Sunday, November 26, 2017

What's in a Name?

Remember the question "What's in a name?" from Shakespeare's play Romeo & Juliet. (Juliet argues, it does not matter that Romeo is from her family's rival house of Montague). This dialogue 'What's in a name?' from the play Romeo and Juliet, has been immortalized in our regular conversations, when we quote it wittingly for making an argument; names are secondary, qualities are primary.

Last week, few of us (colleagues) had been on a team lunch, to socialise & bond with our home-based employees, as we don't get opportunity to interact in person with them, on a daily basis. All of us, being in similar phase of life i.e. parents with young children, we were asking each other, names of their children and what was the meaning of their child's name. It was fascinating to come across so many unique names and profound meanings, which has roots in our rich heritage, culture, history, religion, mythology and ancient language Sanskrit.

Like all engaging conversations leads to different layers of discussions, this too wasn't different. My colleague Rizwana, asked me "Abhi, do you believe names have an influence on a child's (person's) behaviour and personality?". [Thanks Riz, your question became the impetus for this blog :-)].

It would be fun, if before reading further, you take a moment and try to formulate your opinion -
"Do you believe names have an influence on a child's (person's) behaviour and personality?" 

Welcome back! after the commercial  thinking break! I hope by now, you have your own opinion to the question asked by Riz :)

For now, this is my opinion: May be...

Thinking loudly here, let me elaborate....

We all (me included) spend lot of time in selecting names for our new-born (either our children, or children for our extended family and friends). Google search, visiting websites, consulting a pandit (counsel), calling up friends/relatives, combining alphabets from father's and mother's names, etc, etc, are many of the frenzies, we enthusiastically engage in with so much of love, affection and excitement, for shortlisting probable names for the new born child.

Few of us, mostly likely would have known at least one friend/colleague/relative/acquaintance who have legally changed their birth name, during their adulthood. There are of course, so many well-known artists who have two names, one for their creative profession along with their birth name. There are also instances, of people and celebrities, modifying their names by adding or removing an alphabet (possibly advised by a numerologist, to bring in success). 

The process of giving a new-born child a name, the sustenance of interests in their names, by so many people into adulthood, strongly suggests, names holds a very special meaning for us (probably, it's across all cultures).

If we didn't believe in the significance of name and if name didn't have a special meaning for us, would be devout so much of emotions and time, while selecting a birth name and for taking the trouble of modifying/adopting a name?

In continuation, to our conversations over lunch, Riz humorously asked me "Do you see Maharaja like behaviour in Kanishk?" (my eight year old son, who is named after King Kanishka a second century Kushan king, a patron of Buddhism who spearheaded the spread of Buddha's teaching).

Here's how the name was given to him. The Guruji, of my wife's family suggested us to keep our new born son's name starting with the alphabet क (K) [don't ask me why? not because I will get offended, it's because I also don't know :) The closest answer I can get to is - it's a cultural thing].

Me & my better half, have lot of affection for Buddha & we relate to Buddhist philosophy. So when we had to select a name for our son starting with the alphabet क (K), after lot of soul searching, we chose the name Kanishk. Now that he is 8 years of age, able to comprehend, we have told Kanishk, the meaning of his name and about King Kanishka.

If Kanishk embraces Buddhist philosophy as he grows up, would it be a consequence of the name's influence on him or because he identifies himself with the name or for a completely unrelated reason? I don't know...may be both ways...

When we are asked about our names and it's meaning and when we explain it, does it reinforces our belief and self-identity, with our name?
I don't know....may be....

Let me take a slight diversion and touch upon the concept of Label (Labeling), from the field of Psychology. Labeling is defined as, assigning a person to a category. I am sure, you must have come across N number of articles and videos, cautioning parents and educators, to refrain from negatively labeling a child. A repeated association of a negative label (e.g. stupid, lazy, dumb etc), can reinforce the belief and self-identify, in this label causing long-term damage to a child's self-esteem and personality. (By the way, this is not only restricted to a child, but also applies to adults. Ill practices like bullying, discrimination are manifestation of negative labeling).

Label (labeling) may not be cent percent equivalent with a Birth Name (naming), but it does share the same principle of belief, self-identify and reinforcements. Think about it!

Seems to me, I have a shift from my previously held opinion - 'may be'.

"What's in a Name?", with all due respect to Brad of Avon, I would say, there is "Lots in a Name". 

What's your opinion? Requesting you to share your comments on this blog post. It would be insightful for me and for all the readers, to get to know different perspectives, thoughts and opinion, on this famous question 'What's in a name?'

Image credit - Anurag Gaggar, Jan 07, 2017, Official OYO Blog

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Adaptability is a Key Ability


When we stumble upon the word adaptability, many of us are reminded of a famous quote "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent species. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.", isn't it?

Quite rightly so, as adaptability refers to the attribute of being able to adjust to new conditions & to reinvent oneself.

Keeping the theme of adaptability in background, let me ask you a question - What are Locusts?
I can hear you calling out, "Locust is an insect, which migrates in vast swarms, causing extensive damage to vegetation." & I hope you could hear me saying "Correct"!

By now, many of you might be thinking, what's so special in this seemingly irrelevant question & what is the connection between locust & the theme of adaptability?

This is where, the narrative becomes very interesting.....

Boris Uvarov, a Russian entomologist, during his early researches, made a strange observation - In one incipient locust swarm, he noticed swarming locusts and local grasshoppers were together. Also to his surprise, he noticed in this incipient swarm there were insects which seemed like an intermediate form of a grasshopper and a locust.

In the past, entomologists had always been mystified by the way locusts suddenly seemed to swarm out of nowhere & cause havoc on farmlands. Finally in the year 1921 Boris Uvarov, had the insight and he was able to connect the dots, with the observations he had made long time ago.

Locusts and grasshoppers were same species, but under stressed conditions of drought and diminishing food, grasshoppers laid eggs that hatched into locusts.


Let me ask you the question once again - What are Locusts?
I can hear you calling out a different answer this time, "Locust is a phase in grasshoppers life and during this phase, they behave very differently." You are right!

Under stressed conditions (droughts, scarcity of food), grasshoppers exhibits adaptability by laying a kind of eggs which hatches into locusts. Locusts have the ability to swarm and to fly far off in search of food. Thereby, they survive through drought seasons, by adapting themselves to the changed environment. When conditions become favourable (abundance of food), future generations would revert to being solitary grasshoppers.

I was amazed, when I read about the story of Locusts and Grasshoppers. How species adapts themselves with nature & how adaptation helps them to survive, is simply mind boggling!

The Locust story, also offers us lessons for life - to be adaptable and to be agile. The time we live in, is dynamic, constantly changing & is in a state of flux. Such times, calls for a special ability to survive. So let's be adaptable, after all Adaptability is a Key Ability, isn't it?
I can hear you calling out, "Yes" :-)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Education Series (6/7): Bridge the GAP between Classroom & Real-World

Bridge the GAP between Classroom & Real World

A school starts at 8:30 AM & closes at 1:10 PM. How long does the school work?

A bus starts from Mumbai at 7:20 AM & reaches Pune at 11:45 AM. How long does the bus take to reach Pune? 

These are typical questions in Chapter Time from Maths syllabus, taught in grade III. (My son studies in grade III, in urban Bengaluru).

In my observation, I find my son having difficulty grasping the conceptual understanding of time (clock). Problem statements like Quarter past..., Quarter to..., 12 hours-24 hours format, are typically confusing for him.

I do assist him with his studies & I have seen with regular practice he has made significant improvement in other chapters (numbers, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division). However, with Time chapter the conceptual understanding still remains shaky.

Few weeks ago, he wore his watch (digital watch, gifted by his Didi) to school. After 2-3 days of he wearing the watch to school, his class teacher told him, "Watches are permitted only from grade V onward" & he was advised not to wear watch in school. For us, this was a passing incident & I forgot about it with passage of time....

One fine day, while assisting my son on solving Time problems, a moment of insight struck me!

He is learning about Time in classroom but not practicing the learning in his day to day life (real world). On our part as parents, we have given him a digital watch instead of an analog watch. By using digital watch, he is unable to comprehend time concepts like 'quarter to 3 o'clock', 'quarter past 3 o'clock', 'half past 3 o'clock', but he has to face these questions in school.

On part of schooling, students are not allowed to wear watches till they reach secondary school. In other words, concept of time is being taught in primary school but they are restrained from putting their learning into practice, by not allowing them to wear a watch (analog).

This GAP between classroom & real-world, seems to be the root cause for his lack of conceptual understanding of Time (calculation related to watch).

Over the weekend, I got him a simple, economical Analog watch for regular use. The idea is to make him familiar using an analog watch in day to day life, so that conceptual understanding of time becomes a natural outcome of his daily life, rather than it remaining just a theoretical construct.

For few, this narrative may appear quite trivial, if one look's at it as one specific example (Chapter Time). In my mind, the larger question is "Do we consciously try to Bridge the GAP between classroom & real-world?" This is a profound question, worth introspecting for every parents & educators.

From my son's Maths syllabus, taking another example - Chapter Money. In this chapter, grade-III children are taught calculations related to Money (Rupees & Paisa). Typically in our culture, most of us (parents) seldom expose our children to real money, during their childhood. In other words, children are learning to calculate money (Rupees & Paisa), only as a theoretical construct without any real-world application. But imagine if we give our children nominal pocket money & offer them guidance & supervision on spending money (e.g. buying something in a departmental store), their learning of calculating money will transcend from classroom to real-world.

Personally, this incident (chapter Time) has given me some food for thought, to ponder upon. Different subjects & so many topics, gives us opportunities to innovate in our teaching methods to Bridge the GAP, between classroom & real-world.

As a matter of fact, schools following international curriculum have Bridge the GAP between classroom & real-world, as an integral part of their pedagogy. Technically, it is known as Experiential Learning (Hands on Learning). From my personal experience, I can say other parents like me (untrained educators) can incorporate the concept of Bridge the GAP between classroom & real-world, in their teaching methods by being conscious & creative, in their approach.

Tell me & I forget. Teach me & I remember. Involve me & I learn. - Benjamin Franklin

Image source: HubSpot