Student Feedback Sample

As an engaged, invested and student-centric educator, I always try and provide a Constructive Critique and Detailed Individual Feedback to learners who have been with me for a short or long-term program. I thought it might be a good idea to share with you all, other educators, students, parents and institutes, a sample of the kind/type of specific feedback/letter I share with them at the end of our ‘formal’ interaction/program.

Therefore here’s one that I signed and presented (hand written) to a student who recently completed a Communications Program with me. Hope you like it, and more importantly, see the merit in undertaking this sometimes arduous but entirely favourable exercise.


Competition, a word that instinctively solicits little respect or reverence in me. To my mind, the only USE of competition, is to track one’s own progress. Having said that, when I met the few of you initially, and realized what you had already, and were capable of achieving, especially unaided, un-nudged, entirely voluntarily, you inspired me to get involved. And so, in this instance, this competition, the World Scholar’s Cup, has been an initiator of a most happy and fortuitous encounter.

Through our many sessions, I have thoroughly enjoyed engaging with all six of you, getting to know you somewhat as individuals, more insightfully perhaps, as a self-motivated, potent, erudite, free-thinking & acting group of young leaders. It’s been fun, educational, enlightening.

That you have all shone at the finals at Yale might have to others, to me, been most unsurprising. You each has the definite capacity to change the world, never forget that. And for both therefore, for your individual accolades at Yale, much more so however, for each of your individualistic outlooks, your strength of character, and your resolve, and the life-potential you so clearly embody and palpably project, I congratulate you.

I, nor anyone else, has had nothing to do with your success. It is all your own. Relish it, but learn from it. Cherish it, but don’t stagnate on it. Be proud of it, but not arrogant because of it.

A last piece of unsolicited advice from the old man… communication skills, a certain flair and proficiency in them, isn’t limited to one specific competition. They will serve you well, through life, and help you be the leader you are, in every life sphere. To inform, influence, and impact change!

Aarnav, to you I want to say, stay curious and quirky. If sometimes you get the sense that people question your methods and choices, IGNORE them. You strike me as someone with a vision for a future life that is as much about you the individual, as it will be about your fellow humans. Chase that vision, without a care!

Much love & luck

(Kartik Bajoria)

A Legacy Of Learning

When I was a student at boarding school, now over two decades ago, my teachers told me that there wasn’t a single day that they didn’t learn something new. These were masters we idolised, worshipped, poked fun of, at the same time, revered. To have them confess that they did not know it all, was a revelation.

Of course, this confession was long forgotten. Relegated to a deep recess of my memory, until recently, when I, the accidental teacher, stumbled upon the very same realization. And from that crevice of my mind’s labyrinth, these words from my own teachers, revealed themselves.

Teaching has been a cathartic rebirth for me. For someone who was firmly set in a media career, doing well, then became disenchanted and decided to shift tracks, unsure of what the alternative would be; I’d go so far as to say that teaching has fulfilled me, completed me, in a way that perhaps not even music could (my first love that never quite materialised). My fortuitous foray into the world of teaching has reacquainted me with myself. It has given me purpose, pride, and ignited a passion that probably always existed, only it was dormant.

That I have no formal education that qualifies me to teach, a fact sometimes held against me, I feel is my biggest advantage. It does not colour my approach to my work. In fact, I hardly perceive it as work in the first place. No training, no career-long teaching experience, are facts that have, in fact, granted me a great sense of freedom and liberty. My interaction with my students is spontaneous, freewheeling, spirited. In turn, their’s with me is uninhibited, uncensored, unfiltered. The way I plan, and un-plan my workshops and lessons benefits from a similarly open and experimental ethos. There is a destination but how my students and I reach it is random, interactive and, on occasion, emancipating!

I have come to realize that to be an effective teacher and an inspiring mentor, the person can not feel or act ‘above’. That there MUST be a genuine openness to learn with each encounter, each interaction. That students in fact, in many cases, teach the teacher more, than the teacher does, them. Teaching then, is a legacy of continued learning. A process that is infinite. A pursuit that endless. A calling.

Make Pudding, Make Merry!

Christmas is a time for familial bonding, love and cheer. It is a true celebration of all that we hold dear. It is also a time when we ought to reflect on all the great things we are blessed with and be deeply grateful.

I remember so vividly, when I was younger, my mum would have the gardener bring out the real-life Christmas Tree we had growing in our garden, plant it into a large, beautiful pot, and have it occupy pride of place in an alcove of our living room.

This was followed by the our joint ritual of tree-decoration. It was a fun project that we undertook together, each year. And the process of the tree’s ornamentation itself, symbolised to me, the true spirit and meaning of the festival. It brought us closer together. It made our bond even stronger. The fact that we ended up with a beautifully embellished Christmas Tree was the bonus. The real fun and festivity was in the act of doing-up the tree.

I must confess that some of this bonhomie and spirit of togetherness has been lost in recent years. I see a growing number of parents and children ‘celebrating’ Christmas yes, though the method has changed. It seems to have become more about being out-and-about, at fairs, festivals and carnivals where one shops, eats, and makes merry. And while that is a perfectly legitimate way of spending the holiday, it does tend to miss out on a personal essence.

My hope and prayer this Christmas then is for parents and children to return to a more innocent time. To do some activities at home, together. It could be anything. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate tree. You could play some games together. Make a New Year Card with the family. Or better still, make Pudding!

Merry Christmas & lots of love!

The ‘Write’ Fit

As many of you might know already, I am conducting one of my holiday-time workshops during this Christmas-New Year school-break. I thought I’d quickly explain in a few brief points, the key features of this Creative Writing Workshop.

  • The Workshops will be for children between 8-12 years of age
  • It will serve as an Introduction to Creative Writing
  • We will begin with absolute basics of Sentence Construction
  • I will introduce the basic concepts of Fiction Writing
  • We will watch Short Films to understand Fiction/Story Writing better
  • We will also learn about Non-Fiction Writing
  • Things such as Essays, Summary Writing which are needed at School
  • Each piece of Writing the students write will be Read Aloud on Stage
  • In addition to Writing Skills, this will give students practice in Public Speaking
  • Ultimately, the Workshops aims to build Writing as well as General Confidence

The workshop will span 6 sessions of an hour each starting 26th December till 31st December from 5:30 to 6:30pm at the Wonder Years Play School in Vaishali Nagar.

How To Conduct An INTERVIEW

Interviews give us a glimpse into a person, the person’s thinking, their world-view and their opinions on important matters. They are one of our most human, real, and interactive ways of getting to know someone. Interviewing someone is a skill that requires tact and knowledge. It is a vital skill that is equally handy for school and college students, as it is for more grown up people.

Be it a ‘celebrity’ a student needs to interview on a school visit for a school-paper or publication, or a working professional is to interview a visiting dignitary to the office, or moderate an event/conference; the rules and basic requirements to conduct an effective interview stay by-and-large, the same. Here I’d like to share my top 5 tips to conduct a great interview.

  1. Research: One must research the Interviewee/Subject thoroughly. Most of our research nowadays is done on the Internet. There are however dangers to this kind of secondary research since the internet is populated with incorrect information. So while researching on the web, ensue that you use multiple sources/websites/platforms and check your information against many sources. Second, try to always read up previous interviews that your interviewee might have granted reliable media. And third, don’t just focus your research on the Person but also gain a deep understanding of the field/sphere/world that the interviewee belongs to. If you are for instance interviewing a politician, then ensure that you know, in addition to information about the individual, about the political party, the ideology, the history and the current context of that person’s political allegiance.
  2. Occasion: One must also be conscious of where and during what event the interview is taking place. If for example you were to have a Film Director visit your School over Annual Day, aside from asking him/her about films, it would be prudent and appropriate to ask the person about their opinions on schools and education as well. After all, that is the event, occasion and circumstances in which the person is present right. So always keep in mind the forum at which the interview is taking place and include the occasion by asking specific relatable questions.
  3. Be Polite: In an era where we are bombarded with interviewers who are rude, aggressive and persistent; it is always a more mature approach to be friendly, kind and polite in one’s interviewing demeanour. I personally don’t subscribe to the ‘pressure-tactics’ and coercive  interview style that many have adopted. Even if there is a question that you want to ask that seems uncomfortable or is being evaded by the interviewee, let it go, ask a few other questions, and then come back to it in a differently worded manner. Be polite and be kind. It always makes for a more immersive and meaningful interaction.
  4. Pre-Meet: It is always a great idea to try and meet your subject in advance. Be it a day in advance or even if it is just a short while before the actual interview; a mere ten minute face to face meeting between interviewer and interviewee helps break the ice, establish rapport and comfort level, gives the two individuals a chance to get to know each other a little and allows the interviewer to share the line of questioning he/she has in mind and ask for the interviewee’s consent. All this advance-preparation goes a long way in ensuring a smooth, honest, and free-wheeling interview that translates in obvious camaraderie on-screen as well as in print.
  5.  Conversational: Finally, keep the interview conversational. There are two human beings talking, not a machine interrogating another machine. Engage, listen carefully, and develop the chat organically. Often times we get so caught up with our predetermined questions that we forget to even listen, and irrespective of the interviewee’s responses, we surge forward with our line of questioning, irrespective of it making sense or not. By listening carefully, we give ourselves the freedom and liberty to stray from our script and ask questions that are more natural, ensuring that the interview is more instinctive, logical, and engaging for the two people concerned, as well as for the viewing/reading audience.

We seek interviews because we want a peek into the minds and hearts of well-known individuals who might just share insights that enlighten us. Because we expect them to open-up to us, we must in-turn treat them with the respect of being well-prepared, and well-mannered.

WHAT Exactly I TEACH

Aside from conducting specific workshops in Fiction & Non Fiction Writing, I also see students at my home. These students range from kids in Junior School through till College. What do they come to me for? A vast majority of my home-students come for a mix of things as part of a student-specific program that adds up to overall confidence building. The program, that I try tailor-make to each individual student’s requirements and unique personalities, contains some common elements; however the focus and the way the program is structured, varies from student to student. It is an amalgam of Writing (business communication), Public Speaking, some basic Body Language, Etiquette and Manner, and a host of exercises that endow students with vital Soft-Skills that come in handy through their Professional as well as Personal Lives.

Because Parents and Students often don’t understand at the outset what exactly I teach, I am sharing a typical Lesson Plan of mine which is as follows: 

TOPIC TOOL SESSIONS
POWER to CONVINCE Email Writing

Reply Writing

Discussions of Various Scenarios

2
POWER to CONVINCE Proposal Writing 1
POWER to PRESENT

PUBLIC SPEAKING

Speech Writing

Speech Watching

Speech Delivering

3
POWER to ANALYZE Review Writing

Identification of ‘Aspects’

2
POWER to PRESENT SOP Writing

Building a Story

2
AWARENESS Current Affairs

Tips & Tricks

Apps & Resources

1
PUBLIC SPEAKING/CONVERSATION

PUBLIC-INTERACTION

Power of Listening

Power of Appreciating Opinions

Group Discussions on Several Topics 2
BODY LANGUAGE Sitting, Standing, Talking, Gestures, Dressing 1
INTERVIEWS How to take an Interview

Mock Interviews

2
Table Etiquette  How to sit at a dinner table

How to use one’s cutlery

How to cut and eat food

How to ask for something

How to conclude the meal

How to use the napkin

1
Leadership, Management Organize yourself

Time Management

Calm

Inclusive

Decisive

1
COMMUNICATING an IDEA

+

SELLING

 

(combines Analyzing, Convincing, Presentation)

ADVERTISING

Explanation

Developing a Brand

Research

Developing an Advertising Campaign

2
DEBATES

(test Presentation, Clarity of Thought)

JAM (Just a Minute)

Longer Debates

Prepared + Impromptu Debates

 

3
GENERAL CONVERSATION Dos Donts

Greetings/Salutations/Sign Offs

1
CAREER-DISCUSSION Another Way of Getting Kids to THINK

Advice/Aptitude/Reasoning

1
RECAP Last Session Recap/Questions/Doubts etc 1

 

Each Student is different but what is common is the absolutely non-negotiable need to come across as Confident, Self-Aware and Articulate individuals in an increasingly competitive world where there is little else except one’s winsome personality to separate one from another. My interaction with students aims to instil in them, through a combination of Writing & Speaking Exercises, the Power To Communicate effectively and confidently.

 

Teach Without Prejudice

Over the past five years, I have taught at many schools, colleges and institutes. Some have been well known, others start-ups, and still more have been extremely modest places. I have been advised by many people to ‘choose’ the places I teach at, and organisations I associate with, CAREFULLY! Why? Because if I associate with ‘lesser’ institutions, the ‘good’ ones will not want to have me!

THIS, I find preposterous. While I realise that most of this advice comes from well-meaning people, from a place of genuine care and concern; I REFUSE to ‘select’ the places I teach at on any ‘basis’. I reject the notion of ‘strategising’ a career of an Educator. Teachers MUST go where they are needed – no matter the size, stature, status of the organisation. At least that is what I firmly believe. If all good educators ran along to teach at the ‘best’ places, who’d be left to teach elsewhere?

Teaching for me is about trying to reach out to the most number of students. A vital part of that pursuit is to interact with students through a multitude of engagements. This automatically means that instead of being permanently tied down to one institute, I give myself the freedom of ‘visiting’ several institutions, engaging in various ways be it workshops, long-term programs, with entire batches of students, with individuals through one-on-one classes, and even through online teaching. This vast spread of teaching-vehicles allows me to have students who represent a wide range of age, social standing, geography, demography, and inclinations. And that is what keeps my teaching fresh, invigorated, and of course, allows me to reach more people.

Knowledge can only grow when shared. And when you share, you don’t discriminate. If indeed there are people or organisations or schools or colleges that feel I am not to be ‘touched’ because of my prior or ongoing associations with any individual/institute, that’s just too bad for them!

“Education is the foundation upon which we build our future”, and the future belongs, to EVERYONE.

‘Teacher’

Teachers don’t teach, life does
Mentors don’t mentor, experience does
Educators don’t educate, exposure does
In classrooms fancy & simple
Ivy League or under trees
Intimate, Distant
Inside, Outside
Learning
Happens
Alone

Knowledge
Is imbibed by
Shared Consumption
A communal act
A collaborative endeavor

A teacher
Neither teaches, nor imparts knowledge
A teacher merely constructs an environment!

Interpreting Art – Individual Perception

Many people have been asking me what I am teaching in my classes at the ARCH College of Design. While I have been engaged there to take sessions on Business & Professional Communication; the idea really is to inculcate within the students of their various streams of study – Jewelry, Fashion, Interior and Graphic Design, a sense of Deep & Individual Interpretation, and Expression. This, I have tried to accomplish through a module I’ve designed that organically journeys students across a logical progression:

  1. Self – Analysis (looking inward, introspection)
  2. Writing About THEMSELVES
  3. Examining the Environment (social, political landscape)
  4. Developing a Perception & Point of View on Extraneous Facets of Life
  5. Organizing their Perceptions Logically
  6. Writing/Communicating these Opinions in a Convincing, Engaging manner

Ultimately taking them to a stage where, the hope is, having figured out themselves and happenings/phenomena around them, that they are READY to start Interpreting Art/Design/Creation/Objects

Interpreting a piece of Design/Art is an acquired skill. One may be the greatest Creator and Visionary (and many of the students here are). The process of creation however doesn’t often reveal its inspirations very overtly (even to the Artist or the Creator). A Fashion Designer may base his/her Collection on certain elements/inspirations but by the time the final product emerges, the genesis gets lost in translation. That’s because the Artist or Creator is not concerned with these things. To him/her, it is the Process-Of-Creation that is enjoyable.

However, in today’s competitive world, in order to proliferate those creations in an impacting manner, where the world would take notice and one’s designs would break-the-clutter, the Design ALONE isn’t enough. There MUST be a story to accompany the design. It is THIS Story that I am after. This genesis that I am trying to get the students at ARCH to search for, first in other’s creations, and ultimately in their own, and then be able to ARTICULATE that Story in a way that tells a convincing tale to a viewer/admirer/potential buyer.

Design Communication then, forms the bedrock of my engagement at ARCH. And to this end, I am glad that only yesterday, when I first flirted with the idea of getting the students to Interpret some pieces of Art I shared in class, that the exercise solicited healthy participation, and more importantly, evoked educated, individual, unguarded, and thoroughly unique stories from students who proudly communicated an individual perception of a common piece of art.

I suspect we’re on to something great 🙂

Fashionably Inclined!

Each time there is a new set of students I am due to interact with, I am filled with excitement, hope and enthusiasm. That this time it is several sets of current and fresh batches of Fashion & Design students at the much-respected ARCH Design College, is only adding to the real possibility of making a significant impact. And for an educator, this is in fact, the best-case-scenario.

Archana, the visionary founder of ARCH, had the foresight to evaluate her students’ education from a holistic standpoint. A Design School that excels in each aspect of its work, has been evolving over a near-two decade journey; to acknowledge the need, and seek help in bringing to their students, a Professional Communications Program that will manifest their talent, ideas and proposals into convincing, well-thought-out expression, is admirable in itself. Combine that with a basics-of-film-making workshop and you hopefully expose students to an ‘umbrella’ of self-expression that will only enhance and bolster their inherent  individuality. And to be entrusted with this task, is a matter of great pride for me, both personally as well as professionally.

Today, we embark upon this journey. An important journey. A crucial journey. Because an individual may be the world’s most creative Design-Thinker, unless that person can communicate that to the world, it is a gift, wasted. And so, I begin yet another chapter in my own journey as an educator, with cautious optimism, and an unwavering belief that we will, together, augment the skill-set of this wonderful bunch of students.