CHILDREN ON THE EDGE

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It is unbelievable that a seventh class student of a school in Gurugram has threatened his teacher and her daughter of raping them. I am not sure whether the 12 years old student fully understands what does rape and its consequences mean. But one thing for sure is that the student does know that rape and its consequences are disastrous and can be used to intimidate. The other incident of an eighth class student sending a mail to his teacher inviting her for a candle light dinner as well as the earlier incidents involving a class eleventh student who shot at his Principal at Yamunanagar and the brutal murder of a student at Ryan school Gurugram are still fresh in our minds. These incidents are only the tip-of-the-iceberg. Moregrave social maladies, presumably, due to over-exposure, are lurking in the dark for our children. It is high time we take cognizance and to start with, put in place certain serious checks and balances so that our children in a way do not get exposed to age-inappropriate undesirable information.

In my opinion, for our children, the nastiest malaise to get misplaced lies in the unrestricted availability of information at the click of a button. Children tend to get quickly influenced by all the wrongs and land up making hostile and disruptive role models for themselves. At young age they are unable to clearly discern between the right and wrong. A case in point is the online game ‘Blue Whale challenge’.

The other reason is that in this ever changing fast world we are unable to train our children to manage their emotions, more so, their anger. We build-up stress and hence aggression in our children from the very young age by craving a long list of expectations, some of which are difficult for them to achieve.

Besides, parents in such cases are also to be blamed. They are scared to admonish their children and chose to overlook their mistakes. In many cases, parents have no time to closely supervise the activities of their children. Also, parents are generally not aware as to what information needs to be shared or concealed from children. By doing all this we send a wrong message to children. They learn that they can do whatever they want and easily avoid doing what they do not want to do. There exists a dire need for educating young parents on the skills of ‘correct parenting’.

On the other hand, teachers in schools should also be trained in counseling skills to not only identify but also take care of adverse symptoms in children. Regular counseling sessions for children by trained counselors should be held in schools. Children at very young age should be properly sensitized as to what is expected from them by the society.

The time has come when all the stakeholders viz. the parents, schools and other concerned members of the society need to sit together and devise ways and means to tackle this mounting delinquency trying to engulf our future generation. This is our obligation towards them.

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LIVE LIFE IN THE PRESENT

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A young man was one fine pleasant evening sitting and watching the picturesque sunset. It was an autumn evening and the breeze was soothing and gentle with the pleasing chirping of the birds that were heading to their rest places. A friend of this man, who was passing by, stopped for a while and sat down next to the young man. The friend enjoying and admiring the beautiful evening, asked the young man about his feelings and thoughts of the lovely evening that they both were experiencing. The young man with a dejected and worried look on his face, stated to his friend that he was remembering the harsh summers with exceptionally high temperatures which had just gone by and was feeling anxious and worried about the ensuing winters which could also be as harsh as the summers had been.

Many of us are like the young man in the above story. We easily wander from the path of contentment in our lives. Instead of enjoying our present, we keep brooding over our past, which will never come back and keep dreading our future, on which we have no control and cannot ever predict.

This Diwali, let us all vow to live in the present and enjoy the beautiful and bountiful world around us. Let us do away with the habit of paying attention to small, irrelevant and infructuous issues, which have insignificant bearing on our lives. Every morning, taking out a few moments, lets prioritize our actions for the day. Not-so-important tasks can wait. We need not panic or get perturbed over what we have not been able to achieve in spite of our best efforts. To assuage our anxiety, we should remind ourselves about the Murphy’s Law, an adage that typically is stated as: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. Besides, there is always the next day to put-in more efforts and accomplish the unfinished assignment.

If essential, we should recall our past only for the sole purpose of learning from the mistakes that we made and resolve not to commit these mistakes in the future. Lets all live our present to the fullest and enjoy the short life that we have been bestowed with.

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SOUND FOUNDATIONS; RIGHT SKILLS AT RIGHT AGE

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The foundation year’s education is the singularly most important part of learning in the life of a person.  Both, the parents first and then the school are responsible to lay all-encompassing foundation in any child. How much successful an individual is, undoubtedly, depends upon positive and constructive academic nurturing, along with conducive social, emotional and spiritual interactions that the person endured during the journey from childhood to adulthood.The most crucial ‘test’ that beholds a child’s successful upbringing is the ability as an adult to resolve real life problems and conflicts.

Let us, therefore, right from the beginning afford ourchildren an environment where they perceive and learn through suchtools and pedagogies that build strong academic foundations in them.Due to overwhelming advancement in all the fields affecting our lives, coupled, with the burgeoning tough competition to pursue a desired career, parents generally become wary of the future of their kids.  They land up rushing their children into learning-by-the-wire with the least worryabout their physical and mental readinessto do so.  The result is that children remain un-skilledwith a life longsense of insecurity, apathy and under-developed fine and gross motor skills, etc.Therefore, some of the significant points that parents and schools should keep in mind are as follows:

(a) The first stage of formal learning for a child is up to the age 3. This stage is also known as the pre-school stage where a child learns to recognize the environment through an unstructured curriculum. The child should only be made to learn the most basic skills comprising sitting, walking, recognition, audio and visual perceptions, etc. There should not be any type of controlled activity, such as writing, which may involve use of underdeveloped fine motor skills.

(b) The next stage is beyond age 3 where a child enters formal schooling. Children are steadily exposed to a schedule. In this stage, the readiness of a child to write is judged by the child’s capability to handle an age-suitable writing tool such as the crayon. Before starting to write, it is imperative that children have well-developed muscular control to form letters and arithmetic numbers. Hence, at this stage, children should not be exposed to formal writing. Some of the suggested activities for this age (3+) group are cutting paper with scissors, coloring with a crayon, tearing and pasting, etc as these activities develop the fine motor skills and the child is ready to hold a pencil and write effortlessly in the next class. Similarly, from having a vocabulary of around 500 words at age 3, it should go up to 1000 words (approximately) by the time the child is 4. Suggested activities to enhance language skills for this age (3+) group are normal conversation, rhymes, stories, etc.

The aforesaid pedagogy for children of Nursery (age group 3+) is one of the most scientific ways of imparting‘right skills at right age’. These techniques have been evolved over a period of time with due research and are also child-centric.

An advice to parents- avoid pushing your children into learning those skills, which they are not age-ready to do, particularly, during the foundation years of their children.

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AGGRESION IN CHILDREN

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Aggression in children is of two types. You must have, once in a while, seen small children in a shop, mall or a market pace and even at home throwing anger tantrums to parents when their demands are not met with. Such children are seen screaming, hitting and pulling their parents and sometimes even squirming on the floor, irrespective of the place and time. Such type of conduct is termed as ‘active aggressive behavior’.

Consider the opposite of the above. Kids start resisting their elders. Instead of showing belligerent attitude, the child simply does not confront or answer. Rather, the child just walks away and choses to remain unreceptive to all commands. These children, instead, of getting annoyed they, frustrate the adults. This type of conduct is termed as ‘passive aggressive behavior’. In a nutshell, children in the former case are said to ‘act-out’ and in the later case ‘act-in’.

Aggression or resistivity manifests in children who have not been skilled enough to communicate well and solve problems associated with anger and anxiety. Parents and teachers need to understand the reasons and help children to be on top of this type of behavior. Some significant tips are given in the succeeding paragraphs.

From the time our kids are very young, parents should encourage them to suitably voice anger and hostility. They should be taught to be patient and wait for their turn. Being good role model to kids can do this. It is okay to be sometimes angry with your kid, but more importantly, it is to let your kid observe you getting over it with an encouraging resolution of the conflict.

Let your child know that there is a reward for putting in hard work and meeting timelines to accomplish pushing tasks. On the other hand, the child should also in no uncertain terms know the consequences of not following instructions and not delivering what he/she is supposed to. Besides, your child should be made to unambiguously understand that undue demands would not be met with.

Last but not the least; children learn and do what they observe. The tendency in us to effortlessly pick-up the evil practices as well as take the path of least resistance  is true for kids too. Hence, parents and teachers should be good examples in front of children, at all the times. Remember, ‘what we sow shall we reap’.

 

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CHANGE IN EDUCATION SYSTEMS IS INEVITABLE

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modern-education-systemOur children today are part of a society, which is increasingly asserting them to greater competition and intolerance. Unrealistic expectations, culture of consumerism, excessive indulgence in technology (information), etc is to a large extent responsible for the avoidable pressures on these children. The requirement of very high marks to get admission in an institute of higher learning of choice, after school, adds to the confusion and uncertainties. All these factors, in turn, become a source of stress for the young children.

If the aforesaid is true, then a question that often comes to the mind is – are we actually preparing our children to deal with the challenges and uncertainties that gape at them because of the tough competition they are likely to face when they grow-up into the 21st century?. In other words, keeping in mind the well defined requirements of the future, have we put mechanisms in place in our education systems that will take care of preparing these children to be successful when they grow-up into adults.

The answer is obviously -‘not enough’. To effectively deal with this issue, we not only have to endear our children to get good marks in examinations, but also develop in them higher order skills such as critical and logical thinking ability, aptitude for research and analysis, decision-making, inter-personal relationships, team-work, respect for environment and human life and dignity, etc. This can be achieved by moving out of the conventional techniques of education and adopting new comprehensive approaches that make education, experiential and hence an activity of joyful learning. In simple words, education in schools needs to go beyond just teaching for exams. Students should be intrinsically motivated to learn from within.

Pedagogies that afford the above mentioned sort of learning are in the process of evolving and are already being followed successfully in many progressive schools in our country. Such pedagogies essentially revolve around the philosophy of learning by doing. These schools are student centric rather than being teacher centric wherein the role of teachers is not only to pass on information, but also, be facilitators, enabling their students to effectually utilize the information for solving real-life problems.

It is thus, imperative that the existing education systems in our schools be appropriately synergized with the new pedagogies as well as technology to cater to the futuristic subsistence of our children.

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The STEM Curriculum

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The most vital aim of education is to empower our children and adults. Education should be such that it allows our students learn concepts and skills that would lead them to success in life. The advent in information technology has made available content and information anywhere in the world. The present generation, therefore, are more connected. They have a huge amount of information and gadgets at their disposal. Children are found spending more time with these gadgets than getting involved in physical activity tasks that earlier generations enjoyed doing. These days’ children are using multi-touch and multiple screen devices and apps. They are involved in streaming music and uploading/sharing videos. In fact, they are also capable of making apps at a very young age. Besides, the job market has also become global. The erstwhile conventional jobs of doctors, engineers and lawyers, although still sought after but there are a whole set of new non routine jobs such as Animation and Video Creators, App Developer, Social Media Manager, Event Manager, User Experience Manager, etc which are eventually becoming more and more popular. All these jobs are a result of the boom in technological coupled with innovation and creativity, defining a new global world order.Stem - Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics

In order to prepare our children to join the aforesaid global workforce where technological innovation and creativity skills are critical, the schools of 21st century will have to ensure that these skills of the students are enhanced. The schools are no more required to make students memorize data, as this is already available at the click of a mouse, but make them think and visualize proactively, relate to real life and solve the real life problems logically by using the said data. For this, schools themselves have to gradually adapt to new pedagogies which integrate science, technology, engineering and mathematics with experiential learning or learning by doing. This is exactly what a ‘STEM’ (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum does. The curriculum is presently being followed at Shail Global School, Faridabad.

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DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY IN CHILDREN

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Depression and anxiety including emotional stress in children in adolescence (11 to 17 years age) is common. Reasons being their inability to identify themselves with their lower as well as higher age groups. Also, in this stage children become enigmatic and are unable to understand the biological and physical bodily changes that take place. Children start deeply understanding the environment around them and are required to take important self-decisions, which, in turn,lead to confusion.

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The cause, however, of worry in recent years is the rampant visibility of depression and anxiety symptoms in children as young as in the age group of 6-8 years. For these children the idea of a carefree, tension-free and life full of happiness are things of the past, to be read in storybooks only. The lives of these children have become as busy as that of the adults, striving to chew more than what they can eat.

Overindulgence or addiction to net surfing, mobile chatting/conversing, excessive use of social networking sites, must-watch TV programmes, etc with almost negligible out-door activity are also eventually effecting the mental as well as physical health of the children. This needs to be controlled by parents at home. Children to enliven must, as much as possible,be exposed to the outside world and the environment. They should be made to face the uncertainties of life and find solutions on their own from the early stage itself.

Children today live in the constant fear of failing to meet the expectations of their parents and teachers. At times, these expectations are unrealistic. Imagine a parent expecting his child to study medicine when the later hates to study the so-called difficult words in Biology. Parents should not force their child to study a particular stream without knowing the actual interest of their child.

The desire to multi skill children also becomes a cause of anxiety amongst them. Without realizing the capability or interest of children, parents want them to learn everything at the same time and overnight- dance, music, arts and crafts, swimming, tennis and the list is endless. A case in point is the camps and workshops children are made to attend during summer vacations when they ought to be enjoying carefree holidays. Some parents make their wards to attend these camps as they feel that at least for some time children will be away and they will get free time without any trouble at home. In fact, some parents have even expressed their views against having vacations as they feel that children should be in school so that for some time during the day they are rid of the ‘nuisance created by them’.

We adults, especially the parents and teachers, should be aware of the above facts and look for symptoms of depression and anxiety in children by way of observing even exiguous changes in their behaviour and attitude. Parents should always remain in continuous dialogue with their kids. If required, intervention of a trained psychotherapist can be taken. But at all costs, we should not allow the malice of depression, anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, etc to influence our children’s lives. Otherwise, they will grow up as distraught individuals.

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