Think Beyond The Books

Expert Meeting with Mr. Manivannan Ganapathy, Waldorf Educator

Kingdom of Childhood
This all started with the intention of understanding the curative therapy aspect of Waldorf education. Mr. Manivannan Ganapathy, trustee at the Bangalore Steiner school, is a full time teacher and also Teacher trainer at Kingdom of Childhood. He is a graduate not only in English and Sanskrit literature but has also completed various Waldorf trainings in India, Germany and Switzerland.

The idea of meeting him came to our minds and I immediately sent a detailed message to him requesting a face to face appointment in Bangalore and he graciously said Yes! We planned to meet at 5 pm at his textile shop in JP Nagar.

I entered his shop and at cash counter I met a pleasant faced, young teenage boy, Amar (Mr.Manivannan’s son) and he welcomed me. He immediately contacted his dad through telephone and informed him that I had arrived.  He seemed to be studying and was poring over some notes.  I casually chatted with him and asked what he was reading and enquired about which school he was attending? To my utter surprise, he mentioned that he was home schooling with an awesome teacher that was none other than his Dad. What a cool idea Sir ji :-)!!

Mr. Manivannan, came riding on his bike welcomed me with a smile on his face. It did not seem like we were strangers at a first meeting. There was a certain warmth and kindness exuding in the space.

Manivannan and Karthick Jayaram

Manivannan and Karthick Jayaram

He talked at length about the Curative therapy and it’s spiritual connection. He gave me a lot of ideas to implement and taught me how to make it a success in Trichy in long term. Our talk touched upon areas such as – Waldorf, Indian culture and it’s meaning, Parents’ discussions and meeting, Handling home situations, Classroom management, Importance of the curriculum, Harmony, Circle time, Music recorder (Waldorf  classical Flute).

Then, I saw Amar bringing our fruit juice for us.  I encouraged him to share his views about his future aspirations and he mentioned that he wanted to be either a Farmer or Actor. I have met several youngsters and asked them such questions. But, I have never ever heard any teenage boy saying this! Also he told me that he spends his free time playing Table Tennis, Cricket and he is Champion other forms of sport too. He also plays instrumental  music. I was certainly wowed. I was convinced that the confidence he showed stemmed from his Waldorf  education. Mr. Manivannan had not only taught  the Waldorf education model to others but had really adopted it in his own life with shining results.

I certainly believe that Ingress can also build and seed such confidence in every child.

I thanked Mr. Manivannan for his time and finally I invited Mr. Manivannan to visit to Ingress as and when it was convenient for him. He has agreed to visit say in between April-May 2015. I truly think his visit will pave way for the needy parents in Trichy who want to have a holistic education for their kids. He will certainly help further everyone’s understanding of Waldorf education.

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Unravelling the mystery of Children Learning Process!!!!

How Children Learn

Children are playful by nature. Their earliest exploring experiences to satisfy their natural sensory urges automatically leads them to play, first by themselves and eventually with others. When they play with joy and learn in the process, then it is a pleasant experience. They develop a positive approach to learning.

I have observed sadly that most of my friends breathe down their young child’s neck to make him/her study hard and harder. They think it is the parent’s duty to do so. I disagree.

Here are my thoughts: 

It is very important to understand how your child likes to learn best. I recommend you spend some time analysing and identifying the child’s dominant senses.

Do they like pictures and reading? If so, you can encourage your child to use drawings, pictures, maps or diagrams as part of their learning. Some children like listening to explanations and reading aloud. You could use stories to encourage this kind of child. And most children enjoy learning through songs, chants and rhymes.

Does your child like to touch things and physically move about? Some children have lots of energy! You could play games to get them moving or running around, acting out rhymes or stories or even dancing!

Quieter children may have a good vocabulary and be good readers. Word games, crosswords, word searches, anagrams and tongue twisters would be good to encourage these children.

Other children require logical, clear explanations of rules and patterns, or like to work out the rules for themselves. They may be good at maths too. For these children, activities such as puzzles, problem-solving, ordering or categorising provide ideal opportunities for learning.

All children are intelligent, only differently so. While some children are visual learners and some are auditory learners. It is important to understand that auditory intelligent kids get more stimulated when they listen to music…

Some children are outgoing and sociable and can learn a language quickly because they want to communicate. They are not worried about making mistakes. Other children are quieter and more reflective. They learn by listening and observing what is happening. They don’t like to make mistakes and will wait until they are sure.

If your child is outgoing they may prefer learning in groups with other children, whereas a quieter child may need more private, quiet time to feel more secure about learning a language. A bedtime story in English could be an opportunity to provide this quiet time.

It’s important that learning is fun for children in the early stages of life. It needs to be about doing things with them that they like. They might find unusual ways of doing things – for a toddler, building blocks aren’t just for making towers, and paint can be used without a brush! Show them how things work, but if they want to experiment, let them.

Please do not complain that, “My son is not ‘like me” The ways to stimulate his brain to ‘learn’ could be way different from the way you learn.  Some are logically intelligent and may become like Ramanujam where as a visual learner could become an artiste.  Society has a need for all kinds of people who are good at different things.

Don’t push your child too hard. Children develop in their own ways and in their own time. Try not to compare them to other children. You can also encourage reading, by reading to and with them. Look at the pictures together. This will help younger children make sense of the words.

It is also good to talk to them a lot, about everyday things when cooking or cleaning. This will give you a chance to teach them how things work and they will be able to ask you questions. Get ready for lots of “why’s?”

Children with natural intelligence learn better, perhaps with their simple play in the kitchen, or by accompanying you on a super exciting trip to the shop to buy vegetables or while looking stars from the balcony.  Teaching moments and learning moments are every where.  Using these moments correctly makes learning easy and fun!

Reference: http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/parents

Image Courtesy: Willow Tree Learning

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EZ Vidya Chrysalis & Buzzle | Ingress Perspective

Buzzle

We at Ingress firmly believe that if someone does something better than us, we should learn and adopt. Several of us had the privilege of listening to Ms.Chitra Ravi founder of EZ Vidya introduce Chysalis curriculum and the Buzzle technology at their events in Madurai and Bangalore. It was quite fascinating to imagine the potential of her work books and technology. Learning would be a super fun experience for the children if these were put to good use.

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Since Ingress is in its infancy, there is no need for a ‘shift in culture’ and we could adopt this from the get go and all our students could easily be part of this process of learning from inception.

In a nutshell, the children follow work books that focus on the correct grasping of basic curriculum concepts. The books are designed with care so that ‘teacher’s teaching errors’ are side stepped to the greatest degree possible. In addition, there is a technology component that allows curious students to play with a system and click links and learn more and submit projects and interact with others in their classroom and others in their grade possibly all over the world. This will certainly benefit the tech savvy generation of children of today because it is a lot of fun :). Competition is limited not to the class but truly challenges one’s own self. The system allows for the teacher to track progress of the child and the class as a whole with the click of a button.

While this is similar to doing self learning by research using a search engine on the internet, this buzzle tool is invaluable at the junior grades upto middle school because the internet is not a safe place and many parents will not want their children to go online and succumb to predators. Reporting back to the teacher is also an added advantage of the tool.

Now, the dangers of this ‘fun system’ is that they could get addicted and do this all the time. They could learn everything at home and come to the class distracted. They may get impatient if the teacher is teaching lessons that they are already exposed to at home. They may get better than the teacher and think of themselves as super heros.

The benefits of this are that the teacher does not have the stress of keeping the really smart kids of the class satisfied. She can concentrate on the children who truly need her help. As a smart teacher, she will also enlist the help of her quick learners to help the others in the class. So school becomes oriented towards social skills and life skills education environment which is where the Waldorf methodology comes in handy. The teacher’s role changes to that of a person who motivates, who understands the children emotionally, as the one who leads, provides safety, teaches mutual sharing and respect, provides direction on communication, provides encouragement on good behaviour, as one who teaches them teamwork and co-operation, as the one who takes them outdoors to play, as the one who draws parallels between the school environment and the concepts in the books, as the one who encourages them to think outside the box and listens to them patiently as they grasp each concept. Her kindness and firmness will set the tone of good behavior encouraging the students to make careful choices.

Thinking about lesson planning, worrying about what to answer parents if they ask what their children have learnt, what concept to teach and how to teach it becomes less of a worry if we have the Chrysalis work books to lean on. In all, we think it is a great investment in a very well thought out system.

We spoke to other school Principals and they have been using Chrysalis curriculum for the last 3 years. Several of them vouched that they are very satisfied with the company and the level of support they have received including training of the teachers and introducing the workbooks to parents.

There should be no fear in the minds of our readers that by adopting these work books and the buzzle technology that personal interaction among the kids will take a back seat and they will sit with their neck down and start digging their devices from when they are really young. Ingress plans to be a place for vigorous physical activity and the teacher will restrict the time with the device effectively.

Since this curriculum kicks in from KG or when the kids are about 3.5 to 4 years old, we will adopt a bridge program in the interim.

We are all prepared for the thrilling ride ahead using this technology engine and hope to lead our next gen kids on an amazing journey. We are confident that they will be confident learners and at the same time we will strive to keep their natural kindness and innate innocence intact.

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Ingress: Journey to Berlin

Sturrgart to Berlin

INGRESS PURE INTENTIONS @ TIRUCHIRAPPALLI TO STUTTGART (PART 1… Continued)

I had written a mail to Ms. Nana Goebel, Managing Director of Waldorf World Wide Education, seeking a meeting appointment. I waited patiently for her reply but got no news for three days.  After deep thought, I floated a gentle reminder about my original email.

To my delight, I got an immediate response and she explained humbly that the first mail got filed as spam and only the second mail reached her. She acknowledged my purpose and gave an appointment to see her at the Berlin.

Wow! I was super excited to make the long journey, from Stuttgart to Berlin to get her expert opinion on how we should proceed to make progress with the school set up strategy including teacher recruitment and student enrolment for successfully running the school in the long term. A lot of questions were in my mind & I hoped to remember every detail so that I could relay it back correctly and successfully transfer the ‘Know how’ to the Ingress team in India!

Ms. Nana Goebal

Ms. Nana Goebel, Managing Director of Waldorf World Wide Education

My appointment to meet Ms. Nana Goebel was in the morning at 10 A.M.  I had reached Berlin the night before and chose to stay at the Freunde der Erziehungskunst Rudolf Steiners e.V.(Friends of Waldorf Education).  This is where I needed to meet Ms. Goebel  the next morning.

In my excitement, I could not sleep and I was all the time rehearsing and practicing the questions for her in my mind.  I wondered what direction the conversation would take and whether at all I would be able to accomplish the purpose of visit. I was not sure what to expect from her.  Nevertheless, I got up early around 6 AM and decided to do a ‘practice’ walk to Freunde der Erziehungskunst Rudolf Steiners, Berlin where her office is situated. I did not want to be late and decided to use my nervous energy to make things easy on myself.  I had a route map with directions leading towards the holy place.  After a steady, short walk, I reached the venue at around 6.35 AM. Confident that I knew the way, I walked back to the hotel room and got ready for the big event.

I gobbled a quick breakfast from the café and walked to the Freunde der Erziehungskunst Rudolf Steiners, Berlin and without any trouble, I had entered the Managing Director’s Cabin.  Ms. Nana Goebel was a simple and nice gentle lady, welcomed me whole heartedly and offered milk coffee with sugar.

She was quite familiar with Indian traditions and food styles, after basic enquiries about my stay and travel, she made me comfortable to discuss the purpose of my visit.

We started the conversation and it was incredibly successful. She poured information onto me readily including guidance on matters I asked and also that I had not asked!!!   Discussions took almost 2.5 to 3 hours.  She gave me the contacts in India and a wealth of information on how to approach Waldorf inspired education. She gifted me some books on Waldorf methodology and latest brochures for improving understanding of the model. She also promised to help in future, and answer any further questions that we may have.

I had a lot of information both in my mind as well physical material to carry.  I was keen to transfer the knowledge to Ingress and I was confident at these initial interactive phases of Stuttgart and Berlin would be strong foundation pillars for building Ingress Junior School.

As Rudolf Steiner Says,”A healthy social life is found only, when in the mirror of each soul the whole community finds its reflection, and when in the whole community the virtue of each one is living”. At IJS, we work as community to bring the best possible from each one of us to the betterment of the children.

When the intentions are pure, the angels will come to help in favor of you.  Ms. Nana Goebel is one such angel for the Ingress team.

After our meeting was done, Ms. Nana Goebel suggested some Museums to visit in Berlin.  I explored around the capital for a little bit in celebration of the contentment in my heart after my mission was accomplished. I had a wonderful time exploring the museums, getting on the city tour, graffiti artist’s tour & of course enjoyed super yummy Punjabi food in Berlin!!

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Ingress Pure Intentions @ Tiruchirappalli to Stuttgart

Trichy to Stuttgart

When we had an idea to start a school, everyone on the Ingress team became an eager participant in selecting the teaching methodology. We talked, argued, debated & finally zoomed in on the “Waldorf methodology”. To have a deeper understanding and first-hand experience of what this methodology advocated, I decided to pay a visit to the Waldorf School at Stuttgart, Germany. To my surprise, Waldorf Stuttgart was the first ever school created by Rudolf Steiner in world. As of today, there are more than 220 successful Waldorf schools in Germany and more than 1000 Waldorf schools in 120 countries worldwide providing high quality education.

I mailed Dr. Simon Kuttner, asking for an appointment to get his guidance on how to proceed with the setting up of this school. I impatiently waited for an email response and every hour, I refreshed my mail box to check if there was a reply.

The next day, I got lucky. I got a reply from Dr. Simon Kuttner with an appointment to visit him the next evening. I was so excited.

The narrow, artistic entrance of Freie Hochschule Stuttgart School and Waldorf Teacher’s College opened in front of me. It was a ‘dream come true’ moment. Our first step towards our lofty goal of providing high quality education was getting close. I strongly believe that if you aspire for anything in your life, you have to try your level best. Then, all of nature will come together in an unmatchable force for your pure intentions to manifest and you will reach your goal.

Dr. Kuttner was sitting under a tree waiting for me. He said that he feared I would get lost on the big campus. And so to make things easy for me, he was sitting and waiting at the entrance. My heart instantly warmed up and I was getting sure of the value of the education that we sought to provide.

Dr. Kuttner heads the International Master’s program for Teachers training in Waldorf education. He is friendly and open.

He asked quite a few questions and enquired into our intentions of starting a waldorf inspired school in Tamilnadu. In turn, I had asked a few questions and got some things clarified. Like – what is good for the kids, what are some of his methods etc.

At the end of our talk, he took me on a school tour. He showed me the students carpentry room, music room, concert room, clay modelling, painting room and at last he took me to the small old building at the centre of the school. I asked, “What building is this Dr. Kuttner?“

Rudolf Steiner

He told that this was the very First building for the school based upon Steiner’s ideas that was opened in 1919 in response to a request by Emil Molt, the owner and managing director of the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Company in Stuttgart, Germany, to serve the children of employees of the factory. This is the source of the name Waldorf, which is now trademarked for use in association with this educational method.

He also added that he had brought me to this place so that I could soak in the energy and get motivated to start a Waldorf inspired school in India. He also gave me the contact of the Managing Director of Waldorf Worldwide Education, Berlin. Further, he promised his full support to me in answering all our queries regarding setting up the school in Tamilnadu.

I was moved and speechless!!

Building

I just sat the first old building for some time after Dr. Kuttner left and two children were playing around me happily. I felt light and happy at the sight.

Somewhere in my heart, I got strong belief that this scene will play out again before my eyes when we setup own school in Tamilnadu.

I strongly believe that if you aspire for anything in your life, you have to try your level best. Then, all of nature will come together in an unmatchable force for your pure intentions to manifest and you will reach your goal. Am I right?

Watch this space for reading about Ingress’ next step – meeting the Managing Director of Waldorf Worldwide Education, Berlin, Germany.

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Ingress School: Let’s complete the circle

Ingress Junior School Outdoor
Gurukul System

Image Courtesy: brainbuxa.com

Life has come full circle, I feel. There were times in the past when formal education did not exist in India. Our Vedas and Puranas talk about how the highest thoughts were perceived thru’ methods of silent contemplation and self realization by our wise Rishis and then advocated by Gurus to their group of disciples using mostly an oral tradition. When the students were young, they gathered around in a Gurukul and focused on learning by rote and pleasing the Guru and when they grew up and their maturity improved, they were able to grasp the true meaning of the teaching and chew on the knowledge and led their remaining lives according to their ability and understanding of the higher truth.

In the middle ages, education and skill development was recognized as a primary means of earning a livelihood. The agrarian way of life changed with the advent of the British Industrial revolution and a strong desire for economic progress propelled every household to strive for the ‘doctor’ or ‘engineer’ or ‘lawyer’ dream. And of course, in due course of time, the desire of most families seem to have been met and socio economic progress has come about. The comfortable luxury lifestyle has soon become an accepted natural norm for our middle class families. There is a lot more time for thinking today because of efficiency in day to day life. And man being man, wants even more progress.

And with this, the goals of our families have changed again. The drive for ‘progress’ has changed its course. No longer is the end goal ‘doctor’ or ‘engineer’ or ‘lawyer’ but the MEANS of achieving the goal take paramount importance.

Many in our generation do feel bad about forced career choices. Gen X parents rightly ask –

Is my child happy every day?

I went through a lot of trouble and put in a hard work so that my children can be happy. I don’t want them to take my path and suffer.

I wanted to study History and Art. My dad forced me to do Math.

I hate my software job. I took it just to earn the money. The money is good but I feel empty inside.

When the parents of today attempt to shield their kids from their own bitter experiences and when money is no longer a driving force, they look for something more. In a school, they are looking for a means for discovering their child’s true potential for self actualization. The school’s role has changed to being the means of finding and leading children on a path that feels natural and connected to their own conscience. Education is important because it sharpens the mind. It is a means to an end and end goal is not merely a ‘degree’.

The ability to recognize what one is good at and what it takes to achieve happiness while at the same time contributing effectively to today’s modern society is defined as success.

Each one of us has a purpose and a talent and we are brought into this world to deliver on our own individual potential. If we each seek to find what we are good at and do just that, not only will it be a fun activity for the doer, but the resulting work will add so much joy to the world. Ingress School is one such ‘discovery’ place. And all of us here are striving to make this happen for our children of the latest generation to lead us into a better happier world tomorrow. Let’s complete the circle.

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