On Saturday, February 27, 2010, I attended an all-day Level 2 teacher training session at my gurdwara in Norwalk, Connecticut. Our Khalsa School has been using the Sojhi curriculum for the past two years and the administrators and staff felt the need for a second training.
Jasmine Kaur, the Director of Education at the Sikh Research Institute (SikhRi), along with Harliv Kaur, Owner/Publisher, Kikli - "Fun Through Exploration for Sikh Kids", and Harpreet Kaur, Instructional Coordinator of the Curriculum in Science and Technology, Peel School Board, Ontario, Canada, were our instructors. The Hand of the Guru was definitely watching over them as they landed safely in the midst of a snowstorm.
I entered the classroom and was amazed to see its transformation. Interesting and exciting things were on the walls and on the tables. The classroom had suddenly come alive. The tables were arranged into four sections. And before I knew it, we were broken into teams and moved from table to table in a systematic order.
Hola Mohalla was the theme for this exercise. Each table had a different approach to the same content. The table that I was on had a board game that resembled something like the pictionary board game.
I rolled the dice and moved my dime.
Somehow I always seemed to get back to the beginning of the game. I made no progress whatsoever.
There were questions to answer and images to draw. No elaborate drawings were necessary, said our instructors.
You should have seen my stick figure drawings. Pathetic, is the word that comes to mind. But I was okay with them, until I looked over my shoulder and saw the sketches of the teacher next to me.
His sketches took my breath away.
I could feel the energy of the Nihang riding on horseback.
"This is just amazing," I blurted.
"Well, I like to doodle," he replied.
This was no doodling.
I persisted in my usual aggressive fashion.
"I see these sketches done on cream paper with black ink."
He smiled. "I used to sketch on cream paper. That was so long ago. Those were my younger, carefree days. My mother has saved all my sketches." His voice turned softer at the mention of his mother.
My mind drifted to my mother. I too have given her most of my paintings. I am not sure why?
But, I am sure there is a psychologist out there who has a theory on the mother/ child-art connection.
We moved to the next room.
The fun and frolic seemed to be over. Jasmine Kaur started the presentation with a thought-provoking poem that captivated all of us:
IF CHILDREN LIVE WITH........
If children live with CRITICISM
They learn to CONDEMN
If children live with HOSTILITY
They learn to FIGHT
If children live with RIDICULE
They learn to be SHY
If children live with SHAME
They learn to feel GUILTY
If children live with TOLERANCE
They learn to be PATIENT
If children live with ENCOURAGEMENT
They learn to have CONFIDENCE
If children live with PRAISE
They learn to APPRECIATE
If children live with FAIRNESS
They learn JUSTICE
If children live with SECURITY
They learn to have FAITH
If children live with APPROVAL
They learn to like THEMSELVES
If children live with ACCEPTANCE and FRIENDSHIP
They learn to find LOVE IN THE WORLD.
These two lines particularly touched my heart. "If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves."
Stimulating discussions flowed from this poem.
Her presentation on life stages was fascinating. She ended the presentation with a shabad that pertained to the life stages of Man. I don't know if she realized how powerful that ending was. I really felt that this particular presentation must be shared with the entire sangat and not just us the chosen few.
Harliv Kaur shared with us her passion and knowledge in how to create Sikh-based artwork and resources for the classrooms. Ideas kept pouring out of her, a mile a minute. The Gurmukhi calendar, the Punjabi word felt-blanket that she has created, are priceless and so very easy to replicate.
Harpreet Kaur started her presentation with a quote from Winston Churchill:
"I love to learn; I just hate to be taught."
For me personally, this was the most challenging and mind-stretching part of the training. It made me revaluate my style of teaching. It forced me out of my comfort zone and made me question myself. Am I using the right approach to reach my students? Does my classroom have a safe environment where all voices are heard? How can I use the positive reinforcement technique?
Her presentation on "Engaging Teenagers" was very effective. The map of the teenage brain had us all in splits. Her explanation into the behavioral pattern of the teenager brain was enlightening and comforting.
She then went on to explain to us in detail the "Seven Norms of Collaboration," and urged us to try that approach in dealing with the teenagers. Wow! That for me is going to be an uphill struggle.
I had debated whether I should attend this teacher training session. Giving up a precious Saturday is not easy for me. But I can honestly say that if I had not attended, I would have been the loser. The presentations were thought provoking and the lessons learned were life-lessons. For me, it was an intellectually stimulating day.
Jasmine Kaur, Harliv Kaur and Harpreet Kaur, I am in awe of your commitment, dedication and enthusiasm. May the spirit of Chardi Kalaa always be with you!