I joined Fountainhead Leaders in December 2017 as the Curriculum Developer for Primary classes. I hold a Masters in Psychology and my passion has always been to work with children. Stemming from a Psychology background, it has opened up a myriad of perspectives on human behavior and their needs over the years for me. Looking at our society today, I feel that everyone needs someone to listen to them, someone to understand them at their level, someone to lend not just a physical helping hand but an emotional hand as well. Especially as we focus on children, they require it more than the adults at times, except, they might not be aware of it or understand it yet. If children are the future of this country, where better to start than with them?.
Their minds are fast filling bowls with unlimited space to be filled. It's important we understand what those bowls hold and what's the best way we can help them manage what’s in those bowls. Our curriculum consists of concepts like self-esteem, independence, assertiveness, which has proved to be a very important aspect in a person’s life. While developing these lesson plans, it has not only seen to benefit the children, but it has broken through to me as well. There are things that I have learnt working with these concepts which I have never paid heed to before.
Growing up, I have always struggled with self-esteem issues, feeling I am not good enough, I am not talented enough, I am not smart enough which resulted in me doing poorly in my studies, taking the back seat when it came to using my talents, etc. This all seemed to stem from incidents in my life where I found myself dwelling in my failures more than striving to improve myself. Incidents such as when I used to get opportunities to sing on stage and it did not go as planned, either I got too nervous or forgot my lyrics, which made me feel like I was just not good enough. Or when it came to studies, if I felt I put in my best effort and it would end up in poor results, I would find myself losing hope easily.
Up until the 10th grade, I refused to acknowledge that I would become better, that I could be satisfied with things I do. It was after my 10th when I continued in my own school pursuing 11th grade was when I decided to change the way I view myself. It was not an easy task to go about and one person who stood out to me through this was one of my teacher’s in my school who encouraged me and showed me my true potential. I can never forget her words to me, “You might fail a few times, but that is okay, you are capable of much more than you think, you need to just start using those capabilities and giving yourself praise for it rather than being disappointed with it.” That is when I realized I had been undermining myself and was not giving myself enough credit, that I was reducing my self-esteem rather than trying to increase it. Once I realized all this is was when my life took a turn. I started putting in more effort into things I did, I started giving myself credit for that effort. I found myself feeling better as a person, excelling in my studies, displaying my talents whenever the opportunity rose and actually using my potential. Looking back, I realized that things would have been a little easier if all my teachers were supportive and encouraging just as that one teacher was. We may not notice the importance of having a sense of self-regard in our lives, but once we do, as individual’s we can begin to start living up to our full potential.
While formulating the lesson plans, we focus on very specific aspects of the concepts, for example, while working on self-esteem, we emphasize on children becoming aware of their uniqueness and the things that make them stand out as individuals, their likes and dislikes, finding ways to love themselves, finding ways to respect themselves, what they think about themselves from the outside, their talents and abilities, dealing with success and failures, focusing on the process rather than the result, the importance their name holds, ways in which they can increase their self-awareness and self-regard and helping them find ways to view themselves in a more effective manner.
Our lesson plans are a lot of fun. We have a lot of activities that the students can do along with their parents. These include either exercise sheets, posters or different activities to do together. We believe that an active participation from the parents is very important in the student’s life as the parents can be aware of what their child is going through and be a part of their child’s life in that way. We bring out our concepts through storytelling, videos, songs, games, and many such activities.
I don't know if children will eventually become aware of themselves, but I'm certainly aware that I'm having fun developing these lessons
I have had an interesting journey. I was a sports journalist for 5 years, a sports administrator for another five years. Today, I’m an educator- thanks to my 5-year-old daughter. It all started when she was around two and half years old. It was time for her to start school. For weeks prior to that, we spoke about what school was like, the play, the learning. From what I recall, she was very excited about the idea and was looking forward to it. What we didn’t expect was the separation. It was over-whelming for both of us. She, frantically crying saying “Amma, please don’t leave me” kept haunting me. I wondered, why would she think that I would ever leave her? That’s when it struck me that this was the first time she was ever going to be away from the safe folds of our home or the people she knew. Her little brain could just not comprehend what two hours meant and more importantly what it meant be back home in two-hours’ time. With that, we began our journey to adapt. Every day, we would talk about the most beautiful things in her school, the new things she’s learning there and the new bunch of wonderful friends she’s getting to play with. It took her close to a month for her to accept her school to be ‘a fun and a safe place’ and more importantly accept her teachers. When I look back, I realize, I could make her accept school to be a fun and a safe place only when I saw the challenges through her eyes and together, we worked on it.
Then she turned 3, She wanted to play with other children. She would go to the park and If someone called her a bad girl or if someone told her that they are not her friend, she would get very upset. It would take hours for her recover from that. She was very sensitive. It was getting into a vicious circle. She would want to play with other children but if they said anything to her that she didn’t want to hear or didn’t give her a chance in the swing or didn’t give her the toy she wanted; she would stop playing. This affected her mood. One day, when she came to me crying for someone calling her a bad girl, I allowed her to calm down and I asked her, if someone called her a lion, would she become a lion? She was all puzzled. She looked at me intensely and very seriously said “no amma”. I asked her if she would become a dog, if some called her a dog, if she would become a flying elephant if someone called her one. She said no for everything. And then I asked, if she would become a bad girl if someone called her a bad girl. Guess what? she started crying again till we could distract her. But I persisted. Every single time she would come home crying for other children calling her a bad girl, I would ask these set of questions. It went on for close to a year. Then finally one day, just before going to sleep she came to me and said “Amma, Shannu called me a bad girl today but I didn’t cry. If someone calls me a lion, will I become a lion? No na, they why should I cry?”. It took her close to a year to get the message that she’s not what others think of her to be.
Then she turned 4. She loved her school, she had friends to play with, by now she had developed a healthy self-esteem but we started to have power struggles at home. It was not just with her clothes, food or her toys. She wanted to decide if I could go to work or not, if I could eat my dinner or not, if I could be on a call or not… I don’t know if she was controlling me or I was allowing myself to be controlled. I wanted to get out of this cycle. I wanted to be firm and assertive. First of all, I had to decide what are the things I was willing to do and what are the things I was not willing to do for her. I was fine with picking her from school because I see it as a quality time to bond with her. I’ve noticed that she looks forward to telling me what happened in her school that day on our way back home. After I drop her at home, she would want me to stay back and take her to her music class. I was not ok with that. I prefer to go to my office. Many days, I’ve left with her crying at home. I had to trust the nanny to do the job and more than that I had to trust her own coping mechanism to deal with it.
A few days back when I left for work after I dropped her home, she gave me a hug and said “Amma, be a brave and a confident girl in office”. Exactly the same words I tell her when I drop her to school. She eventually learnt to cope.
The last five years been very gratifying and adventurous. By nurturing another human being, I’m discovering myself. If I have to leave you all with some key messages:
Get your child to trust you:
The first investment that you can make is to get your child to trust you. Believe that they can share anything and everything with you. Trust me, this will be very handy when they enter their teens.
Practice before you preach:
Be the role model for your child. Practice what you preach. If you say no to tv, make sure that you also don’t watch tv. If you want them to go out and play, go out with them and show them how to play. If you ask them to not eat junk, you too cut down on your junk intake. They learn more from our actions than from what we say.
Allow them to feel:
Humans are emotional beings. Allow them to experience all emotions and be humans. Emotions are neither good nor bad. Anger and sadness are as important as happiness. Help them discover what the emotion is telling them.
Never take out your stress on your child:
Your emotional well-being is very important for your child’s. Don’t carry your work stress or other frustrations to them. Tell them you are not feeling ok or upset about something, they will eventually understand. If you take out your frustration on them, it can damage their self-worth.
And finally, allow them to question. It will help them to discover themselves and the world around better.