December 31, 2010

[Reflections] The Decade that was!

As I wait for the last few grains of sand in this decade's hour-glass to begin their lazy descent, the mind takes off speedily in the other direction, here a glance, there a pause, all that strikes with force in my journey through the twenties.

AU to OU: It actually began, with the clear feeling of being in the wrong place. Engineering was not my magic thing and the self was rebelling at being part of something that it could not see the meaning in. And thus, got a degree, if not an education. Often we hear the lines "No matter how far the wrong direction we have gone, one has to turn back to find the way"... So, so true even when 10 years have gone in a purposeless fashion, it's time to find the path. The turn of this decade nudged me into the right direction. Like destiny's suddenly favored child, I walked with glee into this new world of education. Are these wobbly steps, the seeds of a marathon run?

Girl to Mom: Gone are the times of hours and hours to just get an assignment done. Right now, desperately getting hold of the art of juggling. Work, Family and Studies, hasty hands in constant action... Oops, there goes another one down! Still every concept understood, every task accomplished, every smile from your kid's face is platinum-precious. Waiting to learn all over again.

Dreamer to Wanderer : The dream of seeing countries, being part of other cultures was always a soft flame in the background. 2 continents in this one. Will I make it to all that is between America and Australia in the next?

Windows to Mac : From being scared about the prospect of using the giant windows desktop in 2000 to falling head over heals in love with my slim mac, an interesting techie journey! Amazed at the role that these abstract creations have had to play with one's life. What magic/mystery awaits?

Well to World: From being closeted in a small well, with only a couple of friends to now say hi and hello to the whole wide world, has shown shades of me, that I never knew existed. A hearty wish to befriend the world with words.

The thought of being 40 by the end of the next decade has some butterflies fluttering inside... Well, that bridge is far-off ... Let me enjoy this here and this now. Here's to you too.

December 16, 2010

[Experiences] Exams 101

Pencils, Anti-malarial drugs, Electric cables, Mobile towers... Seems like I am getting 'out-of-syllabus' already!

First you have, a mother of an extremely energetic and attention-seeking toddler. Multiply that with the learning cells, in a completely dysfunctional state from a 12 year disuse. Compound that with the fact that you set only 3 months to finish an entire year's syllabus. End-result: A shivering exam taker, exactly similar to an egg on pointed heels... That would have described me very well, but for the fact that I was finally getting the education of my life.

Let me tell you, Education on Education is one of those really quaint things... like thinking about thinking or laughing about laughing... A unique human ability. It was an extremely fun-filled 3 months as I discovered so many things about learning, society, politics, economics... just to find I barely scraped the molecule on the tip of the iceberg. There is an ocean out there and education, on anything under the sun, should just enlighten you on your ignorance and motivate you in your never-ending search for more. I feel so lucky to have been exposed to such good material, designed in such a way, to touch the hearts of ones who truly seek. My heartfelt gratitude to the entire M.A(Education) course designing team of IGNOU. The text-books penned by these various professors and doctors of education have at last pointed me in the direction of so many worth-while things to know and seek.

There was an oft-repeated phrase in the books, which was "Nothing can be taught and everything can be learnt". This degree was a case in point. Years of attending teacher taught engineering classes drew a complete blank from me. But my few months of self-explorations have opened up neural pathways upstairs, that I knew not, existed.

This is not to say, it was one perfect walk on rose-buds. There were times I said "I can't do this". Building too much pressure inside. I kept faltering again and again. The self-imposed deadline drew near and the doubts grew darker and darker. If this is the case of someone who has finally discovered something to her liking and enjoying knowing about that, I see the implications of exams that have to be taken and tests that have to be cleared, with no thought about interest or aptitude.

In this journey of learning on learning, I discovered some worthwhile strategies. The unshakeable 'top of the chart' in this regard is mind-maps. This is the one single thing that kept this egg from cracking. After some three subjects of linear learning, I realized that I was not going to cover even half the distance on this route. So, I discovered and customized mind-maps for studying. To describe mind-maps for studying, it's similar to taking a space-ship out-there and taking a cosmic view of your subjects (answers to questions like 'why on earth am I doing this?' , 'what is the point of my studying this degree, this course?') then drop-down to a sky-view and take in the forest ('the links between my subjects, the over-all chemistry of the syllabus'), then a glide-down a parachute to glance the entire tree at close quarters (all about individual subject) and freeze there, see the branches (all those long lessons and units) and just another drop to see where the branches are going (sub-sections and the concepts). If you plan ahead and are able to see the leaves and leaflets (the basic atomic ideas of each concept), then you can truly call yourselves the masters of this art of studying. I discovered that 'zoom out-zoom in' mind-mapping was ultimate fun. Your mind would seriously thank you for not sitting in the first paragraph of the first lesson of the first subject and repeating the first line in loops till the exam bell gongs.

As I was sitting there, on the last day of the exams, with hands aching, I thanked that I had the support and the sense to see that however hard it seemed, how much ever pressure I built on, these exams were just some man-made obstacles, that mattered not in how you crossed them but just that you crossed them.

This is dedicated to every student who is sitting there, on the eve of the exams, with some pencils to drive up the nostrils, a large box of anti-malarial drugs, looking heatedly at the loose electric cables or looking down atop mobile towers... Throw it, Stop looking and see not the miniscule moment of the exam ahead but deep inside for all that you are and can be. Pain, Stress, Exams come and go... You are forever, in your life.