Think Beyond The Books

Expert Meeting with Mr. Manivannan Ganapathy, Waldorf Educator

Kingdom of Childhood
This all started with the intention of understanding the curative therapy aspect of Waldorf education. Mr. Manivannan Ganapathy, trustee at the Bangalore Steiner school, is a full time teacher and also Teacher trainer at Kingdom of Childhood. He is a graduate not only in English and Sanskrit literature but has also completed various Waldorf trainings in India, Germany and Switzerland.

The idea of meeting him came to our minds and I immediately sent a detailed message to him requesting a face to face appointment in Bangalore and he graciously said Yes! We planned to meet at 5 pm at his textile shop in JP Nagar.

I entered his shop and at cash counter I met a pleasant faced, young teenage boy, Amar (Mr.Manivannan’s son) and he welcomed me. He immediately contacted his dad through telephone and informed him that I had arrived.  He seemed to be studying and was poring over some notes.  I casually chatted with him and asked what he was reading and enquired about which school he was attending? To my utter surprise, he mentioned that he was home schooling with an awesome teacher that was none other than his Dad. What a cool idea Sir ji :-)!!

Mr. Manivannan, came riding on his bike welcomed me with a smile on his face. It did not seem like we were strangers at a first meeting. There was a certain warmth and kindness exuding in the space.

Manivannan and Karthick Jayaram

Manivannan and Karthick Jayaram

He talked at length about the Curative therapy and it’s spiritual connection. He gave me a lot of ideas to implement and taught me how to make it a success in Trichy in long term. Our talk touched upon areas such as – Waldorf, Indian culture and it’s meaning, Parents’ discussions and meeting, Handling home situations, Classroom management, Importance of the curriculum, Harmony, Circle time, Music recorder (Waldorf  classical Flute).

Then, I saw Amar bringing our fruit juice for us.  I encouraged him to share his views about his future aspirations and he mentioned that he wanted to be either a Farmer or Actor. I have met several youngsters and asked them such questions. But, I have never ever heard any teenage boy saying this! Also he told me that he spends his free time playing Table Tennis, Cricket and he is Champion other forms of sport too. He also plays instrumental  music. I was certainly wowed. I was convinced that the confidence he showed stemmed from his Waldorf  education. Mr. Manivannan had not only taught  the Waldorf education model to others but had really adopted it in his own life with shining results.

I certainly believe that Ingress can also build and seed such confidence in every child.

I thanked Mr. Manivannan for his time and finally I invited Mr. Manivannan to visit to Ingress as and when it was convenient for him. He has agreed to visit say in between April-May 2015. I truly think his visit will pave way for the needy parents in Trichy who want to have a holistic education for their kids. He will certainly help further everyone’s understanding of Waldorf education.

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The Ingress Song

Live performance

When we started Ingress Junior School at Trichy, we wanted to admit students at two levels – the ones upto 2 years old and the others upto 4 years old. We designed a curriculum that would help them learn and at the same time help them develop life skills in a manner that worked for each child at their own pace.

Among the fun things we do, is circle time. Young children get together and share notes about their families, sing and dance together. As we were planning a song that reflected all these activities, we came up with the idea of an Ingress Anthem reflecting our school, its philosophy and the activities therein.

We first picked a nice, familiar and old Tamil folk tune that was made even more popular by usage in an old movie. Then we wrote the simple words that flowed super easy because it was basically reflecting what we already do.

Then we wanted to set the tune to music and record it. I’m a member of Ingress board and works routinely with a reputed set of musicians – Krishna Prasad on Flute and Pranav Dath on the Rhythm Pads.  I had the opportunity to work with them for a different project and they were all kind enough to spare their valuable time to record the score for Ingress.

One take we did for rehearsal and the next take was final. The recording took all of 10 minutes. But it was nerve racking to push it through simply because we were in the middle of another elaborate big project followed by a live show. In the midst of the recording, we forgot to take pictures of it in Bangalore. :)!  But then, since we work together all the time and share a lot of work time, we have other pictures that should do just fine to see what we each are up to.

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Pranav is part of a band called Swaralayamrutha and is studying college 2nd year in Bangalore. Krishna Prasad comes from an illustrious lineage of court musicians in the Mysore Maharaja’s court and lives and teaches flute in Mysore and tours the US and other parts of the world every year. Subhashini(myself) currently lives and teaches Bharatanatyam dance in Bangalore. Her school is called “From Within” and has a presence in Seattle, San Diego, St. Louis and Berkley in the US, Burnaby in Vancouver Canada, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore in India. She is the singer of the Anthem and also serves on the board of Ingress.

Enjoy the song and hum it with your kids!!  And do share your feedback/ thoughts on it!


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EZ Vidya Chrysalis & Buzzle | Ingress Perspective

We at Ingress firmly believe that if someone does something better than us, we should learn and adopt. Several of us had the privilege of listening to Ms.Chitra Ravi founder of EZ Vidya introduce Chysalis curriculum and the Buzzle technology at their events in Madurai and Bangalore. It was quite fascinating to imagine the potential of her work books and technology. Learning would be a super fun experience for the children if these were put to good use.

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Since Ingress is in its infancy, there is no need for a ‘shift in culture’ and we could adopt this from the get go and all our students could easily be part of this process of learning from inception.

In a nutshell, the children follow work books that focus on the correct grasping of basic curriculum concepts. The books are designed with care so that ‘teacher’s teaching errors’ are side stepped to the greatest degree possible. In addition, there is a technology component that allows curious students to play with a system and click links and learn more and submit projects and interact with others in their classroom and others in their grade possibly all over the world. This will certainly benefit the tech savvy generation of children of today because it is a lot of fun :). Competition is limited not to the class but truly challenges one’s own self. The system allows for the teacher to track progress of the child and the class as a whole with the click of a button.

While this is similar to doing self learning by research using a search engine on the internet, this buzzle tool is invaluable at the junior grades upto middle school because the internet is not a safe place and many parents will not want their children to go online and succumb to predators. Reporting back to the teacher is also an added advantage of the tool.

Now, the dangers of this ‘fun system’ is that they could get addicted and do this all the time. They could learn everything at home and come to the class distracted. They may get impatient if the teacher is teaching lessons that they are already exposed to at home. They may get better than the teacher and think of themselves as super heros.

The benefits of this are that the teacher does not have the stress of keeping the really smart kids of the class satisfied. She can concentrate on the children who truly need her help. As a smart teacher, she will also enlist the help of her quick learners to help the others in the class. So school becomes oriented towards social skills and life skills education environment which is where the Waldorf methodology comes in handy. The teacher’s role changes to that of a person who motivates, who understands the children emotionally, as the one who leads, provides safety, teaches mutual sharing and respect, provides direction on communication, provides encouragement on good behaviour, as one who teaches them teamwork and co-operation, as the one who takes them outdoors to play, as the one who draws parallels between the school environment and the concepts in the books, as the one who encourages them to think outside the box and listens to them patiently as they grasp each concept. Her kindness and firmness will set the tone of good behavior encouraging the students to make careful choices.

Thinking about lesson planning, worrying about what to answer parents if they ask what their children have learnt, what concept to teach and how to teach it becomes less of a worry if we have the Chrysalis work books to lean on. In all, we think it is a great investment in a very well thought out system.

We spoke to other school Principals and they have been using Chrysalis curriculum for the last 3 years. Several of them vouched that they are very satisfied with the company and the level of support they have received including training of the teachers and introducing the workbooks to parents.

There should be no fear in the minds of our readers that by adopting these work books and the buzzle technology that personal interaction among the kids will take a back seat and they will sit with their neck down and start digging their devices from when they are really young. Ingress plans to be a place for vigorous physical activity and the teacher will restrict the time with the device effectively.

Since this curriculum kicks in from KG or when the kids are about 3.5 to 4 years old, we will adopt a bridge program in the interim.

We are all prepared for the thrilling ride ahead using this technology engine and hope to lead our next gen kids on an amazing journey. We are confident that they will be confident learners and at the same time we will strive to keep their natural kindness and innate innocence intact.

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Ingress: Journey to Berlin

INGRESS PURE INTENTIONS @ TIRUCHIRAPPALLI TO STUTTGART (PART 1… Continued)

I had written a mail to Ms. Nana Goebel, Managing Director of Waldorf World Wide Education, seeking a meeting appointment. I waited patiently for her reply but got no news for three days.  After deep thought, I floated a gentle reminder about my original email.

To my delight, I got an immediate response and she explained humbly that the first mail got filed as spam and only the second mail reached her. She acknowledged my purpose and gave an appointment to see her at the Berlin.

Wow! I was super excited to make the long journey, from Stuttgart to Berlin to get her expert opinion on how we should proceed to make progress with the school set up strategy including teacher recruitment and student enrolment for successfully running the school in the long term. A lot of questions were in my mind & I hoped to remember every detail so that I could relay it back correctly and successfully transfer the ‘Know how’ to the Ingress team in India!

Ms. Nana Goebal

Ms. Nana Goebel, Managing Director of Waldorf World Wide Education

My appointment to meet Ms. Nana Goebel was in the morning at 10 A.M.  I had reached Berlin the night before and chose to stay at the Freunde der Erziehungskunst Rudolf Steiners e.V.(Friends of Waldorf Education).  This is where I needed to meet Ms. Goebel  the next morning.

In my excitement, I could not sleep and I was all the time rehearsing and practicing the questions for her in my mind.  I wondered what direction the conversation would take and whether at all I would be able to accomplish the purpose of visit. I was not sure what to expect from her.  Nevertheless, I got up early around 6 AM and decided to do a ‘practice’ walk to Freunde der Erziehungskunst Rudolf Steiners, Berlin where her office is situated. I did not want to be late and decided to use my nervous energy to make things easy on myself.  I had a route map with directions leading towards the holy place.  After a steady, short walk, I reached the venue at around 6.35 AM. Confident that I knew the way, I walked back to the hotel room and got ready for the big event.

I gobbled a quick breakfast from the café and walked to the Freunde der Erziehungskunst Rudolf Steiners, Berlin and without any trouble, I had entered the Managing Director’s Cabin.  Ms. Nana Goebel was a simple and nice gentle lady, welcomed me whole heartedly and offered milk coffee with sugar.

She was quite familiar with Indian traditions and food styles, after basic enquiries about my stay and travel, she made me comfortable to discuss the purpose of my visit.

We started the conversation and it was incredibly successful. She poured information onto me readily including guidance on matters I asked and also that I had not asked!!!   Discussions took almost 2.5 to 3 hours.  She gave me the contacts in India and a wealth of information on how to approach Waldorf inspired education. She gifted me some books on Waldorf methodology and latest brochures for improving understanding of the model. She also promised to help in future, and answer any further questions that we may have.

I had a lot of information both in my mind as well physical material to carry.  I was keen to transfer the knowledge to Ingress and I was confident at these initial interactive phases of Stuttgart and Berlin would be strong foundation pillars for building Ingress Junior School.

As Rudolf Steiner Says,”A healthy social life is found only, when in the mirror of each soul the whole community finds its reflection, and when in the whole community the virtue of each one is living”. At IJS, we work as community to bring the best possible from each one of us to the betterment of the children.

When the intentions are pure, the angels will come to help in favor of you.  Ms. Nana Goebel is one such angel for the Ingress team.

After our meeting was done, Ms. Nana Goebel suggested some Museums to visit in Berlin.  I explored around the capital for a little bit in celebration of the contentment in my heart after my mission was accomplished. I had a wonderful time exploring the museums, getting on the city tour, graffiti artist’s tour & of course enjoyed super yummy Punjabi food in Berlin!!

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Ingress Pure Intentions @ Tiruchirappalli to Stuttgart

Trichy to Stuttgart

When we had an idea to start a school, everyone on the Ingress team became an eager participant in selecting the teaching methodology. We talked, argued, debated & finally zoomed in on the “Waldorf methodology”. To have a deeper understanding and first-hand experience of what this methodology advocated, I decided to pay a visit to the Waldorf School at Stuttgart, Germany. To my surprise, Waldorf Stuttgart was the first ever school created by Rudolf Steiner in world. As of today, there are more than 220 successful Waldorf schools in Germany and more than 1000 Waldorf schools in 120 countries worldwide providing high quality education.

I mailed Dr. Simon Kuttner, asking for an appointment to get his guidance on how to proceed with the setting up of this school. I impatiently waited for an email response and every hour, I refreshed my mail box to check if there was a reply.

The next day, I got lucky. I got a reply from Dr. Simon Kuttner with an appointment to visit him the next evening. I was so excited.

The narrow, artistic entrance of Freie Hochschule Stuttgart School and Waldorf Teacher’s College opened in front of me. It was a ‘dream come true’ moment. Our first step towards our lofty goal of providing high quality education was getting close. I strongly believe that if you aspire for anything in your life, you have to try your level best. Then, all of nature will come together in an unmatchable force for your pure intentions to manifest and you will reach your goal.

Dr. Kuttner was sitting under a tree waiting for me. He said that he feared I would get lost on the big campus. And so to make things easy for me, he was sitting and waiting at the entrance. My heart instantly warmed up and I was getting sure of the value of the education that we sought to provide.

Dr. Kuttner heads the International Master’s program for Teachers training in Waldorf education. He is friendly and open.

He asked quite a few questions and enquired into our intentions of starting a waldorf inspired school in Tamilnadu. In turn, I had asked a few questions and got some things clarified. Like – what is good for the kids, what are some of his methods etc.

At the end of our talk, he took me on a school tour. He showed me the students carpentry room, music room, concert room, clay modelling, painting room and at last he took me to the small old building at the centre of the school. I asked, “What building is this Dr. Kuttner?“

Rudolf Steiner

He told that this was the very First building for the school based upon Steiner’s ideas that was opened in 1919 in response to a request by Emil Molt, the owner and managing director of the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Company in Stuttgart, Germany, to serve the children of employees of the factory. This is the source of the name Waldorf, which is now trademarked for use in association with this educational method.

He also added that he had brought me to this place so that I could soak in the energy and get motivated to start a Waldorf inspired school in India. He also gave me the contact of the Managing Director of Waldorf Worldwide Education, Berlin. Further, he promised his full support to me in answering all our queries regarding setting up the school in Tamilnadu.

I was moved and speechless!!

Building

I just sat the first old building for some time after Dr. Kuttner left and two children were playing around me happily. I felt light and happy at the sight.

Somewhere in my heart, I got strong belief that this scene will play out again before my eyes when we setup own school in Tamilnadu.

I strongly believe that if you aspire for anything in your life, you have to try your level best. Then, all of nature will come together in an unmatchable force for your pure intentions to manifest and you will reach your goal. Am I right?

Watch this space for reading about Ingress’ next step – meeting the Managing Director of Waldorf Worldwide Education, Berlin, Germany.

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Ingress School: Let’s complete the circle

Ingress Junior School Outdoor
Gurukul System

Image Courtesy: brainbuxa.com

Life has come full circle, I feel. There were times in the past when formal education did not exist in India. Our Vedas and Puranas talk about how the highest thoughts were perceived thru’ methods of silent contemplation and self realization by our wise Rishis and then advocated by Gurus to their group of disciples using mostly an oral tradition. When the students were young, they gathered around in a Gurukul and focused on learning by rote and pleasing the Guru and when they grew up and their maturity improved, they were able to grasp the true meaning of the teaching and chew on the knowledge and led their remaining lives according to their ability and understanding of the higher truth.

In the middle ages, education and skill development was recognized as a primary means of earning a livelihood. The agrarian way of life changed with the advent of the British Industrial revolution and a strong desire for economic progress propelled every household to strive for the ‘doctor’ or ‘engineer’ or ‘lawyer’ dream. And of course, in due course of time, the desire of most families seem to have been met and socio economic progress has come about. The comfortable luxury lifestyle has soon become an accepted natural norm for our middle class families. There is a lot more time for thinking today because of efficiency in day to day life. And man being man, wants even more progress.

And with this, the goals of our families have changed again. The drive for ‘progress’ has changed its course. No longer is the end goal ‘doctor’ or ‘engineer’ or ‘lawyer’ but the MEANS of achieving the goal take paramount importance.

Many in our generation do feel bad about forced career choices. Gen X parents rightly ask –

Is my child happy every day?

I went through a lot of trouble and put in a hard work so that my children can be happy. I don’t want them to take my path and suffer.

I wanted to study History and Art. My dad forced me to do Math.

I hate my software job. I took it just to earn the money. The money is good but I feel empty inside.

When the parents of today attempt to shield their kids from their own bitter experiences and when money is no longer a driving force, they look for something more. In a school, they are looking for a means for discovering their child’s true potential for self actualization. The school’s role has changed to being the means of finding and leading children on a path that feels natural and connected to their own conscience. Education is important because it sharpens the mind. It is a means to an end and end goal is not merely a ‘degree’.

The ability to recognize what one is good at and what it takes to achieve happiness while at the same time contributing effectively to today’s modern society is defined as success.

Each one of us has a purpose and a talent and we are brought into this world to deliver on our own individual potential. If we each seek to find what we are good at and do just that, not only will it be a fun activity for the doer, but the resulting work will add so much joy to the world. Ingress School is one such ‘discovery’ place. And all of us here are striving to make this happen for our children of the latest generation to lead us into a better happier world tomorrow. Let’s complete the circle.

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Why we started Ingress?

Every time I met my friends , they’d end up moaning about the children’s education.

“As each of my children entered the school system, they became a grey scale version of themselves, losing their sense of joy and wonder in learning.”

While most people would probably just keep moaning, I just decided to start my own school, one that would escape the rigid confines of the curriculum, have small class sizes, foster respectful adult/child communication and involve creative and challenging learning.

But how to start????…

Where to start??????

I conveyed my ideas to my friends Roopa, Sundar, Nithya and Prabakar.

We started off initial meeting around the kitchen table, dinning area, public parks to thrash out our aims. I had some great curriculum experts in our team. My ideas and their experiences blended in Ingress. Then we decided to form a group which should make some revolution in education. There we got Subhashini, Rajesh, Priya, Subramani and Jeyasree with the same thoughts…

The next hurdle was to find teachers in tune with the school’s ethos.

Most schools are based on punishment and reward, labeling the children good or bad, but we don’t do that here,In our case, the teacher had to find other ways of determining the boundaries of discipline.

“We were lucky enough to find someone who shares our values and who’s bringing the school on amazingly.”

Finally(End of how & where), Ingress Junior school started with 2 pupils…

Nature is a huge educational resource which helps children to learn on their own pace. Our focus is to help the children fulfill their potential in a nurturing environment.

Seeing children full of confidence and knowing they can be successful – that’s the best thing in the world…I guess so…

 

Watch this space for more about our Launch…

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