BELIEVE-LEARN-SERVE

If you can only believe, all things are possible for he who believes.


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Teacher’s Day

I understand now, the effort you had to put in preparing a lecture and I realize how much you strove to keep us engaged in a class, not letting our disinterested demeanour hinder the pathway of knowledge.

Now, i know that the concern you shared was sincere, and that you, despite an apparent repulsion from the students, persisted in believing that we cared enough to listen.

Now, when I see a class from the other side of the room, I try to see my students through the eyes of my teachers. Like my teachers, I see the hopes and despair, virtues and vices, and try to raise my students towards the light, by instilling in them the love to learn.

And, like my teachers, i too do not expect power, gifts or gratitude, but just a little space in the heart of my students; so that, when they prepare their first lecture and face the class, they shall pause a moment, and remember me.

Wishing a Happy Teacher’s Day to all my respected teachers.

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Tangled in a Web

There should be a proper cut off in the age for accessing the internet. Nowadays kids go to school with a cell phone, it is considered as essential a commodity as the books, lunchbox or waterbottle. The reason stated is that the child would be safe if he/she could be constantly tracked by parents; This needs an afterthought. Isn’t the risk of, a child who cannot differentiate the evil and good, getting access to both simultaneously at the fingertip. greater than the risk of being kidnapped or getting lost? The truth is that the parents are inadvertantly creating a setting for the latter. If a child has to be given a cell phone, give one without a camera or accessibility to the internet, and with calls restricted only to the teachers and family.

The teachers should realize something too. About ten years back, if an assignment was given on a random topic, say, ‘trees around me’, the collection of the data required some effort, and the whole process would have raised the observation skills and knowledge of the child. now as the entire information and pictures are available with a click from the web, it will be a good idea to rephrase the titles, maybe as ‘the trees in my garden’. The child might then put at least a moment of thought before the homework.

We live in an age where any information could be instantly accessed, but from the experience from the so called ‘medical websites’, only about one tenth of the data provided online could be relied upon. If it is so hard for an adult to get the correct facts, how could a child sort out the right fact from the web filled with misinterpretations and falsehoods? This dilemma could be solved by letting the child get hands only on a few trusted sites in the internet, rather than filtering or blocking what is perceived as dangerous.

It won’t be a bad idea to place a lock over what is not needed and to keep the filters where needed. Children are innocent, yet are great manipulators; their thoughts, words and actions, are the direct reflections of the suggestions of their surroundings.


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META ANALYSIS

I was introduced early to the rites of research and scientific writing. After about a decade of associating with the scientifically inclined, i have observed that among the noble in the clan, there are some outlaws with typical characteristics:Image

The hedgehog

One of the first medical researchers i ever associated with had a post-script. This person was  under an assumption that the juniors would give false values to ‘steal’ the data and was even known to have  gone through the assistants’ personal belongings to make sure they did not possess a copy of the raw data. I had the misfortune to be one of the subordinates and was called to the researcher’s house on the day before an important exam. The purpose was ridiculously to try to recalculate the values [got after analysis with the then latest version of SPSS], using an obscure method of manual tallying and MS Excel. i had at my disposition just a spreadsheet to analyse the data on 5000 plus subjects, and after multiple recalculations and verbal abuse, i got myself banished (thankfully) from the place.

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The vulture

In my third year at medical school i was surprised by a call with an offer to get myself published along with a supposedly famous scientist with hundreds of researches in his name, of which he was not the actual researcher. Then how did his name come in the end or beginning of the citation?  He was the master strategist who pounced in every time a major study was about to be published, offering help to get it printed in a significant peer reviewed journal. The researchers of this kind are typically influential, and they perpetuate themselves by building up their contact list on the way.

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The shark

I have found that this is the group that has to be avoided at all costs. The most powerful,  who practically have no role at any stage of the study, might nevertheless prefer to be the principal investigator or the sole researcher if the research is being published. So learn to ignore them and continue working with focus on the goals.

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The parrot

They are usually the novices in the dilemma called thesis work , which form  part of one’s curriculum of post graduate studies. More than the scientific study a majority of the students around me seem to focus more on how to manipulate data and yield feasible results or sufficient sample size. A study with a supposed time period of one or two years would be done hurriedly in a month, and the paper would be prepared by a series of copy-paste actions from published works available in the internet. I have come to the conclusion that so long as they do not wish to publish these, or do not pursue it further after a pass in the exam, their plagiarism and void in integrity, may not affect the society. Though, as with surgical skills, it is best to learn how to do it in the right way from the first attempt.

 

 butterfly

The butterfly

So, I was under the impression that i had seen it all. I woke up from this illusion when i was employed for two months under an investigator who included several of the rejected data into final analysis. This made me wonder if the same process could be happening anywhere else too, considering it was an ICMR project intended to generate data from all the districts in this vast country. And that, meant fabrication in the information on which an upcoming national project would be based. These actions thus had a butterfly effect.

 

I have also had benevolent mentors, worthy of the vocation, for whom i have a high esteem.  Also I have to give the due respect to those who lived and died in their selfless scientific pursuit while blessing the mankind with their contributions to science. And yet they are outnumbered by the rest whose quest stems from the basic voids in their personality. However these observations had taught me that what matters more than publishing or the joy of scientific pursuit, is the purpose of conducting a study; Unless the research creates at least a minor positive impact on the community or contribute towards scientific progress, no researcher could justify his/her actions as anything other than mere voyeurism.


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When The Directions Change..

Arrival of the second baby is usually a joyous occasion for everyone around- Except for one person- your first child. And a parent should realize that if the child appears jealous or selfish; it is because his/her childhood is stolen and presented as the gift to your second-born. Rivalry is common between siblings of the same gender because, for the first child, there is now more of the same kind out there. Now, if the age of the first child is less than two years the gender may not matter to him/her, until the parent starts addressing both kids using the same words.

Try not to make the event a struggle for survival by your first child, and do not wean him/her away from your love. Instead, let your child become as excited as you with the ultrasound images/foetal movements/growing size of the mom’s womb. Show the snaps of the mom from the first pregnancy, and never let the pregnancy be perceived as a cumbersome process, not only so that the child would not see the newcomer as someone who tires the mom, but also so that the child himself would not feel that he had hurt the mother while ‘inside’.

 Arrange a reliable person, if possible a grandparent to be with the mom from the third trimester. This eases the stress for your toddler because he/she would have someone who has bonded well near, when the hour comes when the parents are too tired to give the usual attention to the firstborn, with a new baby in the crib.

Show your child movies/cartoons which portray the love and bond among siblings, read out stories with this theme, and take him/her for visits to the homes of your friends where there are two or more kids, possibly with younger ones old enough to play together. Avoid people who might instil any negativism into your child, and never enroll your child in a daycare/school the year the second baby is expected.

It is absolutely unnecessary to tell the child ‘you were so good, see how bad the baby is’; instead of you being in his/her favoured list, you are adding the baby to ‘the bad guys’ list. Rephrase the statement as; the baby is so good that it will be just like you and after some time you both are going to be great friends. 

Introduce your second baby as a playmate, rather than someone who puts an emotional strain on the child by a shift in his/her roles from being a toddler to a caretaker.  A child may seem to be well-adjusted, but as long as he/she is a child, who by definition depends on your attention and love, do not let the sibling be a wall the child would have to cross to reach you.

 

EXCERPTS FROM THE JOURNAL OF A TODDLER

  • So, despite everything, they have got someone else now. Et tu traitors..
  • I should have made my point the day they told me they have something awesome to tell.
  • Now, its time for plan B. If I am subtle enough I can escape from the den before 16:43 hours GMT. Anyway because I was warned of the alien attack, I have everything packed.
  • In case you guys haven’t got that yet, THIS is what they call in biology as a Parasite -my advice, share your stuff, not mine
  • I should have shot that stork after she brought me.
  • Man, I have already charted out the schedule for the year- and this was not there in it.
  • How did they manage to find this pest, if they don’t call up the exterminator, I will.
  • May be I have been so bad all the year that Santa brought this ugly pooping crying toy, and why is it that mama loves it. She used to love me.
  • Get a maid, or a baby sitter, you misers, and stop saying ‘Oh come here, I need your help…’ whenever there is anything gross happening with that nincom-poop
  • Daddy does not have time to play, but can click its pictures and laugh at every stupid thing it does. What’s so great about saying balllarrbblah? Am I supposed to say that too? Let me see balllarbal-blaaarrrbaaal-bbblarolab…
  • And for that I am sent to my room? Why? You kissed the ‘cutie pie’ for the nonsensical blaarblah..
  •  You didn’t just decide all of a sudden to send me away to school. You schemers can pet it now without me being around.
  • See I know how to cuddle.. No need to loom over me every time I go near your precious baby.
  • Why did that guest bring the baby all the stuff? As though the house is not already filled with the things for that moron. I like getting gifts too. (hope they have not heard that, is it bad manners)
  • I know I have to set an example for my little bro. I am scared; can I fail in the spelling test?
  • I wish he would grow up fast, so I shall have someone to play hide and seek with.. Anyhow he likes peek a boo. I will train him; you guys just wait and see.
  • I think he likes me. Well I like him too. But I hate that woman who told me, ‘when the baby comes, they will stop loving you and love the baby’. Now she is back with more advice for mama. With my secret powers I would swish my wand at her and turn her to a writhing worm.
  • I like to be your pal. I don’t want to lose my other pals though. You have to be cool enough with them. Mama says you won’t poop so much after some months. Then, maybe I can let you into the gang. And don’t spit your drool over my action figures. So, it’s a deal. Don’t let them know. ‘Arrghrakk’? Ok I think that means yes in Krypton.
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    The Reality: how we put a child through needless ordeals.

    The Reality: how we put a child through needless ordeals.

     

    One of the biggest tragedies of the day are the reality TV shows and contests where one child is made to compete with another, and ultimately made to lose the happiness in expressing the talent. The so called judges, who seem to appear knowledgeable than the masses often play with the kids’ minds, and make them believe that the verdicts pronounced are final and sealed. This cruelty is enhanced in the ‘elimination’ rounds where the kids are made to pathetically beg for points and made to anticipate with fear and shame, on what seems like defeat and an end to their ‘career’. This is not far from child abuse,

     

    A child’s emotions are priceless, and are not to be trampled upon by strangers who fill their pockets by making the child miserable. True, a career can be built through the correct use of one’s talents. But as the wise ecclesiastic said, ‘to everything there is a season’.  Childhood is the season for joyous freedom to learn what is needed for life. It is the time for proper schooling, for making friends, developing one’s talents and forming the character. The parents should have a perspective on their responsibility. A moment of fame or the monetary benefit cannot justify the permanent damage produced to the child’s mind;  the memories created are inerasable, and often, irreplaceable.

     

    If one wishes to make a celebrity out of one’s child, regard the lives of numerous famous or infamous people who put the blame for their ‘messed up’ lives, invariably on the parents. Fame at an early age creates a false image the child would have to constantly strive to live up to. The burden of reputation and continuous attention by the public, causes strain in the personality development, and usually creates flaws in the character and can even result in addictions.

     

     

    Regardless of outcome, the child should be encouraged to participate in the group events among peers and in school. But never set him/her in a race which is cheered on or booed by an audience, whose attention may not be in his/her welfare. Often the joy a child has in a group event is dowsed by the parent’s over-involvement and emphasis on winning. So, even a seemingly harmless school event could turn into a stressful experience for the child by the interfering parents; more so if the parents take up the fight among themselves.

    The focus should be on participating with a good spirit, inculcating the qualities of team work, and on learning to accept any result with grace and poise. Make sure that there is a good will among the children, and remember that every child is a winner. Do not give too much importance to victories either, and congratulate the child, for taking part rather than for ‘winning’. No wins should go into the head of the child, or the parents. If the child is talented, avoid putting him/her through multiple tests or objectifying the child by making a public display of the achievements. Instead, encourage by providing possible resources, help in fine tuning the talent, and express your trust in the fact that one day the world shall seek out him/her for who he/she is.  Because, as a parent the greatest gift you could give the child is a beautiful and unblemished childhood, he/she would hold in mind for ever.  

     

     

     


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    Learning to make a Child Learn

    Learning to make a Child Learn:

    An individual’s entire personality fixes before the sixth birthday; until then one’s mind is like a wet heap of plaster of Paris. The person holding it can mould, divide, and trim as much as he/she wishes into whatever shape/cast; but once it is set and dry, all one can do is , paint or write on it or break it into pieces. Early emotions associated with learning exist lifelong, and any stress or undue pressure during the phase will create cracks in one’s personality; these surfacing only when subjected to pressure later on.

    To add to the young mind’s turmoil our education system is stereotyped and rigid, fitting only one category of individuals. Each student is different, with varied faculty and talents; true education should help in one’s holistic development while fine tuning the life skills as well as channelling in the most suited path ahead. With the flooding of information from all sides, today’s student does not need a teacher who can teach from a syllabus, but rather a guide who could block the information that has a potential harm while assisting in the process of learning. Exams should assess if the child has learnt what is essential and if he/she has acquired the skill that will aid in further learning or in life; and the tests should not be a ridiculous competition or comparison among children which would serve only for demotivating the child and destroying the real purpose of learning.

    The Ten Golden Rules:

    RULE 1: Never transmit or project your (parent’s/teacher’s) stress on the child. Never create a stressful environment while learning; every learning process and every exam should be a happy event irrespective of outcome.

    RULE 2: Never compare your child with another child, or among siblings; do not ask him/her how someone else is performing. Each child is unique, having his/her own innate potentials. Questioning about someone else’s achievements will make the child feel insecure and abandoned though he/she will not voice it fearing the possible loss of your love. Encourage him/her to compete with own achievements, and assure by vocalising to the child, your confidence in his/her intelligence/talents.

    RULE 3: Make the child read atleast one knowledge enhancing book( out of the academic syllabus and other than a comic) every week. Never resort to internet for this purpose. The idea is to reduce the time the child spends over unfocussed data -in television and internet- which may lead to a reduced attention span in the child and fixation of the visual input which the parent/teacher may not be able to filter everytime. Conduct short quizzes on each book on the last day of the week; all family members should be participating in this group event, and a small gift should be given for the winner (the child need not be the winner everytime, the parents can win too).

    RULE 4: Gift your child a good quality dictionary and ask him/her to make sure that all family members learn a new word each day. You can create a treasure hunt using the chain of new words as well as scores of word games, where the child can assess his/her newly enhanced vocabulary.

    RULE 5: If you pray together as a family every day, read aloud from the religious text , make the child read a small passage, and let him/her interpret it for the whole family, vocalizing his/her thoughts freely.

    RULE 6: Never fight over your child’s academic or co-curricular performance, especially in front of your child. Otherwise the child will end up feeling that he/she is responsible for the fight between the parents. This would propagate unwanted feelings of guilt and shame in the child.

    RULE 7: Never shatter your child’s dreams. Your child would be having his/her own masterplan in mind. From your stand point the goals may seem unachievable, but your child has what you cannot have in an equivalent measure- Fearlessness. Your words have the power, either to build the confidence and sense of self-worth in the child or to make the child reluctant to share anymore plans with you. Your child’s dreams are precious; honour them by enabling with encouraging words, and by giving access to books, games or other beneficial resources which reflect your support and encouragement.

    RULE 8: Never talk to others about your child’s achievements or failures while he/she is listening. Too much praising in public shall lead to arrogance and could create a sense of disregard for those who are weaker; while any criticism in front of a stranger shall demoralize the child as well as result in the loss of trust in the parent/teacher.

    RULE 9: Never fear to correct your child when he/she errs , but do so in private, or in soft tones while in a public place. The child will feel humiliated if scolded in front of an outsider, and this would result in feelings of rage and hostility towards the parent. If one is not cautious regarding this, inorder to protect his/her dignity the child might surprise you by talking back in public. Reserve the raised voice/ punishment only for very serious offences, while other mistakes should be dealt with in a softer voice with a firm tone, such that the child shall realize that you mean what you say. The degree of punishment should be in proportion to the gravity of the mistake so that the seriousness of the situation would be implied merely by the tone of your voice.

    RULE 10: Emphasize on the role of hard work rather than a person’s capabilities while boosting your child or while narrating the life of great personalities. Speak to the child on how you have overcome your own weaknesses through perseverance. There is no need to make the child feel that either you or he/she are super humans. The lesson to be taught is that every obstacle could be overcome by putting an effort with courage and persistence.

    In the end, what matters most is that your son/daughter/student would recognize the purpose of learning as well as the merit of hard work, and realize that even if he/she fails or falls on the way, you will be there without judging, as the trustworthy aide who can be relied on for guidance and love.


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    IT’S THE BRAIN SINGING- Mind the Music

    IT’S THE BRAIN SINGING- Mind the Music 

                                                                  

    Music- relaxes or stresses, de-motivates or inspires, triggers all sorts of emotions messing with one’s disposition or heals by touching one’s mind and soul.

    The first music that might have calmed anyone would have been the beats of the mother’s heart echoing into the amniotic sac. The same beat would soothe a crying infant to transit to a peaceful slumber when held close enough or if rocked in a soft rhythm. And research has shown that the best frequency of beats in a music for learning averages near 60 beats per minute.

    One of my favourite scenes showing the power of a song heard in early years is the one in the sitcom FRIENDS,  where Phoebe’s  signature song, ‘Smelly Cat  🙂 ‘  has exactly the same tune as the song her father (whom she doesn’t have any memories about)  used to sing to her as a lullaby.   By the time a person is in the late twenties he or she would have heard thousands of songs (including  ba ba black sheep and the one in the latest movie trailer). So it’s not a surprise that one might dream of music, or even wake up with a song in the head though not seeming to be too inclined to music.

    A song can play with one’s mind, often with a subtlety so fine, that one might underestimate the power of its presence. While watching a movie, for instance, if there is no music in the background, the emotions or intensity of the scenes, could be underplayed.

    Of all the different variety of music, classical music especially baroque has been proved to produce the best outcome while learning.  And where the source might be placed while studying- depends on your handedness. The neuro-linguistic concept is, keep your non-dominant brain busy so that it won’t interfere with the dominant half while learning a non-abstract matter.  If you have the time, and like a song in the background while studying,  you can experiment this by placing the player/ wherever the song is coming from, to your left about 4 feet posterior to you while reading, and by changing the position to see the effect on your concentration.

    I have seen surgeons singing while operating, while some get irked and all wound-up once the music is on, even if it is coming from another OT.  A song springing forth in brain, out of nowhere while in the exam hall of all places, could pose a problem if one does not know how to place the rein on the music of the mind. The solution is simple.  Whether you love music or hate hearing even a bird chirp, tell yourself that since your brain is so cool as to sing under stress, and has freed the memory by engaging  everything else with a song, you will be giving your best output ever.