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CLAYLAB Blog

The second wave of hope!

New Year, new challenges… that is what we thought when 2021 began. Three months into the year and we realized nothing is changing anytime soon. We are in another year for sure but the challenges remain the same. The pandemic tamed our minds last year but this year it is here to kick us in our gut. The second wave as many like to call it; was sudden, mutated and if that wasn’t enough, deadlier than before. Governments are at a loss in terms of the course of action hereon. Economies are struggling, people are being laid off, young kids are succumbing to depression; it is a choke block situation. Though the things do not look very promising, here’s a thought – all great comedies come out of tragedies.

The concept of humour arises from an incident/situation gone completely wrong. Humour is not independent of loss but is coping mechanism towards acceptance. When things do not pan out as planned every individual has two choices: 1. to mull over the situation, stress about it and wait for things to get better or 2. Understand that this is beyond my control, make fun of it and think about the next step. The second wave of pandemic puts us exactly in this premise, where we have two choices; either we give up or simply watch it as a spectator and understand that there is only this much we can control. Hence, the first step to survive the second wave of the pandemic is to understand that this situation is greater than us. So don’t forget to laugh a little louder!
All of us go through highs and lows in life. Some days are great and the others not so much; but the amazing part is – nothing is permanent. No feeling or emotion lasts forever. It is easy to give up on a situation and feel sorry for yourself but it takes immense courage to stand tall in an adverse situation and fight it. Though things may not look up right now, they soon will.

Remember: Hope is a good thing, maybe best of the things and no good thing ever dies. – Andy Dufresne (The Shawshank Redemption).
Last but not the least, let us strive to be better human beings and learn the art of gratitude. When a calamity occurs on a large scale like the Covid-19, it is often to teach humanity a thing or two. Though we are the most gifted species on the planet, there is no end to our greed and to satisfy it we disrupt nature by our actions. Times like these are here to remind us to count our blessings and be grateful for everything that we took for granted so far. Let’s stop cussing and sulking about things that we don’t have!

Lastly: ‘Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.’ – Rainer Maria Rilke

Stop and smell the roses!

If you allow yourself to imagine what 30 years from today is going to be like, give yourself a minute…. You can’t. At least not as well as you would have thought you could have, two years ago.

2020 A.D. taught all of us that no matter how hard we try and how accurate we think we will be, there is always going to be an element of absolute uncertainty when it comes to our world and more importantly, our lives. Truth be told, the best analysts hadn’t been able to predict the immense impacts on our lives, when nature struck back. The best business people couldn’t help but watch as bottom-lines no longer mattered when lives were on the line. And most importantly, our conviction in how “invincible” we are as a race, was thrown out of the window …. In the matter of a few long weeks.

While we are not here to bash at the species we all belong to, none of us can deny calling these spades… well, spades. That said, the resilience of human kind also came through last year, as most of us turned to finally cleaning out otherwise ignored corners of our houses; attempting to get back in shape and of course, creating one too many #dalgona coffees. More bathroom-singers (and dancers) than ever before, decided to leave their bathrooms behind and a mask-glove combination became the new “key to my lock”.

We saw kindness from strangers and the real faces of those, once most revered. The year gave us a chance to hit pause and reset like never before, all while sharing the common fear for a virus which by itself, isn’t even alive!

A lot of us were also brought to a binding halt in activities we considered a part of our identities. Frontline workers finally began getting the recognition they had always deserved and we were all made to revisit what we considered “essential”.

Then of course, has come 2021 where all over the world, people seem to be chasing what they deem a “new normal” – and yet so many of us are hoping this “new” is as close to the “old” as it gets. While all of us wait and watch to see how things pan out, if nothing else, let this blog be a reminder to you that:

Though the pandemic is not over yet, we’ve come far as a global community, to stand together and that is worth loving and celebrating.
How productive you are while staying at home, isn’t what is making you a hero. The fact that you are staying home, is.
As Murphy’s Law says, in life, more often than not, whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Might as well get used to it and make the most of what we can.

This is why, we hope you remember to find little things to keep you anchored: Your morning coffee. The chirping of birds outside. The chance to walk in large empty spaces in nature like gardens or isolated hill tops. Art – of any kind… because sure, there are a LOT of things to bring us down – 2021 or not, but it’s up to each of us to decide: Do I still have a second to stop and smell the roses?

We certainly hope you do.

Love,

Team Claylab.

E-learning: The new normal

One of the greatest gifts humans have is their ability to adapt to change. It would be fair to say that 2020 challenged this ability of ours and pushed us into an unknown territory. We were hit by Covid-19 from all directions possible; people lost loved ones, some lost jobs and all of us at some point lost our mind. We had to change quickly and drastically. The scariest part was the realisation that the changes were not a temporary adjustment but the new normal. Though every sector of the society is dealing with the after effects of the virus, the education sector had to transform itself right from scratch. Both, the students and the teachers had to unlearn all formal training with respect to learning and teaching. Let us not forget that the pandemic came right in the middle of the competitive exams. Schools were shut and 285 million young learners in India were left clueless in terms of what is next!

Initially, only a handful of private schools could adopt online teaching methods. But their counterparts, on the other hand, were completely shut down for not having access to e-learning solutions. But over the period of time the government and institutions together came up with means to digitalise the entire learning and teaching process. Open-source digital learning solutions and Learning management software helped teachers conduct classes online; one of the greatest examples is the DIKSHA platform. It has helped to integrate the Indian education system across various states. Though these changes took some time they equipped the stakeholders in the education sector with the latest technological tools.

On most days we cannot understand this but the pandemic has been a blessing in disguise. India is trying to digitalise itself for the past decade but the pandemic pushed us to fasten that process and upgrade our knowledge and skills. The chalk-talk teaching model was transformed to one driven with technology. Often the chalk-talk teaching has limitations in terms of being creative or for that matter explaining concepts with ease. But with technology the content is interactive, less tedious and more importantly, engaging. The Indian education system is the most diverse and largest in the world. Therefore, it is essential to establish quality assurance mechanisms that will ensure consistent and standard e-learning platforms for both, students and teachers across the country.

The new normal of the education system has empowered teachers by equipping them with all the necessary tools to make learning fun and interesting. It has also helped the students to express themselves clearly and without much hesitation. A student who would be uncomfortable expressing himself in a physical classroom is now able to state his doubts without much ado in a virtual class. Of course, we are all missing out on some physical interaction and students did have a tough time initially, grappling with the new system but guess what… We are getting there!

This is why we at Claylab constantly try to assist our students to get the best education irrespective of the situation; via using audio-visual tools, models, one on one counselling sessions and more. Having said that, we also recognise that academics is just a small part education, which is so much more. This is why we attempt to provide our students with all the necessary tools to develop their personality… for Pandemic or not, the show must go on!

Covid-19

Together we are, forever we’ll be,
Why be afraid
When everything can be sought out easily.
Keep faith,
One day we’ll surely taste victory!

Life is a gift,
Obviously there will be twists.
So let’s accept the challenge and overcome it.

Let us collect our hope together,
Bring our hands closer to our heart,
Convincing ourselves that it is just a small part.

Dream higher and hope that the future will be bright,
Bestow us with never-ending joy which will turn out to be right.

Why go out in search of pleasure,
Stay home, our families are a treasure.

The smile that they bring on our face,
One that can never be erased.
The leisure that they provide,
Will always stay in our heart
They’ll always be our guide.

At the end of the day family is all we’ve got,
To look after each other,
To comfort each other,
That everything will be fine,
And one day this lost country would be mine!

🙂

– Aliza, student at Claylab

March Along!

India… She is not just any country on the map. Whenever we think about India, we instinctively think about culture, heritage, colour, food, music, people and everything that signifies life. Though we are in the twenty first century, India possesses the unique quality of being absolutely timeless yet, evolving. Indeed, all countries are special but not all of them are as ancient as India. The beauty of that is: our countrymen discovered and practiced many techniques…or hacks (as the millennial call it) to life, long before other civilizations developed, or for that matter, even came into existence. One of the most marvellous techniques was the way we kept track of months and thereby, years – a practice that has been around from about 1000 BC. It has twelve months, much like our English calendar; but here’s the interesting part: it is based on twelve lunar months; i.e. twelve full cycles of phases of the moon. It comes as no surprise that this system is popularly known as the Ancient Indian Calendar.

As we approach month of March, which according to the Indian calendar are – Phalguna and Chaitra. (The Indian calendar is a tad bit different). Phalguna is the last month of the year and Chaitra is the first month of the year. Similar to the English calendar, the first month of the year is about welcoming and celebrating new beginnings. It commences from the twenty second of March. Chaitra is considered auspicious as it is believed that it was in this month that the creation of the universe began. It is associated with the coming of spring; the season when Earth comes to life again. The flowers begin to bloom, animals start to wake up from hibernation, farmers plant their seeds and temperatures slowly begin to rise.

The festival of colours, Holi is celebrated on a full moon day, six days prior to the New Year, welcoming the month of Chaitra. The first day of Chaitra is celebrated as Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, Ugadi in Karnataka, the list is endless…Some other important festivals that people celebrate during this month are: Ram Navmi – celebrated on the ninth day of the month, Chaitra Navratri and Hanuman Jayanti that falls on the last day(full moon day) of Chaitra. Chaitra literally means spring. It refers to starting afresh and embracing all the newness the coming year brings. One of the most prominent festivals of this month is, Chaitra Navratri. An important facet of this festival is fasting. Hence, during this time people consume food items like: sago (sabudana), buckwheat, nuts, dry fruits, seasonal fruits etc.
Having said all of the above, it is just not us Indians who love this month. In the Roman calendar, March is the first month of the year as well. It marks the beginning of spring, much like our Indian system. It is a historically significant month as the eighth of March is celebrated as International Women’s day across the globe. It focuses on the rights of women and pays a tribute to women who are fighting every day for equality, justice and opportunity.

Isn’t our Indian calendar intriguing? Apart from India, several other South Asian, European and Islamic countries follow the Indian ancient calendar. It is great how we seek to know everything about the world and we must always keep learning and growing but it is fundamental to stay connected to our roots. As far as the month of March/Chaitra is concerned –
‘Springtime is the land of awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn.’ – Lewis Grizzard

I’m always there! :)

She feels depressed and low, like everyone else when an unfortunate situation occurs in life. Yet, rarely does she have someone to share her feelings with. All she needs to know in her times of despair is that she is not alone. There’s thousands of people, who are alone and just like her. And that it’s okay to feel sad sometimes.

And all I would want to say to her when a problem prolongs and remains unresolved is that talk to someone about it. Once she does that, she’ll feel absolutely relaxed and at ease. Always remember that if we control our thinking we could always make things better.

I wish she just sits with herself, does what she likes and when nothing helps I hope she talks to me. I hope she know I’m always with her. One hug and all her pain will cease to exist. A hug from me that will assure her that she is not alone in the family and that all of us exist because of her.

As I write this for her, I am very grateful to the day when she gave me birth, because she makes me proud every single day. It is because of her that I can achieve things. On that note, I would like to do something for her and that is, I would like to listen to her and help her achieve her goals throughout her life. She is the best the way she is because she inspires me, her daughter. I love her loads.

I just want her to remember: Mom you are never alone.

– Aliza, student at Claylab

We are what we eat!

Ludwig Feuerbach, a German philosopher, was the man who first coined the phrase ‘We are what we eat,’ during the turmoil of the German Revolution in 1848. Fast forward to the twenty first century, the entire narrative of health is around food. Today, both, mind and the body are of equal importance while determining how healthy a person is. After numerous researches, it has been observed that Feuerbach was indeed right! Our health, physical and mental, is largely influenced by the food we eat. The importance of food is known to mankind since time immemorial, but it is only recently that we have understood its impact.


Over the past few years, food scientists, chefs, have attempted to understand the connection between food and mental health. The nutritional value of what we eat and drink determines the composition of our cell membranes, bone marrow, hormones, skin and hair. Our body replaces millions of cells every day and this is done by using the food that we consume, hence, the emphasis on a well-balanced diet. It not only results in a healthy body but also makes us feel good. Eating right helps reduce the chance of chronic diseases thereby, improving the lifestyle and state of mind of an individual. Having said that, one rule does not fit all. Applying the commonly accepted recommendations such as, low sugar, low salt and consumption of a meal with most nutrients is advisable for all of us.
One of the important aspects of consumption is the quantity we eat but how we process the food is perhaps even more critical. This is known as the ‘brain-gut connection.’ There are thousands of sensors that our gut uses to process all the information from the food we eat. On the basis of that information our moods and feelings are regulated thereby, affecting all the body process like digestion, circulation and excretion. For instance, if we are having a great meal with a friend and suddenly we engage in some sort of an argument with them, we feel nauseous and giddy; we often label this feeling as a ‘pit in the stomach.’ An extension of the same could be severe stomach ache or indigestion. Even when we are eating by ourselves there is continuous internal dialogue that is active in our brain. We aren’t necessarily focused on the food we are eating and are distracted by the million thoughts playing in our head. This leads to indigestion and a ruining of the overall experience of a meal.
When we feel intense emotions such as anxiety, stress, our regular digestive process will be altered by hormones such as adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol. Contrarily, if we have too much sugar the dopamine makes us lazy and unproductive, leading to severe lethargy and restlessness. Hence, it is often suggested that one must pay complete attention while consuming food as our gut sends the strongest messages to our brain’s emotional centres. We can do so by being more aware of all the little aspects of eating such as – smelling, chewing, seeing and swallowing. This is known as ‘mindful eating.’ Several trials indicated that people, who practiced this, reduced compulsive habits, improved self-control, diminished depressive symptoms and maintained a healthy body weight.


All we must remember is that what we eat and how we eat influences what we become. It is not just about satisfying hunger, but doing so with diligence and awareness.
We are indeed much more than just what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us be much more than what we are.

If I would be a fortune teller I would predict for 2021

In the silence of the dark sky amidst the twinkling stars, I am grateful and looking forward to everything that this year has to offer. Firstly, I would pray that the year begin for all of us with our near and dear ones. I hope this year we will get to light up the skies on festivals, watch the sun rise, and set alongside our loved ones. Personally, I am looking forward to all the discoveries and inventions that might happen this year.

I am looking forward to all the inspirational stories of people hustling and making it big. Someone who probably struggled with basic access to the system will crack NEET exam, be an IAS officer or whatever he/she aspires to be. I hope that more women shatter the glass ceiling and make way for all those young women who dare to dream. Moreover, we as a race leave behind all our previous achievements and set a new benchmark for greatness and glory. A year where startups rule the world and young minds take over companies like Apple, Reliance and many more.

Apart from all these materialistic gains I dream of a year where people are charitable not for credit but for the sake of the greater good of humanity. Once we set on the path of compassion as a community, Sir Rabindranath Tagore will be pleased as he hoped for having an undivided world where the same stream flows everywhere and everyone gets the same water, and dead habits are just a myth. Our national anthem will be truly honoured if live by these principles in the coming year. I am positive that this year there will be a new awakening of consciousness and people will save the world and bring in peace and unity for everyone, and fulfill Kailash Satyarth dream of a happy and united world.

I wish that this year people learn to love and share. There will be fewer children on the streets suffering on a chilly night and nobody going hungry to bed. This year too, will have its share of hardships but truth will prevail. Much like the moon, there will be patches that are not so beautiful but it will also have its gleaming moonlight that will take the world towards enlightenment.

– Mariyam Mirza, student at Claylab

Train Your Brain!

In the twenty first century, you cannot imagine your life without a communication device. Especially in an ongoing pandemic, the only way to connect, learn, and work is through a mobile phone. Despite the distance, the world is doing just fine, courtesy – internet and phones. But, have you ever wondered how these palm sized devices function? Well… It is the central processing unit (CPU) that enables the different functions to operate based on the input that you enter. Similarly, the brain is the CPU of the human body and no action can be carried out without its instruction. Now, our brains are made up of several facets, of which, memory is one of the most critical elements.

Since our childhoods, our brains register every little act like sleeping, eating and walking. The reason all of us can do it efficiently without any effort is because these are all imprinted in our memory and has become a part of our beings. When pertaining to activities, this phenomenon is known as motor memory.

As we develop, we utilise this feature of the brain to remember people, places and events. Hence, we recognise our dear ones, the places where we live and our first birthday’s photos. All of these memories and our interpretations of the same are largely responsible for our personalities. Much like the CPU of a device, our brains too, get exhausted or just ‘freeze’ or ‘hang’ when overloaded with information. For instance, you might find it difficult to memorise answers and retain them while studying for an exam or sometimes you might just forget everything you have learnt, only while writing the answer!

The way to tackle these issues is by training, exercising and resting the brain regularly. The fitness of our brain is as necessary as the fitness of our bodies and to enable the same, here are a few things each of us (yes YOU!) can do every day to sharpen and rejuvenate our memory:

1. Have lesser Sugar: We bet you didn’t know that sugar not only affects your physical health but also declines your cognitive abilities too!
Practice increasing your Attention: On a daily basis, spend time by yourself, observing an object or a view for at least 5 minutes. This increases your attention span and retention capacity.

2. Avoid Cramming: Instead of pushing yourself at the last moment before an exam, study regularly. It not only regularises your brain but also reduces stress. A stress-free mind is a mind that remembers!

3. Organize: Arrange your wardrobe or book shelf according to categories; this will sharpen your brain and provide clarity in thought – and make your spaces look oh-so-amazing.

4. Rehearse: While trying to memorise something, read it repeatedly. This act imprints the material you are reading/ studying in your long-term memory. This makes recalling the information easier. (Trust us… we’ve tried this too!)

5. Change up your Schedule: Avoid having the same schedule every day. Surprise the brain with something new every day, else it will get comfortable and may not register new concepts easily.

6. Sleep Efficiently: One of the most critical aspects for memory sharpening is the right amount of sleep. A lack or excess of sleep can lead to blackouts and lowered retentive abilities for our brains.

These are a few quick and easy tips that will help you sharpen your memory and help you ace everything you want to ace: from exams… to life!

We hope these tips help and hey, remember:
To live, a man needs food, water and a sharp mind. – Louis Zamperini

Get, Set, Go!

Being a student of Teach for India is delighting when I reflect back on it, as a student. It reminds me of writing my first essay about “Myself”. I can see all the achievements I have made since then. I have gained academic excellence but more than that, I have observed my way of assimilating and perceiving things has changed drastically. My critical thinking skills made me very strong and helped me deal with any situation that stood before me. My thoughts have made me explore numerous ideas and made me aware about different things that drew me towards blogging.

Today, I can have effective conversations with my parents on various topics and can counter question every time I have a doubt. I help my mom whenever she gets stuck with any particular topic and also my brother with his math problems. I’ve learnt as a student, that I have a crucial role towards my family members, peers, or neighbours around me as they also require help and I can become a resource to them, which is good deed.

I have a different approach towards life, unlike others; not to say that I am special but this a distinctive change I have noticed within me. Now, I make decisions with the required maturity and apply them to solve a particular problem or deal with a situation. I have not only achieved new heights, but also overcome many obstacles on the way. I remember I didn’t have a pencil to write when I was in kindergarten school and I was still a happy girl but it never deterred me from learning. I always tried to make the most of what I have and just get on with life. I am a go-getter that way!

Being a student for me hasn’t just been about academics but also my entire journey till now.

I believe that we must never stop learning. If we lack something in terms of skill or resource, we must continue to learn, as it is the only way to grow! I lacked a lot of resources but still continued to study and promised myself to never give up on my dreams and only then will I be able to help others to achieve their dreams.

– Aliza Shaikh, Student at Clay

Point to Note, Your Honour!

It’s that time of an already strange couple of years where everyone suddenly, EVERYONE wants to make the most out of 2021 even though between 31.12.2020 and 01.01.2021, the only thing that has really changed… is the date. That said, with a whole lot of academic exercises and new academic adventures coming our way, all of us decided to sit down and put together a few note-taking hacks and tips that literally ANY one can use and flourish with. Don’t believe us? Read on for 3 great ways to improve your productivity AND note taking skills – regardless of whether you are 13 or 93 – with just as little as paper and a writing instrument.

1. A little planning goes a long way:

If you thought this tip is about actually planning how to take notes and you know it’s something you’ve tried and failed in the past (we admit – we have, too!!)… you’re in for a surprise.

Regardless of what kind of paper or book you’re dealing with when it comes to the notes you’re taking, our tip is: LEAVE SOME SPACE AT THE BEGINNING. Whether it’s a few pages of your notebook or the first few lines of the sheet you’re writing on, this space becomes where you can go back and make a super quick but oh-so-useful index of what’s on this page / in this notebook or just generally, the overall summary of whatever is important.

If you have more than one writing instrument, go to town and make this section noticeable when you fill it up AFTER your actual note-taking, to make the important points stand out!

2. Here’s the point:

When writing, especially in class or in a situation when you have a lot of information being incessantly thrown at you while you have to hurry yourself to keep pace with someone or something else, it’s super easy to make your notes look like one big paragraph or one endless song.

Instead, we recommend: MAKING POINTS. If you can’t or it’s likely to take you some time to get used to switching from writing in a paragraph to making bullet or pointed lists, improvise. UNDERLINE the key word or CIRCLE them without it getting too messy – so that on a future date or at a later time when you revisit these notes, you don’t have to spend a lot of time and effort trying to find what you are looking for.

Again, if you want to invest in an additional writing instrument, we suggest our trusty old highlighters because nothing makes a page pop like an occasional dose of neon.

3. It’s all about the font-line (Get it? Hehehe)

We cannot emphasize this enough, but SO many of us forget that IT IS POSSIBLE TO WRITE IN UPPER CASE AKA CAPITAL LETTERS. If you didn’t notice it throughout this piece already, you definitely noticed it now!

No matter what you think of your handwriting and whether you write in clean, unattached font or are capable of writing in beautiful calligraphy (in which case, we don’t have any tips for you) one thing you CAN do, is realize that the entire alphabet sequence is at your disposal when it comes to HOW you write what you have to. We suggest using an all capital font or writing style to draw the attention of your eyes and that of anyone’s who chances upon your notes, to the things that matter the most. Again, this is a super simple thing to do and yet, too many of us fail to remember it when needed.

We hope this was a quick little “Note-Taking 101” lesson for all of you and we really hope that if there is one FABULOUS outcome of 2021, it is that these hacks help you take your note-taking game to a whole new level.

Are there any note-taking tips you use that we haven’t mentioned in here? Tell us and we’d be happy to feature you in our Note-Taking Hacks Part 2 Blog!

Until then,
Shine on!

xoxo
Team Claylab!

The recipe for success in 2021!

Our planet is a home for innumerable life forms. They play their part in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. Like all other species we are just another kind, trying to sustain ourselves and the planet. Though, do you ever wonder what sets us apart from all other life forms? Well… It is simply our ability to constantly evolve consciously and express ourselves without any limitation. Human beings are gifted with vivid imagination and the ability to materialise them through their skill set, talent and determination. These qualities lead to the conception of several dreams and aspirations throughout our lives; and the act of achieving all these goals is defined as success!

Every individual has an idea of what their success story must look like. But while we are treading on the path to attain our goals we must always remember that every person’s idea of success is different. While for some it might be about landing their dream job; for others it could be settling down and having a family. The goal must not be about replicating someone else’s idea of success but in fact, creating our own ideas and making them happen, no matter what comes our way. However contrasting the ideas of success might be for different people, the passage to attain it remains the same.

If we take a closer look at all the successful people that we know, we would notice that all of them share one common trait – Discipline. Neither their talent nor resources, but the simple yet courageous small acts that they perform every single day consistently, make them capable enough to achieve their set goals. Being successful is not about doing extraordinary things but doing ordinary things extraordinarily. It is about focusing on the small things rather than taking a big leap without the necessary foundation. All the glitz and glamour we see around a successful person is not accomplished overnight; they failed a million times before they experienced their moment of glory. The key to success is not, not failing but to never give up!
The man who brought electricity and the first motion camera to our lives, Thomas Edison failed thousand times before he made the first successful prototype of the light bulb. Point being, life is going to pull us down, break us, if it can but the real strength lies in not succumbing to those pressures but getting up time and again to achieve our dreams and ideas of being successful. It is not a day’s journey, so keep at it and keep soaring! After all, there is only one secret to get ahead and that is to get started!


‘All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.’ – Walt Disney

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