Reflecting back to School ECAs

Back in school, I was academically studious student, securing my seat amongst the top ten rank in a batch of sixty students. Reflecting back, I realize although I was not very erudite (I never could finish within the top three), I had keen interest in the extra curricular activities (ECA) organized by my school.

I took part in almost all of the ECAs organized by the school – from debates to elocution, and from spelling bee to quiz competitions. The school did have basketball and table-tennis in the sports division, but I was more of a football person; so I skipped out of those sports but took part in road races. Especially towards the tenth standard, which would then be followed by the then School Leaving Examination (SLC), I ensured I participated in everything (more than 25 events) that the school had to offer.

What I missed?

Looking back to all those events in today’s date, I did miss out classes to participate in the ECAs. To be honest, a few times I voluntarily participated in some events just to keep myself out of the class. I was fond of few subjects – compulsory mathematics, geography in social studies, astronomy in science, and programming in computer science were what kept my mind curious and excited. I did miss those classes when I opted for the ECAs.

Furthermore, my handful close-friends in my class weren’t excited by the idea of missing out classes in participating in the ECAs. It meant while I was out of the class preparing myself for the day’s event, my close friends would be inside the class. While I resumed my class, the topic of conversation would turn into something I wouldn’t understand. While my friends did their best to explain the present the secondary information to me, I did miss out being the primary audience to any in-class events.

Sometimes, there were others events happening in the class, which I missed. At times there would be group assignments, or some teacher would choose that class I missed to share their personal stories, and some time, they would all go to the AV room to watch a documentary or a movie. When I would come back, I wouldn’t hear the end of it, which would be understandably exciting as well as irritating if it went too long.

Reflecting back - Swarnim School
Swarnim School (

What I gained?

At this point of time, I would conclude I gained more than I lost.

While I did miss my favorite topics, I was happy to skip all the topics I absolutely hated (or didn’t just understand back then). I was happy to skip the topics of balancing chemistry equations, classifying different species of animals and plants according to their characteristics, and the deathly trigonometry and vectors (I haven’t yet understood these topics!).

More than all these, what I actually gained from participating in all these events was the development of “people skills”. My school used color-coded houses to group the students – Yellow House, Blue House, Red House, and Green House. I was picked to the Yellow House. In any event, I had to team up with any junior or senior within my house. While some events were more individual focused, many events were team based. This not only helped me harness my individual logical and reasoning skills, but I was also learning sub-consciously about how I can work along with my juniors and seniors.

At times, the team members would disagree, fight, and threaten to back-out. Those were the times when leaders were born. I might have missed out being primary eye-witness of an in-class fight between my classmates, but I didn’t miss out witnessing how people handled the disagreement. At times, I stepped up to persuade, influence, and negotiate; while at other times I saw how others do it as well.

What I realize now is that participation in quiz competitions and spelling bees weren’t about being technical and answering questions right. It was more about how even when you think you know the answer, you consult with your team member, take their views into account, and respect their views, even if it meant your “100% sure” answer was challenged.

I realize now those events were not about winning and earn bragging rights for the “Yellow House”, but it was more about expanding your people skills beyond the classmates – with your juniors, seniors, and even with your teachers at times. Debate and elocution competitions weren’t just about literature, logic and language, but it was more about developing confidence to speak in front of mass, and more about conscious listening and trying to understand the view point of others.

Reflecting back – Realization

Sure I won few events, and lost many events – but that was NOT the point. While it also taught me to embrace losing, and celebrating victory, it was something more than the results. It was all about the process than the outcome. The point was to develop the mindset and harness skills required for working with any PEOPLE, and not just remain academically dexterous.

I’m glad I chose to participate in those events. And I’m thankful to my school for teaching me these out-of-syllabus life learnings.

Reflections From An Online Class Room

Ever since the lockdown has started in wake of the global pandemic (caused by COVID 19), schools and colleges have shifted to virtual and online class rooms to continue the teaching – learning process.

While there have been countless debates about the education now being accessible only to the internet-equipped students, or how education has now become a privilege, let me take this moment to express my gratitude to the educators who have initiated the efforts to continue disseminating knowledge.

Gaining knowledge and spreading has been one of my personal values. Amidst this lockdown, I have been fortunate enough to conduct virtual sessions, webinars, and even conduct classes for BBA and MBA students in Nepal. Here are some of my reflections, that I’ve drawn after more than 2 months of online education:


The online class – despite all its challenges – has had one positive impact for me. For me, this impact stands out from the rest. Online classrooms have allowed improved participation from all students.

Even those bunch of students with immensely creative thoughts going on their head but resist speaking in the classroom – they participate as well. They might not actively talk or send messages in the group, but Zoom’s personal messaging has allowed them a space to put their thoughts with the facilitator without having to hold back as they used to in the physical classrooms.

This simple and well thought of feature in the platform is a very handy tool – especially for linking up with introverts – who absolutely hate the group works.

“Group Work”: Extroverts do the “group” part, introverts do the “work” part.
As seen on a YouTube comment, on Susan Cain’s TED Talk Video “The Power of Introverts”

I could really relate to this comment; partly, because I am an introvert myself and largely, because I used to be the one “doing the work” in the group settings.

Also read: Will we lose physical touch post COVID-19?


The same teacher who demands silence in the physical classroom, now – ironically – feels awkward with the silence in ‘zoom’ classrooms where everyone else is on mute except the teacher.

I personally love discussions, positive arguments, logical debates, and productive chaos. So often, in the physical classroom, I ask my students a question and none of them answer. The virtual classroom is no different in this case. However, in the physical classroom, I could see someone thinking and debating within themselves and trying to speak up. This is something I miss in my online classroom. Even the students cannot see each other, discuss quickly and come up with an answer in virtual classrooms.

However, I’ve learnt to give them time. I’ve slowly learnt to embrace the silence – which felt awkward at the initial days. Generally, I would ask a question and give them time for about 10 seconds to think. Now, I ask them a question, and give them 20 seconds (or more, at times) to think. Sometimes, I rephrase the question, or tone-it-down – and then again give them time to think.

I miss the “discussion noise” inside the physical classroom, but I’m learning to embrace the silence by being open towards any answers that can come up from the students.


In the initial days, the online classrooms felt like hosting a radio show where I am the RJ, and occasional conversations with students felt like program listeners calling in my show.

As I said before, I admire and look for more of “productive” chaos. This is something I found myself struggling in the initial days. However, there were many online tools – some free and some freemium – to begin with to engage students. I have heavily been using Google Jamboard and tools. Apart from that, other online tools – Mentimeter, Kahoot, Wheel of Names – have kept up the excitement and fun that I can bring in the classroom.

Of course these online tools might be a little difficult to adjust in the initial days, but hey – they’re very friendly to your physical space and pocket. I don’t find myself spending largely on chart papers, markers and sticky notes. I don’t find myself wondering where to store all the used chart papers. And I definitely don’t find myself picking up all the fallen sticky notes on the ground just because it’s glue dried. Phew!


Having multiple gadgets along with me has helped me big time in multiple ways. I’ve so far used my laptop, a secondary display monitor, iPad, and my smartphone – all to better prepare and equip myself for unforeseen circumstances during online classes.

Foremost, with 3 different devices, I was able to join as a host, co-host and a participant at the same time. That allowed me to understand how things look different from others’ (especially the students and participants) end.

Online Class

Second, having an extended screen not only solved my problem of mouse cursor disappearing while screen sharing the full-screen keynote presentation, it also helped me to get back (my beloved) presenter’s view, better manage participants, and involve in the chat box more.

Finally, having a secondary device alongside has allowed me to be ready whenever my internet connection dropped. At one instance when my internet connection was lost, I quickly enabled data access from my phone and informed everyone about my internet issue. I was able to ask students to take their breaks, stretch their body, gaze into the surroundings and come back after 5 minutes. Thankfully, the internet connection got restored and I was able to continue.


Hands down, breaks are important. But breakers are “importanter” in the online classes.

As Liz and Mollie say in their HBR article, “Without the visual breaks we need to refocus, our brains grow fatigued.” It’s easy to get tired in the online class – especially by staring at the screen for too long. I generally have a two-hour class – in which I deliberately have at least one break. I now realize there should be more than one.

Sometimes, I intentionally tell my students to close their eyes and be on a listening and speaking only mode. Sometimes, I tell students to get up and stretch for a bit. Even turning your video off in every 10 minutes can do wonders for your strained eyes!

Also, I used to struggle at times when people would be typing something on the chat box regarding a previous topic and I would just go on with my session. Some people prefer typing short and multiple sentences, while some people prefer to type long paragraphs before hitting the send button. To solve this dilemma of “who is still typing?“, I have resorted to using codes. I now ask my students to use the code “IAT” (I Am Typing) – when they begin typing their responses or queries. Once any student or participant sends “IAT”, I can be aware that s/he is about to send her/his response, and thus, i would wait more before hopping on to the next topic.

So these were my reflections and learnings from my online sessions and virtual classroom. Let me know if you have got any more!

Stay safe!