Beyond shadow of doubt, the star of the recent Sikh Education Conference - Nurturing One Sikh Child at a Time - in New Jersey, U.S.A. was three-year-old Bani Kaur.
Standing confidently in front of a large audience, she sang a Punjabi nursery rhyme, "Ik Chhota Baccha," to the tune of "This Old Man" and just took my breath away. Accompanied by Channpal Singh on the tabla and Jaspreet Singh on the harmonium, this delightful child seemed to speak directly to me: "See, Inni aunty, this is the way you should teach us, this is what we like."
She mesmerized me!
My trance was shattered by a loud voice: "It was worth coming to the conference just to hear this," blurted out one of the participants spontaneously.
And he was right!
You just had to be there to experience how little Bani Kaur captured our hearts.
Jagdeep Singh of the Ujjal Didar Memorial Foundation in California wrote the Panjabi nursery rhyme that she sang. After the presentation, I walked up to him and asked for a CD of these rhymes. With his teddy bear smile, he says, "I am working on it. But, Inni bhenji, you can make these up these rhymes, too - they are easy to do."
The man is definitely misguided regarding that. I may be able to do many things, but putting together Punjabi nursery rhymes is not one of them. So Jagdeep, I await with bated breath your nursery rhyme CD.
Navneet Kaur's presentation on illustrating storybooks using Sikh themes was enlightening, to say the least. As she got into the presentation, I realized that she had designed the Sohji Gurmat Kaida. To be honest, I have struggled with this kaida. I didn't quite know what to do with it.
While I appreciated the creative effort behind it, I couldn't connect with it. However, all that changed as I listened to Navneet explain the thought-process.
All of a sudden, everything clicked and it made perfect sense. It was like a veil was lifted and I knew exactly how it is to be used.
Each page is a jewel - to be appreciated and savoured. Many stories lie within these pages - I see this book as a valuable and practical tool for parents to explore with their little ones.
Seeing slides of Tanveer Kaur's Khalsa school classroom in Calgary made me drool. I would do just about anything to have a classroom like that. Very graciously, she said, "I'm fortunate to have a room within a room. The small inside room I use when I teach bani. The children take off their shoes, cover their heads and then we enter this room. I don't have a sink, so I use a pitcher and a bucket to wash hands before we enter this room."
WOW! And double Wow! A humble request to SikhRI: next time, please have Tanveer Kaur do a one-hour session.
Is there a way that we can make Harpreet Kaur's presentation mandatory for every Khalsa schoolteacher? She is a Panthic gold mine! She truly believes that the right way of imparting a life-long joy of learning should be based on the Montessori method. Being a teacher and an administrator at the Guru Nanak Foundation of America, her presentation was very thought provoking.
"Forget about the traditional way of teaching, make it fun for the children to come to class," she repeated constantly. "What is the point of having a child write a perfect Oora? Maybe their finer motor skills haven't developed as yet? Find another way to interest that child. If I had to keep writing Oora over and over again, I, too, would not want to come to class," she said.
An hour was too short for her presentation.
The hardest part of the conference was choosing which session to attend. I wanted to go to all of them!
"Engaging Teenagers" was the session I finally chose. Harpreet Kaur Neelam from Canada helped me understand the growth of the teenage brain. She showed a seven-minute video, which was an eye-opener. This presentation is a must for every parent out there.
My biggest regret is that I was not feeling energetic enough to take full advantage of this amazing conference. I missed Sardar Kuldeep Singh's talk - which I was repeatedly told was "to the mark and spot on."
I overhead one of the participants complain to Harinder Singh (Executive Director of SikhRI): "Dr. Laura Roy's talk was too short. She should have spoken for at least three hours and I would have sat through it." And I missed that completely - Sigh! Life is just not fair.
I wish I could have attended the sessions the next day, but the body demanded that I rest and I yielded.
Bravo, Sikh Research Institute, for putting together an outstanding and well-run conference!
Bravo, Bridgewater Gurdwara, New Jersey, for being the perfect hosts!