Thursday, July 19, 2018

A time to bid farewell and say Thank You!

Two years ago, when we came to Liverpool, my younger son wasn't very keen on the move. The main reason for his reluctance to move was the friends he didn't wish to part ways with. But then, life doesn't work according to one's wish always. So, he had to pack his bags and start a new phase of his life in a totally new country and culture.

Once we reached here, we had two choices - a school (literally) across the road where we lived, and another one, a bit far. Although the latter seemed to have better facilities in terms of a bigger playground and other infrastructure, we preferred the school nearby. This was mainly because most of our colleagues' kids were attending this school and during winter months the less you have to walk in the cold, the better. But, when we first enquired, no places were available. So we thought we would have to opt for the other school.

However, the luck turned in our favour as one place came up. So, my son started his first day at school barely after ten days of reaching here. There was hardly a week left for that academic year to end. But the school authorities thought it would be a good idea for him to attend the school for a few days before my son actually started school during the next academic year starting in September.

And what a wonderful start it was for him - he joined his class for a trip to the zoo on the very first day of the school. Needless to say, he enjoyed every bit of it and it didn't take him long to make new friends. 

When the school reopened in September, he was in Ms. Davey's class. She helped him settle in. The transition from the Indian schooling to the British schooling was a delightful experience for him - there was no pressure of exams, tests and homework. Here, learning was fun. Soon, he overcame all his inhibitions and started loving the school and friends as much as he did back home. Every day, he came home with loads to share about his day at school. 
Blackboard, Boys, Chalkboard, Children, Classroom, Desk

He would tell me what Ms. Davey taught them on the day, what fun activities they had, what games they played on the school ipads, what he and his friends did and so on. Soon, names like Ms. Hodges, Ms. Bannon, Ms. Cresswall, Ms. Sheilds, Ms. Calderwood and Katie, all came up in his narratives. And I started matching the names with faces every time I went to pick him up from the school. Before long, I also became familiar with the teachers and other staff at the school. The after-school clubs were informative and fun. All in all, the school was a wonderful place to be. 

Then came the day when the parents were called to the school to give a review of their child. We had the first opportunity to look at the workbooks and get an idea of what the child is learning. (Unlike in India, the kids here don't carry a heavy load of textbooks and notebooks to and from school. All they have is a small book bag to carry their homework sheets and reading books if any). Parents play a passive role in day-to-day education at the primary school level. Most of the learning is practical and happens at school, as the children don't have to mug up things. Instead, they do and learn things - so the learning stays forever with them. (For instance, while learning about World War, the kids were told to make a gas mask. This made them understand why and how gas masks are made/used. No amount of reading could have made them understand it better.)

Back home, I dreaded parent-teacher meetings on the open day. I knew the teachers are going to complain about how restless and hyperactive my son was; they were never satisfied with the effort he put in, always told me I should make him sit and study more. So, it was with a bit of apprehension I went to meet Ms. Davey for the first parent-teacher meeting here. I was not prepared for what happened next. I was told so many good things about my son - how wonderfully he settled in, how kind he was, how polite and sensible he was and so on. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. Never before in my life I had this experience of a teacher telling me my child was a wonderful person worthy of praise. I could hardly believe this was happening in real. I was so overcome with emotion that I had to struggle to keep my eyes dry. 

That was one of the most moving experiences I had as a parent. Before that, I never knew teachers could say such kind and positive things about children. And it is not because my son is some extraordinarily good person. I know they have this positive approach towards all children under their care. As a parent, I felt happy and proud of my child as I got this feedback. It also helped me to look at my child in a new light. I suddenly understood that with a bit of positive reinforcement I could help him be an even better person. 

So, the school experience was thrilling for me as well. I tried to give back something by volunteering during class trips and other small ways. It was a pleasure to help in any small way I could. And, a year went by in a blink of an eye. Soon, my son moved into year 6, the last year of his primary school.
Man, Kids And Adults, Teachers And Students, Education

This time he was in the class of Ms. Griffiths. I had seen her daily while picking up my son the whole of last year and what struck me was her smiling face. It is remarkable the teachers have a smile on their face every day despite the challenging job they undertake. Year 6 is when the children take their SATs (Standard Assessment Tests). As such, it is a very stressful year for the children and their teacher. But Ms. Griffiths always had a smile on her face and good words for her students. 

During this year, we had regular meetings with her and she gave us a clear picture of where our son stood and how he can improve in certain areas. She gave the children practice tests as well as tips to overcome any SATs jitters they might have. Thanks to her encouragement and motivation, the kids were never under any pressure, but they had the confidence to do to the best of their ability. (And they did, I was told, when the SATs results were out last week). 

The SATs didn't stop the kids from having fun or learning about more things. They had their share of trips to the library, theatre as well as other educational trips. It was learning as usual even with the SATs around. I had the good fortune of accompanying them in a couple of these trips and I found that the teachers and kids shared a great bond of love and care. There was this boy from Poland who knew little/no English. I was amazed at the way the teachers patiently interacted and communicated with him. The understanding and kindness they demonstrated was again a lesson for me not only as a parent but also as an individual. 

School is fun 
Every day, my son would come home excited about the things he did at school. He would go on and on about his friends, Ms. Griffiths, Ms. Dunlop and other members of staff. The class was like a second home and family for him. That's why the news of his teacher expecting a baby had him thrilled. I got the feeling that all the children suddenly had this big brotherly/sisterly feeling on hearing the good news. I am sure they all are looking forward to meeting the baby even though they won't be at the school then.   

I think Ms. Griffiths has one of the toughest jobs in the school. Not only because of the SATs, but also because of her class moving out of the school, into the bigger world of secondary school at the year-end. Goodbyes are hard. I still recall seeing the teary-eyed children hugging each other and their teacher on the last day of the school last year. In a couple of days, my son would also say bye to his friends and his school. I am sure he will miss his friends and his teachers, Ms. Griffiths, especially. I know I will miss them too.

I know my association with the school was rather short. But the memories and learning I gained in this short while will last a lifetime. I wish the teachers and non-teaching staff at Holy Cross the very best in life. May you continue to brighten the lives of every child that comes to your school. 

So, here is a big Thank You to all the wonderful teachers and non-teaching staff at the Holy Cross School. Thank you for taking wonderful care of my son, making him feel welcome and happy. Thank you for all the joyous moments he had at school and the learning that made him a better person. Also, huge thanks for letting me be a small part of it all. I too learned a lot through my association with the school and I am sure I will look back at those moments with gratitude and happiness. Like my son, I will miss you all...

Special thanks to Ms. Griffiths and Ms. Bannon for the kinds words you had for Rithvik. As a parent, it filled my heart with pride and joy to read them.

Thank You!!!  


Friday, June 22, 2018

Life's teachings

Life is a great teacher. One moment it makes you smile and the other, it brings tears. But, whether it is smiles or tears, there is always a lesson for us. Wise are those who learn from these and emerge stronger from each experience.

Yet, sometimes you pause or look back at the life and find yourself asking - why did it happen to me? The answer is perhaps you needed that learning. I have come to believe that behind each experience in life, there is a learning. Thankfully, you don't have to go through all the experiences in life to learn a new lesson.  The beauty of it is - you can learn from others too. However, if you don't learn from others' experience, you may have to learn it all the hard way.

So, as I look back at my life, I do regret some of my decisions and marvel at how stupid I was to make them. But, at the same time, the experiences those decisions gave me are priceless. Yes, you gain some wisdom as you grow old. And yet, the greatest wisdom is not to lose the child in us.

The greatest happiness is not in big things. It lies in small things. Sometimes a mundane thing as a flower in the neighbour's garden or a bird appearing out of nowhere can bring you a flash of happiness. Likewise, hearing from a long-lost friend or rediscovering the joy of a long forgotten hobby can bring a fresh life to you.

As for me, I am trying to look at life and what it offers me with an open mind. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don't. I learn a lot more from my failures than from my success. Its life's lessons learned the hard way that stays on with you.

Each new day is a gift - what we do with it is entirely upon us. We can cherish it and use it in the best way. Or else, we can just waste it and regret later. Although very few people ever realise it, the truth is, to a great extent the power to be happy or otherwise remains with you. If you choose to be happy and positive, not many things can deter you from it.

Also, each people you meet in life comes to you with a lesson. Whatever they brought you, you needed. Be it friendship, love, happiness or even sorrow. Next time you feel low, take a deep breath and tell yourself: 'It is ok, this happened because I needed the learning. Let me learn my lesson and move ahead." When you do this instead of wailing in self-pity and sorrow, you'll find that life is not as bad as it seemed.

Try to find happiness in small things - even a wildflower can fill your mind with joy - only if you open your eyes and heart to it. Likewise, be thankful for the little things you have rather than worrying about things you don't have. An attitude of gratitude can make a lot of difference in the way we look at things. 

To make a difference, all you need is a smile. Give yourself your prettiest smile and tell you are an amazing person. Believe in yourself and you'll soon find the world believing in you. As the pieces begin to fit into the puzzle, you'll discover the amazing picture called life. When you do that, live it to your fullest. Everything you need is there - it's waiting to be discovered. Go ahead and find it!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Of compliments and appreciation

While growing up, I had often felt that the elders around me didn't believe in complimenting the youngsters much. Their policy was just to acknowledge the achievements and keep the kids grounded to reality. I think that they believed too much appreciation and compliments could go into one's head and could spoil the child altogether. This policy was religiously followed in the case of one's own child. But in the case of other children, the rule was a bit lenient as they were  showered with some kind of praise and compliment. Mostly, the praises were reserved for others and not one's own people.

I don't remember my sisters being showered with accolades when they brought home numerous prizes and certificates of merit. I need not tell you that the few certificates I got were also welcomed with the same lukewarm appreciation. Only later could I read the pride and joy of our achievements from their faces. I could see their eyes brightening up when we did something worthwhile. Yet, words and actions of appreciation remained elusive...

When I became a parent, initially I too followed the policy of less appreciation because I didn't want my kids to think their achievements are the greatest, and stop trying to do better. But then, I observed my kids' friends getting much more appreciation for lesser achievements. It was an eye-opener. I was reminded how I longed for some special appreciation from my people when I was young. That changed my perspective.

I started appreciating and complimenting them for their efforts. Of course, it was tough for me to say 'well-done' or 'good job' when they performed beneath my expectations (to be fair to them, like a typical indian parent, I had my expectations set high). I could see my words working magic in them. For one, they were happy to be recognized. Secondly, it brought in them a feeling they can do it. They knew even if they try and fail, they'll still have a mom who'd welcome them with a smile and a pat on their backs for the effort given. So, I saw for myself how a small change in my attitude and behavior made positive changes in them. I know neither they nor I are perfect. But for me, that was ok. I wasn't searching for perfection. 

By complimenting them on their achievements and effort, I could show them the positive side of it. And of course, I too started getting compliments for the little day to day things I did. Boy, didn't that make me happy?!!!!

The other day a friend asked me 'you seem to like getting complements a lot, don't you?' This was soon after I thanked him for his appreciation of something I did. I replied: 'I think when someone gives me a genuine compliment, I should accept it wholeheartedly and thank that person. Yes, I am happy to receive compliments from you because I know you are not saying it for the sake of it. Being a subject expert, your words have a greater imapct on me and I believe I should thank you and let you know how genuinely happy I am.'

This incident made me think. In general, we are not used to giving and receiving compliments. If someone give us a compliment, we don't accept it with a thank you and move on. Instead, we try to tell him/her why we are not worthy of the praise. If it is about the dress we are wearing, we will try to say it is because of the color, material or even the place we purchased it that it is looking good. We take pains to explain why we aren't worthy of the compliment.

We should have just said thank you and ended the matter there. But, as we are not used to receiving complements, we feel it is wrong to get one and we try to find excuses for not deserving one! That is the saddest part - we can't even take some genuine appreciation for what it is. Instead we will go out of way to prove why we aren't worth the praise.

So, the next time someone give you a compliment or praise you, accept it with a smile and a 'thank you'. Believe me, you are worth it. And, as you discover the joy of accepting compliments, start giving compliments too. That is also as good as receiving one. To see the unexpected smile and happiness on the other person's face is one of the greatest rewards you can ever ask for. Start giving genuine compliments. You will find you are happy doing that instead of bottling it up inside you.

To end, let me say this as well - if at all you feel you have to give some constructive criticism to anyone, do it personally and in private. But if you want to appreciate someone, do it in front of others.

Start giving compliments - to your kids, friends, families. Soon you'll also receive your share of compliments and will cease to feel embarrassed about it.  It is a wonderful world out there if we appreciate and acknowledge the goodness in others. 

Why not make a start now? My comment section is waiting 😊