PERSONA – Speaking & Writing Workshop

Jaipur, I’m delighted to share my upcoming Workshop for Public Speaking & Creative Writing for students above age 10 during the upcoming Holi Break.

These 7 sessions will be a highly interactive, fun, engaging time wherein I hope to instil some of the fundamental skills of Confident & Convincing Public Speaking & Written Communication in kids. These are invaluable, lifelong skills that will separate your ward from others and make him or her communicate like a winner!

Check out all the details of the Workshop in the poster below. For more information about me, you can log into my website kartikbajoria.com

Hope to see you @Wonder Years Jaipur

STUDENTS, Create A Profile!

In an era of intense competition, students find it difficult to stand out, to stand apart. Its like each individual is lost in a maze of ‘sameness’, as if just another, among a bunch of red apples! The irony is that we are all unique, peculiar, wonderful individuals, despite which, we seem alike. So what can young people do, to communicate their ‘uncommonness’?

I always encourage people from middle school right up to college graduates to undertake a Profile Writing exercise. This is a simple little 250 to 300 word document where one talks about certain basic information about oneself – Name, School/College, Grade/Year. This is followed by stating 3 Areas of Interest/Passion. And then, really expanding on these 3 areas of interest by devoting the following 3 paragraphs of the profile to these interest-areas. One paragraph each for one interest, with details about Where, When, How, and Why that Interest first began. Any Achievements in that area. And any Learnings/Lessons/Realizations (about oneself or otherwise) during the course of experiencing/pursuing that particular passion. A concluding paragraph that talks about any Current Pursuit that the reader might find interesting, followed by a final sentence on Future Plans, which could be firm, or approximate.

While there may not be any immediate practical use/requirement for this kind of a write-up in a student’s curriculum; young people should view this more as an opportunity to Introspect and get to know themselves well. Undertaking the Profile Writing Exercise compels a student to dig deep, question oneself, and ultimately, know oneself better. It brings about clarity of thought, of purpose, and of a direction for the future. At a time when young students scarcely have time to breathe; this exercise forces them to pause, reflect and discover themselves – likes and dislikes, their learnings, and can provide a significant guidance in planning ahead.

Now to the matter I began this piece with – that it helps communicate a differentiated personality. When one is applying for colleges, or jobs post college, even though you may not be asked for a write-up such as this; supplying the reader/organization/college/company with a Profile of yourself will, in most scenarios, be appreciated. First, it will ‘humanize’ the student and provide a glimpse into the candidate as an actual person (rather than just another on-paper CV or Resume). Second, it will give genuine insight into the candidate as a unique individual. Both vital to communicating a winsome personality.

I strongly urge students to undertake this little exercise. And for this, I leave you with a SAMPLE Profile to get you started. All the best 🙂

SAMPLE PROFILE

I am Karan Malhotra and I currently study in grade 6 at the Asian World School. I would say that my three main interest areas are Swimming, Science, and Music.

When I was just seven years old, I told my father I wanted to learn to swim. He would complete the entire length of the swimming pool at Jaipur Club in no time, and that always amazed me. That summer my parents enrolled me in swimming classes and I learned how to swim. I learned an important lesson through swimming. I realized that to do well in anything in life, one has to work hard and be disciplined.

Science has always fascinated me. Like swimming, my passion for science developed at a very early age. When I was just five my parents got me this Doctor-Set game which I used to love playing. As I grew older, I watched many videos on channels like National Geographic and Discovery which made me even more curious about science. At school, I always take part in the science-related activities and enjoy doing experiments and building things. It is one subject I think I will want to study for a long time to come.

My parents and my grandparents love music. I too developed a keen interest in music and my parents got me a great guitar instructor with whom I soon learned many melodies. This talent was appreciated by my music teachers at school as well and I am a proud member of the school orchestra. Listening and playing music makes me feel calm an inspired.

These days, I am really working on a Solar Powered Rocket for a Science Exhibition. I hope to become a Scientist working in Aeronautics in the future, while still continuing my swimming & music as hobbies.

A Confident Communicator

We live in a complex, competitive world. A world where it has become immensely difficult to be noticed, and to stand out. For an entire generation of young students in senior school, busy preparing for their exams, applying to colleges, and charting out the future course of their lives; it is imperative that they find a way of distinguishing themselves from their peers. But how do they do that? Especially when a vast number of their contemporaries have similar or better grades meaning they are as academically accomplished; they have more compelling sporting and co-curricular accolades!

Really, the ONLY way then, is a student coming across as Confident. In his or her Public Presentation, that individual is able to create an impression of a Self Assured, Well Spoken, Aware, Driven, Sensitive, and Confident person. This ALONE, can be the difference between imminent success and abject failure. In today’s working-world, be it in one’s own business/work or in the professional realm; young candidates MUST come across as CONVINCING. Their Outward Personalities must neither contradict, nor fall short of their on-paper records. They must PROJECT & EXUDE Polish.

This plain yet vital truth is something I have been trying to make students as well as parents aware of through the past half-decade I’ve been teaching. The ABSOLUTE non-negotiable importance of a student cutting a first rate Public Persona & Image. And I am pleased to share that a many parents have seen sense and logic in my campaign and entrusted their wards to my care and tutelage – a responsibility I take extremely seriously. The results are plain to see in the form of many testimonials from my students on my website and my other social media platforms.

Very shortly, I will be able to announce a round-the-year Program where High School Students will have a chance to interact with me in Batches over the Weekends where I will focus on making them Effective & Confident Communicators – both in terms of Written as well as Spoken/Verbal/Oral Communication that will groom and prepare them to take on a slew of real-world (public) situations where they will need to present the best possible versions of themselves.

Through several activities and exercises including and not limited to Speech-Making, Interviewing Skills, Conversation-Making; the idea of this continuing-workshop will be to make students understand the importance of Public Image and give them the TOOLS to present themselves like WINNERS.

The world is a superficial place. There is no point brushing that under the rug. And in order to compete and succeed, it is NOT enough for students to achieve, just on-paper. They must come across, as such. As Confident Achievers.

Embracing The Educator In Me!

That I always wanted to teach, and that I have been teaching for the past five years, is known to many people. However, there is a certain evolution that has come about in my own perception of education, my approach to teaching, and the significance and importance it holds in my life.

See initially when I moved back to Jaipur, my ideal plan was to continue being a Writer (my primary vocation – ghost writing, content development etc), and teach on-the-side as and when time and opportunity permitted. I was very clear that I would teach in the allied areas of communication & writing, and what is commonly known as ‘personality development’. I got lucky and despite having no formal academic background or experience in teaching, I met friends, colleagues and mentors who gave me many platforms to teach.

However, what I thought would be a ‘thing-to-the-side’ has assumed increasing importance in my life. Teaching now, happily consumes a majority of my day. And there are a couple of reasons I steered clear of this in the beginning, and have embraced it completely, now.

I never believed in ‘tuition’ classes – a rage and I suppose, a prerequisite in India (given our skewed education system). So I always shied away from seeing students at home for fear of being labeled ‘tuition teacher’. No offense meant to the thousands who dedicate themselves to teaching what schools ought to; personally, I was also sure I did not want to teach any set school curriculum or ‘prepare’ students for any standardized tests/exams. A small group of parents and students seem to have seen merit in what I’ve been trying to do – impart life-long skills and ‘prepare’ people for LIFE rather than their immediate exams – and ‘risked’ me 🙂

Ever since, that number has grown significantly. And so, I have now made my peace with seeing students at home – because I am NOT teaching them English, or Grammar, or Vocabulary – rather how to find themselves, and express themselves!

Two other reasons I was a touch reluctant to let teaching become my happy preoccupation – less pay and  mental fatigue. Both my presumptions,  I am happy to report, have been proved wrong! That if one associates with quality institutes, organizations and people, and stands one’s ground in terms of charges/fee for personal one-on-one lessons; one can make a respectable living doing this (which I always doubted). And that after half a decade of teaching versions of the same broader program, because each time I interact with a new set of students or with an individual, my experience of teaching and sharing the same material is completely renewed, with new examples, new experiences, varied thoughts – that has alleviated my fear of being ‘bored’ and seeming repetitive to myself.

I am ecstatic that Jaipur seems to be getting to know me, and has begun to recognize that there is a life for students beyond their prescribed texts at school. That life isn’t limited to 100% marks. That life ought to be about self-expression and the quest to find oneself. And that is why, I find myself teaching more and more. And I am loving it!

That I have begun to get inquiries from out of Jaipur that invariably translate into online/skype/whatsapp lessons is just the icing on the cake. Be it through a workshop, a home lesson, or an online session; it is my endeavor to reach as many keen learners (age being irrelevant) as possible, now that I have finally Embraced The Educator In Me 🙂

Education’s Planned Murder!

Life is a series of unexpected events, mostly out of our control. Similarly, love is an instinctive, indefinable emotion that strikes us, unannounced. How and why then, can learning, and teaching, NOT be spontaneous?

As a teacher and educator, I’m certain I’ll ruffle a good few feathers with this post. But then my own education has always compelled me to speak my mind. I’d joined a school briefly as a teacher in Bombay. Then I joined a school back home in Jaipur as well. Both those experiences, maybe not personally but certainly through my interaction and observation of the ‘modern’ schooling system, the teachers, and the students, left me a little disillusioned. Why? Because a vast majority of a teacher’s time, effort and energy seems to be devoted to obsessive planning, pre-planning and administrative work – leaving the educator little or no will,  excitement, enthusiasm, to actually TEACH, and god forbid, INSPIRE any kind of DISCOVERY

Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly. These are the different categories of Lesson Plans that teachers are required to submit to the school administration, in ADVANCE! Depending on the board and the school, these lesson plans need to be detailed to the minutest possible degree, including for instance, what ‘examples’ a teacher will use in class to illustrate a specific point of a particular lesson! I appreciate the need and merit in planning, I really do. But the way we were taught at school was a whole lot more on-the-fly. And I mean that in the most positive sense possible. No two students are alike. No two teachers are alike. The way a students responds to a particular teacher, to an example, to stimuli, to a methodology of teaching – varies vastly. There are too many dynamic variables for this to be standardized. Besides, where’s the element of surprise, or fun, or creativity then? If our students are taught like they’re characters in a circus, then not only will the teacher be perceived as the proverbial ‘ring master’, the subject too will be despised, forever!

This profuse planning, to my mind, is killing the very essence and joy of invention, self-discovery, visceral education. We are, as a result, creating clones. An army of dull, brainwashed robots that might go on to secure decently paying jobs – but will have little else to contribute, to society, and more importantly, to themselves and to their own lives.

Individuality, peculiarity, specialty, uniqueness, evolution, realization, actualization – these are concepts that I’m afraid we are KILLING at the very onset of a child’s educational experience. While schools proclaim ‘experiential’ and ‘experimental’ learning in their large banners and social media brochures; what they offer, by and large, is a thoroughly mundane, thought-thwarting curriculum where both teacher and student are merely going through the motions, waiting anxiously for that school bell to sound, so they can escape the drudgery that the otherwise exciting, invigorating, school-day has become.

 Are we going to give our young generations to come this thoughtless a sense of self?

 

The Underdog!

I understood the meaning of the word ‘underdog’ at a very young age. See when I joined the Doon School, like most all boarding schools, each student had to fight hard to create a niche for himself. If you didn’t you fell by the wayside, relegated to mediocrity, anonymity – the permanent status of ‘underdog’. What added to my woes was that in the grand scheme of history, I belonged to one of 5 – Oberoi House. Now unlike the other 4 houses – Tata, Kashmir, Jaipur and Hyderabad, Oberoi was a much newer entrant. Established decades after the school came into being, to fill the strictly ‘numbers’ need for more accommodation. So unlike the other BIG 4, it had no pedigree to speak of. Shunned as an outcast, unwanted, the boys of this house had an even tougher task ahead of themselves. To make a mark as individuals while also shouldering the responsibility of building a name for this ‘orphan’ Oberoi House.

But it wasn’t until a few years ago, when my house, at long last, hit a milestone – its 25th Anniversary, that I actually articulated the meaning of this word Underdog. The committee responsible for the quarter century celebrations got in touch with me and asked me to contribute a piece for the 25th Year Publication of the Oberoi House. That’s when I got thinking. What could I say about Oberoi House that was genuinely unique. And it hit me. It had to be its story as the eternal underdog. I realized while writing the article how much the boys, its masters and the house had together endured before emerging triumphant. A tough road indeed. But that’s how it often is for the underdog.

So I thought I’d like to leave you with the article I submitted to the celebratory publication. I called it…

‘ROUGE NATION – The Birth Of A New House’

When I joined Doon in 1992, I was sent straight to ‘main house’. For the uninitiated, this meant I would not have my 1 vital year of ‘gestation’ in the Doon School induction process. Because you see, typically one is first sent to one of 2 ‘holding houses’; a ‘womb-like’ setting where there are no seniors to bother you, nor the  pressures of inculcating instant feelings of voluntary martyrdom for your ‘main house’! In political terms, going to main-house ‘directly’ was like the equivalent of becoming part of the Union Cabinet, having skipped the ‘State’ altogether; thrust right into the murky deep end – harsher, more competitive, less forgiving.. And to make matters worse, perhaps because I didn’t have any ‘pedigree’ to speak of (read Dosco lineage, i.e., I wasn’t the ‘baba’ of a Dosco brother, father, or grandfather), I was sent to Oberoi House – casually described to me as the ‘new’ main house. There I was, some 1100 kms from home in Jaipur, one of a handful who’d ever been to this school from that city, entering, the ‘new’ main house! So naive was I, that I actually found it rather incongruous I wasn’t being put into Jaipur house! Of course that ‘sound’ logic of mine would beg the question – did I think Doon only had students from Hyderabad, Kashmir, Jaipur and a place called Tata? In my own defense, a scared, home-sick boarding school entrant is allowed a few momentary lapses…

Anyway.. I realized rather quickly, that ‘new’ main house was but a polite euphemism. One that meant anything from rank-outsider, to ‘sidey’, to downright unwanted. You see Oberoi House had only just come into existence a few years earlier. Until that point, it had been the famed quartet – Jaipur, Hyderabad, Kashmir and Tata. Now these were the ‘real’ houses. They had history & pedigree. They evoked nostalgia. They had produced generations of Doon boys. They were, patrimonies..

And now, suddenly, like an unwanted, unanticipated, unforeseen, un-required ‘mistake’, was Oberoi House! It was like that new, poor, uncultured colony that the empire had invaded; except everyone wondered why! Unsurprisingly then, it was revealed to me by my ‘new’ mates in this ‘new’ house; that no one from the other houses wanted to move here. Some had inheritances to care for, to uphold the names of their families and their associations with their respective houses, others had made steady friends and settled into full-lives in one of the house-quartet, and others still were just very, very skeptical. I dare say then, that the only students willing to leave their beloved houses and call Oberoi their new home, were driven less by guilt and a sense of abiding school-spirit; but more because they sought fresh starts and new identities.

I, on the other hand, had been handed my one and only start at Doon. It was to be at the Oberoi House. And I’d better have made it work! So I set about the process of  pursuing a ‘character’ for myself. Boarding School is a tough place. Its like this vast theatre with hundreds of actors. The ones who grab (read create) alluring personas for themselves, last. The others just fall by the wayside. They may as well have remained in the comfortable confines of their tangible homes and intangible parental love. I would work relentlessly to ‘distinguish’ myself from the pack. What could I do to make myself stand-out. Fortunately for me, I sang. And not just ‘Another Brick In The Wall’; I’d started training in Hindustani Classical Vocal since I was 6 years old. 6 years hence having joined Doon, that ought to have come to my rescue. Mind you, even that was far from the ‘desired’ or ‘approved’ persona – but it was at least, a unique, peculiar one. And that was more than what one could bargain for at the time.

So music happened. To use a rather rudimentary term thrown about on campus, I quickly established myself as a ‘musician’. Next up was the task of adding one more arrow to my persona-quiver. But it had to be something ‘cooler’; nothing too Indian for God’s sake. And it came to me. A Doon staple. One that would immediately get me out of my classical-shackles and unleash me as an ‘acceptable’ lad – Squash. I consciously molded my childhood Badminton training into Squash and there I was, selected, under-14, on the School Squash Team. In my head, my ‘character’ had been built. And in all fairness, it had been indeed.

But before you misconstrue this article as some self-elevating Bible for how to survive boarding school; let me quickly put it in perspective. In seeking this ‘new’ character for myself, I realized that it was the new house, my house, Oberoi House, that had been my biggest subconscious support and motivator. And I realized that the house had played that role not just for me, but for most of my peers. You see, this was a house that was desperately grappling with a severe existential crisis. So extreme was the negative pre-disposition towards Oberoi house that one constantly heard it mocked. Zero house, Flying Butter Chicken House (for the beautiful in-flight Swan emblem that my friend and founding O house stud Koustuv Goswami created)! It was all a bit much. But it was out of that travesty that the house and its boys joined hands and decided to fight and find our place. Each boy on his own, and collectively, as a band of brothers who would prove to the entire school that Oberoi was here to stay – legitimate, justified, talented, relevant, important.

Little by little our triumphs came. Chief among those triumphs was being blessed with some remarkable Masters who took charge of our house. Mr.Neeraj Bedhotiya, who was our firm but compassionate general, a real supporter of underdogs – and what better than a new house with a bunch of alleged misfits to guide, shape, mold, and believe in enough to make us into winners. Our victories started coming. Soccer, hockey, cricket, music – from the assumed number 5 (last) position, we began steadfastly climbing the ladder. Hell, we even produced a School Captain!

The narrative, or as news channels love to say, the rhetoric was slowly, reluctantly, but undeniably changing right in front of our eyes. The special pleasure of winning when you’re least expected to is really the sweetest form of revenge. And that’s what Oberoi was starting to do. In the 6 years I was at Doon, we’d already gone from somewhat ‘ashamed’ to mighty ‘proud’ of being the first few batches of Oberoi House. We had all come together, dreamt, fought insurmountable odds, and built a country of our own. One that could now stand tall amidst the quartet. One that was a force to reckon with. One that may have been the new kid on the block, but it was a darn strong kid. And one that was, no Rogue Nation!

Instant Education, Instant Results!

Was a time when education meant learning by observation. By a process of automatic osmosis. By simply being around, and interacting with teachers who weren’t just experts of their respective subjects, but also, were individuals who had amassed a certain worldly wisdom, and at least one ‘x’ factor skill, that one imbibed, by default. That may have been a math teacher’s love of cricket, an economics teacher’s dressing sense, or a headmaster’s way of talking.

I share this background because I find today, too often, that young parents, inundated perhaps by a world of ‘instant gratification’, expect the same of their children’s’ education. Be it at school, or at an external ‘hobby class’; the teaching MUST have a pre-determined PLAN, the lessons be taught quickly and efficiently, and the results be tangible, visible, quantifiable, and relevant in the present to absolute near-future.

I for one find that a bit disconcerting. Why? Because in my view, it has stolen the joy of learning, of discovery, or happy accidents, and of any covert skills that might be developed, that will, in absolute certainty, be invaluable to the pupil years on. But then if we rob our students of any kind of ‘playful’ learning, of a chance to interact with teachers, and of programs where there is no ‘definite goal’ but more abstract exploration of likes, dislikes, passions, sensitization – how do we expect to end up with free-thinking, individualistic young men and women? Are we then not just producing an army of clones, all of whom have been to the same school, been brainwashed into the same morality and definition of ambition?

Was a time when we loved school. Was a time when we loved our teachers. Was a time when we felt like learning…

What Qualifies Someone To Teach?

In India, in order to teach, a B Ed Degree is mandatory. I present to you, with no disrespect intended to the millions of teachers who have secured their B Ed Degrees, an alternate scenario. One where, in my limited experience, the engagement, enthusiasm, participation and learning of a class of pupils, has little or nothing to do with the teacher’s ‘qualification’. I teach from Primary School all the way up to College and beyond. And I have found that EFFECTIVE teaching demands a few KEY elements…

  1. Earning Trust – For a teacher to earn the trust of a class, is vital. But this has two big prerequisites. One, that the teacher student relationship be given TIME to develop. Two, that the relationship itself, CAN NOT be based on FEAR. There will be NO trust building in that case. There is a fine line between FEAR and RESPECT. And I believe it can be maintained.
  2. Entertaining Education – We live in a world where students have access to an array of ‘instant entertainment’ – be it youtube, online games, social media sites/platforms; all on their cell phones. THIS is what teachers are competing against. So in order to ENGAGE students, a TEACHER must be an ENTERTAINER, a PERFORMER.
  3. Cultural Context, Similarities – In order to ‘connect’ with students, teachers should be able to ‘speak their language’ – literally, metaphorically, culturally. Unfortunately, because of how most of our society is structured, our teachers and students belong to completely contrasting universes. So where then, can be the commonality? How many teachers will be able to have a chat with a student about Bieber? How many students, will be able to identify with a teacher’s last family holiday?
  4. Respect Students – Respect can not be demanded. And it is certainly not one-way. A teacher today is living a fallacy if he/she thinks that the teacher is some beacon of knowledge and the students are empty vessels. A teacher HAS to respect a student intellectually and individually. I learn everyday from each student of mine. But if a teacher is closed-off to that notion, chances are there will be very little engagement.

I have been teaching for not TOO long now. But I have made some observations that have been corroborated time and again. That a teacher NEEDS to know about what he or she is teaching, and along with that, know the students’ world. And in that world, no B Ed is required!

Like A Boy/Like A Girl

I often hear parents and grandparents say to a boy-child if he has fallen and is crying, “come on,  behave like a boy”. Similarly, if a girl-child is being unruly, the remark is “come on, behave like a girl”!

Gender stereotyping them, begins at such a formative stage in our lives, that it is bound to create narrow, limited, fixed, and ultimately frustrated human beings. Imagine these children grown up! Do we feel they will be able to express themselves freely? Do we think that they will be ‘happy’ in their own skins?

I know I have talked about this in my previous posts as well. But the problem is so natively rooted that something needs to be done to correct it. The gender-divide is more in our heads than it is, in actual fact. It is why we refuse to accept the genders in certain ‘roles’. When a great chef is a man, pat comes the observation, “men are better at women in most areas that are viewed primarily as the purview of women”! Similarly, when there is a woman who has risen to become a Top Cop, or an Industry Captain, snide remarks such as “oh she’s hardly like a woman” are sadly inescapable!

Why the shoehorning? Why the boxing? Why a DEFINITION?

Let us UNBOX, UNDO, and SET FREE!

Great Conversations can be EASY!

Many many students of mine of all age groups essentially want to become good conversationalists. And I keep telling them, just as there are Myths & Misconceptions associated with Writing, there are too, with being a Great Conversationalist.

Whatever the ‘conversation-scenario’ might be, you need a few KEY prerequisites, and I promise you will be on your way to holding a meaningful, engaging dialogue.

  1. LISTEN: Making conversation is NOT about going yap yap yap to PROVE that you KNOW IT ALL. Listen. People appreciate that. Besides, a conversation is a 2-way street. Unless you pay attention to what the other person/people are saying, how will you carry it FORWARD!
  2. GK: The more AWARE you are, the more well informed you are, the more you will engage. There is NO substitute for this. I get that it is BORING to read newspapers, depressing even. I dislike it myself. You know the 2 places I get my GK from? So here’s my trade secret!!! KBC, as in Kaun Banega Karorpati. And this neat app on android and ios called In-Shorts, available free on any play-store, that gives you diverse, interesting news. The best part, each news-story has a visual or video, and is limited to 60 words!!
  3. RESEARCH: Lack of Confidence is sited as a constant niggle. It becomes such a monster, that it can seem all-consuming. You know what the key to alleviating this is? RESEARCH. No matter what the social-scenario may be, there is, logically, a certain about of PREP that can be put into in advance. For example, you are going to your college orientation. If you do a little research about the school, its professors, and the city/locality/history/culture in advance, not only will your nerves have VANISHED, you will definitely engage & delight!
  4. DISPOSITION: Try to keep a friendly disposition. Often times without realizing, our nerves/irritation manifest in our body-movements. We twitch, shake, do not make eye contact, and keep our arms crossed (as if to stay shut off to the world). Breathe. Why Shahrukh Khan has become the legend that he has? I have a theory. What’s his most iconic pose? Arms wide open in slow motion…right? Well, it is all about positive body language and a disposition that says, come, I want to engage with you!

Making conversation is a wonderful thing. It is educative, entertaining, and most importantly, builds relationships. And today, perhaps more than ever, we need that!