29 April, 2009


A letter written by Abraham Lincoln to the Headmaster of a school in which his son was studying. It contains an advice, which is still relevant today for executives, workers, teachers, parents and students.


"He will have to learn, I know, that all men are not just and are not true. But teach him if you can, the wonder of books.. but also give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun and flowers on a green hillside.

In school, teach him it is far more honorable to fall than to cheat.....
Teach to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him he is wrong.
Teach him to be gentle with gentlepeople and tough with the tough.

Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone getting on the bandwagon...

Teach him to listen to all men; but teach him also to filter all he hears on a screen of truth, and take only the good that comes through.

Teach him, if you can how to laugh when he is sad... Teach him there is no shame in tears.

each him to scoff at cynics and to be beware of too much sweetness.. Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to highest bidders, but never to put a price on his heart and soul. Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob.. and stand and fight if thinks he is right.

Treat him gently, but do not cuddle him, because only the test of fire makes fine steel. Let him have the courage to be impatient.. Let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself, because then he will have faith in humankind.

This is a big order, but sees what you can do. . He is such a fine little fellow my son!

- Abraham Lincoln"

Leaders are Learners..

21 April, 2009

'A Leadership Checklist: 7 Questions to Ask Yourself'

No matter how successful and talented you are, you’ve made mistakes and have acquired some bad habits. Some are old; others have seemingly popped up overnight. Behaviors that may have worked well for you in the past can render you ineffective in the present.

Perhaps you’re dissatisfied with your performance review. Maybe you’re bothered by a nagging feeling that you’re not at your peak. It’s time to wake up. Even outstanding leaders invariably struggle through career stretches during which they feel off track.

It can be hard to spot the specific problem when you’re in the middle of it. Changes in the environment, competitors or even personal circumstances can cause you to veer off course. Successful leaders are not always on track, but they have developed techniques for recognizing their vulnerabilities and making adjustments as quickly as possible.

As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the most intelligent of the species that survive the longest, it is the most adaptable.”

The best way to make swift adjustments is to periodically step back, observe and ask yourself several key questions.
Some experts advise doing this every three to six months; much depends on the nature of your business.

How Are You Doing?

Ask yourself how you’re doing and what you should be doing differently—and be sure to answer truthfully. As simple as this may sound, many people are shocked by their answers to basic management and leadership questions.

Leaders should regularly ask themselves questions that target seven areas, according to Robert S. Kaplan, coauthor of The Balanced Scorecard. There are no “right” answers, of course. Some of these questions will resonate more than others.

Kaplan assures us that successful executives can consistently improve their performance and preempt serious business problems by stepping back and taking the time to interview themselves (“What to Ask the Person in the Mirror,” Harvard Business Review, December 2006).

Seven Leadership Checkpoints

The seven areas leaders should examine are:

1. Vision and Priorities
2. Managing Time
3. Feedback
4. Succession Planning
5. Evaluation and Alignment
6. Leading Under Stress
7. Staying True to Yourself

Coming up with good answers is far less important than taking the time to ask yourself hard questions and honestly examine your strengths and weaknesses. The questions suggested in each of these leadership areas are intended to spark your thinking. If only a subset of them resonates with you, you may find it more interesting to come up with your own list of questions.

The goal here is to gain valuable insights into how you can stay on track as the business environment constantly changes. You can use this leadership checklist every few months for self-assessment.

Vision and Priorities

Many business leaders fail to ask themselves two important questions:

1. How frequently do I communicate a vision and the priorities for my business?
2. Would my employees, if asked, be able to articulate the vision and priorities?

It is difficult to lead people if they lack a firm grasp of where they’re heading and what’s expected of them. Unfortunately, in the rush of day-to-day activities, otherwise talented leaders fail to communicate sufficiently about the “why” of their companies. They neglect to explain their vision in an easily understood manner, not to mention the steps required of the people who are responsible for driving business.

Employees want to know where a business is heading and the areas on which they need to focus. Many managers either unintentionally under-communicate or fail to articulate specific priorities that would give meaning to their vision. However often you think you discuss vision and strategy, you’re probably not doing it enough or in sufficient detail for your people.

There is a disconnect between you and your team members if they cannot identify how the priorities of the big picture translate to specific, actionable steps.

Ask yourself the following questions:
• How often do I communicate a vision for my business?
• Have I identified and communicated three to five key priorities for achieving this vision?
• If asked, could my employees articulate my vision and priorities?

Managing Time

How are you spending your time?

This question is painfully simple, yet it plays a major role in the execution of your vision and priorities. Time is your most precious asset. Sadly, many leaders cannot accurately answer this question. It’s vital for them to track their time so they can gain a realistic, honest assessment of how their time is allocated. You may be surprised to find a disconnect between your top priorities and how you actually spend your time.

People take their cues from the leader when it comes to time management. Actions, business priorities and your team’s activities must match.

Time allocation may vary, depending on time of year, personnel changes and external factors. Nonetheless, time management must become a conscious decision that fits your vision and priorities. A periodic review of how you invest your time is vital, similar to your approach to reviewing your financial investments.

Ask yourself:
• How am I spending my time? Does this match my key priorities?
• How are my subordinates spending their time? Does this match my business’ key priorities?


Feedback is a two-way street. You must assess how well you give and receive it. Many well-intentioned leaders fail to provide blunt, direct and timely feedback to their subordinates.

This problem occurs for several reasons. Commonly, managers are afraid that criticism will demoralize employees, discussions will become confrontational, or frank conversations will result in their not being liked. This prompts many managers to postpone giving feedback until it’s time for annual performance reviews.

This is a big mistake. People are more receptive to learning about themselves when feedback is offered throughout the year, as situations arise. Employees are more likely to stay at your company if they understand the issues they need to address. This is best done in a straightforward and prompt fashion.

It is much more challenging to get honest feedback from subordinates. You must cultivate a network of junior professionals who are willing to be direct with you. Equally important is what you do with the feedback. If you act on what others tell you, you will improve your own performance, boost trust and keep the feedback loop open.

Ask yourself:
• Do I give people timely and direct feedback to act upon?
• Do I have five or six junior subordinates who will tell me things I may not want to hear—but need to hear?
Succession Planning

Have you picked one or more potential successors?
If you aren’t identifying potential successors and developing their leadership abilities, then you are contributing to business and personal stagnation. There won’t be enough leaders to grow the business.

When challenging and testing people, you must frequently delegate more to them.
This frees you to focus on critical strategic matters facing the business. When people are not being challenged, they may leave to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Planning for succession means your people will improve their performance, you’ll be more successful through them, and you will pave the way for your own promotion. Failure to actively plan for succession means you do not delegate sufficiently and become a decision-making bottleneck.

Ask yourself:
• Have I, at least in my own mind, picked one or more potential successors?
• Am I coaching them and giving them challenging assignments?
• Am I delegating sufficiently?
• Have I become a decision-making bottleneck?

Evaluation and Alignment

Your business is constantly changing. So are your customers. Depending on your industry, this may be rapid—or extremely rapid. If you don’t change along with the business environment, you may become seriously out of alignment. What got you here today won’t necessarily get you there tomorrow. The people you hire, the way you organize them, the economic incentives you offer them and even the tasks you delegate may no longer create the culture and outcomes that are critical to success.

Have you checked to see if the design of your organization still aligns with key success factors for your business? Effective executives regularly seek advice and fresh perspectives from people who are less emotionally invested in their business. This allows them to determine whether historically relevant aspects of the business remain critical to tomorrow’s success.

Ask yourself:
• Does the design of my company still align with key success factors?
• If I had to design my business from scratch, how would I create it? How would it differ from the current design?
• Should I create a task force to answer these questions and make recommendations?

Leading Under Stress

A leader’s actions during stressful times have a profound impact on the firm’s culture and employees’ behaviors. Successful leaders must be aware of their personal stress triggers and reactions. Behaviors should be consistent with beliefs and core values, no matter how severe the stress.

Pressure is a normal part of doing business, but it affects people differently. What may evoke anxiety for one individual may not bother someone else. As a leader, you are watched closely. Emotions are contagious—even more so when they come from the leader.

You must be sufficiently self-aware to recognize the situations that create anxiety for you and manage your behavior to avoid sending counterproductive messages to your people.

Ask yourself:

• Which events create pressure for me?
• How do I behave under pressure?
• What signals do I send to subordinates?
• Are these signals helpful, or do they undermine the success of my business?

Staying True to Yourself

Successful executives develop leadership styles that fit their business needs, as well as their personal beliefs and personality. While many leaders ask themselves about the former, few analyze the latter.

Companies require leaders who can express strongly held views, rather than mimic the party line. Do you hold back for political reasons? Do you encourage your people to express their opinions and make waves, if appropriate?

Don’t tiptoe around significant issues or foster an atmosphere that encourages employees to do so.

Ask yourself:

• Is my leadership style comfortable?
• Does it reflect who I truly am?
• Do I assert myself sufficiently, or have I become tentative?
• Am I too politically correct?
• Does anxiety about my next promotion or bonus cause me to hesitate when I want to express my views?

In the early stages of your career, you may have received plenty of guidance and support from superiors and mentors. As you’ve been promoted, however, you’ve probably encountered fewer sources of honest and useful feedback. By the time mistakes have come to light, it may have been too late to fix them.

Successful leaders continually ask themselves hard questions to stay on track in a world of rapid change. Remember to step back and gain fresh perspectives so you’re prepared with a new game plan when change occurs. If you’re standing too close to the blackboard, you won’t see mistakes until it’s too late.

These questions are designed to ignite serious introspection. They can be even more productive when discussed with a trusted advisor, coach or mentor.

When is the last time you had a leadership checkup?

20 April, 2009

Teaching with Emotional intelligence

By Alan Mortiboys

Alan Mortiboys is course leader for the Postgraduate Certificate in Education programme for academic staff at the University of Central England. He also works independently, providing staff and educational development for professionals in education and healthcare. He is the author of The Emotionally Intelligent Lecturer (SEDA 2002) and Teaching with Emotional Intelligence (Routledge 2005).

Here is a question for you. Think of any occasion when you were a learner that aroused strong feelings in you. What is the word or phrase that captures how you felt at the time?

I have asked this question to hundreds of higher education lecturers in workshops I run on teaching with emotional intelligence. The range of feelings recalled is vast but common responses include ‘angry’, ‘elated’, ‘embarrassed’, ‘frustrated’, ‘humiliated’, ‘relieved’. I ask the question in order to make the point that:

Learning itself is an intrinsically emotional business (Claxton 1999:15).

It follows that if you are responsible for assisting others to learn, then you need to recognise this emotional component of the teaching-learning exchange and to be able to work with it; in short, teachers need to use emotional intelligence. This term was popularised by Daniel Goleman with his 1995 publication, Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. Goleman defined emotional intelligence as the capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships (Goleman 1998: 317).

For me, to use emotional intelligence in teaching means that you need to:
• Be able to recognise and respond to your own feelings of both you and
• those of the learners in the classroom in order to make you both more effective in your respective roles.
• Encourage an emotional state in the learners on your course, which is conducive to learning.

When carrying out teaching observations in a number of contexts in post-16 education, I was constantly reminded that as a teacher, you have three things to offer your learners. Firstly, your subject expertise, derived from your qualifications and/or professional experience. Secondly, you have your expertise in how to teach and in how people learn, which informs your practice. Thirdly you have your emotional intelligence. Too often, I observed that learners were not getting the full benefit of the teacher’s expertise in the subject and in learning and teaching methods because of the teacher’s failure to use emotional intelligence. This resulted in learners wasting energy on negative, unproductive emotions, less satisfaction for the teacher and missed opportunities for enhancing the teaching session.

What does it mean in practice to use emotional intelligence in the classroom? Examples of its use include: acknowledging and discussing with learners the expectations that they bring to a new course or session; acknowledging individual learners within a group; listening fully to learners; developing a critical self-awareness of yourself as a teacher, particularly how you interact with learners.

Using emotional intelligence is a prerequisite for developing a good relationship with a group of learners, which then can be the basis for producing learners who have:
• More engagement,
• Greater motivation,
• A greater readiness to take risks in their learning,
• A more positive approach,
• A readiness to collaborate,
• More creativity and more tenacity.

Barbara Harrell Carson gathered responses of former students who graduated over a period of 26 years from Rollins College in Orlando about teachers who they perceived to be most effective. She found that ‘the single quality the Rollins alumni most frequently associated with effective teachers – more often than brilliance and love of subject and even more often than enthusiasm in the classroom – was a special attitude toward and relationship with students’ (Carson 1996: 14).

When I run workshops on this, participants often say to me, ‘I agree, Alan, but I do this anyway. I could not live my life, or be an effective teacher, without using emotional intelligence’. What I say in response to this is that there is more to be done. We need to do three things:

Firstly, we can rescue emotional intelligence from being an extra quality that a minority of teachers offers to learners. Instead, it should be recognised as an essential component of what all teachers offer.

Secondly, rather than let the use of emotional intelligence just be intuitive, we should be more deliberate in using it, for example in planning.

Thirdly, we should give the use of emotional intelligence as much attention as we give to content and methods; we should give it a greater share of our energy.

The recognition of the role of emotions in learning and teaching in higher education is long overdue. It does not mean that we have to sacrifice a higher education which values and fosters coherent critical argument, independence of thought and academic rigour but that these aspects can be enriched by infusing them with humanity. The neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s explorations of the workings of the brain lead him to the conclusion that: ‘certain aspects of the process of emotion and feeling are indispensable for rationality.’ (Damasio 1996: xv). We need to recognise and work with the power of emotions in learning by teaching with emotional intelligence.

Submitted by: Vishal Jain

18 April, 2009

Developing Thinking Skills for the Future

By C. Radhakrishnan

Discussions about 21st century skills are highly noticeable in today’s educational environment. In a time where students in India are apparently falling behind those of comparable countries, much attention should be given to the need to improve the quality of our students’ thinking. Classroom is one of the best platforms for fostering critical thinking. Frequent use of critical questions can help to inculcate critical thinking culture among students.

Fostering Critical Thinking in the Classroom…

Regularly ask questions that explore student understanding of the content. Questions such as:

1. Focusing on purpose:
What is the purpose of this chapter? What is the principle function of this system?

2. Focusing on question:
What questions are emerging for you as we think our way through this issue? What is the key question in this chapter: What is the key question in this section of the chapter?

3. Focusing on information:
What information did the authors use in coming to these conclusions? How can we check to see if this information is accurate? How was the information obtained?

4. Focusing on inference: What can we logically conclude based on the information presented in this chapter? What conclusions did the authors come to? Were these conclusions justified given the evidence? Is there a more reasonable interpretation of the evidence than the conclusions these “experts” have come to?

5. Focusing on assumptions:
What do these authors take for granted in reasoning through this issue? Should we accept these assumptions or question them?

6. Focusing on concepts:
What are the key concepts presented in the chapter (or in the text as a whole)? How would you elaborate your understanding of the concepts we have been discussing?

7. Focusing on implications:
If we accept or reject the author’s reasoning, what does that commit me to?

8. Focusing on point-of-view: What are the authors focused upon in this chapter, and how are they seeing it? What point of view do you bring to reading? To what extent does one’s point of view reflect the way we interpret problems, questions and issues?

04 April, 2009

TEACHING SOCIAL SCIENCE IN SCHOOLS - NCERT`s New Textbook Initiative By ALEX M GEORGE Independent Researcher & AMMAN MADAN IIT Kanpur

About the Book

The NCERT has been publishing a new generation of social science textbooks since 2005. Teaching Social Science in Schools is a manual that explains the rationale for the new approach and illustrates how the new textbooks can be used effectively. It provides answers to many questions such as:

- What problems are teachers likely to face while teaching with the help of the new textbooks?
- Why not provide straight and direct definitions for children to learn?
- Have such textbooks been used elsewhere in the country?
- What roles are parents expected to play?

Alex M George and Amman Madan come up with jargon-free replies in a friendly, ‘frequently-asked-questions’ format. They take us through the challenges of textbook preparation and offer guidelines for interactive classroom sessions.

This book is a must-have not only for school and college libraries, but would also well adorn the bookshelves of teachers, trainee teachers, parents, students, educationists, designers of school curricula, or any reader interested in the way young people are taught social science in India.

Published:January 2009
Publisher:SAGE India
Price:Rs 195
ISBN 9788178299044