The mornings at the school were grim and somber, with Sister Serene, the principal, in her pristine habit, sweeping, regally, through the corridors to ensure we were in the ‘study hall’: this was a place for students who reached school before the bell rang, to sit and study. It was always good to widen one’s knowledge.

All our teachers were women. The only men on campus were the gardener and the watchman. Teacher selection was based on gender, culture ‘fit’ in addition to credentials.  It must have sure been a painful decision to on-board the male basketball coach. There would have been no women playing basketball, in those days. And, if there were, how could the school allow that female coach to flout the dress code of ‘saree only’?  So, in the best interest of school norms, Mr Tewari, I presume, was hired. It was good not to deviate from the norms.

The examinations were serious business. For the first time in my school years when I was in Grade 4, I came 2nd in class. I remember the self-hate I grappled with.  I was deeply hurt, and felt incompetent. I tried my best to regain my position. It took me another 8 years to come 1st again – this was in the Grade 12 board exams. It was exhilarating.  It was good to win.

Sister Andrea taught us needle-work. It was fit for girls to learn to sew and stitch. I struggled with getting my cross-stitch right. Polishing brassware and cooking food were also part of the curriculum. It was good to do what one was meant to do.

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

We were fined a penalty if we were caught talking in our vernacular languages: that should give an indication of how important it was to learn correct English, along with the ease of fluent speech.  I don’t recall any time set aside for ‘Q&A’ in any of the classes. Questioning was one-way – posed by the teacher and tackled by the student. It was outrageous to speak without being sure of the answer. It kept us on our toes. It ensured we were thorough with the concepts. It also kept us passive and compliant.

It is books that are the key to the wide world; if you can’t do anything else, read all that you can.

The best memory I have about my school library is the warm, woody fragrance of the cupboards abundantly loaded with books. I loved reading short stories which so deftly crafted a world of fantasy I could escape to. I learnt the power of words, the fascinating weave of the right patterns to produce the perfect articulation.

 The best fertilizer is the footsteps of the gardener.

I recall teachers letting down their hair on Children’s Day. It was day on which they put together a cultural program for the students. On other days, they donned the role of the formal instructor, whom the students strove to emulate. At one point in time, my handwriting had started looking exactly like that of my Biology teacher: somewhere deep down, I wanted to flatter her and earn her approval!

Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence.

In Class 9, I was received a gilt-edged bound copy of ‘Wuthering Heights’ as a prize for ‘Best in English’. Being outstanding in studies, sports or any co-curricular event was rewarded. Such recognitions constantly goaded us to excel, beat others and our own past achievements. It was quite a heady feeling.  Looking back, however, I feel sad for those who could not compete in these categories.  Wouldn’t they have experienced loss of esteem? I wish there were other categories like ‘Person voted as the most helpful’ or ‘Neatest School Bag’ and so on..

The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.

My grandmother read ‘Readers Digest’ ‘National Geographic’ and ‘Span’ magazines. I loved picking up GK trivia from those. Being able to score on quizzes at school was very valued. Students who kept augmenting their knowledge were rewarded. It kept us motivated to master concepts, theories and frameworks. 

The school taught me to be resilient, competitive, focused, deep in concepts and obedient. 

As I transitioned to the workplace, I continued to be resilient, competitive, focused, deep in concepts and obedient.  

I notched good wins and carved a special niche at the workplace. However, as I moved up the ladder, I figured I needed to unlearn few of the above and learn new skills. I struggle to adapt all the time, by unlearning what I learnt at school and learning new things.

Some tenets of the new order that I face:-

·         Question authority, don’t just accept it.

·         Be vocal, speak not just to share what you know, but to probe, clarify, seek and explore, as well.

·         Choose which battles you want to win, and which ones you want to let go.

·         Compete less, keep team goals paramount.

As I envision the workplace of 2020, some more new rules of the game are likely to emerge:

According to a popular video on You tube, called ‘Shift Happens’,

“the top 10 ‘in demand’ jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004. We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”

“The amount of technical information is doubling every 2 years. For students starting a four year technical or college degree, this means that half of what they learnt in the first year of study will be outdated by their 3rd year of study. By 2010, it is predicted to double every 72 hours”.

As I send my kids out to school, I agonize over how I can prepare them for the changing times.  When I selected the school for my daughter, here are the 5 simple questions that I asked:-

 1.       How much does this school pay its teachers? How are they rewarded in addition to pay?

2.       What does this school invest in education related ‘R&D’?

3.       What are the processes for keeping ahead of best-practices in the education field?

4.       How are lessons built?

5.       How much do they believe in letting the kid be? In having fun? And how have they built it in their system?

Its time we reviewed the education our children are receiving!  We need to be able to predict the corporate and social fabric of the future and prepare them for it.

As for needlework, it still is a great stress-buster J