4th April saw North Uthra Street turn ceremonious with activity. No, it wasn’t the fierce electoral campaigns behind this. Srirangam Thiruveedis have always given top priority to only Sampradaic activities though other events have, unfortunately, started getting all unwanted attention now.
It was the visit of Smt.Uma Shankar, Managing Trustee, Kalvi( Trust for Research and Education) which set the tone for a very exciting and educative day ahead. As all the beloved donors and volunteers are aware, Acharyah is a school under Srimaan Trust which imparts education under Montessori System of Education with the intention to develop invincible leaders for our nation and Sampradayam. Acharyah has been conducting guest lectures frequently by inviting the best academicians in India. The aim of such programs has been to apprise the teachers and parents on various key aspects of child education to bring the best out of the children.
One such initiative had resulted in the visit of Smt. Uma Shankar.Ms Uma Shanker is the Director of the Centre for Montessori Training – Chennai, an educational institution which gives training in the Montessori method as applied to Children of the 3-6 Age group. Since then, her sphere of influence has greatly increased and she has been able to reach many more children in Chennai as well as all over Tamil Nadu. At present she is working with an NGO called Sneha in Nagapattinam where she is helping them adopt the Montessori system of education in the “ Balar palligal” they are running in 33 fishing villages. She was instrumental in starting the programme, The Professional Training of Trainers on which she served as co-trainer thus instigating changes in the government-training for teachers. As Convener of the Chennai 2001 Conference – Montessori, The Learning Revolution, she spread the message for child centred education in Tamil Nadu as well as all over India. At the first Asian Conference on Montessori Education, she presented a paper on achieving Independence in practical life. Earlier at the National Seminar on War on Human Poverty the paper she presented was on “Dr. Montessori’s views on the Social Development of the Child.”
Smt. Uma is a woman worth emulating. The very repository of expert knowledge in the area of child education, Smt.Uma is humility personified. Her down –to – earth nature and candid behavior clearly establishes the saying ‘Vidya Dadathi Vinayam’ ( Knowledge results in humility).
The day ( 4th April) began with her visiting Acharyah at forenoon. She calmly took a seat on the floor and observed the children progress in their activities. A few children seeing her keen interest in their task decided to enlighten her on their work at regular intervals. After an hour at Acharyah, lunch was served. During lunch Smt. Uma expressed her views on the functioning of Acharyah. The encounter with the children had impressed her and also surprised her. An extract of her observation in her own words is as follows:
“I was observing the girl child ( 3 yr old) engrossed in arranging the numbers in order. The aim of Montessori system is to make the child independent in his/her thinking and so even when a child makes any mistake, we, as teachers are not supposed to correct them immediately. The child should be left to think and correct its mistakes. Only then would proper learning happen. But in reality it seldom happens. The concept of child correcting its mistakes has by far been only in theory and hence we as teachers have always interfered in correcting the child.
But here at Acharyah I decided not to interfere if a child missed a step or committed a mistake. This girl child had to arrange numbers in descending order and also had to place beads near each number equaling to that number. Half way through this exercise, the child placed a few numbers ahead of the order and continued unaware of this. The teacher too observed the happening but stayed mum. After a few seconds, the girl made a cursory glance at her arrangement and noted some discrepancy in the arrangement of the beads and found out the root of the problem and rearranged the numbers precisely and reported to the teacher and me. This was a revelation for me. All these years I’ve never seen this at any Montessori school. What had been in theory got translated into reality today.”
Following the sumptuous lunch cooked by a very devoted volunteer of the Trust, ( it is to be noted that the whole family of this volunteer is completely immersed in the Kainkaryams initiated by the Trust) Smt. Uma visited Bhattar Gurukulam in haste fearing the routine Srirangam power cut at 2p.m.
The Gurukulam students gave her a very warm welcome introducing themselves with the details of their name, Divya desam and Acharyan’s name. One student described the daily routine of the Gurukulam students. Another explained the greatness of Divya prabandham and on concluding the explanation, the students recited the pasurams from various divya prabandhams. Immediately a student very fluently deliberated upon the importance of Vedas and Aagamas and splendidly exhibited the Mudras used in Pancharatra aagamas. Smt. Uma was enchanted at this immaculate presentation.
This was followed by 6 Gurukulam students delving deep into 6 topics viz. blood groups and heart, Indian architecture, communication methods, banking system in India, Genetics and Planetary system complemented with colorful charts and models. These students were trained under experts in the respective fields for a whole month and their mastery of the subjects stood testimony to this.
Finally all the students jointly performed Archanai in the name of the visitor and prayed their beloved Thiruvaradhana Perumal to shower His grace on Smt.Uma for the selfless initiative she has been taking on the social front. Smt. Uma was deeply moved at this kind and pure hearted gesture of the Gurukulam students and offered to help the students in all possible ways.
The programme at Acharyah school was scheduled at 6 p.m . It began with the honeyed voices of two Bhattar Kuzham students enveloping the Acharya school premises in Spiritual aroma of Kamba Ramayanam. Following this, the present Head teacher of Acharyah delivered a lucid introduction of Acharyah and its functioning. Sharanya, a recently enrolled volunteer explained the various initiatives of Srimaan Trust at lightning speed. A detailed introduction of the Guest followed and finally Smt.Uma rose to address the gathering.
The speech was predominantly on the attitude parents ought to possess when dealing with children. Often parents expect children to do what all they expect them to. Smt. Uma vehemently condemned this attitude. She stressed that a child’s role model shall ever remain his/her parent, whether they consciously accept them or not. Parents expect children to write endless no. of pages everyday. But how many parents write at home except for some illegible scribbling on a torn sheet of paper for grocery purchase? When this is the case, it is certain children won’t develop writing habit. Parents expect children to sing the instant they ask them to in front of guests. Smt. Uma requested atleast one of the parents in the hall to get up and sing a few verses but none obliged. When this is the case, how can they expect their child to break open the shell of inhibition and freely strain their vocal cords? According to the Montessori system of teaching, the teacher and parent need to walk what they talk. If children have to maintain silence at school and talk in whisper, the teacher should certainly follow this. If the child is forbidden from stepping on to the mat of the other child, the teacher must adhere to this rule too.
Smt. Uma also divided the learning stage of children into 3 phases wherein the child learns the demarcation between good and bad, consequences of emotional outbursts and importance of values.
Smt.Uma was all praise for the working of Acharyah school. She claimed that till date she had never offered assistance or recognition for Montessori schools away from Chennai. It was the unique initiative of Acharyah in fusing spiritual knowledge with Academics that caught her attention and drew her to Srirangam. Smt. Uma was greatly appreciative of the efforts taken by the Founder acharya and his Dharmapatni in running this school customized to the Indian culture and tradition. A few questions were shot by the parents on the effectiveness of the Montessori system of education for which Smt. Uma quoted the live examples of her son and grandson who are from Montessori Board. The way to assess children, the method of bringing out the strengths of children and effective techniques for the overall personality development of children were addressed by Smt Uma.
Following this cogent and to-the –point speech which kept the listening parents and public in rapt attention, the Founder Acharya Shri Parasara Badrinarayana Bhattar Swamy spoke on the need for parents to think keeping in mind their child’s strengths and weakness. Comparing our child with another and keeping the other children as the yardstick of our child’s performance was condemned by swamy. Such attitude threw the children in the quagmire of low self-esteem and negativity. Swamy stressed the need for parents to let children live life to its fullest extent and not weigh them with the load of over expectation. Education should happen happily and not hastily.
The inspiring speech of swamy was followed by proposal of vote of thanks by a volunteer of Srimaan Trust. He explained the reason behind naming the school ‘Acharyah’. ‘Acharyah’ is defined as one, who imparts knowledge of the sastras to students, makes them follow the sastras and also one who follows those sastras himself. With this definition in mind, the school was named so. Our own acharyas have compared ‘ Gnyanam and anushtanam’ with the two wings of a bird, the loss of any one rendering flight impossible for the bird.
The educative programme ended with parents gaining great insight into child psychology and also loads of areas for deep introspection. They understood if at all any changes were to happen to their children, it had to commence from them.
The photos and videos link of this wonderful event is below: