Monthly Archives: December 2015

Panyaden Shoe Box Drive

Panyaden School visits Sri Nehru School with gifts

Panyaden staff, parents and students deliver 120 gift boxes to the children of Sri Nehru School, Doi Pui. The culmination of our ‘Shoe Box Drive’ at school, the gifts of warm clothes, stationary, toys and other gifts were gratefully received by the students and teachers at this Hmong village in the mountains.

DSCF9031 Panyaden staff, parents and students deliver gift boxes to the children of Sri Nehru School

More photos here.

Panyaden 12 Wise Habits 2015


by Neil Amas, Panyaden School Director

DSCF9031 Gifts for Sri Nehru School donated by Panyaden School parents, students and staff
Gifts for Sri Nehru School donated by Panyaden parents, students and staff

Caga (pronounced jaa-ka) means generosity. It is the quality of delighting in the act of giving, sharing or relinquishing and expecting nothing in return; it is when the love of giving becomes a virtue in itself. Caga is being generous not only with material things but also with your time, your energy, your forgiveness, and your willingness to be fair and just with other people. It is the opposite of selfishness, stinginess, being attached to me and my things, needs or views, and, as such, caga also means to give up those thoughts and habits.

Dana (giving or gift) is the external manifestation of the internal quality of caga. While giving can be done without generosity, such as in order to get something in return or for the promise of a future reward, dana that is motivated by caga is so much greater. Giving up the unwholesome thoughts that prevent generosity, such as meanness and unwillingness to forgive, are also qualities of caga. They are a ‘gift’ to ourselves.

In Buddhist teachings, caga is seen as the foundation of dhamma practice, a pre-condition for sila-samadhi-panya (the Noble Eightfold Path). A mind expanded by generosity is better able to generate the effort and motivation needed to take on the tribulations of life than one constricted by the narrow confines of ‘what do I get out of it?’. Caga is also one of the 5 attributes that must be cultivated if one is to enter the higher stages of dhamma practice (‘stream-entry’): sadda (conviction), sila (moral conduct), suta (learning), caga and panya (wisdom).

pasanno_a_dhamma_compassCaga can be developed in different ways and at different levels. Helping others and offering service are ways of stepping over the boundaries of me and mine which, when stretched, often make us feel uncomfortable or threatened (Ajahn Pasanno, A Dhamma Compass). Forgiveness is a further step, a higher form of dana, because it is more difficult to forgive than it is to give material things. The highest form of giving is dhammadana, or sharing the principles and practice of dhamma. Ajahn Chah reminded us that this is not something only reserved for monks and nuns: “It is enough to set good examples and follow the Precepts.” Like the vine which grows and is shaped by the nearest tree, children are more affected by their parents’ example than anything else. When we think of the people who have most positively influenced our lives, “it is not because of the kinds of cars they own or vacations they have taken but because they have been trustworthy, kind and patient with us. They’ve made us feel good, no matter how badly we feel about ourselves. This kind of giving is not beyond the capacity of anybody. Increasing well-being and decreasing dukkha (suffering) are gifts we can all give,” (Ajahn Pasanno, ibid).

DSCF0921 Panyaden student drawing with Rappaport School student in Bor Kaew, Sameong, part of our annual social contribution initiative

From an early age if children are praised and encouraged for freely giving to others, they grow up with a pleasant feeling associated with being generous. The idea that you gain happiness by giving things away does not come automatically to a young child’s mind, but with practice they will find that it is true. They will learn that when we give, we put ourselves in a position of wealth. A gift, no matter how small, is proof that you have more than enough. Caga helps build confidence in children because by being able to help other people we develop a sense of self-worth. Acts of generosity are an antidote to low self-esteem. They create a sense of openness in the mind which helps break down boundaries with others that otherwise would keep goodwill from spreading around. Caga can used as a catalyst for family togetherness because, as Ajahn Jayasaro notes, ’’few things enhance the sense of connection between family members as group acts of generosity” (Daughters & Sons).

The nature of the desire mind is that, even when we have enough, we feel there is always a lack of this or never enough of that, or we fear that something is going to get taken away from us. The ‘she’s got more than me, it’s not fair’ complaint of materialist competitive societies creates a confined, fearful world because there’s never enough, as opposed to the confident and trusting world we create through acts of generosity. As we practice caga, we realise that we can get by on less, and that there is a pleasure that comes with giving. This, it can be said, is a true sense of wealth.

lotus2 transparentPlease click here for the above article in Thai.

Prathom 2 Chocolate Unit

IMG_1946 Prathom (Grade) 2 students enjoying their chocolate drink

DSCF8324 Chocolate treats made bt Panyaden Prathom 2 studentsP2 is wrapping up a unit on Chocolate! We learned all about the process of growing cacao and preparing it to sell to chocolate manufacturers, as well as how to make chocolate treats and drinks.

Our field trip to Maejo University and a Belgian chocolate shop, and selling homemade chocolates and iced cocoa, provided valuable hands-on experience. What sweet fun!


DSCF8312 Chocolate for sale! By Panyaden School Grade 2 students
IMG_1855 Panyaden P2 students visit a cacao orchard in Chiang Mai
IMG_1919 Prathom 2 at the cacao orchard in Chiang Mai
More photos here!

Panyaden Newsletter Issue 23: Parent Spotlight

Parent spotlight_Halpern family

In the latest issue of our newsletter (Dec ’15/Jan ’16), we shine the spotlight on Ariel and Magdalena, long-term Panyaden parents of three.

“When you know about things from a hands-on perspective you get to understand things beyond the facts.” Read more:

Live and learn: Giving Feedback

Teacher with Grade student, Panyaden School

Giving your child feedback

by Neil Amas, Panyaden International School Director

GivinDSC_1708 Panyaden School Director, Neil Amasg your child feedback can be a precarious act! When we see room for improvement we want our child to know it but without demotivating him or her, causing tears or, in some cases, flat out denial! So what is the best way to give feedback? Here are some tips for parents that came out of our recent teacher training workshop.

The first point to note is how hard it is for us as adults! Most of us find criticism difficult, even when we know it to be true or well-intentioned. The old adage, ‘If it’s true, why get upset? If it’s false, why get upset?’ is good to remember, but not always easy to practice. If our normal reaction is to storm out of the room in a blaze of indignation, we should not be surprised when our little one does the same!

Without honest feedback, kids can’t possibly figure out what to do differently next time. So how can we make sure our comments are helpful? That they motivate instead of deflate?

The Buddha gave advice on this 2,500 years ago which remains true today. He gave us 5 things to remember when criticising another:

  1. It must be true and based on facts.
  2.  It should be said gently, with kindness.
  3. It should be said at the right time and in the right place.
  4. It should benefit the other person/people or situation.
  5. It should be based on goodwill and conducive to harmony.

So, telling your child how he went wrong on a maths problem just before he goes to bed, is definitely not the right time or place! Similarly, pointing out a tiny grammatical mistake in an essay designed to practise storytelling skills might be based on the facts, but it is not necessary if it deflects attention away from an otherwise competent piece of writing and especially if it deflates the morale of a child who is justifiably proud of his work.

At the school’s recent workshop on student assessment, teachers discussed how to give feedback in the classroom. The following suggestions are also based on the work of author and motivation expert Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson. They complement the Buddhist approach, but are more specifically centred on the child. These apply equally to the home environment, whether helping your child with homework or commenting on any other task.

Mother and child, photo from https://www.scholastic.comFirstly, be truthful. It’s not easy to tell a child that they made a mistake because we know, in some instances, this can cause anxiety. But at the same time we shouldn’t make the mistake of protecting a child’s feelings at the expense of telling them what they truly need to hear. Children also need to take responsibility for what they did wrong. Letting them off the hook just because we don’t want to be too hard on them, or saying ‘you tried your best’ when clearly they didn’t, gives them no motivation to improve. It is how you deliver the message that matters.

Secondly, be specific. Instead of giving general feedback, focus on high impact areas. If you give lots of comments, your child won’t know which one to focus on because she may not yet have the experience to prioritise. If the goal of the assignment is to make a good argument, don’t focus on minor spelling mistakes. Ask yourself, what are the most important skills to build? What worked well, what needed improvement?

Third, make sure your feedback is actionable. Give a concrete suggestion on what could be done differently next time, rather than what was ‘wrong’ this time. Emphasize actions that your child has the power to change. Talk about aspects of performance that are under their control, like time and effort, or the study method which was used. It is important your child feels the goal is within reach.

Fourth, make it timely. Make sure your feedback is immediate and tied to the event. Waiting until the next task will make it more difficult for your child to embed the learning in her memory.

Lastly, focus on the task, not the child or his ability. Instead of saying ‘you did not clearly explain x and y’, say ‘I did not clearly understand x and y’. This helps put focus on the task, instead of judging the child. Make sure you show appreciation for aspects of your child’s performance that are under their control, such as careful planning, persistence, positive attitude or creativity. Praising actions, not some notion of fixed ability, means that when your child runs into trouble later on, she’ll remember what helped her succeed in the past and put that to good use. A child who recalls that something tangible like ‘careful planning’ helped him complete a project last time is more likely to feel motivated than being told he is ‘good at writing’.

And finally, don’t forget the Buddha’s second tip: stay calm! When we give feedback gently, our child is reassured we are doing it from a place of kindness rather than from agitation and frustration!


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Download the Thai version here.


Ven. Ajahn Amaro & Ven. Narindo visit Panyaden

DSCF7816 Ven. Ajahn AMaro and Ven. Narindo at the strat of their morning alms round, Panyaden School Chiang Mai

We were honoured by a visit by Venerable Ajahn Amaro and Venerable Narindo from Amaravati Monastery in England today. Morning alms round was followed by a dhamma talk ‘Learning from Mistakes’, visits to classrooms and Q&A with teachers and parents.

DSCF7828 Ajahn Amaro at morning alms, Panyaden School Chiang Mai DSCF7843 Morning alms for Ven. Ajahn Amaro at Panyaden School Chiang Mai

DSCF7833 Morning alms, Panyaden School DSCF7798 Offering alms to Ven. Ajahn Amaro, Panyaden School, Thailand

DSCF7853 Dhamma talk at Panyaden School by Ven. Ajahn Amaro

More photos on the blog here.

Father’s Day 2015 @Panyaden

DSCF6630 Father's Day presentation at Panyaden School 2015

We celebrated HM the King’s birthday and Father’s Day 2015 at school today. P6 girls sang the King’s own composition, ”Oh I say” along with a dance they choreographed themselves and accompanied by the Nursery band! Students then read out compositions they had written to their fathers. Finally parents, teachers and students headed to the rice fields to thresh the rice we planted on Mother’s Day three months ago.

DSCF6602 Father's Day celebrations 2015, Panyaden School DSCF6608 Grade 6 girls singing HM His Majesty's composition on Father's Day, Panyaden SchoolFather's Day celebrations 2015, Panyaden School

Lots more photos here on the blog and on Facebook.