Monthly Archives: April 2011

We are Sorry, Dear Dining Table…

 “All well-regulated families set apart an hour every morning for tea and bread and butter.”     – Joseph Addison

Ever since we started our life together we used to have our meals at the dining table. But after our latest toddler started exploring the magic world called the table top, we had to shift to the sofa with our plates. And that had been the practice for the last two years. I recently realized with shock that we were slowly getting deprived of the many little blessings of the family dining table.

Emotional disadvantages

  1. We could not see one another during our meals as our eyes were glued on to the TV.
  2. We missed the family discussions and there was no other occasion to listen to our elder daughter’s stories from school. Instead, we kept on commenting on the TV shows which have nothing to do with our lives.
  3. Whenever the kids talked or cried we felt disturbed.
  4. We could not teach them the proper table manners.
  5. Throughout the last two years our dining table lay in the corner, neglected.

Physical disadvantages

  1. Often we gobbled up food as we wanted to get the plates away and then come back to watch TV leisurely.
  2. During meals we had to shuttle between the hall and the kitchen (though the kitchen is not far away).
  3. Sometimes we ate more, and sometimes less.
  4. We often forgot to drink water after our meals.
  5. The sofa pullover had to be washed almost every week.

So, dear Dining Table,

We are turning to you, once again, after a fatal gap of two years. Though there is no way to have our ‘morning tea and bread and butter’ with you, we promise to join you for lunch and supper. Penance shall be done for being callous to you all these days. I know you are benevolent enough to forgive us, as you always had been.

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.” – Anthony Brandt

“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.”                     – George Bernard Shaw

We too want Heaven – here, now!

Notebook or Art Book?

I usually wind up my advice sessions in class with this point, “These are merely suggestions. You need not limit yourselves within the lines I have drawn. Feel free, go to any extend to express your creativity – and that’s what I ultimately expect from you.” Majority of them happily follow just what I say. I call them good, obedient students. Many of them dare to be innovative. They are excellent students.

But geniuses incarnate rarely. Last year I got such a student (glad to have her with me this year too) – an avid reader and a gifted artist who thinks out of the box.

What makes her notebook stand out is her ability to artistically represent what she visualizes out of the lessons. Almost the whole lesson will be there in pictures and captions. If it is a poem, literally each and every image will come alive in her unique style of drawing. Each time she gave me her book for correction she offered me an intellectual, visual treat.

Take a look at these illustrations.

This is how she began.

A lot of details about the authors are collected and included.

This is how she illustrated the classic poem by Tennyson – ‘The Brook.’ Have a closer look at the details and you can see that she has included even the minute points from the poem.

Song of the Rain by Khalil Gibran

Anyone who has read Wordsworth’s ‘Solitary Reaper’ would not need any more explanations here. What attracted me is her imagination to make the three singers stand on the victory stand, giving the first position to the reaper.

Finally this is one of my favourites – Pam Ayres’ ‘Oh I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth.’

These are the original creations of a 14-year-old girl born into an ordinary family. Are the parents fully aware of potentials of this prodigy? I am not sure. Anyway these days they are seriously thinking about her higher studies – she aspires to be a doctor. May God help her and all the deserving students like her.

Today Nagging Worked – So Fast

I never keep buckets filled up with water. Reason – I am worried about my little mermaid. But two days back I had to fill up the huge bucket in the toilet after the water supply was disrupted for a whole day.

Since then one great fear had been bothering me day and night- what if she gets in while we are not noticing? The toilet had no lock on the outside. I started pestering my husband pouring out all my fears. Usually he keeps my requests in the freezer at least for a week. He kept on pacifying me saying: You are simply thinking too much; your worries are unfounded.

Surprisingly today (right on the second day of nagging, for the first time) he came home with a lock and he fitted it without even waiting for another day.

You know why?

The shocking news had reached his ears in the morning that the only daughter of Chithra – the most popular and adored playback singer of Kerala (India) – drowned in the swimming pool.

I got my job done.


A lock on my bathroom door is all I could do. I entrust God with the rest. God save our little ones!

How to Maintain a Language Notebook

This piece was written some time back for my English teachers. Today, inspired by the blogs of teachers from all over the world I decided to edit and post it. Requirements may vary from place to place, syllabus to syllabus. Still there can be some  points helpful for teachers.
Some may say – “With the advent of technology, writing on paper is going to become extinct in the near future, so we need not insist too much on maintaining notebooks.” I agree to the first part of their opinion but I strongly disagree with the second. In my opinion the aim of maintaining a notebook is not just to improve the handwriting or to have a collection of questions. I tell my students not to expect any direct questions from those given in the text/notebooks. Still they all earnestly complete their notes in the way I insist. How? Why?

A lot of things can be incorporated in the notebooks. For the teacher it becomes a parameter to evaluate a large number of qualities of the child – neatness, punctuality, systematic way of doing, handwriting, spelling skills, sincerity, originality, attention, etc. As far as the student is concerned it becomes the venue to express her artistic and creative skills, to improve her handwriting, to prove to the teacher what she really is. Moreover the students could get constructive feedback – appreciation, motivation and suggestions for improvement – from the teacher.

Given below are just some suggestions:

  1. The note book should have an INDEX (No., Unit No., Title, Author, Remarks of the teacher, Signatures of the teacher and the parent) and all the pages should be numbered (follow any one numbering system).
  2. Each Unit should begin on a new page. The details like Unit, Title, Author, Date etc. should be written clearly (follow the same style for all the lessons). On that introductory page the students should be asked to draw or paste a simple/small picture related to the lesson – something they visualized from the lesson. It should be completely left to the imagination and creativity of the students.  Tell them not to copy the illustrations already given in the text-book. The teacher should give a positive and encouraging remark on the attempt – not on the quality of the drawing.
  3. On the next page the student must write a brief note on the author. Much better if there is a picture of the writer.
  4. Next is the dictation based on all the new/already familiar words from the lesson. Make it a habit that the students come prepared for the dictation soon after the explanation is over. Never give a list of words – let them go through all the words. The students can correct each other’s work. Let the teacher make a comment on the overall performance of the students together with the suggestions.
  5. The textual questions should be discussed in detail. But the notes need not be completed in the classroom. Let the students complete them back at home. Give them sufficient time – something not less than a week – to complete. Keep a deadline. Make sure you collect the books on that date itself, making them feel you mean/follow what you say (ask the monitor to remind you).
  6. While correcting, appreciate the picture they drew, their performance in dictation etc. (Children of any age love getting stars.) Try to point out almost all the mistakes in the notes they wrote. If it is beyond correction, ask the child to rewrite – appoint another bright student to support her.
  7. If the child repeatedly misspells the same word, or is confused by homophones, write the word/s legibly below the margin attracting the child’s attention.
  8. In the end give a comment – don’t hesitate to appreciate the work if she has done sincerely or if she has at least tried to improve (turn the pages back to see how she did in the previous lesson). If you feel she needs to improve, give your suggestions – in a positive tone.  Sign off giving the date. Don’t forget to give your signature in the index too.

Keeping a portfolio helps a lot

Try to include one writing task based on each lesson. Instead of writing the assignments in the notebook, let them use separate sheets (in a prescribed format with a rubric) for that. The convenience is that the teacher could easily take all the sheets home to correct. After that the sheets should be filed by each student in a folder which you call a Portfolio. A proper index, a designer cover page and a title will make each portfolio unique. The students would just love to have such creative collections. This, at the end of the year, will help the teacher assess their level/improvement.   

Some of you teachers, especially those with bigger classes, will be wondering whether all these are practical and whether the students will be willing to follow. The whole plan is practical – you can count on my words as I have been successfully implementing it. You too can do that – just be consistent and ready to spend your quality time for your students!

(Coming up next – the pictures of one of the most creative notebooks I have ever seen!)

I Shall Do That for My Students

I should teach better – that is it. For the past few days I have been thinking about the new methods and techniques I should adopt for the betterment of my students. Although about to round off a decade in teaching profession, I have no plans to settle down contented with the experiences of the decade.

Many of the methods that I mastered in the beginning of my teaching career have become irrelevant or outdated. The students who I teach today were born into the technologically advanced days. They are more proficient than we teachers in many aspects. But there are a few qualities that students expect from teachers irrespective of the age in which they live – the qualities that stand the test of time.

I respect all my teachers for what they have done for me. But just a few of them are adored – for the seemingly simple things they did for me.  

[I am immensely grateful to the following teachers of mine:

Mrs Annie, for the chance she ONCE gave me to run errands for her while I was in grade two!

Mrs Shobana, for the positive comments she ONCE made on my exam paper!

Prof. E. John Mathew, for the effort he took ONCE to comment on the good features of my essays!

Mr. Ramankutty, for appreciating my answers in front of a batch of aspiring journalism students!]

A personal touch matters a lot in any relationship. So why not bring that into the student-teacher relationship too?

All good teachers are not favourite teachers. And all favourite teachers need not be good teachers (considering the quality of teaching). My dream is to be both to my students.

Tomorrow onwards I will have to teach two large classes – class ten and nine with thirty-five and forty-five students respectively. Personal attention to each one of those eighty students – is that feasible? I take up the challenge – cheerfully!