Sundarrajk's Weblog

Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category


Children need to have their feelings acknowledged

Child: “Just because of a few careless mistakes, I got only a seventy!”
Adult: “Don’t worry. You’ll do better next time”.
Instead of dismissing the child’s feelings, you can:
1.       IDENTIFY THE CHILD’S FEELINGS
a.       “You sound disappointed. It can be upsetting when you know the answer and lose points for careless mistakes”.
2.       ACKNOWLEDGE THE CHILD’s FEELINGS WITH A SOUND OR WORD
a.       “Oh” or “Mmm” or “Uh” or “I see”
3.       GIVE THE CHILD IN FANTASY WHAT YOU CAN’T GIVE HIM IN REALITY
a.       “Wouldn’t it be great if you had a magic pencil that would stop writing if you were about to make a mistake.”
4.       ACCEPT THE CHILD’S FEELING EVEN AS YOU STOP UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR
a.       “You’re still angry about that grade, you’re kicking your desk! I can’t allow that. But you can tell me more about what’s upsetting you. Or you can draw it.”

Engaging Cooperation

Adult: Who is responsible for the mess on this floor?
Instead of questioning and criticising, you can:
1.       DESCRIBE THE PROBLEM – When it happens the first time
a.       “I see wet paint all over the floor”
2.       GIVE INFORMATION – When the child does not know this for a fact
a.       “It’s easier to remove paint before it dries”
3.       OFFER A CHOICE – When the child does not take immediate action
a.       “You can clean it up with a wet rag or a damp sponge.”
4.       SAY IT WITH A WORD OR GESTURE – When this repeats
a.       “The paint!”
5.       DESCRIBE WHAT YOU FEEL – When it repeats too many times
a.       “I don’t like seeing the floor splattered with paint”.
6.       PUT IT IN WRITING – When it repeats too many times
a.       ATTENTION ALL ARTISTS: Kindly restore the floor to original condition before leaving the room. Thank you, The Management
7.       BE PLAYFUL (Use another voice or Accent) – When the child responds to this technique
a.       In a country-and western style sing
                                                               i.      Ah see paint thar on the floor,
                                                             ii.      An’ it’s a sight ah do deplore
                                                            iii.      Git out your mop an’ rags galore
                                                           iv.      An’ help to do this little chore

Alternatives to Punishment

Child: Oh !@#%^#%@^% I can’t do math
Adult: I warned you over and over again not to use foul language. Now you’re going to be punished.
Instead of threatening punishment, you can:
1.       POINT OUT A WAY TO BE HELPFUL
a.       “I hear your frustration. It would help if you could express it without cursing”
2.       EXPRESS YOUR STRONG DISAPPROVAL (WITHOUT ATTACKING, CHARACTER)
a.       “That kind of language upsets me”.
3.       STATE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
a.       “I expect you to find some other way to let me know how angry you are”
4.       SHOW THE CHILD HOW TO MAKE AMENDS
a.       “What I’d like to see is a list of some strong words you could use instead of the ones you just did. Try the dictionary or thesaurus if you need help”
5.       OFFER A CHOICE
a.       You can curse to yourself – in your head – or you can use words that won’t offend anyone.
6.       LET THE CHILD EXPERIENCE THE CONSEQUENCES OF HIS BEHAVIOUR
a.       “When I hear those words, I lose all desire to help you – with math or anything else”.

Problem Solving

1.       LISTEN TO THE CHILD’S FEELINGS AND NEEDS.
a.       Adult: You seem very upset about failing your Spanish test.
b.      Child: I am!  I only got twelve words right out of twenty, and I studied for an hour last night!
2.       SUMMARIZE THE CHILD’S POINT OF VIEW
a.       You sound pretty discouraged. Even though you tried to cram all those new words into your head, some of them refused to stick.
3.       EXPRESS YOUR FEELINGS AND NEEDS
a.       My concern is that if you don’t memorize the basic vocabulary, you’ll get further and further behind.
4.       INVITE THE CHILD TO BRAINSTORM WITH YOU
a.       I wonder if we put our heads together, could we come up with some new and more effective ways to study?
5.       WRITE DOWN ALL THE IDEAS – WITHOUT EVALUATING
a.       Child: Drop Spanish
b.      Adult: I’ve got that. What else?
c.       Child: Maybe I could …
6.       TOGETHER DECIDE WHICH IDEAS YOU DON’T LIKE, WHICH YOU DO, AND HOW YOU PLAN TO PUT THEM INTO ACTION
a.       Adult: What do you think of making flash cards and studying only four new words each night?
b.      That’s okay. But instead of flash cards, I like the idea of saying my words into a tape recorder and testing myself until I know them.

Helpful Praise/Constructive Responses

Child: Listen to my poem about a train. Tell me if it is good
Adult: Beautiful! You’re a great poet.
Instead of evaluating, you can:
1.       DESCRIBE WHAT YOU SEE.
a.       “You caught the ‘chug-a-chug’ rhythm of the train and you found a way to rhyme ‘track’ with ‘clickity-clack’”
2.       DESCRIBE WHAT YOU FEEL
a.       “It makes me feel as if I’m sitting inside a railroad car speeding through the countryside.
Adult: Look at those misspelled words! You can do better than that.
Instead of criticising, you can:
3.       POINT OUT WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE
a.       “All this poem needs now is the correct spelling of the words ‘caboose’ and ‘freight’ and it’s ready for bulletin board”

Freeing a child from playing a role

Adult: “Nicole, you’re a “motor mouth”. No one can get a word in edgewise with you”.
Instead of labelling a child, you can:
1.       LOOK OUT FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO SHOW THE CHILD A NEW PICTURE OF HERSELF
a.       “What self control! Even though you had a lot more to say, you realised that others needed a chance to talk.”
2.       PUT THE CHILD IN A SITUATION WHERE SHE CAN SEE HERSELF DIFFERENTLY
a.       “Nicole, I’d like to you to chair the (class/family) meeting and make sure that everyone gets a turn to speak”.
3.       LET THE CHILD OVERHEAR YOU SAY SOMETHING POSITIVE ABOUT HER
a.       “Nicole has so many wonderful ideas that it is hard for her to hold back. Nevertheless I’ve seen her do it”
4.       MODEL THE BEHAVIOUR YOU’D LIKE TO SEE
a.       “Oh, I am sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt. Please finish what you were saying. My though will keep”.
5.       REMIND THE CHILD OF HER PAST ACCOMPLISHMENTS
a.       “I remember the discussion we had on capital punishment. You listened quietly, but when you finally gave your views, some people changed their positions”.
6.       STATE YOUR FEELINGS AND/OR EXPECTATIONS
a.       “Nicole, when other people are waiting to speak, I’d like you to keep your comments brief”.

The Ideal Conference (PTA)

Instead of starting with what’s wrong …
1.       START BY DESCRIBING SOMETHING RIGHT
a.       Teacher: I enjoy Sam’s thoughtful questions
b.      Parent: Sam liked the lesson you gave on rockets
Instead of pointing out what the child hasn’t done …
2.       DESCRIBE WHAT THE CHILD NEEDS TO DO
a.       Teacher: Sam needs to make up all the work he missed the week he was out sick.
b.      Parent: I think he’s feeling overwhelmed. He can probably use some extra help to catch up.
Instead of withholding information …
3.       SHARE PERTINENT INFORMATION
a.       Parent: He used to play outdoors when he got home. Now he just sits in front of the TV.
b.      Teacher: I see him yawning a lot lately in the class
Instead of giving each other advice …
4.       DESCRIBE WHAT HAS WORKED AT HOME OR IN SCHOOL
a.       Parent: Ever since he’s been sick, he seems to do better if he takes a short break every fifteen or twenty minutes.
b.      Teacher: I notice he has more energy after recess.
Instead of giving up on the child  
5.       DEVELOP A PLAN TOGETHER
a.       Teacher: I’ll ask another student to help Sam with the work he missed. And I’ll see to it that he takes more frequent breaks.
b.      Parent: And I’ll make sure he watches less TV and gets some fresh air and exercise.
Instead of ending on a negative note …
6.       END THE CONFERENCE WITH A POSITIVE STATEMENT THAT CAN BE REPEATED TO THE CHILD
a.       Teacher: Tell Sam I have confidence that he’ll be able to make up his work. Also tell him that I enjoy having him in my class.
b.      Parent: I will. I know he’ll be glad to hear that.
Instead of forgetting the plan after the conference …
7.       FOLLOW THROUGH ON THE PLAN
a.       Teacher: Jeffrey has been helping Sam and he’s almost all caught up. He also seems to have more energy lately.
b.      Parent: My husband has started jogging and Sam has been joining him.

Some Excerpts

1.       “The plain fact is that when students are upset, they can’t concentrate. And they certainly can’t absorb new material. It we want to free their minds to think and learn then we have to deal respectfully with their emotions.”
2.       Do not be over bearing or pamper the child. A mother “Well … when Lara comes home from school, I make her show me her assignments and I go over them with her and help her get organized. This afternoon I took her to the library and we picked out some excellent books for her report on Eleanor Roosevelt” Teacher was horrified and thought to herself, Lara is a reasonably capable student. The purpose of my homework assignments was to give her and the other children a chance to organize their own time, to work independently, to exercise their own judgement. As tactfully as she could, she said “It seems to me that the best kind of help we can give children is indirect help. Provide a quiet place to work, a good light, a dictionary, a snack if they are hungry, and just be available if they want to ask you something.”. The mother was unconvinced. So the teacher suggests “How would you feel about establishing a nightly routine with Lara? She could either work alone in her room or maybe somewhere near you, and little by little you could make yourself scarce and let Lara take over.” “I wish it were that simple,” Lara’s mother said with some irritation. “but the plain fact is, she won’t do her homework if I don’t keep after her. She “. “Please don’t take offense” another woman interrupted “but I don’t think you’re being fair to your daughter. My mother used to hound me about my homework every night and hover over me to make sure that I did it all and got it right. Sometimes she’d take over and do it for me. After a while I wouldn’t even start my homework unless my mother was there. I guess on some level I figured that as long she was being responsible for me, I didn’t have to be responsible for myself. So that’s my reason for having a “hands-off” homework policy with my daughter.” Lara’s mother looked bewildered. “You mean you never help your child with her homework?” “Well if she’s stuck, I’ll listen to what’s bothering her and try to get her unstuck. But the second she gets going again, I bow out. I want her to know what she’s the one in charge of her homework and that she’s basically CAPABLE OF DOING IT HERSELF”. “That’s assuming she is” Lara’s mother persisted. “But what if she isn’t?”. Without hesitating the woman blurted out “Then get outside help – a tutor, a high school student – or tell her to call another kid in the class. Anything to avoid what happens when parents take over and become ‘passionate’ about their children’s homework”.
3.       When we invite a child to join us in tackling a problem, we send a powerful set of messages:
a.       “I believe in you”
b.      “I trust your ability to think wisely and creatively”
c.       “I value your contribution”
d.      “I see our relationship not as ‘all powerful grown-up’ exercising authority over ‘ignorant child’ but as adult and child who are equal, not in competence, not in experience, but in equal dignity”.
e.      “If there is one thing we can guarantee all of our children, now and in future, it’s problems – sometimes one right after the other. But by teaching them how to approach a problem, by showing them how to break it down into manageable parts, by encouraging them to use their own ingenuity to resolve their problems, we are giving them skills they can depend upon for the rest of their lives.”
4.       One way to avoid blame is to shun the accusing you. “You kids never … You always …  The trouble with you is … “ Instead substitute I for a you. For example “Here’s what I feel. I get upset when … What I’d like to see is …” As long as they are not being attacked, children can listen to your feelings without becoming defensive.
5.       We need to treat children not as they are, but as we hope they will become.
6.        
Liberated Parents, Liberated Children: Your Guide to a Happier FamilyLiberated Parents, Liberated Children: Your Guide to a Happier Family by Adele Faber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another wonderful book for the parents. The book is on similar lines as the book “How to talk to kids so they listen and how to listen so they talk”.

It talks about how the parents faced different issues in dealing with children, children who bullied their siblings, children that did not do their tasks. The books is a series of discussion of parents with child psychologist Dr. Haim Ginot and the outcome of the suggestions provided by the Doctor.

A must good read for all the parents who wish to raise their children such that they go out into the world and make it a better place to live in.

View all my reviews

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will TalkHow to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A must read for all parents. A book that will minimize conflict, if not eliminate it, from a parent child relationship and will lead to mature grown ups.

The first chapter of the book is about how to help the children deal with their feelings. The following are the suggested ways to handle the situation
1. Instead of half listening, listen quietly and attentively.
2. Instead of questions and advice, acknowledge the feelings with a word.
3. Instead of denying the feeling, give the feeling a name.
4. Instead of explanation and logic, give the child her wishes in fantasy.

The second chapter is about how to elicit cooperation from the children. The following are the desisted from
1. Blaming and Accusing
2. Name calling
3. Threats
4. Commands
5. Lecturing and Moralizing
6. Warnings
7. Martyrdom statements
8. Comparisons
9. Sarcasm
10. Prophecy

Instead
1. Describe the problem “Lights on in the bathroom”
2. Give information about the consequences of the problem: “Keeping the light on consumes electricity”.
3. Say it with a word: “Bathroom light”
4. Talk about your feelings: “I don’t feel nice when the utility bill shoots up due to lights not switched off”.
5. Write a note: A note “Switch of the light when not in use” outside the bathroom.

The third chapter suggests some alternatives to punishment:
1. Point out a way to be helpful, instead of them being a nuisance.
2. Express strong disapproval (without attacking character)
3. State your expectations
4. Show the child how to make amends
5. Offer a choice
6. Take action
7. Allow the child to experience the consequence of his misbehaviour

To solve a problem
1. Talk about the child’s feelings and needs.
2. Talk about your feelings and needs
3. Brainstorm together to find a mutually agreeable solution
4. Write down all the ideas – without evaluating
5. Decide on which suggestions you like, which you don’t like and which you plan to follow through on.

The fourth talks about how to encourage the child to be autonomous so that they can become independent, responsible citizens. The following are suggested
1. Let children make choices
2. Show respect for child’s struggle, do not help them immediately all the time, instead suggest how they could solve it by themselves.
3. Don’t ask too many questions
4. Don’t rush to answer questions. Let them think on their own.
5. Encourage children to use sources outside the home.
6. Don’t take away hope.

The fifth chapters talks about the right way to praise a child. If given in the wrong way it can lead to wrong consequences like a child becoming too proud, or becoming stressed out as they try to keep up their reputation. The suggestions are offered are
1. Describe what is praiseworthy. “I see a clean floor, a smooth bed, and books neatly lined up on the shelf”
2. Describe what you feel: “It is a pleasure to walk into the room”
3. Sum up the child’s praiseworthy behaviour with a word: “You sorted out your Legos, cars, and farm animals and put them in separate boxes. Thats what I call organization”

The sixth chapter is about how we push children into playing roles without realizing. Speaking about their characteristics (especially the not so good ones) with others or criticising them makes the children start playing that role. The suggestions provided to get the child out of playing a bad role are as follows:
1. Look for opportunities to show the child a new picture of himself or herself.
2. Put the children in situations where they can see themselves differently
3. Let children overhear you say something positive about them.
4. Model the behaviour you’d like to see
5. Be a storehouse for your child’s special moments so that when they get discouraged you can remind them of their good deeds
6. When you child behaves according to the old label, state your feelings and/or your expectations.

All in all a wonderful book to read before starting to rear or manage children. These techniques should help deal with problematic adults too.

View all my reviews

Posted on: April 4, 2016

What Did You Ask at School Today? A Handbook on Child LearningWhat Did You Ask at School Today? A Handbook on Child Learning by Kamala V. Mukunda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Warning a long read)

A wonderful book and a must read for all the teachers and parents.

The book is based on multiple researches done in different parts of the world including India in the educational institutes on the teaching practices.

Some the key interesting, not necessarily unknown, points that have been brought up in the book are
1. Stress is not good for learning. It prevents students from actually learning. She categorically states “Stress inhibits learning!. If we want students to learn, school must not be chronically stressful environment”.

2. Instead of asking “What is the answer to so-and-so?” ask “How would you do so-and-so?” and “Why is this the right answer?”. This leads the students to think and they end up understanding the subject better.

3. Encourage and ask the students to solve the problem by different means.

4. Encourage the students to classify different problems according to how they must be solved. Although the problems may appear different on the surface, there will be potentially common structures which will help the students solve the problems better.

5. Have the student to teach a concept to someone else. This is one of the best ways to make the student understanding the concept better.

6. Ensure that the word problems in mathematics are set in contexts familiar or relevant to the student. The students should be able to relate to the problem.

7. Use “Discovery Learning” which is letting the students discover things for themselves. I.e. give the students the material and let them learn the concepts on their own by running their own experiments. But for this they need to be guided and nudged to conduct the right set of experiments in the right order and gets an opportunity to understand all the concepts. The students must also be made to think and speak to further strengthen their understanding. This is much better than trying to “lecture” the students on a concept. This helps because students tend to understand better what they see happening in front of them rather than trying to imagine something abstract.

8. Use fruits and scales to explain solving equations.

9. Use gift wrapping/unwrapping to explain how mathematical equations should be unraveled.

10. Students tend to misunderstand the equation (2x + 4)/7 = 10 and tend to solve this as 2x / 7 = 10 – 4 and solve it wrongly. If the student is taught to look at this as a gift wrap where they are taught that they should be told that (2x + 4) is like the inner wrapper of the gift and / 7 is the next level of wrapper. If this is how it is taught then they will be ‘unwrap’ the equation correctly.

11. At one point, speaking about how drilling the concept is used in the Indian education system, the author makes a very pertinent statement “Concepts and Procedures are two different things, both of which students need to learn. Practice alone cannot lead to conceptual knowledge, and understanding alone cannot lead to mastery of procedure”. It is very important to understand clearly the difference between “Concepts” and “Procedures” to be a good teacher. Procedures are things that we do in our everyday life like learning to ride a cycle, handle a spoon, tie the shoelaces, light a match, cross a road etc. These are activities where repeated exposures leads to improvement in performance. Knowing about how balance is achieved in a cycle, or how properly tying the knot in the shoelace prevents it from being tangled are concepts. There is a need for this kind of learning too.

12. One important aspect that the author brings out it that every person has two types of memory
a) The working memory in which the data is stored for immediate use and
b) the long term memory where things are imprinted over a period of time and stay there for a long time and are retrieved when required.
An example of use of working memory is trying to remember the phone number of a person that has called one. This memory is limited and one should exercise caution when the child needs to use this memory. Some suggestions that the author has to help the child use this memory effectively is to
a) Reduce demand on a young child’s working memory by breaking up a task into smaller parts, and writing down instructions. Encourage them to write things down, so that they do not have keep excess material in working memory – this will free up space for other processes.
b) Give younger children guidelines on what to pay attention to and what it ignore in a given situation. Try to eliminate excessively distracting irrelevant stimuli from the material.
c) Connect all the new material with something the child already knows. Also, use familiar contexts to teach new ideas as far as possible.
A classic example the author gives of how a particular mathematical problem involving multiplication or division is solved by a child. They need to hold in their working memory the basic numbers that is required for the calculation. For a child that has not learnt her tables this act becomes difficult as every number she needs to multiple she requires the working memory and this can push out the base numbers that she needs to remember from this memory. If the child has the multiplication tables memorized (i.e. available in the long term memory) then it becomes more easier for the child solve the problem mentally as the working memory is not used for actual multiplication.

13. As people age people tend to avoid situations where they might be corrected. This means that they end up learning lesser and lesser as their lack of knowledge is not exposed and nobody is present to correct them. Whereas a young child does not hesitate to try and makes mistakes, which the people around promptly correct, and over a period of time the child starts correcting its mistakes. E.g. a child that is picking up a language does not hesitate to say “I goed” and as the adults keep correcting it to say “I went”, it picks up the right word. If an adult were to learn, they end up speaking less knowing fully well that they may be corrected in front of everybody and this would be unacceptable to them. So they tend not speak and thus learn a lot less or take longer to learn.

14. The author states how sometimes not learning things too early can be beneficial. It is accepted by many that the brain is plastic enough from the ages of 4 to 20 making it easier to learn new cognitive activities. These activities are ingrained during this phase and the reactions to situations are ingrained and so are quick. The downside is that changing these reactions become very difficult for the person preventing the person from adapting the responses. Albert Einstein is said to have quoted “I sometimes ask myself how it came about that I was the one to develop the theory of relativity. The reason, I think, is that a normal adult never stops to think about problems of space and time. There are things which he has thought of as a child. But my intellectual development was retarded, as a result of which I began to wonder about space and time only when I had already grown up. Naturally, I could go deeper into the problem than a child with normal abilities.” An interesting quote to think over.

15. Speaking about the evergreen debate of “Nature Vs Nurture” the author refers to some studies which have concluded that “schooling does not affect the children’s ways of thinking ‘in any deep and general way’. Instead schooling changes the way children perform on school-like tasks”. The author concludes that while a born child is not a blank slate, the environment in which the child is brought up does influence many of the outcomes in the life of the child.

16. Speaking about rewards and punishment the author has the following to say. More or less excerpted from the book as is.
The easiest ways to manipulate behaviour come from the behaviourist school of psychology, which recommends punishment and reward in different forms to get rid of undesired behaviours and boost desired ones. The author gives the example of an attempt to correct the rude by a child by punishing the child each time she has a rude behaviour could lead to the following:
a) The child stops the rude behaviour as long as the punisher is around, to avoid punishment, but continues otherwise.
b) The child stops the rude behaviour, but has not positive behaviour to replace it.
c) If she is required to ‘clean the classroom’ as a punishment, she learns that cleaning activity is a punishment.
d) She learns that to get people to do what she wants, punishment is the way
e) She reacts to you with anger and fear.
f) She associates you and/or classroom with emotions of anger and fear, which now come up automatically whenever either is encountered.
Instead if the strategy was to reward the child when the she was polite the consequence would be
a) She might be polite only in situations where she will be recognized for her good deeds
b) She might think that she should only do things for which she is rewarded
These are not desirable reactions.
At the same time not acknowledging good behaviour is also not a good idea. Appreciation should come, or rewards should be given, but the problem starts when the reward is unrelated to the activity itself. E.g. giving certificates for reading books, instead of natural consequence such as reading a book leads to your being able to borrow another. Positive reinforcement works best when it is given in the form of appreciation, encouragement and information feedback.

17. The three stages of maturity in humans are
a) I do it because I like it
b) I do it because others approve
c) I do it because it is right. Psychologists state that this last stage never reached by majority of human beings.

18. Everybody agrees that being unselfish and helping others is a desirable behaviour. The author points out how schools end up inadvertently subverting this behaviour by pulling up students when a) the student helps another with homework b) worse during the tests. When a student outranks others it is a triumph, not regret (so why would that student help others compete with her). One student’s success is at the expense of others, but such achievement is praised by all without being aware of the consequences of these actions on the young children’s internalization of moral principles. The author says that various researches have shown that children are inherently moral and just, but actions like being praised for coming first and being pulled up for helping others pushes the child towards selfishness to inflicting injustices inadvertently.

19. It is pointed out that we stress more on analytical skills of the person in schools rather than gearing them up for the real world. The academic tests of intelligence contain problems which
a) Have all the required information available from the start
b) are usually well defined
c) are not of personal interest
d) are detached from everyday experience
e) Have only one correct solution.
Whereas real world test of practical intelligence contain problems which
a) do not have all the required information available at the start
b) are not well defined
c) are of personal relevance
d) are related to everyday experience
e) have many solutions each with its advantages and disadvantages.

20. An example is quoted where a group of children from Zambia and those from the US were tested. Some tests involved wire models, some paper and pencil and some involved clay models. While the Zambian children performed well in wire models, the US children did well in paper and pencil tests while both did equally well in clay model. This proves that the way the test is administered also goes a long way in determining the outcome and conclusion. It is not sufficient to test using only one means to arrive at a conclusion.

21. The brief summary of effects of different types of rewards on intrinsic motivation are:
a) Tangible rewards (ranging from certificates to sweets) decrease intrinsic motivation, and children are more vulnerable to this effect than college students.
b) Rewards for trying, completing, bettering others and meeting standards – all decrease intrinsic motivation when they are seen as controlling our behaviour.
c) Verbal rewards or positive feedback do not decrease intrinsic motivation, and can even increase it. In fact, if any reward is given in the spirit of informational feedback, say to acknowledge good quality performance, and not with the intention to control the student’s behaviour, it can increase intrinsic motivation.
d) However, many students, in our schools who not perform up to the set standards may only rarely, if ever, receive rewards or positive feedback. This amounts to receiving continual negative feedback about one’s competence, which will in turn decrease intrinsic motivation for school work.

22. While praise is good it has to be carefully administered, otherwise it can lead to negative impact.
a) Praise can be seen as externally controlling and thus reducing the student’s autonomy which will lead to reduction in intrinsic motivation.
b) Praise can create pressure to continue good performance
c) Praise can lead to an obsession with maintaining one’s own image while tearing others’ images down.
d) Praise for extremely easy tasks can lead to a student feeling she has low ability
e) If a student senses praise as insincere, she may reject it outright, or feel that the teacher does not really know her.
It is likely that children below seven take praise at face value, by the time they reach the age of 12 they view praise with suspicion.

23. The right way to praise would be
a) Praise the process of an activity (strategies, ideas, effort) not the ability of the student.
b) make your praise descriptive, related to the student’s work, such that it works as useful feedback.
c) Praise without referring to comparison with other students.

24. The author states that very early on, certainly by middle school, children can be made to understand the special nature of their society and its demands – that at a young age, they must learn a great many things in order that, when they are older, they can better decide what they would like to go on with. This understanding can give them internally regulated extrinsic motivation to learn – similar to what motivates a teacher to correct students’ notebook. Free of performance anxiety and fear and taught with imagination and energy, learning anything can be enjoyable. And enjoyment is one of the prime factors that motivates human endeavour.

25. Most classes have a mix of students, some who are quick to grasp and some who take a while to grasp. It becomes difficult for a teacher to teach such as class as if she addresses the former the latter turn off as the are unable to keep pace and if she addresses the later the former turn off as they feel they are learning nothing. Some suggestions to fix this situation are
a) For some topics divide the students into small groups according to their level. Give them tasks appropriate to their level.
b) For some topics, divide the students into small mixed level groups. Device mini-projects where different group members have different responsibilities and can work at their own level without jeopardising the overall task
c) For some topics, find or create material that students can work through independently. Allow for some students to do more and more challenging work than others, by including extension topics. Make sure that everyone has learnt the core concepts an procedures.
d) For some topics, hold small group discussions about material, or use reciprocal teaching method. (Reciprocal teaching involves creating groups of students and making one of them read a paragraph, making another summarizing the paragraph, asking another to form questions based on the paragraph and asking one student to predict the contents of the following paragraph). This emphasizes the fact that regardless of the level, a group of children can be a community of learners and you do not always need a homogeneous group for meaningful learning to occur.
e) For some topics, by all means deliver lectures to the whole class. Keep an eye on the students for boredom or hopeless confusion, interrupt your own flow to ask questions at th right level to particular students, ask one student to summarize for others.

26. While one may be cautious enough not to compare, nobody stops comparing oneself to another. It is a natural human tendency. One way to limit comparison would be change the material in which the different students are working. This will limit the comparison as it will be difficult to compare apple to oranges. This may not always be possible especially in subjects such as mathematics and science where every student needs to learn and work on the same set of concepts. It is necessary for the school to recognize and encourage artistic and linguistic ability as much as mathematical and scientific ability.

27. Some of the negatives of present day education is that it all geared towards measuring what has been learnt. Some of the issues with this are
a) A significantly large percentage of learning time is devoted to preparing for, administering, and recovering from tests.
b) Motivation has shifted from processes of learning to outcomes, both for teachers and students.
c) Curricula are shaped by tests (this is called the curriculum backwash effect) and when tests are heavily knowledge-based curriculum pays less attention to understanding or application.
d) Students experience almost constant anxiety about tests
e) Tests make teachers anxious too, when they feel responsible for their students’ performance.
f) Tests encourage cheating among adolescents, who think education is about getting good marks rather than learning something.
g) the results of ‘high-stakes’ examinations can be unfair and depressing to countless young people.

28. Regarding testing the author says that the results of the tests conducted should not be taken as a conclusion of the ability of the children/person to perform certain tasks. Further probing questions should be asked to understand the real abilities of the child/person. Unfortunately in India a single number is used to determine who to allow or who to reject for further studies or for employment.

29. Some of the beautiful quotes/suggestions from the teachers are
a) Just think what you could do if you took all the time spent on testing and preparing for testing, and used it to teach. There is way too much testing.
b) They don’t need real teachers to prepare children for tests, and in fact, I think they could just develop computer programmes to do this.
c) Learning for the test isn’t meaningful … the scores are up, but the kids know less, and they are less as people
d) I think the tests were designed because everyone thinks there are so many bad teachers, and this would make the bad teachers improve. But it isn’t, in fact, it is giving bad teachers an excuse to continue what they have always done – lots of skill and drill. It’s a license for bad teaching.

30. Some good tests would be ones which assess more important skills such as
a) solving open-ended problems
b) framing problems
c) making and specifying assumptions
d) working in a group
e) being open to new ideas
f) dealing with data
g) using multiple perspectives
h) persisting in spite of failure
i) self-assessing and self-correcting
i) presenting information orally
j) ordering chaos.

31. One better way to assess students is use of portfolio where the portfolio contains a representative sample of a student’s class work, a variety of evidence of her performance in class.

32. Another useful way is collaborative testing, where the students are allowed to collaborate on assignments and both get the same rating. Some students would stay away and would work individually, others may join hands. It has shown that collaboration helps improve the rating of both the students.

33. Another method is the method of rubrics where a particular assignment is evaluated on multiple criterion like clarity, range, depth of understanding, sophistication of language etc. Each criteria would have levels e.g. clarity could have levels like
a) Points not clearly made, overall confused essay
b) A few points made clearly, rest mostly confused
c) Many clear points, a few confused areas
d) All points made clearly, overall very clear essay.
And thus for all the other criteria. The biggest resistance to this type of testing is because of the inherent subjective nature of evaluation and the fact that it does not lead to quantitative cut-offs.

34. It was assumed for a long time that having a high self-esteem with automatically lead to positive outcomes. But it was found out that this is not true. Baumeister who carried out a research to find out the impact of self-esteem states “It is therefore with considerable personal disappointment that I must report that the enthusiastic claims of self-esteem movement mostly range from fantasy to hogwash. The effects of self-esteem are small, limited and not all good. Yes, a few people here and there end up worse off because their self-esteem was too low. Then again, other people end up worse of because their self-esteem was too high. And most of the time self-esteem makes surprisingly little difference. For example, I think the world would be a better place if we could all manage to be a little nicer to each other. But that’s hard: We’d all have to discipline ourselves to change. The self-esteem approach, in contrast, is to skip over the hard work of changing our actions and instead just let us all think we’re nicer. That won’t make the world any better.”

35. Some of the reasons why the self-esteem movement has failed are
a) The self-esteem movement emphasizes  making students ‘feel good about themselves’, with insufficient attention paid to boosting actual skills and competence on which to base that self-esteem.
b) High self-esteem per se must be distinguished from the pursuit of self-esteem. Boosting a student’s self-esteem temporarily reduces anxiety. But, when the student takes on the work of protecting, maintaining and enhancing her own self-esteem, it increases anxiety. This is a truism of human beings in general; we all pursue self-esteem at the cost of our own peace of mind!.
c) While the successful pursuit of self-esteem reduces anxiety and other negative emotions, in many classrooms self-esteem can become a scarce resource gained only at the expense of others. For many students, therefore, the failed pursuit lead to increase in sadness, anger and shame.
d) Because failure leads to a loss in self-esteem, students whose self-esteem is contingent on academic performance experience great pressure to succeed, and this leads to lower intrinsic motivation to learn.
e) If self-esteem becomes a student’s goal, she will tend to over-generalize negative events to encompass her entire worth as a person. This can lead to depression.

36. The author quotes of the researcher who states “Education is also about assisting young people in becoming aware of and extricating themselves from habitual (automatic) ways of attending, perceiving, feeling, thinking and doing by cultivating more mindful approaches to these basic self processes and ways of being in the world, which is a precondition for creativity, freedom of thought and myriad forms of personal and social renewal.”
The author concludes the book with criteria for wisdom, which is what the children are expected to get from a well rounded education. Wisdom is
a) Rich conceptual knowledge about life: Knowing a wide variety of life’s issues in depth, both general and specific
b) Rich procedural knowledge about life: Knowing how to make decisions, solve problems, reach goals and give advice in a wide variety of situations
c) Life-span contextualism: Understanding past, present and possibly future circumstances.
d) Value relativism: Having both a small set of universal values (for the good of all) as well as the understanding of many values in life are relative.
e) Recognition and management of uncertainty: Knowing that life is inherently uncertain and knowing how to deal with that uncertainty.

View all my reviews

It's Okay to Fail, My SonIt’s Okay to Fail, My Son by Vasant Kallola
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A wonderful book for all parents to read. The parents tend to set targets for their children and drive them towards it. While it is good to set targets, it is wrong to expect them to do it themselves or to find fault with them if they do not meet the set expectations. Every parent wants their child to excel and by excel means getting good marks and first rank in the school.

What most parents do not realize is that marks and first rank only mean so much. It is more important that the child understand and appreciates what they are learning and why they are learning it. They need to understand the practical usage of the subjects the are studying.

It is important that the parents spend quality time with the child rather than just leaving him or her to the teachers and tutors. It is important that the parents get involved in the child’s study and provide them a good environment at home so that they can study well. It is important that the child does not fear failures while at the same time they make sincere effort to excel.

The book presents these aspects in the form of a story where a father leaves his well paying job to take up teaching so that his son who has been living with fear of doing bad in the exams is encouraged to study and excel.

At certain places it looks like the book has been written with a Bollywood film in mind, but these portions can be excused considering the larger aspect that has been addressed by it.

An excellent read for all the over zealous parents. Should act as an eye-opener for all parents pushing their child to excel.

View all my reviews


Categories