Posts Tagged ‘education’

Visit to Shivamogga, Mathur, Kudli, and Sakrebailu, 080417 to 100417

April 19, 2017

Kiran Kannappan and I went to Shivamogga to help conduct a summer camp for 85 rural children, under the aegis of



run by Shaila, Shruthi and Adarsh


Morning prayer

Story-telling, some Sanskrit shlOkAs,


nature around the campus, basic birding


Red-wattled Lapwing on the school campus

basic origami,


basic cartooning


…these were some of the things we went through with the very receptive children.


On the 9th evening, we visited


where Sanskrit is taught, and still used extensively. We visited a couple who have settled down there, having built this beautiful house:




Lakshmi Narasimha temple, Mathur

We then went to the shAradA temple at Kudli


as it was about to close.

On 100417, we visited the Sakrebailu Elephant Camp.



Kiran decided that we would return by the afternoon train rather than wait for the overnight one…so a memorable visit to Shivamogga came to a conclusion!


Vasu on methods of teaching

March 4, 2014

Methods of Teaching

In the CAGE method of teaching
The guru sees you as strong but wild
He cracks the whip, shows you your place
You learn by dint of focus and discipline
As a team of lions learns from one
Truly in command

In the CASE method of teaching
The guru engages with you questions
Challenging, she channels your thinking
You learn by tentative and cautious chance taking
By participative experimentation
Your learning grows

In the CARE method of teaching
The guru expresses his love for you
He makes your mental maturation his sole mission
(His soul mission too)
You learn from his love for what and whom he teaches
And you come to love learning


P.S.: Each method is appropriate for a different stage in the student’s – not to mention the teacher’s – development. In school, we got a good bit of the CAGE method, then at college we got a taste of the CASE method. I have used a combination of the first two in my own teaching, and am now trending more and more toward the third because a good teacher once told me, “They may or may not remember what you taught them but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

Guru Purnima

July 22, 2013

September 5th is usually celebrated as Teacher’s Day in India, but a lot of people are thinking of their preceptors today, which is Guru Purnima. Here are my thoughts…

All my life, I’ve been taught…I’ve learnt some lessons, others I’ve still to learn.

I started with kindergarten…I remember the Anglo-Indian ladies in Swarna School who were such dedicated teachers. Jackie Teacher, Colin Teacher, Ollie Teacher…it never occurred to me that all of them seemed to have the same last name! There was Gayatri teacher who was the Art teacher in the school; Mrs Ghoshal who taught us Geography; Mrs Sundaram (who started the school) who taught us a few subjects, and her assistant, Mrs Bani Sen, whom I went in mortal fear of (yes..I used to feel that her eyes followed me everywhere in the school, waiting to catch me in some transgression.) We had a “Sir” in Class 8; only in hindsight do I realize that he must have been a Palghat Iyer. He was excellent at Maths, English, and off-colour jokes, which used to embarrass some of us very much. Mrs. Rao was the Science teacher (hindsight…she was a Kannadiga). I cannot forget Mrs. Datta, who taught Hindi so well that she inculcated a love of the language in me, even as I detested its grammar.

I remember Polly di (I don’t know her last name) whom my mother engaged to teach me to read and write Bengali, as well as to speak it. I took Bengali as my third language, and still am fluent in it!

In National High School for Girls, several teachers helped shape my learning..and thoughts. C V Lakshmi Teacher, Kanaka Teacher, a smiling-faced lady who made me like Physics…Mrs Omana Varma who taught Maths, that went (and continues to go) right over my head.

My college teachers (Gokhale Memorial College) were uniformly excellent. The two Hindi masters (I forget their names); Mrs Chakraborti, Miss Dutta, Mrs Chatterjee…ladies who ensured that I took a rank (University 5th, if I recollect) in my English Honours degree. Mrs Chatterjee and Mrs Mukherjee, who taught us Philosophy.

Through all these years,through all my academics, like a string in the garland… my music Guru, R.Meenakshi, who took a lot of trouble to make me a good Carnatic vocal singer. I never missed classes for exams or holidays. That rigorous training still tells.

The girls who taught me so much…I was academically very good, but very young for my age, as well as being nearly two years young for my class. They taught me Robindro Songeet, Adhunik songs…and about a lifestyle and culture that was more freewheeling than my repressed TamBram upbringing.

My own mother, who taught me how to be interested in many, many things…bird-watching, plants, the world of Nature. My father…who taught me the value of absolute integrity..and how to laugh and joke, and enjoy life. My brother, who taught me not to take things too seriously. His happiness was infectious.

My two preceptors, who helped me in “progressing” my Honours degree into a Master’s. I never even collected that certificate..but I enjoyed a liberal arts education in a time when the term had not been invented. I enjoyed learning for learning’s sake…how many of us have that good fortune?

My various teachers, through the various courses I took. Miss Karnik, my German teacher; Mr Brownlee, my Esperanto teacher; Mr Sathyapal, who was my HAM instructor; the various faculty who taught the Tourism Guide course; Mr Rao, my Japanese teacher (I enjoyed learning Japanese, but no second level course was offered, and I quickly forgot everything…but “wasure mashita!”) Mr Pandit, my Sanskrit teacher…Seeta, who taught me how to swim (at the age of 50 or 52, I think!)

My friends, who taught me the value of staunch, unwavering affection. The others, who taught me valuable life-lessons…how to deal with friendships that waned, with envy, with malice…yes, they taught me, too.

My own music students, who taught me a lot. When students ask question, one is forced to learn before one can answer them!

My many techie friends, who taught me how to use my computer and how to use the internet…I was not a good or apt pupil but I did learn slowly.

My many friends who taught me a lot about the world of Nature, birdwatching, and help me, even today, through the many mistakes I make.

KM and his family, who taught me how to be independent, and do things for myself. I’d been brought up in cotton wool, and this was a valuable lesson to learn. My daughter and her family, who continue to teach me many things.

My Nature Guru, Karthik, a walking encyclopaedia, who showed me that every inch of one’s path through the garden can be riveting!

Poonam Natarajan, who taught me how to deal with special children, and how to appreciate the daily miracle of my own child.

Travel..which has been a great teacher, indeed. And the best teacher of all…Life…I’ve made many major mistakes, but I am trying to progress towards my goal of being a Better Person.

I look back, and like the leaves in a forest, too numerous to count or mention, but giving support, shade, and beauty to my life… are the gurus who have taught me so much…I look back and salute, in gratitude, and affection, even towards those who did not think they were teaching me something!

Science of the Circus Symphony birding!

June 9, 2013

That subject title needs a lot of explanation 🙂

I had gone to see the Science of the Circus, organized by Academy of Science, St.Louis, at the Centene Hall. I went up to the 4th floor, and went out to the terrace to look at the view. My attention was caught by an obvious raptor shape in the sky.


It was a Red-tailed Hawk (if I see a bird often enough, even I can recognize it!)…and I watched as it flew in widening circles.


As it passed high overhead, I kept clicking.


The next time it passed overhead, it went into dive mode…and swooped like a screaming bomber. However, it seemed to miss whatever prey it was going for.


The bird braked, and flew up to land on this pole.


From the pole, it looked down.


As I looked on, it flew off. I saw it again in the sky, being mobbbed by Robins and Starlings.


The other birds feared for themselves, and mobbed the Red-tailed Hawk.


The Red-tailed Hawk being mobbed by other birds.


I finished attending the event, and came to the bus stop to take the bus home. I looked at the majesty of the Powell Hall ( home of St.Louis Symphony Orchestra)…and lo and behold, the bird came to land there!


The Red-tailed Hawk landed on the side of Powell Hall, and looked around…there was going to be no lunch symphony.


I was riveted by it, and glad of the high zoom on my camera! The Red-tailed Hawk ruffled its feathers.


The bird seemed in keeping with the majesty of both the building and the music created inside it!


It was by sheer coincidence that I spotted the prey, too, lying dead on the sidewalk…this dead Robin.


The Hawk then flew off, and my bus arrived… so ….now you know why I call it the Science of the Circus Symphony birding!



Robert “Bob” Shaffer

April 10, 2013

DS’ grandfather, Bob Shaffer, is 97…and he’s truly a gentleman of the old school…gentle and kind. He’s also a highly qualified man; he was the Dean of Indiana University (and my cousin met him when he…the cousin…was studying there!)

bob shaffer photo 090413 photo DSC04115.jpg

This photo appeared in the

American Counseling Association

of which he was the first President. He sent an interview of him (by Richard Yep, the executive director and CEO of the ACA) in the ACA’s newsletter…the photograph above has his hand-written note to DS and AM. Here’s another photo, along with the article, of him, with his wife Joye (which would make her Ds’ step-grandmother, if there is such a term!)…equally qualified with a doctorate in education, who’s also a good artist (one of her paintings hangs on KM’s office wall.)

bob shaffer and joye photo 090413 photo DSC04116.jpg

I’ve found them great people to know, and I’ve visited them in Florida…and when DnA got together, they visited my father-in-law and brother-in-law, too. When we were in Florida a couple of years ago, Bob and JS (his son, DS’dad) drove over to visit us, and spent some time with KTB, too…it was lovely to see four generations of Shaffers together!

4 gen of shaffers 260611 Ocala photo 4gen.jpg

here is the interview, online.

He’s as sharp and focuses as he every was; he’s on his second pacemaker, and has recovered from a nasty fall earlier this year. We all love him and admire him very much.

Here’s my salute to a gentleman, who’s venerable in every sense!

Indian School Education: “Mainstream” and “alternate”

April 1, 2013

The mainstream Indian educational system is, to my mind, utterly stultified. We follow an ancient tradition, but not ancient enough…we follow the old British school system, not our own Vedic (or any other equally old) kind of education. We place extreme stress on rote learning, and make only token concession to modern methods. In fact, it seems to be nothing but memorizing facts, and repeating it in the all-important examinations. Shakespeare and Euclid are not studied for knowledge, but to get a few more marks in the exam…and they are studied with “key books”.

A friend of mine,

Sumeet Moghe

was mentioning on a nature mailing list that we belong to, that schools like


stress living in harmony with nature, and so “green” their campuses (both the Valley at Bangalore and Rishi Valley in Anantapur have done this.) This led me to muse on the “alternate” methods of school curricula available today, in urban India.

KFI in Chennai was elitist enough that after getting admission for our daughter at the beginning of her school years, I decided on Rosary Matriculation School instead. I thought that since she had to join the rat race, with parents in the middle-class bracket, she had better join a “regular” school.

She did go to an “alternate” school for a year, when she joined “Vikaasa”, run by Madura Coats (then) in Madurai. She was happy there, but when we returned to Bangalore and we put her in Sacred Hearts, she was extremely unhappy for 6 months, until she took her guitar to school one day and quite suddenly settled down…and started loving the school. (Sacred Hearts was at the end of Convent Road, where we lived, and it was a major plus that she walked to school and back, and came home for lunch every day.)

The learning was certainly very rote-memory oriented, and extremely strait-jacketed. Individual thinking was (and is, even more so now) actively frowned. The phrase “in your own words” had no meaning in this system. A lot of obsolete, unnecessary, and boring information was thrust down the children’s throats. I remember teaching her a Hindi lesson called “Cycle ki sawaari” before an exam, and her realizing, for the first time, that it was a very humorous piece! She also had NO Hindi poetry in school…imagine learning a language without its poetry!

However, in the larger scale of things (and especially in the matter of thinking for herself) I don’t think she missed out on anything by our choices…she also chose to go to Frank Anthony’s and not to Valley School or Aditi for her +2. She loved it there, too…and she regularly attends gatherings of alums of both schools…in fact, I am close friends with several of her FAPS classmates (it’s great fun when the children turn into adults, it’s like getting new people to meet!) It was she who decided that she would go to the US for a liberal arts degree in the US…and that certainly broadened her horizons, and her thinking, further.

However, in those days, the class strength at SH was about 30…today, one has to pay through the nose to get a school which gives a class of only 30 students. Even there, the pressure for academic performance is inordinately high.

Today’s alternate schools also seem to bow, inevitably, to the “marks” pressure in the higher classes, and parents routinely cancel music, games or other classes so that the children can “prepare for the Boards”, which is like a severe illness that the child, the parents and the extended family go through. It is very impersonal, and unfair examination, and it’s the luck of the draw as much as the child’s rote memory which decides what the academic performance will be….and whether the child will obtain those all-important “marks” to enable admission into the next round of our “education”. We do not even teach our students how to access information, which I think should be the main thrust of education today. There is no liberal thinking at all. Even initiatives in this regard are quickly reduced to token gestures, which sink into the general morass of “get more marks”.

Another problem with many “alternate” schools is the elitism associated with them. They easily charge about ten times what a mainstream school would charge, and very often,produce children who are very snobbish indeed, caught in their own bubbles of wealth and privilege, paying lip service to the “hip” concepts going around, but totally out of touch with realities.

But a new irony is taking shape these days, in the form of volunteering. Many people (including myself) volunteer at the “less-privileged” schools, and sometimes I find that children from a very disadvantaged socio-economic background are being exposed to concepts and fields that their more allegedly-privileged cousins in the “regular” schools do not get. Most of the mainstream schools do not, for example, suppor nature trails for children, even when a teacher uses her own initiative to take them on such trails, they make it clear that they will have nothing to do with such outings. So it’s the children from schools like Adobe Parikrama or the Ananya Foundation who are exposed to art, music, and Indian culture…how strange!

One of the problems, of course, is our over-population..when demand exceeds supply, such problems are bound to arise, and quality suffers for the sake of quantity. I wish I could find a way of establishing a chain of schools (many of them) which could provide education and knowledge to students across the economic spectrum.

May 11, 2012

News report:

‘The “portions” set for the exams were from “A” to “M” but the questions asked were about “T”…that was out of syllabus…several students said that if the letter had been “P” they would have done outstandingly well, pissed passed with flying colours and even given a practical demonstration.’

(Thanks to Hari Menon for some of the above.

LKG exams results

Visit to Principia College, Elsah, Illinois, 220611

June 24, 2011

I’ve posted a lot of photos of the visit, to my Facebook album; you can use your FB account to view them


It was a day of serenity and peace; upon the hillside, hearing the soughing of the strong breeze in the leaves of the ancient, majestic trees, KM sat for a rare moment of calm and quiet:


I loved the idea of an architect (Bernard Maybeck) making a small house to practice his experiments and make his mistakes; indeed, this small building on the Principia campus is now called the

Mistake House

….that’s something I wish every architect would do!


The Chapel is a beautiful building, on the hill, overlooking the (now swollen) Illinois River; and I loved the symbolism of two paths leading to the same chapel:


I do hope you have a Facebook account, and enjoy my account of the visit…must be wonderful to be educated in such a beautiful place!

Off to Florida in while, where there will be a huge family gathering (about 30 family members, apart from friends!) for our niece’s arangEtram…I don’t know how much internet access I will have, or how much time I will have for it, either!


May 18, 2008

Sparked off by Yathin‘s comment to my post, where he said,”don’t you think it’s just enough for most people to know basic things about the environment – about loving it and saving it – and leave the science part of it to the scientists?”

Indeed I agree. And I would say, this needs to be done with our academic education, too. Indian education seems to be stuck in a time-warp. It heavily accents rote-learning, and independent thinking is utterly frowned upon (See skthewimp ‘s entry about school anecdotes , where his independent thinking or divergent answers were penalized…)

In fact, I think that Indian education needs to move from total rote-memory orientation to this…the teaching of how to access information in ways that have never before been so freely available to mankind, and to then internalize, analyze and then synthesize that information and convert it to knowledge. In India, teachers need to taught how to actually teach, and students need to learn how to learn. We have so firmly come to believe that what we learn in our academic institutions has no bearing on real life, except in the job market and entry-level salaries.

OK, enough ranting.

I went on a wonderful heritage walk today, in the centre of my city. (You will read about shortly on Citizen Matters , hopefully.) But one thing I want to know more about:

What ARE Common Beds? Who would a user share his bed with? And imagine, for the first time in Bangalore, air-cooled deluxe, too…..!