112. Exams as memory test

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This pic is from one of my student’s facebook status. After reading this, I felt pretty bad about it. Almost guilty because I know that at the end of the semester, these students will be judged by a final standardized examination and their papers will be evaluated by some outsiders who don’t even know these students.

And I am very skeptic about external examiners who check the answer papers.

One, the general mentality in these externals is to be very strict while giving marks. As if being generous while marking is a cardinal sin. (They also go after hand-writings and length of the answers.)

Second, they are not liable. There has been a lot of cases of ‘re-totaling’ and ‘re-checking’ but there has never been a case of holding the externals responsible for being careless and even biased while checking the answer papers.

So, to make the matter worse, most of the time it depends on the externals whether a student will pass or fail the exam or will pass with good grades or a very low grades.

Therefore the double-trouble for students: if your memory isn’t that good, you are doomed. And even if you did well in the exams, your external might turn out to be a grumpy miser who is worse than stingy Scrooge McDuck.

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111. Teach students to be rebels

Right from the pre-school, teachers tell the kids to confirm and abide. In the school, teachers feed the students with standard answers and drill those into their head. If you write ‘in your own words’, you are in trouble (even though the question paper always starts with – Write in your own words – instruction).

We have been a part of this system for so long that we think it’s normal to follow the predictable route. Everyone knows 2+2=4, and if you get the answer, you score.

Being predictable is safe. Once you cram up the formula, you are fine. Everyone else comes up with the same answer, going through the same steps, using the same formula. There’s no risk in it. There’s no pressure to break away from the chains we feel comfortable to be bound with.

Schools are conditioning centers.

For over a decade, schools and teachers mold students’ belief that into accepting that being different is risky. The whole class has to speak aloud the same words, the same sentences and the same thought. Ram eats rice. Ram is eating rice. Ram has eaten rice. Ram has been eating rice. Students may not know exactly what ‘gravitation’ means but they memorize the definition to perfection. They may never know why we need to study algebra, but they can spit out the formula (a + b)2 = a2 + 2ab + b2.

Schools have conditioned students and teachers into becoming normal, obedient and boring. Teachers don’t want to take risk. There’s the result to worry about. The SLC pass percentage is the yardstick. Schools won’t let teachers take risk. Schools are just following the trend because the education policy demands it.

Students are clueless. The schools want them to get distinctions and want to print their photos on hoarding boards. It’s a matter of pride. Students aspire to be the winner of the rat race. They remain clueless and conditioned.

Parents, please start questioning.

Teachers, please start questioning.

Teachers are the hope.

Teachers, please start taking risk.

Teach the students to be different. Teach the students to be rebels – not the ones who destroy school property or assault teachers. But teach them to be critical, compassionate and caring. Teach them to question everything: the authors, the books and the system. Teach them to speak up and not to hold back in silence.

Teach them to hope, to preserve that hope and to fight for it.

In the meantime, this video is just a slap on the face !

“In just 30 years, Finland transformed its school system from one that was mediocre and inequitable, to one that consistently produces some of the world’s best students, while virtually eliminating an achievement gap. And they do it without standardized testing.

110. Public Speaking Guideline #3

If you think about it, all the rules of communication are just a rule of thumb. Sometimes being confident works, but sometimes it doesn’t. Being vulnerable seems to work as well. There is no way of finding out which works – being confident or being vulnerable – unless we know about our audience and the context.

These two videos have a lot of validity under their belt and probe into the neglected part of the science of communication and human connection.

The power of powerless communication: Adam Grant at TEDxEast

The power of vulnerability: Brene Brown

109. Public Speaking Guideline # 2

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I really enjoy looking into the eyes of the audience when I’m giving a talk or doing a presentation. I love getting their non-verbal feedbacks. There’s a saying – eyes are the window to the soul. Therefore, while looking into their eyes, I feel more connected, intimate and real with them. This just boosts my self-confidence into a higher level and makes me feel right at home.

This is very important not only for the public speakers, but also for teachers or any leaders. Teachers are essentially public speakers inside the classroom among the students. By looking into the eyes of the students while teaching or doing a presentation, teachers can connect better, teach better and influence better.

Imagine that you are talking to your friend and she doesn’t even look you in your eyes. It gets awkward after a few seconds. You start feeling uncomfortable. You might also suspect that something is certainly wrong with your friend. May be she is lying. May be she is not feeling well. It could be any reasons.

But this is a very scary thing to do when we start out. During my initial days as a public speaker, looking into the eyes of the audience was a very daunting job for me. I vividly remember fleetingly looking into their faces, gazing toward the ceiling or scanning on the floor. I lacked confidence. I lacked conviction. As a result, I lacked any effect. 

So, desperate to improve my speaking and gain confidence, I started going through toastmasters’ videos and public speaking tutorials on youtube. I went through several hours of Tedtalk videos studying the art of public speaking and learning the psychology behind eye contact. I learnt how to look into their eyes so as to make them feel cared and respected. I also learnt that if our eyes are giving away anxiety or nervousness, our audiences will simply reflect anxiety and nervousness.

Now I don’t get scared to look into their eyes and communicate effectively. I just feel I’m on a different level when our eyes get connected.

So here’s my take on this. 

  1. Look them in their eyes, but not for more than two seconds.
    Connect with them but don’t stare at them. If you look into them longer, they might get uncomfortable, and as a result they might just tune you out.
  2. Also, look for “positive non-verbal feedback”. Head nods. Friendly facial expression. Open body language.
  3. Remember: non-verbal signals are contagious.
    If you have energy, the audience also shows interest in you. If you smile, the audience also becomes friendly with you. But if your body language is slumped and slouching, the audience starts snoring in a while.

And, please watch this TED video of Amy Cuddy. It’s not overtly about ‘eye contact’ but it’s about the power of mind and body language. If you’ve already watched it, give it a one more shot. 🙂