them ultimately will.

It is time to change the phrase as "Those who can, teach"; and we, the teachers, are not here to comment about "those who can't". Our job is to make our students think, "I can do whatever I want to".

Sunday, March 01, 2009


Three in One

ICTA – Santigram:- Rare Place to Find Peace:

Unlike most posts, this is not going to start with “I”. This post is about an extra-ordinary experience I had at a place called ICTA-Santigram, Kochin, Kerala. Stated in a language understandable by a layman, this institute has something to do with psychology. I have had passion for human psychology ever since I was a child. (It is evident in my earlier posts as well). The reason must be that I’ve grown up in an undivided family. The advantage with such family is, one gets to study various types of personalities, due to its sheer size. At one time we were 13 in our home. I was there till I crossed 15, before I moved to Mangalore for my 11th standard. Human mind is very intricate, it has always amazed me and I was searching for a chance to learn about it more in the limited time I have, and at the same time without getting too much carried away by the vastness of the subject.

“Institute for Counseling and Transactional Analysis (ICTA)-Santigram”, was founded in 1973 by Fr.George Kandathil and group and is a charitable institute. I came to know about it recently through my friend Shwethakumari, Mangalore, who is a counselor. The only thing she told me was that this institute takes a different view of psychology, that which is known as Bernean approach, not the usual Freudian approach. This Eric Berne had started his own theory and I thought let me give it a try. Also, I had read a book by name “Road less traveled” by Dr.Scott Peck several years ago and liked the concepts. This was a good chance to check whether his views match that of Eric Berne’s. This Jan, I had been to ICTA, as a participant of 36th National Conference on Transactional Analysis (NCTA). The conference was from Jan 22 to 26th. Every year it is the same date, place may be Kochi or Pune. Fee was very less, 2,250 Rs for the conference and 150 Rs per day for the accommodation, both are much less than what they deserve.

The theme of the conference was “Relating – Gateway to Autonomy”. Fr.Kandathil-Accha in short-gave an inaugural speech on this. Accha is personification of spirituality. Being 88 years old, he has dementia to his credit. But he still remembers lot of Transactional Analysis (TA) related stuff. This is a gist of what he said: “When a person is mentally ill, she/he tends to be (over) dependent on others, in other words, loses autonomy. How to bring back the autonomy? The solution lies in relating to the surroundings. A person’s identity comes from his relations, like a child is first identified with respect to its mother and then father etc. It is parents’ responsibility to make a child grow and provide its identity. With the growth comes autonomy. Autonomy does not mean total independence. It is independence with interdependence. We all need relatives, friends, teachers, and acquaintances to live happily.”

I was planning to put down the contents of my notes here. But as my priorities have changed now, I am not able to make time for it. Moreover, these things need to be experienced first hand. If you just read the proceedings of the conference, it’ll sound like another personality management course. I recommend you to go through their website and attend one of their courses, mainly the TA workshops in future.

About 90 people had attended the conference and for me the amusing part was, some of them-those who were familiar with these methods-were studying me. Not just me, they were studying everyone’s every move and making observations and analyzing them. I received interesting comments!! My belief that people see their mirror image in me got confirmed, as different people were giving different opinions. I did not risk giving my opinions to anyone. Yes, it is a risk, because by revealing my opinion about others, by law of mirror images, I’ll be actually revealing my inner self.

The new place:

It’s been two weeks since I joined RVCE EC Department. Sorry friends, I cannot write anything here, other than facts. I am handling one theory subject, namely Analog Communication for 4th semester and a few lab sessions for 4th and 6th semesters. The college is about 15kms from my home and I commute by college bus. I see the clock at 7:50am on Monday and then only at 3pm on Saturday. In between, I am not aware what is happening. It is as though I am in trance. Sunday just flies. I have no other comments on anything; wait, that does not mean I have nothing good to say. This blog might be watched by my students. It’s already found by one of my students as per my knowledge. Do not know how many more are reading it. These undergrads are like kids. Trust me, they are all good at heart.

Quotes for February 2009:

-Someone said I was irrational and I accepted, because I was not rational enough to disprove it.

Date: 20/02/09

-A person without self-love can not love anyone else. Same thing applies to respect and trust as well.

Date: 22/02/09

-The one without conscience lacks rationality, but may not be vice versa. (For example, children are irrational, but they are the most conscientious people)

Date: 22/02/09

-I am another name for contradictions,

I hate contradictions,

I love myself.

Date: 28/02/09

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