Sunday, 2 November 2014

Pushing the Envelope

Brian Mendonça

To rev up life I usually ‘push the envelope.’ This expression has nothing to do with stationery, but it could be about pushing -- yourself. For me to push the envelope is to go where I have not gone before, do something I have not done before. In short, challenge myself.

I have learnt that this keeps me on my toes, open to new experiences tasting failure and success, both fictive mendicants of the coin of life. Those who go with me are rare and sometimes none, but I have learnt to follow my own star.

Since the youth are more receptive to new ideas, I often test mine with them. On 4 July we observed America Day with the students of American Studies making short presentations on in-course topics like the poetry of Poe; native Americans; fashion brands; and patriotism in the American novel. When they were doing more in-depth power point presentations in the run-up to the Semester-end exams in October, I thought to myself why not push the envelope and have a meet of all students offering the paper in colleges in Goa. Why should we all be stuck in our own silos when we were learning about the same land, its culture, history and life?

The idea seemed a bit far-fetched at first. My students rose to the occasion gallantly agreeing to host the event after their exams, even though, by then they were over and done with the paper. The Meet was planned the day after they finished their exams. They were exhausted but they were going to be there. We really didn’t have a clue how it would all turn out because the participating colleges were sketchy about what they intended to perform. I suppose that was to be expected, considering most of our communication across the faculty was by SMS.

As the first college trooped in, I was informed by the accompanying faculty member that the students had not finished their exams and had one the next day! Still they took time off to set to music and perform Maya Angelou’s poem ‘Phenomenal Woman.’ Another college painstakingly put together a mime of William Faulkner’s novel Sound and the Fury performed by no less than 11 students. Music ruled the day with students making presentations on jazz, rhythm and blues to heavy metal. There was even a paper on the Caribbean poet Edward Brathwaite who lives in New York City.

The no-competition format made collaborative learning possible. I was amazed at the fertility of forms the students reveled in. Our Principal generously made available a juice and a vada each as a free snack mid-morning for the participants. The break, when it was served, got the students and faculty to synergize and bask in the awareness that we all were on the same page. We winded up before lunch happy that we had pushed the envelope -- our modest attempt to reach out and widen the scope of our learning was a success.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 2 November 2014; Pix of students and faculty at the meet-up on 28 October 2014. 


Anonymous said...

What a lovely post. Brian, you are a man of ideas and never afraid to take the road less travelled.
Shobhan Saxena, Rio de Janeiro

Jolainne DeSouza said...

It warms my heart to see how far the American Day celebrations have come since it's inception in my second year at Carmels. Glad to see such an innovative event being met with such an enthusiastic response. Keep up the good work Sir! I hope I'll be able to participate in this in the years to come.