Friday, September 14, 2018

Art and speech

The room with a view, a mug with a message....Ideas worth drinking! Perfect place to learn
My main mission has always been that Prisha should get as independent as she can. Its been exhausting trying to constantly drill many things together. At times I knew why and at times I just pushed it. The many denials, wailing, anger, tears etc just didn't affect me. All the while I was trying to make sure she gets exposed to as much as she can given the situation and limitations.
     At NJIS, she seems to settle pretty well. This year she just has 4 other students in class. At times I am ennerved then I calm myself down thinking of positive thought. There is a reason she is here and destiny shall pave her path. This school she is getting exposed to art and public speaking. So I am all out to use these for her. The teachers are fantastic. Her public speech teacher is a TED talk speaker and who better can give her tips on public speaking than her! After me she has to start these talks and has to inspire parents, specally the mothers to work with their kids! Ms. Ilonka is an amzing teacher with so much to offer! So when I heard she is holding "art for terified kids" I enrolled her for that without getting into details as I know she would give a huge extention to art besides just draw and paint. True....that is so right!! Prisha and I went in yesterday and we realize that this is one of the best things to happen to us! I walked into her class to observe and I became her student! Those 30 mins with her taught me so much more. I learnt to visualize art through writing and quotes. They just spoke to my soul and before I realized I was actually painting! After years of sitting at home and trying to do various things, this was a wonderful extention of my life! As Ilonka preped up for the class, Prisha played the piano....another thing that we wanted to learn and see how she got to play it! The whole ambiance was amazing! Art and music is the best combination anyways!Prisha and I painted and had such a good time finding ourselves through those writings.
Public speaking classes

     Today Prisha had her public speaking class, and I thought of sitting in as a learner. I feel they would help me guide Prisha at home and also it would help me in my speeches as well. The time just flew and it was wonderful to find my confidence there. All the speeches done in the past have given me a voice thats not afraid to come out in the open. The small nuances and essentials made me feel quite at home. I saw Prisha answering quite a few things with confidence. It gave me a small eye view of what she does in her classrooms and if she is really involved in the conversations with the teachers I am so happy that this part of learning shall open so many doors for Prisha and help her build her future in a positive way.
    I am happy to be there more as a learner myself with Ilonka. There is no age to learn and am so happy to be a student and be learning alongside my daughter. She has been a big turning point in my life and she gave me a chance to learn so much without having to read books. My silver greys are growing yet my mind keeps me wanting to learn as a little student. After all there are so many wise people in the world whose knowledge can benefit my thinking process and perhaps help me to extend that to others. I am grateful each day for these blessings. After all its moments like these that make you better people with more good things to add in life. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

My narrative ...a speaker now

UNESA Surabaya

    My journey with Prisha has been a very arduous one. All kinds of ups and downs have made it enriching yet exhausting as well. Perhaps coz I got too overinvolved and barely took time off for myself anywhere. Everything was around her and the rest of the time went by in looking after my family. Shopping, enjoying time for myself came much later once she seemed settled in her schooling and started to work by herself. Yet I have to stand around as a counselor, nurse, doctor, guide and support at all times. Our moves have been quite a big culprit for her stress and insecuroties. Lack of friendships due to our moves have made her dependent on me. Yet in whatever time I could steal I did try to do what I could. I baked, got the Indians together for lunches to have a support group, volunteering at schools and trying to keep active with my creative skills of phtography, sketching etc.

    Yet I realized that what really kept me most excited was reaching out and sharing my story everywhere. I felt it was my duty to tell my story for others to be aware and perhaps be able to help someone who seeks help. I blogged, wrote on various forums and started to give talks at schools and various public forums by invite. It all started when she was 6 and I went to a deaf school in Delhi and gave my first talk in front of an audience of 200 or so consisting of deaf students, teachers, volunteers from schools. It was a pretty moving experience when few kids wanted to touch me to see if I was real and how lucky was Prisha to have a mother who strived to make her speak. Soon after I went to a German school to talk about India and I realized that it was something I truly enjoyed and could speak from my heart. I didn't need a script really. My various conversations with new parents of deaf kids gave me a confidence slowlyy but steadily. I started to go to classrooms in Prisha's school to make them aware about deafness. I realized how the community was open and welcoming. Soon I was doing it as a regular in her classrooms and then that got extended when I became a substitute teacher at Frankfurt International School, Oberursel. My talks in classrooms became a big bridge for Prisha as the kids started to accept her and applauded her for being so strong.
Consulate General of India, Frankfurt

    My first big step was being invited by the President of Ladies club to the Indian Consulate in Frankfurt. To address the Consulate General Mr. Raveesh Kumar himself along with few of his people and an entire ladies group headed by Mrs Ranjana Raveesh was a big confidence booster. Being accepted and encouraged by this I decided to do more awareness programs everywhere I went.

    My move to Jakarta after Germany was a tough one. Yet before I fell into complacencey, I decided to hold talks in places I could. Jakarta was very welcoming and accepting in hearing my voice. Schools like Ishine, Ismile, Aluna, Women forums like High Tea, IWA, deaf community at the church and many others soon invited me to share, help and connect up. It helped me soon to be invited to International seminar by commissioner of child protection to her events as a speaker regularly. Being a part of a community of elite keynote speakers from renowned universities and government organizations helped me build my confidence. Looking at me, Prisha too developed a confidence to be able to talk on disabilties awareness and gave 2 speeches at her own school. It made me believe in what I do to get a lot of love and respect from the community around.
Lollikids, Jakarta

    Last year has gone by in initiating a volunteer group for a special school and then move on to met other schoos where we could support them in ways possible. Jakarta isn't an easy place though to make changes. Everyone has a pace and its not easy to move things. Yet my little efforts are now being paid off in different ways. I am talking on various topics besides just deafness. I was asked to step in and talk on role of early intervention in kids for preschools like Lollikids and Ismile. They wanted to hear a parent"s perspective and how it changed my life. Connecting with teachers and parents has been an enriching experience for me.
   My biggest moment of happiness came in when the director from Ministry of education, special needs invited me to be a part of her big seminar at Jogja in November. She felt I was the right voice to address 800 odd people. I am very excited and am happily preparing for that. In the meantime an invite from state university UNESA, Surabaya came my way.
    It was the happiest moment as in 25 years of being home, I was on an all expense paid trip to be a part of an Internatioanl seminar! With 3 other speakers from Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan, it was a very humbling experience. To be appreciated and applauded by 200 odd audiences, it made my belief stronger that if we believe in our work and persistantly work, we could acually make a difference in our lives and of those around us. Its been 12 years of sharing my work and voice and to be rewarded by this was amazing. I am now looking forward to my two upcoming talks at international events where Prisha shall be performing as well. Its been an amazing journey so far and I am grateful that I documented my journey and I hence got a chance to share my story on a US based website as well. These little acknowledgements and rewards have been my motivation besides seeing happy parents whose kids benefited with my inputs. 25 Talks and counting!! Isn't that how we can change our narrative? Yes I changed talk at a time!

Femina 2008, January

Friday, March 30, 2018

The first Parent teacher conference

Class field trip
Today was the first of our parent teacher conference at NJIS. I am not one of those mums who would run after marks/grades as much as I see the efforts that have been put into getting them. I live with that thought in mind that each child has their abilities and they cannot be forced to perform beyond an extent in certain areas. I was pretty excited about seeing how Prisha has done so far knowing that its her new school, new system of education and new subjects. To add to it the teachers come from various countries across the world with different thinking and accents. The 3 month trial and work would help me decide if this school works for her. I have seen her less stressed and is very excited about going to her school. Other than waking up at 5:30 am each morning, her complaints are barely there. Weekends are naturally much awaited but other than that, she seems to be fine at school. I am also able to divert my mind and energy into a bigger cause due to this.
     We started with Art and the teacher was very supportive and said since her grades are all A+, he had nothing to add. He loves her attitude to learn, is settled and is like a sponge, he is happy to have her each day after school. He is planning a field trip to the art market close by and I am so excited about going with him. The PE teacher too had good things to say but yes being inactive in that area for 3 years has got her to lag behind but he thinks she is progressing well. The teacher is supportive and understanding and we are so happy to have him teacher her.
     Meeting the counselor at school was very lovely. She said we had a great child, who is eager to learn, settled well and is liked by everyone in general. She was happy that we support her in many ways and did say I was a different kind of mum , lol. She said in the world of parents seeking only achedemics, she is ahppy to see us supporting her every move. So thankfully we had nothing but good things to talk.
     Meeting her Bahasa teacher was great. Prisha came running in with an exciting exchange of greetings. She beamed as we walked in and appluded us for having a good, artisti and happy child who learnt well and she in fact felt that Prisha's ideas in class for activities etc were great. It helped her a lot as well. She offered us a chance for Prisha to learn an Indonesian dance and perform for Indnesian day as she loved her dance at school! We jumped at it! It was great to see the happiness on her face and we can't wait to see how Prisha would do that!.
     The social science teacher was very happy to have us talk about her. She felt Prisha was good in a team as a good player and added her inputs well. She said her attitude to learning, her concentration and promptness with homework etc really made her an outstanding kid. She felt Prisha was excited about learning new things and is very sincere besides being always chirpy! I rememebered how Prisha was always left out at the old school and we just wished to hear anything good where she was part of a group without issues. Those years we only looked for support and here the teacher said she supported other kids when needed! I just felt at peace coz I know my child well. How sad that they didn't see her this part due to their own incapability.
    Advisory is new to us and when we sat down to talk....he said.....Prisha is going to be a change in the world!! I was stunned and kept listening. He said she is extremly positive and hence is a positive influence on her class. She is inspiring and other kids can learn a lot from her! He added she was an example of sorts and they all can learn a lot from her. He addd that he would love if his daughter could have prisha as her friend!! I was overwhelmed as till now we were hoping she can have friends and here a teacher wanted Prisha to be his daughter's friend. You just start to be grateful. He said she had such qualities and strengths with which she was managing her self and her life and these qualities could be brought out and used on other kids! Her dance and speech were a motivation for other kids as not many kids come forward at this age. So her coming out has opened doors for others as well! She is self motivated and finds ways to cope with life and that's what education is truly all about! She has it in her to do things for her. Despite limitations she has survival skills that are great. He was amazed to hear how profoundly deaf she is and yet she does what she does and he is happy to have Prisha under him. He told Prisha she is lucky to have a mum like It just felt so overwhelming and gratifying. He took our blog name and said he would love to share it with his friends. He told us such lovely things and said go ahead and change the world both of you! After facing 2.5 years of the nonsense....this was such a validation of what we believe in!
    English and Maths were wonderful as well and they were very open to helping Prisha in many ways besides the regular class work. Her sincerity and maturity was appreciated and they said they would be happy to record things on phone so she can hear later as well. She needs to be challeneged in Maths as she found she could do more and he was happy to support. English teacher was happy to make extra worksheets as well in areas she needs support.
NJIS got my confidence back!
     Music was one area she was very afraid of. The teacher is very strict and most kids run from that class. Prisha has issues singing and kids often look at her when she does sing. The keyboard hasn't been played yet at school and hence the only thing we could think was negative feedback. As we enetered, she came to greet us and we froze expecting criticism. But what awaited was a big huge grin and a pat on her for her dance performance!! She parised her efforts and said since she performed, others can get inspired now and come to dance on stage as well. being a small school, we find less participation. She loved her costume, her rhythm and the whole show! In fact she went forward and hugged Prisha much to her surprize and I could only grin! How hard we had worked for years for such a thing! We struggled to get anything done in the previous school, her lines were cut, she was discouraged from and Indian dance saying the school prefers western!! Here everyone was waiting to see Bollywood. What came as a really big surprise was... she said she would help Prisha do a trial for singing by closing a ear. She wanted to do trials where her hearing aid would be removed and one ear closed so that she can then hear her own voice and see where Prisha was going herself! I was overwhelmed. Its very heartening to know that our hard work and belief and never say never attitude found belief in her. Her speech on stage and her dance made such an impact on everyone to show how hard working and sincere she is and we are glad its being recognized.
     As the 3 hours conference ended I sat in the car still taking in what transpired at school. The flashback of the past years, the struggles at each school, the frustrations each day of finding our way, the constant efforts made to build a rapport with each teacher despite their own ways, the depressions of dead ends, the bullying, the uncoopertaive world around, the people who jeered and hurt us and endless search for the atmosphere where she is accepted with what she is....finally found all that in NJIS ! They believe in her, they support her and they give her a chance....all things may not yet be perfect yet but after all that we have gone through in various schools, she turned out stronger and has made a personality which is appreciated and we are grateful for all that we have here. What one school can do not just for a child but for an entire family! Each teacher appreciated her and me for giving her the right support. It felt good to be recognized by teachers as a great mum who changed her life and each time I said she is the one who made me! She is mature and very strong and our partnership as mum and daughter has only matured over the years. I still yell, correct, cajole, advise besides stressing her, questioning her, listening, pushing and counseling. My role in her life is still long way to go. But I don't have to work as much. I have made her self motivated, driven and positive with all my firm behavior, never giving in to tantrums in early years.
      Such times I rememeber ma'am Hudlikar saying many times....your deaf child will give you many more moments of joy and happiness than you could ever dream of. Just keep working with them and soon they would bring you joy! All those years are bearing fruits in the school here. We still toil, fret, fume and frustrate but for such moments of joy and happiness its all worth it. Each achievement has much more meaning as they come with many more hours of sweat, tears and heartaches. We have much more to achieve as we embark on the next part of the school year. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Bollywood moves at school

 Being into creative arts myself I always dreamt of a little girl who would be into all kinds of creative fact I had this dream for both my kids and I saw it equally in both my kids. Yet as boys will be boys, he being good yet doubted himself and eventually have left being a "nag" but in the heart of hearts....the dream lives on. I wait for him to get back into it some day. Yet being a girl child, Prisha loves the dressing, the moves, groves, arty stuff and all things creative. I also have spent her early years teaching her to speak with creativity being a base. Hence she never got bored and was very excited about little things. She picked up a lot quickly.
    Having doubts about speech in the initial years was normal with a deaf child. Yet I always dreamt that my kids would sing as well as I was heavily into singing in my growing up years. So it was a blow to hear that all my singing in the 1st year of her birth literally fell on 'deaf ears' ! Yet I didn't give up that dream and while she did her job in the washroom, I would sing various notes in music with expressions to help her differentiate between the notes.Soon we were singing away our daily sentences and she copied me like a monkey! It was fun time therapy with her doing exactly what I did. Soon started her on dancing with the TV on....looking at all the hindi Bollywood dances. Encouraging her with no idea of how much she was picking up. I feel at times it good to be ignorant and keep walking your belief. She would dance to "Kajrare kajrare" of Aishwarya Rai and I would like it. It kept us busy as well plus the destressing factor.
Touch the sky!!
    Moving to Germany gave her a chance to take part in the International festivals. She performed on all the Indian dances along with her gang of girls. She worked very hard on it and as I had worked early on her in terms of rhythm, she was moving well on the beats.
    She loves Bollywood and hence when here in Jakarta, we got a chance, she would take part in dances. Yet she wasn't as encouraged as they felt the kids prefer the Hip Hop style and modern dances!! She still kept doing where she could manage. Her love for Bollywood made her feel the need to keep pining for a chance. Her aunt would encourage her by sending her beautifully stitched Indian dresses which she loved to show off!

Go for it my girl!!
     Moving mid term in NJIS, we soon realized she had a chance to perform in the Talent show! She was very sure she wanted to do Bollywood! A great chance to wear her lovely clothes. The Indian school suffocated her desires sadly and its ironical the multicultural school was so excited! So many kids and teachers said they can't wait to see her dress and dance in Bollywood style. Her music teacher even said she could dress secretly and turn up on stage to surprise the school. So we were all set and ready to perform. She suddenly looked grown up and all ready to move! She had been sick with the stomach bug all week and was very weak, yet her desire to perform was so strong that she kept all her sickness aside. I was afraid she might have a black out with barely any food for over a week, yet we focused on her dance.
     She watched Youtube for the latest dance Ghoomar and since time was short, she decided to put two together so that she is able to do a 3 min performance without issues. The later half was a dance she had done earlier. I loved the enthusiasm and the way she downloaded an app and found a perfect way to make the music flawless!
It matters to be acknowledged.

     On stage, she did a good job and we heard the crowd cheering for her. It was so heart warming to see each teacher, many parents and kids flocking to her and complimenting! Few knew of her disability and hence they were pretty baffled about it! As she basked in all the glory....she moved to the elevator to go back, her classmates were waiting there as well. They all cheered her and she was thrilled. It was perhaps the first time she found acceptance in class that made her extremely happy. They cooperated in taking pictures with her and she felt so thrilled. Its very important for everyone feel accepted and this acceptance works as a boost for confidence in us. I saw how this change of school and performance made her happy. My friends who have seen her dark phase say she looks happier and face is clearing up. She looks happier and calmer and it makes me grateful for what it is now. We hope to soon perform again at school and help her blossom more. She has been through a lot since her birth and we as family can only support and help her in her journey which isn't easy. Specially being global citizens, life does come with a price!
The link to her dance is Here !

Thursday, March 15, 2018


Something that we never thought would happen

Her art flourishes after years
      For many certificates earned are a way of life, for few they are expected and earned but for us.....its a milestone each time. Never thought we could come so far. Moving to this school has given a platform for things she never would have learnt. They are encouraging her in places where we thought she never would get a chance. Her learning speech was one of the biggest mission of our lives. But never thought of competitions. We wanted her to pursue art, but we found no place since 2.5 years. She barely touched anything and if she did, it was only coz I would be pushing her into it.Hence these two hold a very special place in our hearts. For many the feeling can not be understood, speech and skills are taken for granted. For us, it was like climbing steep mountains but patience and belief in ourselves kept us on track and today God has given us a direction where she is loving the foundation. Her certificate for speech I held with tears and its perhaps the most treasured one and shall remain so. This art report in 2 months gives me so much happiness. Her previous school had no place for art in the time she was there. Her teacher here encourages her and I am so thrilled to see the approach he has and the gentle nudge but a definite one he gives. I get teary when I see her work progressing and her portfolio has started to show up. She is confident and takes up difficult projects and I am glad the school is supportive. Her head of school had such good things to say for her and I can't be more grateful.
   I know more certificates would come...but these two shall hold a special place in our heart forever. She makes us grateful for all that she is and as her parents every struggle is worth it all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A new direction...INCLUSION

A great start with Her name to begin with...Goddess of learning!
I walked into the office of the school as I had a meeting with the school head. Wondering what to expect as I just had a brief idea based our little conversations we had recently. After the initial pleasantries he spoke about the project that supported my volunteer work at the disabilty center in Jakarta. He asked me to write the name on the white board as being an American, remebering an Indian name could be challenging. I went up to write " Saraswati"....explained to him that it means the Goddess for learning....very appropriate for a center!
Disabilities should find inclusiveness and acceptance as its a huge part of society. As years are going by, more new disabilities are finding space and we are at a point where we can no longer close our eyes to it. Inclusiveness not only helps the child but also their parents as they feel they are being heard and not just kept out. I have to see my vision finding a place. Its been a small cause close to my heart since Prisha's deafness. Finding ourselves as the "odd ones out" most times , I feel the pain of parents who are seeking a place for their kids and the general empathy lacking in society about disabilities due to lack of awareness. Hence I have been very verbal about it in every it seminars, forums, schools or even communities around me. The bubble that many live in, there is little space for such causes and hence they need to know and feel as human as that creates a more aware society and a better world.
       Inclusion and acceptance of disabilities and over and above empathy for them in the heart of society is on my mind. I have seen and faced how no one understands how much it means to be respected for what you are and are going through. It means even more when you are made to feel at home and included in society. They don’t need pity and sympathy. Just acceptance, inclusion with few adjustments and be seen as human as they themselves are. Hence every place I am at I end up talking about the center I have come across. Multiple disabilities yet all are together and are happy kids. They need to be stepping out into a bigger world and even if a few are integrated...its a step forward. Its about one hand at a time.
     The head of the school has agreed to take a few students and a teacher in 2 weeks and visit the disability school and take it up as a project for learning for the students. I shall be coordinating between the schools! I am so excited about this as its a kind of dream come true! Its just not about my dream for myself but for a few kids who deserve a bit more opportunities in the world outside. Its humbling and very fulfilling and I hope I can handle this. The volunteer group for mums was formed just few weeks ago and is already having many members and meet ups and work is being done as and when needed. This is the next big step! I am hoping that this dream is fulfilled and I can see few kids soon move from the center to a normal school through collaborative work. As I scribbled on the board....I felt as if there was a divine intervention. What a way to start !! Writing the name of goddess of learning on a absolutely clean white board does indicate something!
     Meanwhile I am happy to keep putting my thinking cap, do some leg work, talk to few people around and get few things rolling for a larger purpose in life! Isn't that what we are looking at or should be aiming at? Beyond myself and out there holding one hand at a time! I shall update as the days go!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

New school

1st day at school
  Prisha started her new school at NJIS where they follow the Advanced Placement which is the US curriculum. It just happened I feel as earlier while moving to IB school here in Jakarta, we had done enough research to make sure she finishes with IB. But looking at her focus on Art we had got encouraged to move her to this school. A dear friend in India encouraged us as her son is in US and he felt it would help Prisha enjoy what she loves better as she can choose her subjects early in life. A dear friend and my constant support in the US has been hearing my every struggle and we decided that perhaps this is the plan from above.
    Her first day at school had her excited yet very nervous. Starting afresh isn't easy as you have to face a whole new bunch of new faces and adjust with them. Carrying the bagggage of GMIS with us was a lot too. She has learnt to be more cautious about people. Its interesting to note that we both have learnt to read people very well. She reads eyes, faces, body language and is able to say what could be going inside of the person's head. In a way its great and some days I am afraid as she looks at me and I feel she has seen my soul. As a mum I am trying hard to mask my feelings a lot. I can't hurt my kids with my fears and make them weak.
    The teachers were informed about her condition and the kids were prepared for her. She was welcomed warmly in class and for the first time in 2.5 years she was sharing a table with a bunch of kids. They all sat and included her in everything they did. I was waiting for her messages from school yet there were hardly any. Mum's heart palpitates and at the end of the day I went to pick her up. She
With the head of the school
stood there beaming and we drove back home. She was happy and for the first time in a long time I saw no lines of stress on her face. She did find the studies different and having joined mid session it was likely to happen. The first two days went very well and it was a relief to see her happy. New uniform and style of studies was exciting. There were a lot of firsts! She did PE after a long gap, she was doing art too, she was having friends to support.....her first in 2.5 years! She related an incident when she disliked it when she could not hear what a boy said in class to her and she looked up confused and asked him to repeat and he said it was ok and was going to move on. A girl immediately told him to just simply repeat instead of walking away. For the first time someone was standing up for her !!! She was so thrilled. She realized the friendliness in school. The teachers were smiling and cheering always. The kids were inclusive though they had their class mates as friends. Being a small class she did find it difficult initially, she missed the cheer and bounce of classroom she has been used to. But she was happier with less noise and atmosphere of the class. She did feel she had to get used to the new teachers and their accents but she added that a week....and she would get them. I know her well and know how hard she works, so no doubts in mind on that.
    She has 4 days a week after school activity with art, dance and maths. She enjoys being there. The long hours from 7:30 to 4 seem to be just fine. She enjoys her school and is getting used to the slower pace. The teachers are observing her and feel she is smart and very focused. Her English assessment was done in class and she felt she is excellent with her concentration and has the best hearing in class!! Her listening skills are good as she knows she needs to concentrate a lot more than others. She loves studing and does her homework which is well spaced out.
     She was informed in class that there would be speech competition and anyone could participate. She promptly informed me and wanted to do it. I was excited and her teachers were so thrilled. They hugged her and cheered. This just boosted her spirits! What more does a child want? The other day there were earthquakes and she was very nervous. The school was evacuated and being her first time and new school she was nervous and shivering. She informed me later that every teacher was asking her if she was ok and were very caring. As the school was left early and I wasn't aware and would have taken an hour to reach....the head of the school and his wife gave her company through out the hour. This shows the value for human emotions and fears and its all that we parents need.It made us feel secure as well. For her birthday I had baked Onion tarts and all her teachers were so happy and grateful. Their little extra praise and kind words made her feel happy and excited. Is it too much to ask? Is it so difficult? It just made our life so comfortable. Though its a lot of work for me to travel 1.5-2 hours each day to pick her up, seeing her less stressed and happier makes me want to do it. Its tiring but she is happy and makes me happy too. She has less stress, fewer pimples and fewer tummy aches. Life for now seems easier for her and we have to just wait and see how this chnage is, or else its going to be another journey to find a newer place which aids her growth. Few more years and this shall be all behind us. As of now....we are happy we are an NJIS family!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Choosing a new school

Find my ART
  Prisha moving schools has always been more concerning keeping in mind our needs for her. We are not over protective and over bearing parents yet we have certain things that need to be in place. having seen 2.5 years in this school we knew it was time to move on further. We are not new to moving schools. Having had two kids and with a age gap of 7.5 years between them has given us a bigger chance of a couple more.
    A dear friend suggested this new school to me one night as we caught up over a sombre mood. I was pretty low and out and needed some emotional support specially from some one who knows what Jakarta life is all about. At times we parents who have differently abled kids close ourselves and not discuss much with others as we are tired of being judged, being labeled as difficult parents, "always having problems unnecessarily" parents or explaining constantly. Its so much easier to be less hurt that way than being avoided or whispered about. She suggested saying it was a small school with fewer kids in each class and was an Advanced Placement curriculum. It sounded good from what she said but as always the fears were high. Moving school meant moving a home as well plus again the whole circle of explanation and adjustment at school. Every school has its set of issues as well.Yet I planned to go visit it.
    I walked in and spoke to the Vice principal and then was taken around the school. The place looked more like home, smaller set up and carpeted floors and each class had 4-5 students. Two years are combined as well. As I walked confused and a bit lost, I met the Media and film making subject teacher. She was very welcoming and I realized she was German! A bond was created and hearing my story, she had tears and hugged me many times. She felt I should look around be comfortable and only then take the decision. But its not as easy.....isn't it. Every school shows only good stuff to sell itself and you only know about issues once you enter it as a regular. I met the counselor also a German and we talked an hour about us. Decision wasn't easy but knowing well that the old school wasn't even a choice I was open to it. JIS ....another International school and the most expensive and talked about was the other end. My choice were also bound by the fact that my home was under lease till July and hence could not move to the other end of the city as well now. Staying in the old school wasn't at a choice I kept in my mind no matter what. Also after discussing with many people, I realized handling issues in a smaller school was much easier than a large one. Groups in classes of various communities isn't easy to break either. Challenges were so many and it can bog your morale down. Few supportive hands who help you through give you courage to take the already "no other choice" decision. Reconciled with the facts of life and believed in the larger good that perhaps destiny was showing was the only way to go. Too many coincidences in those 3 hours at school which would take 10 minutes to just walk through end to end.
    Meeting the two German teachers, gave me a kind of solace. As I walked to the staff room I met the English teacher who would teacher as well. And .....he had taught in a deaf school and was into speech therapy !!! That gave me a pep up to my confused spirits. I decided to also move to the art room as a preference as Prisha had lost precious 2.5 years of art and we missed it too much. The teacher was from the US and showed me his work. It just made me feel so good to see what she could be learning and how much she would love it. He was inspiring and very encouraging. I showed him her art work which we kept alive at home in the little time to keep ourselves afloat from the deep stress we had been into. He was impressed and said the kind of work we are doing is what his aim is to teach his kids. The techniques and stuff we did ....she was at an advanced level of art! It warmed my heart and I thought of Joni....our most inspiring teacher at FIS, Germany. No one could possibly replace her and yet this was a good option.
Sharing space with the school Heads

    I came back home positive and yet confused. Spoke to Prisha and my husband and we decided to go and see the school as family again. We researched about the AP system and stopped over thinking. Millions have gone through various curriculums and we have to have faith in ourselves and above all our child. My son in Nederlands worries about us yet suddenly I realize he is like one of the adults and we 3 should focus on Prisha now. It is a very difficult and nerve wreaking experience. International communities aren't easy to work with. I realize though that the West is very open towards disabilties and it would be right for her to be where she isn't judged and isolated. The western world would embrace her much better. Having move 3 countries, 5 schools and 3rd international school in her life span of 13 years was quite overwhelming already. She already had been through a lot. 4th International school, different curriculum...hmmm....had to think of her emotional state. I feel I have turned into a good face reader and a psychologist. I can read body language and its easy for me to read people and know how they would react or what is in their mind very well.....thanks to being an observer all my life being a quiet person in early years and being such a hands on person as well. Last few years having counseled so many mums and kids besides my own has made me non judgmental, resilient and sensitive to hurt of others. How could I not think of my own? Yet I also know at the moment the decision we take may look different down the years and I should not kill myself for it. Prisha is a survivor and a fighter with great spirit. The bond I have with my kids give me immense strength as they know their mum shall always place their needs over hers. She has never ever blamed or been upset with how ever I treated her for her growth. I have sat with them and given them reasons for my actions and hence could take this forward with more confidence.
    We met the school head and what I thought was nice was ...."why make it harder".....she had it hard all her life and she needed some respite. We met a few subject teachers and my husband saw the technical parts of it all. The books, study material etc which goes above my head. As we were convinced and were walking back I chanced upon a bunch of 9,10 graders....I ran to quickly meet them. They are the best to tell us! When I named our old school they pulled one young boy out who had moved from the very school she was in. He stammered and hence the kids bullied him a lot there as well. He had low self esteem and after moving here , he had improved in just 3 months. His grades got better,he got better at speech, English improved and stammering reduced. After our interactions we decided we should give it a go ahead.
       Prisha was nervous, naturally so.....and so were we but with the choices we had and support from few experiences of friends we decided to let her take trial classes. She went in two days and really loved it. Kids were friendly, supportive and repeated when she asked for help. There were 7 students in all and teachers were helpful and she loved their openness. Of course she would take time to be less fearful which she acquired from her old school , we knew. But the fact she returned happy and relaxed talking good things was good. She was confused and was hanging between a known and an unknown devil. I asked her to list 5 good and 5 not so good about both schools. To her old school she just said she had one good thing....her English teacher Ms. Shalja who had warmed up to her this year. The choice was easy then. We decided to go ahead with our decision. I was ready to do the hand holding and be the counselor on call 24*7 as always for her and help in smooth transition. Having mentored kids in International school of Duesseldorf and support them through transitioning helped me understand the stress they go through in moving countries and schools. And she has moved many , this being her 4th in 7 years!
    Being a mum can make you an expert in many professions in one anyways and if you are a sensitive mum and have a special need end up having an edge. Having seen a big picture in the moves last few years has made me a more empathetic person towards parents with special needs kids. Meeting people from international communities, interacting, teaching and also giving my many talks into international forums changes your entire perspective of life. The 1 year of substitute teaching experience in International school in Germany has given me insights which I think no book would have taught me. Life is the best teacher and the journey is the best book possible. I have learnt to be patient, resilient, non judgmental and learnt to give space to others and myself. Work hard and give your best is what I do and teach my kids as well. Hence decided to move her to the new school NJIS as it is called, a part of JIS in the past and school around for 25 years.....North Jakarta Intercultural school ! Here we come. Lets see what you have for us!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Lessons Prisha learnt

The lessons of life learnt together
Nothing in life comes and just leaves. It gives us experiences and lessons to learn from. Its up to us to just choose to go through them and let go or learn, imbibe and make changes accordingly in ourselves and move forward. These experiences are like blueprints to turn to when we are faced with similar or contrasting situations. 2.5 years at this school also were like that. Most important lessons of life learnt. Some scarred us for life and few just showed us our resilience, will power to fight just not the disability we faced but also the strength we had in us face not just as a family but also to see how Prisha changes with these difficult situations.
     It was an experience not just year or month wise but weekly, daily, hourly and at times every minute coz anything could happen anytime and it would just freak my life out. I was holding my phone like my baby while she was away at school. The phone was my only connection to her as she lived through a very hostile, isolating and negative atmosphere. The sounds of the messages gave me creeps and if they dropped faster, I would panic and run to check my messages. I have chatted her out of situations and complications and just kept going and hoping things would some day would be ok. But we learnt to be in touch and be available to her all the time. My talks, outings etc were all dependent on her. I went nowhere unless I was sure it was ok. It limited us as a family, got us insecure, frustrated, angry, isolated and we trusted no one. We questioned everyone around us and of course we needed help emotionally, psychologically and physically.
     Having said that, Prisha grew a lot in the time. She became extremely resilient and could read people and their actions. She knew what was going on in their heads. Her natural instincts were stronger, she became silent and needed fewer friends. She stopped trusting everyone and seemed to look beyond what they said. She knew that most people may seem sweet on the face but they were pretty nasty behind. She learnt that the world isn't the easiest place to be in and we need to be emotionally stronger to deal with bullies of all kinds. The adults are no less than kids when it comes to bullying. Few teachers smiled yet they hid an agenda at times. They said something yet meant and did something else. Hence when few were genuinely nice, she took times to break her barrier and once she did, she did exceedingly well in the subject. We knew her marks were directly proportional to the treatment she received at school.

     Prisha also learnt to reply back if needed be, though she just can't be rude. Yet she was learning and we felt that before she got any more negative and scarred, we move her out from the environment. I admire her resilience and will power which I never saw before. She became stronger and worked much harder. She fought her headaches caused by a noisy class and uncaring behaviour of students and teachers. She became a better planner with her school work as she did everything on her own. She wanted to prove to herself and everyone that she is as normal as anyone. She felt responsible for everything around her and managed despite odds. She faced dislike and hateful looks by people by herself and came home a little broken yet got back on her feet next day again. Her spirit was unbreakable. People don't understand that they are not breaking her but showing who they truly are. No one could take away her spirit instead they only strengthened her belief in herself and become even stronger. She became more empathetic and caring and stood for a couple of people who were shy or had issues with self esteem. Till date she is in touch with them and she tries to be as caring as she can be. She managed her 2.5 years with dignity and self respect. People who tried to pull her down have no idea how thankful we are to them as they showed us what a beautiful human being we have with us. She cares for the disadvantaged much more, she is loving and caring more than ever. She would write on her little white board her messages to pep herself each day. The insight she got from this time made her write deep thoughts that cropped in her head. She started to bring those out creatively by making posts like I do with photos that she clicked and edited. Isn't that a sign of a positive person? Despite being through hell and back, she found ways to inspire herself and we supported her through it. We understood her more and she knew her family would hold her when she fell. Through the teary and angry outbursts, she learnt also that its ok to be angry and let out steam but what is important is to move forward and learn lessons given by them. She learnt also that everyone has problems and no one has a perfect life, specially when she heard about other disadvantaged people. She says she has to work harder than everyone else but its so because she has the ability and strength to do it.

    We turned to music and art to calm her hurt soul. Found a teacher to help her learn the keyboard and I helped her to learn doodling and sketching. In school when no one talked to her or she was bored , she sat with her little diary to doodle and she came up with beautiful pieces. She found another talent in herself.She also learnt to play with clay given at school. While others played around, she messaged me to get guidance and we came up with ideas. She brought them home and we worked on them and she has beautiful hand posture sculptures. She grew positive despite negative environment, though she had questions and anger to which I had fewer answers. I wondered what the kids are being taught at home that they can be so mean to a child who is facing odds in life and has to fight odds handed over by them as well. I wonder why we don't teach our kids inclusion, empathy and tolerance. Why are kids envious and jealous? Why are adults having low tolerance and seem less empathetic? Why are they losing control and unable to teach the students the basics of human behaviour and compassion? Why are they unable to bring bullying down and instead defend bullies? Why are they unable to look into my eyes and answer the questions I have? Why do they have excuses when I want to meet them or need help? I have learnt that if you are strong, people would interpret it wrongly as they are unable to or are uncomfortable with the situation and prefer to escape. Most parents of bullies know their kids are being wrong yet they cry sob stories instead. Sooner or later it does come to light as few scared and kind souls will come and tell the truth and are afraid to say in the open for fear of bullies.
    As we have moved forward, we are happy we have a child who despite being disadvantaged by nature has been given other strengths which make us proud parents. We knew we were taking her away with head held high up as few still keep in touch to say what an amazing child she has been and how brave she was. In the big bad world after all, we have a mixed bag of people and few wrong people can definitely bring you down momentarily yet they help you grow as better human beings. Big lessons learnt and I think these 2.5 years shall be in memory forever of how one has the power inside to fight a whole mean world. It made us stronger, better and grateful people.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Difficult 2.5 years

My happy satisfied "never give up" teen

     Its been a hard 2.5 years at the school in Jakarta. It was an Indian International school that my husband thought would be good. Hence when we moved from Germany to this school,we thought it would be a good change as we needed Prisha to have a structured approach in studies. The 5 years of IB in Germany had gaps with abstract understanding and we thought text books would be a great support. Hence the choice.
    Well it was a huge mistake and blunder just as I had dreaded. Initially all was going well. Then within a month she was bullied for coming from Germany and being "German".....she tried so hard to fit in but the class teacher and a few students ganged up against her and harrased Prisha the whole year. The teacher was trash and somewhere end of that year, we fought against it and got support. Next year seemed promising and had a good class teacher who was supportive. Yet the students refused to accept her and the struggle continued. I hated to see no support and she eating lunch each day by herself. To keep her company, we decided to be on what's app so that she did not feel alone. The kids can be so hurtful and sadly except a couple of teachers , there was no support. They too after a while were targeted perhaps and they too started to leave Prisha alone. The study preassure was killing my child. I too hurt inside and we both slipped into depression. Difficult place, lack of support, study pressure, traffic situation, language issues and no outings ....just was too much to take. She really fought it bravely and at times she lost control and at times she stood up. As a mum I could only counsel her and see ourselves being isolated and hurting all the time. Talking to her endlessly and trying to see her through was taking a toll on my health as well.
     The 3rd year was garde 8 and I dreaded it as much she did. Fortunately she made friends with a German lady and her daughter and they took her under her wing. Feeding the cats each evening, playing around and talking a lot to each other was the only silver lining in her dark clouds. Veronica and Aleyna brough a lot of beautiful moments in her life that shall be cherished for life. They sadly had to leave and she was left alone again.
    meanwhile at school, he talked of giving up with stress, had pimples all over her face and hormones were raging with anger. At times I found it hard to keep counselling but can I give up? No....what the school should have provided, I was doing that. We were like lone fighters with attack from all sides. Grade 8 saw her more isolated and non of the teachers knew she had hearing issues!!! They left her alone as she seemed quiet and never came up to ask what was her reason to be so isolated and sad. I fought back and yet somewhere I knew its not going to help. THE SCHOOL DOESN"T CARE!!! No counselors, no one who would carry out their promises or help support a child struggling alone......I knew its only going to kill my child and I could not take it anymore. I had taken to writing quotes and poems to vent out my sadness and hurt from all fronts of my life. It helped at times and at times no amount of tears and worry could help. Support from few hands who wiped my tears and heard me out each moment of my sadness holding me through my depression, really was a saving grace.
    Summer of 2017 was a wake up call when Prisha started to talk about giving up on life and value of life. She said she hated life at 13! She said things that made me panic and the whole summer between tears and hugs and under our 4 eyes....we survived many difficult moments. I was paranoid and never left her alone, her questions and statments made me cold, at times I broke into sweat and at times breathless. I even asked for a counselor but our local GP are her best counselor and no one can do what I could, specially in Indonesia. Under all the smiles and happy writing....was a sea of tears and raw and hurtful emotions. My fear of losing my child was killing me. That is when I just knew I needed to do something...but what? 
    It was somwhere in October I knew we are up against a wall and I put my foot down and decided we need to move school. The school had brough her entire confidence down. No amount of drawing, doodling, music lessons, talking and support from friends here was helping us. I feared each day as she returned home with 10 Kg of backpack and tons on her hurt mind and soul. Deafness was forgotten and so were those challenges. The unempathic atmosphere in school, the noise and rashness had affected her health so much that she started to get weak and dizzy most times. Her headaches were so intense that I was afraid she may have a break down, pressure of submissions, etc got her sleepless nights. It lead to low BP and low Haemoglobin and she kept feeling she was going to pass out.  The local GP too saw how much we were suffering and said my decision to move school would be the best idea. It was a huge decision for us. I knew that once we pull out, we would not be admitted back as they would be happy to have a troublesome child out. Her needs to be accepted were too huge for them. They avoided talking to me as they knew I would be complaining or asking for answers. Its sad that such an old school, perhaps one of the oldest here could not take care of one child who just had one accepted and be supported. Were we asking too much? We asked for no special needs, no special aids....she coped up with all the work....all that she needed was less noise in class, friends and someone to turn to when she needed help. Yet......When I left school, they were pretty happy I guess. No one said I should stay back, nor reasons why I was moving her mid term nor were they concerned. Such an old reputed institution could not support the basic need to be integrated, We asked for no help except less noise and acceptance. That was a bit too much. 
      At this juncture a friend suggested NJIS. An advanced placement school with few kids per classroom and with global teachers. Skeptical and exhausted I decided to take a step into the school and go without expectations. I didn't know that, that one day of a very depressed and helpless mum shall perhaps be life changing. I shall write about it in my next post. It only brings a smile after moist eyes from typing out this post. Emotional, hurtful and tough 2.5 years ended on 25Th Nov'2017.