SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A journey



I started a new journey in 2011
A journey that I planned
With books, stories and creativity
And all that that made me spark!

Snapshots of all the activities that I did in the library , fun, creativity and loads of hard work...good happy times...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Scaling your Understanding

I found another interesting tool to use with children, especially when we are struggling to understand them and be understood as well...

Ask for your child to rate your understanding of them on a scale of 1 to 10.

I did

Daughter is so used to me this way; she gives me a look (after I explain that she needs to give me a score on a scale of 1 to10, based on how much she believes I understand her)
and says ..."8"

ooo...I like that I think

but aloud I give her a complimentary look and ask:

"are you sure?" (not sure I should have done that)

so far so good, but should I doubt her initial judgement...am I not giving her a very warped signal that she may be wrong and has to rethink?....lines of worry...

but...it is fine I asked as she says:
"maybe 7"..."hmmm...between 7 and 8"

wow, I like this....so now I know my understanding can dip and dance, up and down...and my empathy is labile...and she knows it too...super!!

On to son...

So how do you rate me on a scale of...blah...blah...

I had to repeat it as he gave me a blank stare, while there I was smug in my knowledge that I am getting a Ten-on-Ten on this one...

Failed....failed...failed....

Oh Yes!!!...He gave me a zero!!

Why?

...I stared at him like a startled doe...Did I explain what was required properly? Is he too young for this? Does he really think so??

Sadly and to my astonishment I realised that for him Understanding = Listening and he tells me I never listen to him.

I disclose this with genuine pain in my heart...as I argued with myself mentally; but what about all those moments of perfect understanding we have had, what about those unsaid words and shared looks that made me think we understand each other perfectly...Is this fair?

Then I realise this is not about fairness...this is not even about feeling understood; it is simply about Listening....

We all feel understood when certain criteria is satisfied, when certain expectation is met or when certain responses/reactions are complemented....

that is; our way of being is matched or complemented by the others way of being...

Obviously I was not being/listening enough or I should say well enough to warrant a number on his rating scale...

Back to the drawing board...surely now I will need to take care to complement his feelings, to be with his thoughts, listen....and improve my score card!

(a silent thanks that I can do this with him...and he is allowing me to grow with him
...also this can be done every time you are in conflict or unable to resolve an issue...giving you a perspective on how the communication needs to alter)








 

















Friday, December 9, 2011

It starts with me!

Pouring over some storytelling sites and activities, I veered off to look at how Stories and Telling impact learning, creativity and development. It does and Indian history is choc-o-block with stories of how stories were used as tools for learning!! I don't have to delve too much there, that's stuff we already know. What most people dont know is how far it can impact learning....

Stories actually impact us at a very subconscious level. It is not about reading print or telling children fairy tales, the impact of sharing personal stories of childhood, growing up stories, stories of success and failure, stories of Heroes from reality and mythology, all add up to the "building up of character". The best part is that this "Character" is what determines how successful a person becomes in life.

I am going to write about "character building" and more on that later; I even have a story that I often tell, which fits perfectly into the facets that this research talks about....but I am jumping way ahead of what I want to say here!!....
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Where do we start with this character building and how do we do it with words?

Most storytelling programmes/ training starts off  by exploring the meaning behind one's own name, if you are part of a theatre group, then a gesture or a sound may be attached to the name and we are left with a realization that names indeed reflect the person within (and vice-versa).

Identity and self awareness is where we start from, simple but oh-so powerful.(It all starts with me!!)

So for children we start with awareness of their own name. Do they know the meaning of their name? Do they know the origin of their name? Who chose their name? Where did their parents get the name from? Was there a naming ceremony? What happened in this ceremony? Are there pictures taken for this ceremony? Who were there? How many names do you have? Do you like your name? If not what name would you like to call yourself?

What is the STORY behind your name?!!

In this process the child is filled with a sense of self and uniqueness which is the first step to understanding and growth. Even a child as small as 3 years can be asked simple questions and encouraged to ask his parents/caregiver the Name-Story. 

This is one story the children would love to hear, recall and retell any number of times!
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I chanced upon another brilliant activity to do; a variation of the Name-Story. This can be done with older kids, perhaps 6+, the ones whose expressive language is better developed.

Of course I promptly did it for myself!!

Describe or think of words /adjectives( preferably positive) for every letter in your name. Go on do it and see how much fun it is. We are very good judges of ourselves, even if we think we are not, and the same goes for kids. If they are not horsing around and making every letter into a gross cariacature of weirdness, they can actually come up with some fantastic Name-Acronymns.

Mine goes like this:

S-Stubborn ( my daughter promptly said Sweet ; though I do not prefer that sticky adjective!); Secretive
O-Out standing ( yes, like to stand out in my own way!); Obstinate!!
W-Warm; Wise (I think so!)
M-Motherly; Mighty
Y-Youthful; Young
A-Ambitious; Attractive; Attentive;

Though the game asks for a single word, I could not restrict myself to one word and I feel when you have more words it brings in greater depth to the character we are building ( me, over here!!)

Here is my daughter's:
(She goofed around a bit, but I kept pushing her. It was tough at some levels I guess for her to confront and define herself. It is so wonderful what this has opened for me, I am waiting to explore her feeling on this as soon I can get her to talk about it!)

U- Understanding ( very)
T-  Tinkerbell (as cute as Tinkerbell...is her explanation)
H- Huggable
A- Accurate (this does not in any way reflect how she keeps her material things, but when she said accurate I understood it was a need for Intellectual Accuracy that she was talking about...very true!!)
R- Romantic! (and she clarifies to me that the English teacher had explained the meaning of Romantic as a "nature loving "person and that's the usage here...I mentally high-fived the English teacher for imparting this piece of knowledge to my dear one!!) 
A-.......( I'll think about it!)...........and she goes to sleep....

Here again, these words need not be fixed permanently into the psyche, in fact we must revisit them from time to time (I would say every year). Add some, remove some, and feel yourself taking shape within these words!! What a wonderful way to explore your self...

(I could not get my goofy son to do it, later when he decides not to trouble me, I will probably get some great answers. I am waiting...gleefully!)


(please do leave your Name-Acronyms on the comment form
I would love to know your Name story too...).













Thursday, December 1, 2011

Religious...where are we?

Early morning rhythm; husband up by 4;30 am, (yes he is one person who utilizes the "Brahma muhurtham" very well!)  Up at that time, he reads and reflects and plans his work day, as I snuggle cosily into my blanket, trying to squeeze in some extra hours of blissful sleep.

Yet today as I stood there in front of the stove, stirring and chopping, getting those meal plans ready and done, a word kept popping up;...magnificent...merciful....
and my mind went back to college and then furthur to school.

Raised in a Tam-Bram household we usually woke up to the strong smell of filter "kaapi" and and if we had snuggled in longer, some aromatic agarbhathi/dhoop. Suprabhatham or nadaswaram played on a radio that was invariable turned up too loud and woke us up by 5 am, but we tossed and turned refusing to allow the external noises and voices to penetrate our internal slumber.

Praying and worship was a part of our existence that we took for granted. I questioned it for a while, but then was easily charmed by quaint rituals, lighting the gleaming silver lamps(polished with vibhoothi every Thursday), Hridayakamal kolam pattern on the small circular stone kept for that (I later learnt there are many patterns meant for specific outcomes like prosperity, money(kubera kolam), etc), jasmine flowers for the idols on every Friday....There was a time after college when I was deeply into these rituals,and I must say I truly enjoyed that space.

School was filled with Hymns and beautiful songs on the Lord and Savior.Christmas Carols, all of them learnt by heart, as I refused to wear Bindi or plaits or any other representative of the brahmin idealogy to school. Prayers thanking the Lord and seeking His blessing rolled out from our mouths as easily as the Ganesha/Saraswathi shlokam; this was our unique multi-cultural cradle.

College was interestingly a predominant Muslim community and we had college assembly every Monday morning that would start with Prayers in Urdu and English....Allah the Magnificent, the Merciful (that was what triggered my thoughts here). Watching friends go for Namaz every Friday, and keep Roza for Ramzan. I could never understand their passion for fasting and would wonder at their deep commitment to religion.

While I gallivanted from one religious space to another, taking what I want from here, and leaving off what I did not want over there, I know I am still a shameful hoaxer as far as religious sentiments are concerned, using whatever suits me and not bothering about the others.

Yet if religion is about Faith, I know that is what I have in plenty...terribly optimistic and idealistic, I believe faith and good hope is the only dictum that should exist in any religion. But hope without right action is like a plant nurtured on sunshine but no water.


I was fortunate enough to live with many religions and love them as my own, but am not so sure about my own kids. With religious intolerance and prejudice made worse by media and and conflicting information from many varied sources, if we dont provide opportunities for children to accept and live with differences, be it in terms of physical, mental, religious and political from an early age, we may see our kids having and living with deep stereotypes and unable to look beyond and at the people within these cloaks of beliefs and faith.

Oh by-the-way, I believe I want to make my stories bridge these gaps for children...and that is where my mission and vision for the future lies...