Saturday, January 24, 2015


 Dear students of class IX,

OTBA is a great opportunity. You do not have to learn by rot what is there in the text. You take the key message from the text and mix it with your creativity in thinking and writing.  It is open text book, yes.  But when the OTBA text is open in front of you in the exam hall, your mind is also open!  Open text and open mind, wow!  The text is there to open your mind. When the mind is open, the text becomes a context!  That is what OTBA is all about.

What are the contexts?  They are real achievements and challenges in our society.  Achievements like our Mars mission; challenges like lack of cleanliness.  We need to take inspiration from the achievement.  We can also convert the challenges into wonderful opportunities.  OTBA is a friend for all that.  Take care of OTBA, it is your friend. It is not the usual text that leaves you alone in the exam hall.  OTB is your exam hall friend.  If you copy paste the OTB friend in your exam sheet,  s/he gets annoyed. S/he does not like cut and paste.  Give the friend a fresh touch, a creative touch.  Now how do you give your OTBA friend a touch in the exam sheet?  It can be most probably a formal letter to some authorities, a short essay etc.  (for example, the questions given in the OTBA texts)  However, the OTBA questions can also be a letter to the editor of a newspaper, reporting something in a newspaper and things like that. Or it can be about starting an SMS campaign or a facebook campaign or a twitter campaign, an e-poster campaign even.  

In your English class, you have by now learnt how to make a formal letter, how to write a short essay, how to draft a notice etc. Use the format that you have learnt. Additionally, get familiar with the format of a poster which is discussed in the OTBA class and the structure of letter to editor which is there in all newspapers.

There are 2 questions. One on Mars mission. The second, on cleanliness. There will be choice for both.  Each question carries 5 marks. That means 10 marks total. It is easy to score, if you grasp the topic and write in your own language, using key vocabulary and points. You can use the following additional material. The material can be ‘recycled’ into the format of letter, notice, poster, and essay. That is what OTBA sessions are all about.

It is obvious that a handful of OTBA sessions are not sufficient to cover the two topics. Therefore, if you need any additional help, you can approach me any time in person.  With your parents’ permission, you can  get in touch with me at I will reply with the attachment on OTBA. You can even use my number 9446469730, if you have some doubt while you prepare.

Please spend some time with OTBA. S/he is your friend, after all!  Spending time with a friend is rewarding.  It is more than just 10 marks.  It is going to be a part of your ‘hallmark’ in future.  Finally, your mind is the real text book.  OTBA is the key that opens your mind.  Who knows the value of what is stored there in your mind!  Open the store of your mind.  It could be even more precious than the fabulous wealth in the vault of Padmanabha Swami Temple.  Open it, use it.  There is no point in just locking wealth in the vault of your mind.  Unlock it, celebrate it!!

Awaiting, a share of your wealth !!!

M. Gopinath
OTBA Facilitator
Devagiri CMI Public School

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Ms. Kavitha's Rooftop Vegetable Garden

I had a very “fruitful” morning at Ms. Kavitha Baby’s house on 22 December 2014. She invited me to visit her home at 8.00 o’clock in the morning. Yes! You read it right.  8:00 a.m.! It was the perfect time for her to show me and my hubby her impressive vegetable garden at the rooftop of her house when the sun was still out of view.

Ms. Kavitha has around 150 grow bags of assorted vegetables like brinjal, both green and violet, cabbage, tomato, bitter gourd, long gourd, to name a few. I really had no idea that this very demure, soft-spoken and hardworking English teacher of DCMIPS is a garden fairy. She shares this green interest with her husband, A.J. Joy, a senior veterinarian at Balussery, who takes care much of the “dirt-y” work like preparing the manure for fertilizers and mixing it with the soil after every three days.

Ms. Kavitha and her husband jointly spend an average of 2-3 hours every day tending the vegetable garden, and more hours during holidays. Because of their interest and hard work, they have not bought vegetables for the last four years except when they take a break during the monsoon season.  Their rooftop garden provides sufficient vegetables for their family throughout the year. When in abundance, they don’t sell the vegetables but give them away to neighbours and guests like myself. How fortunate! I had my own take home of assorted vegetables! Aside from the veggies, I also got cuttings of some plants from her front yard that could be placed in vases for decorative purposes. 
To top it all, she invited us to join her family for breakfast. Aside from her husband, her two boys were there and her parents, too. She prepared chapathi, tapioca, chemeen curry, green peas curry and tomato-onion-chilly salad. And as for the sweet dish at the end, there was this Christmas vattayappam. Of course, there was tea in elegant cups.

            It is always nice to be able to see the “unofficial” side of the people you work with. It somehow lessens the weight of official work and makes it more enjoyable.

Monday, January 5, 2015




This is just to discuss with the teaching community, not a didactic piece.  Nothing to do with any one school in particular; the discussion hosts all schools, all teachers.

Classroom is one of the most frequently used words in our midst.  Meaningful.  Class and room.   Where 'class' is there,  'room' is natural; where there is 'room', there is 'class' as well.


Class is excellence.  Room is scope.  When there is scope for excellence, the room is classy.

But is the classroom, a venue for an endless 'voice parade' of the teacher?

Scene I
The best 'voice parade' of the teacher invites 'virtual roaming in silent mode'.  The worst invites, a 'noisy guard of honour'.

The voice bath on the one side and the virtual roaming, noisy ritual or noise spree on the other, happen side by side.

Scene II
Whose voice matters more in the class?   Who has learning ownership?

Scene III
Voice of students may create noise in the beginning.  It is risky.  But it is a risk worth taking. Without taking the risk, progress is impossible.  Gradually, the students take learning ownership.  All habits take time to form, specially good habits.

Scene IV
Do I try to discretely transfer learning ownership to students?  Not really, because I do not want my class to be noisy.

Scene V
Catch 22.  Can I take the risk? I think I should.

Scene VI
Teacher's voice is a good 'starter;  to invite the 'main course'.  Who serves the main course?  Main course can be collaborative, with the involvement of  the teacher and students and even with cross-disciplinary learning.  

Scene VII
Today, peer learning is increasingly being accepted as one the best ways of learning.  In every class, there is at least one student each, with exceptional teaching skills in at least one subject.  I have noticed that the majority of the students appreciate peer teaching.  When students teach, it helps construction of knowledge whereas traditional teaching is just instruction.

Scene VIII
All text books need some anti-aging creme.  Media is the best anti-aging creme available.  The easiest to use in the class is a student newspaper like The Hindu student edition.  It fits into most of the subject texts at several touch points of the syllabii.  What is a genuine text book.  The one that facilitates the right context for learning. But, in reality, is that the case?

Scene IX
When all class room roads lead to pre-cooked questions & answers,  all answers taste stale.  We need questions that capture the imagination of the students.  Then the question bank deals in creativity.  Otherwise, it becomes a 'questionable' bank.   The writing on the wall reads things like ASL, PSA and OTBA.  More will come, for sure.  All aimed at learning ownership of students.

Scene X
Well, the syllabus.  Prescribed text. Portion.  Time.    Ok......  What about CBSE classes upto VIII?  Plenty of legroom for constructive changes.

Charity begins at home; home is the question paper.  Shall we?

Rest is restlessness.