My Social Justice Educator Role Model

“Neecha andar neech jaat neechee hu ati neech, Nanak tin ky sang Saath vadian so kia rees.” (There are lower castes among the low castes and some absolutely low. Nanak seeks their company. What has he to do with the high ones? For, where the lowly are cared for, there is Thine (God’s) Benediction and Grace) (Nanak, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 15). 

Social Justice is the desire to create a fair and socially mobile society through wealth distribution, equality of opportunity for personal development and protection of human rights. Nanak espoused the enhancement of all human beings but emphasized equal opportunities, equal access to sources and resources; equal participation in decision making; equal rights, egalitarianism, equitability and social justice for the marginal, disadvantaged, deprived and exploited ones.

Nanak is my inspiration to be a better educator every single moment. Quality instruction involves highly rigorous work, critical discussions and challenging problem solving, provided in a warm and inclusive environment. I strive every day to provide this kind of education for my students. I strive every day to create equitable and excellent lessons. I strive every day to make everything about ‘social justice.’

Every day I enter the classroom, I think about the lessons I had to learn myself as a student. As a Sikh kid growing up in a mostly Hindu neighborhood, I struggled with my own identity. My long uncut braid and hairy body stuck out like a sore thumb, and my ethnic background was associated with the word hairy and unhygienic—an insult lobbed casually at Sikh girls and boys who didn’t trim their hair or beard.

I needed someone to show me my culture has glorious role models of integrity, creativity and intellect, like Nanak and that we need more people to tell those stories.

Yes, cultural and societal knowledge can (and should) be taught at home—However, it must be asked: Who will validate these familial educations outside the home? Who will help students of color navigate the murky waters of a system not built for them? Who will give those who do come from cultures of power the impetus and tools to navigate their privilege so they can ally with the disempowered?

Who will teach these students to look at the world around them and figure out the problems and solutions with context and empathy? Who will teach them to tell their stories, and listen with open minds to the stories of others?

As an educator I know this is not just a job; it is a privilege. Being able to teach with and learn from my students is a gift. I can teach them scientific concepts and laws and about the social issues they see in the outside world. I can show them how this knowledge is not only to understand how science governs our world, but can be used as tools to subvert power, question normalcy and change society as we understand it.

For that to happen, though, they need to understand society as it is. They need to face the conversation happening in our world right now with frankness and honesty. So, it is often not easy. It sometimes doesn’t feel good and rarely ends in simple answers. Still, as an educator I must ensure that each student who enters my room at some point leaves feeling empowered to stand up for what they believe in. They may not always agree with me, but at least I will have given them the tools to share those beliefs.

At the end of the day, that’s my job, my privilege, my responsibility: When a kid leaves my room, they’re going to have heard as many stories as I can give them, and they’re going to feel like they can tell their own.

 

 

SIX

 

Six long years ago, in the summer of 2010, I packed up my life in New York, bid farewell to friends & family (in the hope of never returning to US) and moved to India for good – to start a new chapter of my life – MARRIAGE!

The advertisement

It was late December 2009. I was enjoying Christmas holidays at school in NY. My Dad, who was in Delhi, used to spend entire days pouring over newspaper’s matrimonial sections. One fine day, he came across this ad in the newspaper.

 

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CD’s Matrimonial ad in the newspaper

 

My Dad read this ad and asked to me send an email at the given address. I, like a good daughter, obliged.

And we exchanged our pictures over the email.

The Guy

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Picture CD sent to woo me

 

The Girl

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Picture I sent to woo CD

 

Knowing each other

After around 2 months of constant chatter over Skype, I had a good idea that this is it. My search for a perfect guy was over. But, how do we meet ? CD was in Bangalore, My Dad was in Delhi. Me and My mom were in NY.

Engineer to the rescue – CD arranged the first family meeting through CISCO Telepresence with me and my mom being in NY and he and his family in Bangalore. It was an instant hit. !

Engagement

A few weeks later we decided to get engaged! I flew to India and was excited to see CD in person for the very first time!!! It was his shy smile that took my heart away and still does 🙂

February 14, 2010 – We got engaged !

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We are engaged. !

 

Marriage

Work commitments and job didn’t let me stay in India for long and I returned, with a few memories – but they were enough to hold me until July 25 2010 – The WEDDING Day!
It was a great wedding, beautiful dresses, delicious food, everyone was happy and we were MARRIED!

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Just Married. !

 

Fun Starts NOW

The Married Life ! And now, the real test began!

CD and I belong to the same culture, hold similar values – so it was pretty obvious – that it will be easy to adjust! (Ha! Humor me!)
The transition from being completely independent in NY to being married in a joint family was surely not easy.

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I felt like this – where did I put my head. !!!

So, How did we make it work?

Here’s my take on what made our marriage so successful:

1. Trust

You got to trust your partner – it goes without saying. No matter how BAD it looks, you need to trust that eventually your partner will do the right thing.

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It can’t get worse than this, but we survived. !

 

2. Love

At its core, love is a decision to be committed to another person. It is far more than a fleeting emotion as portrayed on television, the big screen, and romance novels. Look after each other as best you can: if you want to grow old with your partner you have to make sure you always look after each other in every shape and form. Whether it is making a meal, holding your partners hand when crossing the road or being a shoulder to cry on when something goes wrong.

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Love is being deeply connected !

 

3. Humility

We all have weaknesses and relationships always reveal these faults quicker than anything else on earth. An essential building block of a healthy marriage is the ability to admit that you are not perfect, that you will make mistakes, and that you will need forgiveness. Be tolerant of each other: everyone has bad habits or annoying traits. Whether it is leaving a wet towel on the bed or listening to the radio too loudly, you have to tolerate each other and realize that no one is perfect.

 

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He grew humble as he got more & more of this

 

4. Forgiveness

Because no one is perfect, patience and forgiveness will always be required in a marriage relationship. We are practicing to humbly admit our own faults and do not expect perfection from their partner. We TRY to not bring up past errors in an effort to hold each other hostage. If you are holding onto a past hurt from your partner, forgive him or her. It will set your heart and relationship free.

 

 

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Forgiveness feels like Free like this. !

 

5. Shutting up

More like he learnt this trait very well. !

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Keep your mouth SHUT. !

 

6. Time

Relationships don’t work without time investment. Never have, never will. Any successful relationship requires intentional, quality time together. And quality time rarely happens when quantity time is absent. Set aside time each day for your spouse. For us, its after G sleeps. But we established his schedule, so that he goes to bed early so we can spend some time together.

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Bunking work to spend time together in SF

 

Spending  time also means, giving each other space – to be comfortable in their own zone.

 

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CD at Yosemite – hiking with friends

 

However, even with all this, there were times, when I literally went for this throat – with both hands

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Went for the kill. !

 

And worse – Public humiliation !

 

7. Hard Work

Making a marriage succeed is certainly hard work – just like pulling a cart – you both need to pedal in the same direction & with conviction that the cart will move

 

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Pulling the cart of marriage

 

 

8. Slot Machine

Marriage is a like gambling – but with hard work, you improve your odds of winning !

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Marriage – Slot Machine. !

 

In the end, it has been beautiful SIX years of togetherness – with lots of white, black & more than 50 shades of gray in between 🙂

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The perfect couple. ! CD & me

 

 

 

A New MINDSET

Below is my fourth Toastmaster speech – How to Say It

The aims for this speech project focus on your selection of words and phrases:

  • Choose words and grammar which communicate clearly.
  • Choose words and grammar which appeal to the senses.
  • Eliminate jargon.

brainIt was Friday afternoon. The school just ended and I was getting ready to go home – putting the papers in order, writing the warm up and homework for the next week on the board – just the usual stuff. When, one of my honors chem students came. I could see she was upset – teary eyes, long face.

What happened, Julia? Just a really bad day. History is one of my favorite subject and I got my midterm essay back today. I was expecting an A and instead got a C+. After class, headed back to my car and there’s a little yellow sticker on the windshield. It’s a parking ticket for $300. I called my best friend to get some sympathy and she sort of blew me off.

Well this is just an example of some situations that we face in everyday life. Now, what would be going through your head if you were Julia?

Maybe you’d think: “I’m so stupid to park somewhere where I’d get a ticket. I’m going to go home and mope. Life stinks.”
Or maybe you’d think “At least it was only a midterm and a C+ is a long way from an F… so I need to work harder to pull up the grade, be more careful parking, and talk with my friend to see if anything’s going on.”

The reason I bring up this story isn’t just to say “hey, don’t sweat the small stuff”. The point is to ask the question “why doesn’t it seem like small stuff to begin with?”

I read a book recently called Mindset by Carol Dweck that I think provides a clue to the answer. It describes two different beliefs that somebody can have about the world – one she calls a fixed mindset and the other a growth mindset. If you have a fixed mindset, you believe it’s not possible to change basic qualities like intelligence and personality. If you have a growth mindset, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you believe anybody can become an Einstein or Beethoven, but that you believe you can’t really know until you try.

One of the points she made that really resonated with me is the difference in how effort is viewed from each of the mindsets. From a fixed mindset, effort is a bad thing. If you get an A without effort that says you’re a really super smart person. If you spent a lot of effort, you’re not such a smart person. So ironically, people with a fixed mindset spend a lot of effort trying to appear as if they didn’t spend much effort.

People with fixed mindsets aren’t necessarily less confident but their confidence is more fragile. Researchers did a study where they took a group of employees learning computer skills. Half of the people were randomly put in a group that was told that computer skills were all a matter of how much natural ability they possessed and half of them were told that computer skills could be developed through practice. The people in the growth mindset group became more and more confident as they learned from mistakes and improved. The people in the fixed mindset group became less and less confident as they made mistakes. The more they learned the less confident they got. So it’s not just an innate quality of confidence, a different belief can lead you down one path or another.

So Why am I giving all this information to you?

Its because; skill is something that you can cultivate; not merely something you’re born with. You can become more creative, more intelligent, more athletic, more artistic and more successful by focusing on the process – NOT the outcome, or the goal.

“Instead of winning the championship – commit to the process of training like a champion. Instead of worrying about writing a best selling book – commit to the process of publishing your ideas on a consistent basis. Instead of worrying about losing 30 pounds -commit to the process of eating healthy every day.” – James Clear

Its not about the outcome, its about creating the identity of the type of person who gets to enjoy those results, who enjoys this journey of Growth!

 

 

Just LET it GO!

Below is my second Toastmaster speech. Speech Number 2 – Organize your speech.

The main objectives for this speech are:

  • Select an appropriate outline which allows listeners to easily follow and understand your speech.
  • Make your message clear, with supporting material directly contributing to the message.
  • Use appropriate transitions when moving from one idea to another.
  • Create a strong opening and conclusion
Time: Five to seven minutes:

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I am going to start the way as a psychologist once did while teaching stress management to an audience.

How heavy is this glass of water?

(Wait for answers)

The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.

According to Eckart Tolle, “We create and maintain problems because they give us a sense of identity. Perhaps this explains why we often hold onto our pain far beyond its ability to serve us.”

15 years later also I remember that one time when my grandparents made my mom cry. It’s like a reel in my mind playing again and again and again reiterating that one day. And its been 15 years that I haven’t talked to them. I have talked to them physically, but not emotionally. That emotional connect is missing.

Am I trying. Yes I am. Am I trying hard enough. May be not.

I am not trying hard enough to JUST LET IT GO!

So how do you let things go?

I am certainly not expert at this but here are few tips that have made it easier for me to let go.

  1. Ask yourself helpful questions. Questions like: is this helping me or is it just some nonsense or something I’m reliving from the past? Or am I clinging to it because it’s what I have known for such a long time and it seems comfortable and safe even though it is holding me back?
  2. Give up “being right”. Realize that you may cling to things because they might make you feel right as you replay an argument or conflict over and over in your mind. It gives you a certain sense of satisfaction as the other person is wrong. But you have to give up that kind of satisfaction to move on.
  3. Let it go if it shows up again. In my experience it’s pretty common that what you let go shows up in your thoughts again. And that’s ok. Just let it go each time it shows up. After a while hopefully it will stop showing up.

We carry with us a lot of stuff. Not in our hands perhaps. But in our minds. It can become like we are carrying half the world on our back. Not very helpful. So we need to let go of things. Not only to move lighter and more freely. But also to be able to fully move forward in life.

To conclude I would like to quote Lao Tzu –

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”

31 Things you should know about ME

An icebreaker is a special-purpose ship or boat designed to move and navigate through ice-covered waters. Or it’s the first nerve inducing speech that you have to do for Toastmasters…

Toastmasters is an international organization that helps people develop effective communication and leadership skills. I really want to hone my speaking skills because I have a dream of speaking professionally one day so I wanted to do a ‘speaking course’ and when I found out that the nearest Toastmasters club is only 10 minutes away,  I no longer had an excuse to hold my dream back.

According to www.sixminutes.com the Ice Breaker speech has three aims:

  1. Introduce yourself. Your ice breaker speech topic is you – something about your life, your job, your hobbies, your unique interests, your family, or any combination of these. You are an absolute authority on this topic, and everyone in the audience will learn something about you.
  2. Begin to conquer the fear of speaking in front of a group. It is nervewracking when speaking in front of a new group. If you feel this nervousness, remember that a Toastmaster audience is always supportive and understanding. Nobody is grading you, and nobody will mind if you stumble through 99 “Um”s and “Ah”s. If you get up, say something, and sit down, you have succeeded in this project.
  3. Provide a “base line” of your current strengths and weaknesses. Some new members have no public speaking experience, while others have years of presentations behind them. No matter where you fit into this spectrum, your goal is to improve from your starting point. This first speech helps club members gauge your current strengths so that they can make specific recommendations to help you improve.

So here’s a transcript of my speech. Hope you enjoy it!

11077949_10152694633237623_3478515520493814079_n31 Things you should know about ME

When I started writing this speech I thought I would talk about 31 things about ME. 31 because I am 31. Not my roles as a Mother, Wife or Daughter or Teacher but ME. How many of us feel that we have forgot our favorite color, dish or place because it has been replaced by our spouse’s or kid’s choice or a loved one’s choice?

(Audience shares)

But then while in the process of thinking all about these things about me, I realized that I am incomplete without these roles of mine. I would never had been a good cook if it wasn’t for my husband because the way to his heart goes through his stomach. I would not have been a good time manager if it wasn’t for my toddler son with whom I have to focus on prioritizing stuff and then discarding the less important things.

So my roles define me WHO I Am.

Its not that I lost myself but I found a new Myself!

And now let’s go through the list!

  1. I was born on March 21, 1984 in Delhi, India.
  2. I am the elder one, 6 years older to my brother.
  3. Moved to New York, US in 2001 where I did my undergrad in Biochemistry from Queens College and then Grad in Chemistry Education from Hunter College
  4. Got married in 2010 in Bangalore and then moved to California in 2011
  5. I have a two year old who keeps me on my toes.
  6. I loved being pregnant and sometimes I miss the baby bump.
  7. I was trained in classical music when I was in sixth grade.
  8. I have been playing harmonium for almost 23 years now.
  9. I sing and dance at home by myself when no one is watching.
  10. Bhangra is my mood elevator. No matter how tired or stressed I am, Bhangra cheers me up and gets me in the mood to dance.
  11. I have never broken a bone in my body, although I am terribly accident prone. Ask my husband!
  12. In the last 3 years I have switched 4 jobs. Don’t ask why!
  13. My first job was as a pharmacy technician at a Rite Aid Pharmacy in NY.
  14. I always wanted a career in public speaking. Can’t imagine myself in a cubicle the entire day.
  15. I still haven’t figured my dream job. I am sure one day I’ll figure it out.
  16. I love hugs. The greatest gift you can give someone else is your smile and your time to listen to them. A hug means more to me than most words. “I’m proud of you,” and a hug is enough to make my day.
  17. I can rarely say no to something sweet. I have a huge sweet tooth.
  18. Baking is my stress reliever.
  19. Cupcakes are my favorite.
  20. Zumba is my favorite kind of workout
  21. I love coffee, but didn’t start drinking until I started working as a teacher.
  22. Taco Bell is my go-to fast food joint, Chicken Crunch-wrap being my favorite
  23. I think that I can taste colors. Synesthesia. It’s a real thing. Look it up.
  24. My favorite color is blue. Any shade. It tastes delicious by the way.
  25. I can get really wrapped up in stories. Netflix has made this all to easy for me. Currently hooked on Private Practice.
  26. I started blogging few months back. I have a blog called ‘Meet Ashmeet’ – a space for my thoughts and reflections on life. You know that!
  27. I love calligraphy. I self taught myself that and I am pretty good at it.
  28. Card making is another self taught hobby of mine.
  29. ‘Photography’ is a hobby that I recently acquired – thanks to my husband! I love capturing moments, emotions, expressions and then cherishing them later. (Link to my Photography Post)
  30. I would love to take Photography classes one day to learn the technicalities of the camera.
  31. I am in love with living. I love being in the present moment and experiencing the world. Even though it gets gnarly at times, it’s because of the tough stuff that you get to the good stuff, and it’s worth it.

Well, this was just a glimpse about me. The fact is that I am a work in progress and I am trying to discover myself. And I am very hopeful. One day, I will be able to introduce myself completely.

Till then Thank you for reading!

If you reach more teachers, you reach more students

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When I walked out of the Tech Museum after attending the Gooru 101 workshop, I was a new person. Differentiated instruction and personalized learning didn’t seem as hard as before. I was excited to share this knowledge with my fellow colleagues and peers.

Sometimes as teachers, we act like professional development is hard. It doesn’t have to be. Sometimes we treat professional development like a chore. But, it should be fun, engaging, and wanted.

Because if you reach more teachers, you reach more students.

As a high school teacher, I have attended a lot of professional development sessions but this was the first time that I got a chance to train the other teachers on ‘Gooru‘.

Why the NEED?

Teachers have a lot on their plate already with the introduction of Common Core and NGSS, and we need new methods of keeping up and innovating.

Gooru provides a platform where teachers can create and share collections of free K-12 web resources to personalize and differentiate learning in their classrooms.

STUDENT Perspective (20 mins)

Before showing the teachers what they can do with the new tool, they acted as students in my class, getting a first hand experience of what the students would be doing if they did use Gooru in their classroom. This was quite motivating as all of them were working on their own pace yet on the same concept!

TEACHER Perspective (20 mins)

Once I already won them over the new technology, they were all eager to learn how to use it. This is when I provided them with videos, tutorials, and other ways to learn about the tool and/or concept as it can be used in the classroom.

GOORU Time (35 mins)

At this time the teachers actually created something they could use in their classroom with the tool/concept. They were exploring new options, getting excited, working together and asking questions.

All in all, it was a great experience being on the other side of the room!

Betty and her Feast – The Theatre Factory

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“Smile Betty Smile. Hold your cheeks and stretch your lips. That’s how you smile.”

This was how the robots were reminding Betty to smile again and again in the virtual setting of the play “Betty and her Feast” directed by a very dear friend of mine, Ish Amitoj Kaur. (The Theatre Factory)

Ish and Betty got me thinking. Is this really the future that we are bringing to our kids? The future where our kids will long for a true friend. A friend that they can share their feelings with, they can play with, they can fight with, they can work with, more importantly a friend who’s just not virtual on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – A Real Friend!

Being an educator by profession I come across high schoolers who are very proficient and comfortable in talking and connecting with their 500 friends online. But when it comes to introducing themselves to class of 30 students, they can’t seem to find the words. Self reflecting, making emotional connections is so hard for these young people who are hooked on to their smart-devices 24X7.

When was the last time we called someone to wish them a birthday, or an anniversary. It’s all through posting messages and clicking ‘send’. That interpersonal relationship is missing nowadays.

The message that Ish was trying to get across the room, through her one-act play was – for our children truly to become successful personally, socially and academically, we all need to start connecting emotionally. We need to stop looking at our smartphones and smarten up by looking within ourselves and among one another!

Some great shots from the play –

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