Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Public Transport Woes

If you do not have to use public transportation to go to your workplace, particularly in Kathmandu, you are fortunate in a sense. However, you will miss out on many experiences at the same time. Here, I am talking about the "Balkhu-Baneshwor" route and I assume similar experiences are there to be had along other routes as well.
The first thing you encounter is that you have very little chance of getting a seat during rush hours. So, get ready to stand up throughout your journey. Now begins your predicament. There comes a pack of school children! Their backpacks are more or less double their size and you will be sandwiched between these backpacks. You are somehow just managing to preserve your standing space, the conductor comes shouting, "Go back, go back! Hey auntie, you shouldn't turn left! Turn right! There is a little space between you two guys, so you go to that side. Oh, you don't hold on to that handle." Regardless of where you are standing -- be it at the front, middle, or back -- he incessantly instructs you, "Go back," until you get off at your stop. You must have imagined that the standing passengers should be in a harmony like matchsticks in a matchbox.
If you are lucky enough to grab a seat, don't think that you will be spared from unfavourable situations. Your seat partner may not be considerate enough to leave you ample space. Mainly, these people are males who cover two thirds of the available space, so you need to squeeze yourself into a tiny sliver of space where hardly half of your body fits. Anyhow, you manage this way but another problem is waiting for you. The people that are standing keep falling over you at every jolt, they cannot help pressing you and even more painful thing is some hands may come to pull your hair. Hang on, you cannot complain because it is not their fault. You need to compromise as everybody has to go to their workplace at the exact time, no choice, but to be patient.

Wait, the most dreadful experience is still coming. It is the spitting people. Some people on the public bus are so nasty. They do not care about their fellow members and keep spitting. It gets more dangerous when they clear their throats as loudly as they can, collect the mouthful of phlegm and spit on the road without looking around. Imagine you are near such people and it is a windy day; in such a situation it is almost impossible to save yourself from rogue spit droplets and the conductor is also not an exception to such acts.
Recently, there was a news story about fining those that litter or spit out of bus windows. I wonder if that rule has come into effect and I also wonder what department is monitoring this. Looking at the comfort level of the spitting people, I do not think that anyone has been fined for their misconduct. Anyway, if you are thinking of using public transport, you have to be ready to face these challenges, and so much more.
(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, February 24, 2017) 
[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]

Friday, 24 February 2017

Academic Writing

If you were an English teacher, how would you feel to see sentences like, “ I lop/luv you…Same 2 you…Thnx…Swt pic…U luk fav…Me wid de cat…lol…” on your student’s answer paper? I do not know about you, but I would certainly be displeased. All the time you teach your students English grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure and they come up with their own digital code language! What is the place of academic writing in students’ lives?
Whether you are a first grader or a Ph.D holder, your writing habits are, after all, habits. So it is good to be aware of the difference between academic and non-academic writing styles. As long as you are not assigned to follow a particular style such as American Psychological Association (APA), Chicago or Modern Language Association (MLA), there are some rules of thumb which are applicable to all students regardless of their academic level. If one is careful enough to maintain these rules, their write up will be read as ‘academic.’
First of all, you should not use the language that you use on Facebook, email or text messages on answer sheets at your school, college or university. Even though such language is new, it has not been accepted in the academic sector yet. Secondly, you have to be consistent in the use of vocabulary throughout your paper, i.e. you are not allowed to mix ‘British’ and ‘American’ spellings. So, first make sure whether you use ‘practice’ or ‘practise’ (as a verb), ‘color’ or ‘colour’, ‘realize’ or ‘realise’, and then be consistent in your decision.
Another simple thing to keep in mind is not to use contracted forms, for instance, do not write can’t, don’t, haven’t, e.g. to replace cannot, do not, have not and for example. This rule however excludes conversational writing. To write conversations, we write contracted forms. Similarly, a sentence should not be ended with ‘etc.’ For example, write “I love bright colours like red, pink and orange,” instead of “I love bright colours like red, pink, orange etc.” The use of the passive voice is encouraged in academic writing so that the action is highlighted, not the actor. For example, it is better to write “It is said that…” over “I say that…”
These are very simple things. If one pays a little bit of attention, they can follow them easily to improve their own academic writing. This will also minimise a teacher’s irritation massively while marking. At the same time, one should not think that these are the only rules. There are a number of other rules of academic writing related to structuring and referencing at advanced levels; these basic rules are a good starting point.
What is interesting is that students know such things, and yet they commit silly mistakes time and again by mixing up British and American spellings or using contracted forms here and there unconsciously. Therefore, they should be careful to avoid certain things mentioned above. This is a small thing to do, but it will have a marked effect on the quality of your academic writing.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, February 17, 2017) 
[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Untapped Resources

Whatever people say about children's success at school, in practice they still use "academic excellence" as the most important rod to measure this success. To test students' cognitive abilities, such as thinking, reasoning and problem solving Intelligence Quotient (IQ) tests are used and "academic excellence" is somehow related to people's IQ. However, these IQ tests are massively criticised as being unable to test our entire intelligence. To compensate for the weaknesses of the Intelligence Quotient, the Emotional Quotient (EQ) emerged.
Daniel Goleman is the pioneer of EQ. His book 'Emotional Intelligence' was published in 1995 where the author argues that non-cognitive skills can matter as much as people's IQ to succeed in life. Unlike IQ, EQ is related to people's emotions. EQ includes understanding one's own emotions along with others'. It is said that EQ is more important than IQ to be successful. In fact, psychologists generally agree that among the ingredients for success, IQ counts for roughly 10% (at best 25%); the rest depends on everything else — including EQ.
According to Goleman (1995), emotional intelligence includes knowing one's emotions (self awareness), managing them (self regulation), motivating oneself (internal motivation), recognising emotions of others (empathy), and handling social relationships (social skills). These qualities determine personal and professional success. What is more important is that emotional intelligence can be learned at any stage.
Unfortunately, this important factor (EQ) has been missing in teaching learning activities at our schools. Forget about considering students' EQ, teachers themselves seem to be unable to utilise this resource which is readily available to them. While dealing with different types of students, teachers burn out easily. As a result, they get angry, shout at children, scold them or in severe cases, they even administer corporal punishment. The teachers may be unaware of the fact that their emotional crises affect students' success and achievement adversely.
In her article 'Why teachers need social-emotional skills' Vicki Zakrzewski indicates that the science of emotions is very new. So, teachers here may not understand how emotions impact students' learning and well-being just yet.
Before turning to develop students' EQ, it is necessary for teachers to consider checking their own EQ as this helps them not only for their personal well-being, but to improve student learning as well. For example, if teachers are able to become more emotionally intelligent, instead of quickly choosing to administer punishments, they will be able to recognise the root of their anger, as well as why students are (mis)behaving in the way that they are. This understanding helps teachers to respond with compassion, which should lead to an improvement in student behaviour.
Zakrzewski suggests that it is possible to teach without burning out and the first step for this is self-awareness. According to her, " When we can identify the emotional patterns and tendencies that keep us from being kind and compassionate and understanding, we get a huge boost toward fostering those skills in ourselves—and in others."
It should be noted that once teachers are able to recognise and regulate their own emotions, only then they can cultivate the same in their students. The available research shows that students' EQ is a critical factor for sustaining high achievement, retention and positive behaviour. Furthermore, it contributes to an overall improvement in the quality of life.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, February 10, 2017) 
[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]