“What Do You Want To be?”


That Morning was very pleasant. She was browsing the news on her iPad. The news that she already knew but wanted to see it again and again and on all available sources. May be not for the world but for her, her son was the celebrity of the day. Once he would have flown the STS XXX to Mars next year, he would be the youngest astronaut to do so till date. Sally K. Ride was the youngest until now. She was 32 when she flew STS -7 in 1983 with other mission specialists and pilots. Sid had called her mom the night before and overwhelmed her with this exciting news. After an year of rigorous training at Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, he had been chosen to be among the five finalists to go on the second mission to Mars. He would just be 29 years old on 24 April, 2022, almost an year from now, when he would be flying on his space vehicle from Key West, Florida.

While browsing through net, she even forgot about her tea. She had read Sid’s name at so many places. Everywhere possible. She didn’t go into the details of the papers that he had published in various Science Journals and other magazines but she definitely admired the byline. These papers and articles came into publication during his engineering years and during his doctorate. By now, she knew the in and out of her son’s work. Ashu brought another cup of tea. They looked at each other and smiled.

A little sip of hot tea on their little patio traversed her twenty-two years back when Sid was just seven. It was his birthday party, when Sheisha asked him, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” And without any ado he answered, “I want to be a Fire Fighter at Santa Clara station number 400.” Both his answer and his strong conviction surprised his mom.

First Inspiration

Though she never felt that there was anything wrong in being a firefighter but she had repeatedly heard him say that he wanted to be an astronaut. He had conveyed the choice of this career in many ways so there was never a doubt in her mind that he would change his decision anytime soon in spite of the fact that he was first inspired by a monkey. Curious George, Sid’s all time favorite animated character was the first monkey to go in space in one of the episode in the cartoon series broadcasted on TV.

Sid’s aversion from the mystical world of Astronomy became more evident when his mom came across his “Blue journal.” He had written in there that he doesn’t want be an astronaut anymore because it was boring. Yet another surprise. She smirked. Although she didn’t know much about astronauts but she had a strong feeling that a job of an astronaut can be anything but boring. Whatever be the reason but his mom was not prepared for it. She wanted to talk to Sid about this change but the “liberal mom” within her stopped her from saying anything. The “liberal mom” in her had always felt that kids should be made aware of the choices they have but the final decision has to be made by them only. And then life took it’s course.

Tech Museum, San Jose, CA

A couple of weeks after the journal incident, they happened to be at The Tech Museum, San Jose, CA. The girl behind the information counter kindly welcomed them with a smile. Sid’s Mom liked the positive feeling that she had when she entered the museum. The entrance fee included the price of the movie at the IMAX (dome) theatre. They had to make a choice between the movie title “Forces of Nature” and “Hubble.” Sid made the decision that he wanted to watch the second one. They had two hours before the show, so they went to lower floor and enjoyed other science exhibits.

Two people, a quarter of century apart by age, were jumping from one station to another at The Tech Challenge Gallery. Both of them seemed to be equally excited. Younger one was overwhelmed to learn the scope of science. The older one was happy to discover the avenues of teaching. Sid and his mom were in high spirits. They tried all the hands-on activities that were there. “Green By Design” section was amazing too because it educated about the power of natural resources like wind, water and solar energy. Sid was totally amazed when he saw the glowing rings, from the energy that he produced by letting water flow on the turbine.

While they hopped from one exhibit to another he kept reminding his mom about the time. He was looking forward to the movie Hubble and finally the time to go to theatre came. He hadn’t had the opportunity to be in Dome theatre before. It was the love at first sight when he saw the theatre. Being a weekday it was not crowded. Both mom and son had a tremendous choice for seating. They decided to sit in the topmost section. First, it was dark and then the dome lit up with thousands of stars. The movie started with fireworks. It was bright, it was loud and it seemed that the flares were coming on to us. It was an actual 3-D experience.

IMAX Hubble was an amazing experience. Watching things that are beyond a normal person’s imagination, the galaxies and stars and the colors and the photos clicked by the Hubble telescope was just a majestic experience for both. Sid had the time of his life when the reverse counting started and the space shuttle flew off of the ground. His face brightened on seeing the astronauts (mission specialists) repairing the Hubble through so many challenges. Amidst all the excitement, he reached his mom’s ears and whispered, “Mom, I used to think that Astronaut’s job was boring but not anymore.” She smiled and offered him the cookie ice-cream that astronauts eat when in the shuttle, a gift that she purchased from the Tech Museum Store earlier that day.

Imagine seeing it in 3D

Nothing is Permanent, Not Even Failure



I wish, I could say that this mind-boggling phrase, “Nothing is Permanent” was mine but alas! it’s a quote by Gautam Buddha. We know it but we fail to understand it. We live our lives assuming that everything is permanent, even our existence. Life comes to us in ‘packets’, we open them and live them as they come. Some packets package success while others have failures in them. We fly without wings when a success packet arrives but the failure packet always comes with its allies ‘depression’ and ‘frustration’. At that time, it is important to remind our-selves that “Nothing is Permanent, and so is Failure.”

Failure is like a hair that if comes in the food spoils ones appetite. It definitely destroys ones mood but the effect is generally temporary. I am sure, you must have also experienced some sadness when events took an abrupt turn. These events although don’t feel or look good at the time of occurence but they always happen for a reason. After few years when we reflect back we realize that it was in our own goodwill. I wanted to know, share and learn from your stories to help someone in giving them hope about things that are not going in the right direction.

A couple of week back when my ‘muse’ visited me she inspired me to write a small story. It was about the reaction of a couple to whom I frequently put forward my queries. Answers to which I use in my articles. That day my muse was in a jovial mood and she had decided to make fun of me.  She got me all excited about my writing and stuff and I added that ‘little’ story to my blog as well. Probably, I was writing under the influence and as a result of which my little incomplete draft was posted on my dearly loved blog. Later on, my positivity didn’t allow me to delete it. I hoped that somebody might have a look at it and would be generous enough to share an event, ‘a packet,’ that left an imprint on their mind. I wanted to learn the lesson they took from life, a moral that will stay with him or her throughout.

Don’t ask me how many people approached me to share their experience? Hey, hey, hey… Don’t leave this page and go checking the comment section of my last article. (I hardly have any readership and I don’t want to loose you.) Okay, I will let you ask me. “Com’ on ask.” Hmmmm….. Well, only two people shared their thoughts with me. If I tell you one was my dad-in-law, who is first in line to read and commend my articles (even though my articles don’t deserve that fan-support that he provides. He always reads them with all sorts of expressions and sometimes with sniffles too.) So, actually I am left with only one actual person who entrusted me with her true feelings.

I

"Enjoyyyyyyyyyy"

Pari And Her Freedom

Pari is the name of my friend who confided in me. She told me something that happened fifteen years back and helped her in becoming what she is now. Her story goes like this;

“Failure is something that I wasn’t used to at all. My parents never put me in a position that gave me an option to fail. They always motivated me to do well, to be on top of anything that I did, and made me work towards it, even if I was not naturally talented enough to do it.

My first experience ‘against’ this norm was, when I started my undergraduate studies. The very idea of not being with my parents was like liberation to me. For the first time, I could do what I wanted. I did exactly that. I was barely near my books, always out with friends (not doing anything wrong or things that I should not do), but I just got carried away with the fact that my time was my own, and I was the boss. I carelessly messed up everything that I had worked so hard for, for 17 years of my life. I completely shattered my dreams, my parents’ dreams and many other things when I got my marks for the first semester. My first attempt at being all alone and being responsible was such a failure that there are no words to describe the shame I felt.”

Sorry for the interruption but being the narrator I have to give my inputs too. Pari was distressed by her actions and its repercussions but the bad phase of her life didn’t last too long as she continued further:

“There’s no point crying over spilt milk isn’t it J and why do we make mistakes – only to learn from them, right? The first thing I did was blame myself. OK, I got over that phase, and took responsibility for it. I did a couple of things I shouldn’t have at that point, but I needed to do that to recover my self-esteem. I had to change my company – it wasn’t that those people were bad people. It is just that their goals were different; they had the luxury of doing whatever they wanted to, without carrying the burdens and expectations of their family. Maybe I was wrong in doing that, but at this point in time, I don’t regret it. I began to spend time with my high school friends who came to college with me, and who knew that I was capable of doing much much more. They drove sense into me. I took it all in, sometimes with a pinch of salt (because no one likes to be told how wrong they are.) But they meant well, and I liked that there were some people who threw around their weight with me because they wanted me to do well.

I worked hard for the remaining 7 semesters. It was difficult, and sometimes made me wonder if engineering was the right choice of path for me.In some subjects I did well, and some I just did not like. Maybe it wasn’t enough, I probably could have done better. Well, all’s well that ends well…. I ended up with two jobs after my degree. It wasn’t the highest paid job but I was satisfied.”

Lesson Learned:

1. Owning up to responsibilities.

2. It’s not a big deal, and it is okay to fail (this was my biggest lesson). It’s what you do to come out of it and be successful after that what matters….

II


When Nothing Seems Right

She was shocked when she got a call from Mr. Joans, her University Supervisor. She didn’t remember what he said or the explained at that time. Only thing that she got out of the whole conversation was that she doesn’t have to go to Thomas Jefferson High School anymore.

Niharika was in her early twenties when she came to US with Abhay. They have been barely married for a month when she left everything back in India and came to this country. America was a new, unknown land where her only acquaintance was Abhay. He was the only support system she had in her life. A computer engineer by profession, he was nice and caring young man . With his help, she began to get used to American structure and culture without much aberration.

She was a well-educated, smart, confident female. She did not have any big plans of her future but she hoped that one day she would be able to work and earn something (however small) and support Abhay and build a home and a family in this great country. She explored all her avenues and took sometime before she decided what she wanted to do.

“A Science teacher, wow!” People exclaimed to hear her resolution. Some jumped out of excitement and others out of shock. It was not an easy step to put forth. She was determined and slowly and steadily she kept climbing up the ladder. She cleared all the examinations then she got herself enrolled in the State University. She took three courses each semester to get the teaching credential in one and half year. She made up her mind that she would start her full time teaching job the following Fall.

It was not as straight-forward as she had planned. There were other things that were in store for her. In the final semester, all candidates enrolled in the teaching program have to student-teach two different classes at a school, for the whole semester. With the help of her mentor at the University she decided to work at Jefferson High School with a Biology and an Earth Science teacher. She worked hard. There was no difference between night or day or weekends. She just worked, worked and worked. Whatever time she could possibly steal from Abhay and her three year old daughter Siyona , she stole and utilized it in preparing for the class.

Niharika didn’t have the foresight. She didn’t see that one of her Master Teacher (the –teacher-in-charge) who was a new teacher herself was not happy with her. Whatever she did she was never satisfied. One day, when the Mr. Joans was visiting, the Biology class didn’t go as planned. Her lesson planning was not as crisp and some students got distracted. Mr. Joan had to interrupt in between to shut them down.

That was her mistake. Nobody understood that it was her first time doing that stuff. She is new, she is learning and she tried her best. She wasn’t excused. She was asked to terminate her student-teaching assignment in the middle of the semester. It was Mr. Joans responsibility to inform her about her FAILURE.

At that time it was hard for her to hold the phone receiver in her hands, when she called Abhay at his work. She failed to control her voice and hold her tears in her eyes. She howled and begged him to come back home. When Abhay came back he just hugged Niru hard. He didn’t let her move out of his arms for sometime.  He just kept repeating, “It’s okay, everything will be fine.” But now she knew, “Nothing would be fine, she is useless and she cannot achieve anything in her life. This was the culmination of everything she had hoped for so long.”

III

Failure is an event, never a person.

~William D. Brown

Cheer up Folks! I am not going to end up my story in tears and sobs. Niru was not alone during that crisis. She didn’t quit. She had Abhay and other family and friends who kept encouraging her in her uphill journey. She did some remedial work and projects to learn more about teaching in USA. She took some courses to improve her communication skills and then again she took her student- teaching assignment by the ears.

This time she had a wonderful experience. She was a winner. She was respected by all her colleagues and loved by her students. I was there to share and celebrate their happiness at the Recognition Ceremony conducted by Niru’s Univeristy. Abhay was happiest of all. I could see the pride, the affection Abhay had for his wife, when she was being awarded her teaching certificate.

IV

Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.

~Henry Ford

That was the moral of my story you don’t fail until you Quit. It is okay to Fail but it is not okay to Quit. Failure is a phase that passes by, but the marks remain for good.

My American Dream


American Dream

“The cab stopped at the end of the road. Just ahead were stairs that appeared endless. The tall pine trees were the only things that could be seen in the dark.  That narrow stairs in front of her looked like a tunnel. It was creepy. For few moments she stood there, all by herself scared and confused.Then she pulled herself together and took the first step, unexpectedly the stairs started moving up by itself. She held herself tight and within few seconds she was at the end of the stairway.

Her eyes opened wide to see the inconceivable beauty all around her. It was a magnificent, a beautiful lush garden with lots of flowers of all colors. Sound of music coming out from waterfall and fountains filled her with astonishment and bliss. At the corner stood a statue of a lady in white, with her one hand raised up. There was no place for anything else, but happiness. From there she could see the world and hear a cuckoo calling, again and again and again… annoyed and perplexed she got off of the bed.”

America is like this dream. It’s a dream, which, youths through out the world wish to live. The dream of wealth, of opportunities, of freedom, of life and of luxuries brings them here. Some people fulfill that dream and others keep fantasizing about it through out their life. If one does dare to dream, then America is the place where you can accomplish it for sure.

I came here in year 2002 with a simple desire of having a small and happy family. A family in which, both my husband and I could support each other and have a house of our own. We envisioned ourselves, standing side-by-side and learning and growing both knowledgeably and spiritually. I started working towards that vision. I took some courses in computers like Microsoft Office, Adobe Page Maker and Photoshop. Then one day, while talking to a close friend of mine a thought of making a difference in others’ lives sprouted. That conversation led me into the efforts of wanting to become a teacher in US. Soon, after that I cleared the CBEST and the American Constitution Test and got enrolled in San Jose State University in the Department of Education.

I will always remember the first day of my class in the Department of Education at SJSU. I was impressed to see the diversity among the applicants. It was a mixed group comprising of both males and females, from myriad fields and most amazing was the age-range. Everyone from 20’s to 60’s was equally enthusiastic. Even the people in there sixties have aspirations and they were so motivated. At that time I realized that it is true that there is no age limit for learning. And this could only be practiced in America.

I aspired and perspired and occasionally I suffered too, but eventually I met my goal in March of 2009.  In the spring of each year, the education department of San Jose State University conducts a small ceremony to recognize the hard work of all the candidates who complete their teaching program in that academic year. During that event all candidates present were  expected to talk about their accomplishments for few minutes. It was the proudest moment of my life, talking about my achievement. I am in process of finding a job. And soon, I will be a schoolteacher, trying out new things, imparting new information to my students and will live my vision.

I am standing on the verge of achieving my dream, only because I am breathing in American air. This could have been next to impossible, if I had been in India. Although a great nation and very close to my heart but there, it is difficult for a woman to study and then have a job after she is married and have kids.

America is a land of dreams and choices without any boundaries. I consider myself lucky that I am a part of this big and generous country.

***

“America lives in the heart of every man everywhere who wishes to find a region where he will be free to work out his destiny as he chooses.”

Woodrow Wilson (1856 – 1924)


Few Good Qualities


Describe three teacher characteristics/behaviors that support improved student achievement for all students and explain why.

Teaching Responsibly

While going through a interview process, somebody asked me the above question. It’s a good question and also a very important one.  Perceiving the challenges in the field of education today, I think, all educators need to think about this. Here’s my share and my opinion.

The teaching credential programs are designed to prepare and gear prospective teacher towards achieving maximum student learning. One might be going through Piaget’s philosophy or learning about one’s own biases or practicing validity / reliability of an assessment or exploring adolescent psychology. Everything is focused on one goal: “Improving student learning and achievement”. Apart from being knowledgeable about the above educational terms and issues, good teachers possess some basic characteristics that help them to attain the said ultimate goal.

Respect is a stepping-stone in building-up any relationship. It holds true for the relationship between a teacher and his pupils as well. One has to give the same respect that one wishes to receive from others. Greeting your students at the door on the first day of the school can be the first step in establishing this process. An atmosphere where people are respectable to each other helps in creating a work friendly and productive environment.

Positive attitude and outlook in life goes a long way in achieving one’s goals. I am a firm believer of the fact that we attract whatever we think. So, think positive and positive things will happen. I wish to nurture the same idea in my students as it helps to attain seemingly impossible feats. It also teaches to continue to work hard despite failures.

One of my University supervisors taught me the rule of three F’s. “Always be fair, firm and flexible.” Consistently following this rule during my student teaching, I was able to convey to my students that I was one of them; I am there with an objective to bring out the best in them. Consistency was the key in application of that rule. It worked magic during that time and I am sure it will be helpful in my up-and-coming teaching career.

These are some of the important traits that I think a person should have in them if they are considering of being an educator. Modeling and practicing these qualities will help to improve student achievement, by letting students’ witness that the world is a good place to be. These plus few others qualities, which I will acquire with experience will assist me in my journey, from a good teacher to better and to being the best.