29 November 2012

My Daughter Becomes 3

The Attitude Pose- Nov 2012
This day in 2009 was a Sunday and Kezang knew our child was going to come ahead of due date. We went to Sunday market in the morning, then to town to prepare for the new member in the family. She cooked for us and packed stuffs for the hospital and by 9 PM our child made a loud entry into this world. It was a daughter.
The excitement of becoming father didn't die in these three years, often I look at my little girl and exclaim, 'wow, I am a father', and that good feeling brings lot of energy. Becoming father was the beginning of becoming a better man, it was another chance in life to look at the world through an innocent eye. The next phase of me was born with my daughter and we grew together.
She is growing into a beautiful girl like her mother, and everybody is happy that she didn't resemble me but I have more than one ugly part; I was the naughtiest and wildest child ever born in my family. Therefore I am never angry with my daughter though she is turning into something Kezang can't believe. Kezang only heard about my childhood, now she is getting to see me through our child.

Miss Bhutan Pose!
Apart from being extremely naughty, my daughter is very smart with technology. She can amaze people with how she can play around with iPad since she was two. Now she is more on YouTube and surprising us with her new crying, screaming, talking and punching styles. She can already run us down from ABC to Z, and 123 till somewhere less than 20. She spends much of her time on either movies on computer or on YouTube. She is very fond of singing and recording her own performances on camera. One thing that makes her even more special is her ability to sing Zhundra. The only song my mother taught me was Naychoe Dongkala, which I sang to my daughter when putting her to sleep. Amazingly she caught not only the tune but also the entire lyrics of the classic song. She would sing that in karaoke and other public places because she knows that gains her lot of attention which she enjoys.
The down side of having a tech-loving daughter is having to spare half of the computer screen for her movie. She is never enough with 'The Gods Must be Crazy' series. I had to reschedule all my works just to make room for my daughter but she leaves me not a single hour of peace, thus I wait till midnight, which is when she finally sleeps, and wake early in the morning to buy myself some extra hours.

We sit on same computer(Ninzi's Half- PaSsu's Half)
She loves going to birthday parties, but she thinks she has the right to blow the candles on any birthday cakes. Part of being a father is fighting with other kids to get pink balloons for my daughter in all the birthday parties. But tonight she will have a cake of her own with candles she can blow and pink balloons she can have without her father having to fight for it.
Happy Birthday Darling, you are three now!

23 November 2012

"Please Use Your Liberty to Promote Ours"

I loved the movie The Lady because I celebrate Aung San Suu Kyi and I celebrate her bravery. I idolized her ever since I knew about her in high school. I felt proud when later in college I discovered that the brave lady spent some time in Bhutan during her happier days along with her husband Michael Aris

Aung San on her way to Paro Taktshang, Bhutan

The Lady is a biographical movie of Suu's life, of her bravery, of democracy that ran in her blood, and of ultimate sacrifice, she, her husband, and the Burmese people made for democracy in Burma. This movie made me understand why Aung San Suu Kyi was not with her dying husband in his last days, which otherwise kept bothering me and my love for the lady. However, the man who took care of Michael Aris till his last breath was a Bhutanese student by the name Karma. I knew he was Bhutanese from Dasho Kunzang Wangdi (@KunzangW) on Twitter and also that he is now in Bhutan. It made me so proud. 

(Update 2021: I now know the Bhutanese student Karma is celebrated scholar Dr Karma Phuntsho, the founder of Loden Foundation and author of The History of Bhutan.)
Michael Aris in Bhutan

The movie ends with an unforgettable quotation from Aung San Suu Kyi, that must have made difference in her struggle for freedom;
"Please Use Your Liberty to Promote Ours"
This line kept repeating in my head for days and brought about a sense of guilt of being free and not having done anything for those who are struggling for freedom. Now that Burma has seen the light, I wish to take this line and use it on behalf of other oppressed people.

21 November 2012

The Freedom Writers Diaries- A Movie for Teachers

A blogger friend and fellow teacher, Ugyen Dechen sent me two movies. One was The Lady, biography of Aung San Suu Kyi, which Dechen reviewed in her blog last October and the other one was surprisingly The Freedom Writers. I was craving for this movie ever since some friends talked about it, and there it was in the pen drive Dechen sent me.

This is yet another movie that touched my soul. Just last month I watched The Ron Clark Story which Monu sent me, and here is another one shaping the teacher in me. The Free Writers is a 2007 American Drama adapted from the best selling book The Freedom Writers Diaries (1999) by the teacher in the story herself, Erin Gruwell.
The Real Ms Erin Gruwell- The Teacher, The Writer

She takes up the job of teaching English on Long Island at 23. She is put into a class, which is almost a war zone where children nearly of her age and a lot bigger than her size are divided by racial hatred. These children walk with guns in the pockets and bitterness in their hearts, looking for any chance to start a fight. They come from a community that is divided into gangs and has a bloody history.
The Freedom Writers Diary (The Book)

How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them is a non-fiction 1999 book written by The Freedom Writers, a group of students from ...Wikipedia
Published: 1999
Author: Erin Gruwell
Original language: English
Genre: Non-fiction
Adaptations: Freedom Writers

Freedom Writers (The Movie)
Freedom Writers is a 2007 American drama film starring Academy Award winner Hilary Swank, Scott Glenn, Imelda Staunton and Patrick Dempsey. Wikipedia
Release date: January 5, 2007 (initial release)
Director: Richard LaGravenese
Screenplay: Richard LaGravenese
Story by: Erin Gruwell, Freedom Writers
Producers: Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, Danny DeVito

Our problems are nothing compared to what Ms Gruwell faces, she teaches in a classroom filled with resentments, where every careless word every minute starts up a fight. Her initial efforts to unite the divided class ends up making herself another enemy for them. The turning point in the story is a cartoon of a thick-lipped black boy passed around in the classroom that catches the attention of Ms Gruwell. Deeply saddened by the racism in the classroom she relates that cartoon with the cartoons of big-nosed Jews drawn by the biggest gang ever. She tells them about how that gang hated other races and divided countries and how that ended up in holocaust, taking away the lives of 6 million Jews.

Surprisingly, except for one, none in the huge class ever heard of the Holocaust. Ms Gruwell then goes looking for reading materials but the school denies her any book. She takes up two other part-time jobs to afford Diary of Ann Frank for her students, but in her personal life, her extra involvement with her class costs her own marriage.

The book does magic to her children, each could relate their lives to that of Anne Frank and the story made them realize how much hatred could destroy. Ms Gruwell takes her kids to the Holocaust Museum to see what Nazi and their hatred for Jews has done. She further invites Miep Gies, the lady who hid Ann Frank in her attic, to talk to her students. Lady Miep Gies shares about how she did what was right and she tells the kids that anybody can do what she has done, therefore everybody is a hero.

Ms Gruwell gives every child a notebook to start their own diary and every child writes about their lives, which is later compiled into a book by Ms Gruwell and calls it The Freedom Writers Diaries. This connected me so much to the movies because besides being a teacher I also love writing my diary. And you are reading my freedom diary.

The Real Freedom Writers

A lesson to teachers in Bhutan: We all begin our teaching lives at about the same age as Ms Erin Gruwell but we are lucky to walk in any classroom and have our students standing up in respect. She faces cynicism for her passion, she is denied of support, her successes are criticized and she is deprived of basic resources like library books, yet nothing stops her, then why should anything stop us?

Anne Frank, The book I am reading next!

17 November 2012

Who will take the Broken Glass?

Last week we got to see a few Bhutanese entrepreneurs who made living on waste business, whose business has moral beyond money. I would like to congratulate Karma Yonten for his visionary Greener Way. He has made it his moral responsibility to take care of our waste while the rest of us wait for the government to handle it.
Last month a few people from some organizations came to talk to us on waste management, and they enlightened us on how we could locally do what Greener Way is doing in Thimphu. I asked them about the Broken Glasses and they said it has no commercial market, therefore it goes to Landfill. That didn't surprise me because I knew it already, but I at least expected them to have a better suggestion.
Then I asked if they would fund a project that would make use of Glass waste and create commercial market right here in the country, to which they said they have no considered that yet. Which means they only bank on stuff that will sell, and not on making things sell. This is very Bhutanese in nature.
I know Greener Way has done so much to demand any more from them, but I also know a young engineer who has tried to use glasses in concrete (Ask him how he was going to do that). He has done a project on this and even went meeting people but he gave up on the way because he only received warm doubts, and cold cynicism from people of whom he expected support. He was going to create commercial market for broken glasses but he realized we are only waiting for India to open up markets.

12 November 2012

Character Certificate Misunderstood and Abused

Schools hold Character Certificate of a child as hostage and demand ransom of good discipline from them. It's also used as the ultimate weapon of punishment. It's a confidential document that the child gets to see only when he leaves the school. Therefore, Character Certificate is misunderstood and abused. But the true intention of this life defining document was never spelled out and therefore this heavy paper weighed very light so far. It's now coming into the light with Educating for GNH spirit, it may take time but the greatest achievement is in having it started.
Because we were brought up in such environment we look at our children through the same belief that a child is worth his scores in his marksheet. The toppers are praised in school and at home, they are favorites of teachers and parents. Colleges want them, job markets await them. Of course, these children do deserve the massive attention they are receiving, there is no way we can afford to compromise that but we must realize that we are just looking at the academic intelligence and worse using that to measure children's worth.
His majesty always stressed on "Emotional Intelligence" when talking to children. Emotional Intelligence is not something we can find among high marks alone. Emotional Intelligence defines a good human being but by giving absolute importance to marksheet we are totally disregarding the true worth of our children. Character certificate, if used correctly, can not only acknowledge those emotionally intelligent kids but also groom the normal children into achieving that goodness.
Character Certificates contains 10 Personal Qualities, which defines an emotionally intelligent child.

  1. Leadership Quality
  2. Punctuality
  3. Honesty & Integrity
  4. Willingness to Adapt to Rules
  5. Respect for others
  6. Civic Sense
  7. Creativity
  8. Participation in activities
  9. Work Ethics
  10. Conduct

We have always seen and used this document but we have never known it well. Children should see and understand every personal quality with specified criteria (See the sample Rubrics) and given opportunity and motivation to build on those qualities.

Mark Sheet
Character Certificate
Measures academic performance
Identifies academically sound children
Guarantees a good Job
Measures Human values
Identifies good human being
Guarantees a good Life

The most painful question is, why invest so much in something that no one will even look at? That is something Educating for GNH going to change eventually, one day Marksheet and Character Certificate will weigh the same. This is a big change in system and mentality that requires lots of time to set up. The best place to begin is the schools. Schools can already start investing in human values in their little ways.

Current status of Character Certificate 
Expected Role of Character Certificate
It’s a confidential document
It’s marked once in a year
It’s marked at the end of the year
It threatens the children
It’s used as a weapon
Only bad character certificate has effect on the child’s career, good certificate go unnoticed.
It's a summative assessment.
It should be a mirror to the child on daily basis
It should be marked several times in a year
It should be marked in the beginning, middle and end of the year to motivate.
It should motivate children
It should be used as a guiding tool
Good Character certificates should  be given due importance
It should be Formative assessment.

With strong system in place Character Certificate can redefine that way human world functions; we will not only have the most intelligent people governing us but also the good human beings. Intelligence alone is only capable of making great stuffs like nuclear weapons, it takes emotional intelligence to build homes and make live saving drugs. 
This is what intelligence without emotion does!

08 November 2012

The Inner Search in Schools

When Meditation was first introduced in schools a few years ago, it was received with good humor. Students found it funny in the beginning and boring gradually. Most teachers never believed in it and some believers soon forgot it. I never really understood why this was happening. But I tried hard to advocate that it was to do with calming our mind and sharpening our focus on studies-which was how I vaguely understood and I discovered I wasn't fully wrong.
Meditation before the Evening Prayer in Bajothang
Now that I have the complete understanding of the intention behind introducing this in schools I would like to share it with my readers. It's a very simple ritual a school should follow whenever possible to give students a quite moment of calmness, in which they get time to be mindful. Mindfulness is the key in this practice. It's a known fact that nobody wants be bad, nobody wants be in trouble, but they land up being without their intention. And one bad thing leads to another. That's the result of not being mindful. We are always in rush.
Everybody has a choice at all times, we make many decisions every moment of our lives and our decisions shape us. While making those many decisions we have two voices talking to us from within our head, one is the good one and other is bad, but how many of us know which one to listen to?
That's what's happening to our students everyday, they don't want to land up in problem but they got into trouble by the wrong decisions they made. They didn't know they have picked on the wrong choice. Not many of us make right decisions at all times either. They need help. But no external help can solve your internal problem, how long can anyone rely on help considering the hundreds of decisions we have to make everyday. The help is right there within ourselves. We only have to focus and that focus comes from training our mind. That's why Meditation is brought to school, and I believe in it, because a mindful child will live a meaningful life.
There are different types and levels of meditation, please Google it. I picked on the simplest one and I am trying with my students every day and I have asked them to spare one minute every morning and evening for it. They know why they are doing this, and with them I am also in search the good voice myself. This could solve many of life's problems, this could be the answer to all the disciplinary problems in the school, and this could be the revolution against social problems, if at all we take it with genuine seriousness.

Note: Meditation in school has no connection with any religion, the only connection it has is with ones mind and therefore with ones life. 

05 November 2012

The Rights to Internet

The title "the Rights to Internet' might sound a little strange because it is neither from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 nor Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989. But considering the time the two were drafted, Internet couldn't have bothered those big brains. Now internet is a serious matter. It divides people as much as it connects them. You must have heard about internet connecting people from across the world, and must wonder where this 'dividing' thing emerges from.
We all know the difference between rich and poor, and we know what makes one rich and other poor. Through that same scale if we look at people in this information world we can see how poor some people are in comparison to others. I meet hundred students every day and I can notice the difference in the degree of smartness among them. The smart ones, the critical ones, and the confident ones are mostly the ones who are in my Facebook friend list. They are the lucky ones who are connected to the world through internet. They are divided from the ones who are not connected, and in the information world they are the rich ones exercising their dominance over the poor in the classroom. The same reason divides the rural students from the lucky urban brothers. Why should something that is easily available become a dividing factor, after all we don't need railroads or airport to expand internet connectivity.
Image Courtesy: The New York Times
There is fiber optic cable running across the country, and it's very unreasonable if all schools are not given internet connection within next few years. Our children should not find themselves in alien lands after their graduation, they should get the real taste of life in schools. They should not just hear about internet like fairy tales, they should use it. Schools with internet connection must make it accessible to students through whatever means possible. We must break the dividing factor among the students of same school and among rural and urban schools. Everybody should have equal rights to internet just like any other rights.

04 November 2012

Since 1989

In 1989 world leaders felt the need for a special rights for children under 18, after discovering that the Human Rights do not protect the children fully. They signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Bhutan was among the first countries to recognize and agree to it.
The Convention ...spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child. Every right spelled out in the Convention is inherent to the human dignity and harmonious development of every child. The Convention protects children's rights by setting standards in health care; education; and legal, civil and social services. (UNICEF)
Built on varied legal systems and cultural traditions, the Convention is a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations to be respected by every country signatory to the CRC.

Quite strangely I went to school in 1989. Every person of my age would have same hostile memories from schools but because I was very naughty myself I don't have any good thing to say about my primary school. I was beaten by teachers and seniors almost everyday. Nobody seemed to mind and therefore I didn't mind either. I thought I deserved the hammaring on the head and whipped naked in the public. But much later I realized that not many thought they deserved, because by the time I reached high school only a few of us where still holding on to school, rest have dropped out on the way.

Teachers and parents are the people who should be educated on the rights of the child, but how many of them even know there is such a thing? I actually saw the articles in CRC only last week, thanks to the 'Educating for GNH' workshop in my school. Perhaps this ignorance is still widespread among our teaching fraternity which is why even in 2012 children are scared of teachers.

I pledge to myself that I will respect the CRC at all cost without negotiation and serve my duty as care giver and protector of children who are put in my hand. I will work toward protecting the Rights of the Child which we were supposed to do since 1989.