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School Performance is a complex phenomenon, shaped by a wide variety of factors intrinsic to students and in their eternal environment. In addition to content knowledge and academic skills, students must develop sets of behaviours, skills, attitudes and strategies that are crucial to academic performance in their classes, but that may not be reflected in their scores on cognitive tests”  – UCHICAGO CCSR Literature Review

In the simplest way, this tells us that more than just grades (which is the case now days) students need to focus on the sets of behaviours, Skills and attitudes which will eventually and effectively affect their academic performance.

So here is the deal, while you may not be focusing on Skills right now, think of these as a payback when the skills will eventually help you get better grades (it does seem like our one point focus). Skill Sets help you to develop attitudes which affect our academic performances and are not limited by content learning.

Let us see this more objectively or at least make an effort to do so!

We all understand the importance of grades (oh yes we do). We know that the monster of the grades decide the course of lives of our children. Good grades – good University – Good Job – Good life (in the order). We see evidence of this being true all around us and we believe in it as – truth and nothing but the truth, so help us god! But is it really??

Can grades really decide the course of our lives? Sadly it is true for the first part of the path – Good Grades – Good University. Unfortunately most universities judge the student on the GPA, Grades achieved, Standardised Tests etc. (we will debate these another time). Some universities do in-fact try to substantiate the overall development of the student through modes other than just the grades. But unfortunately, despite the effort in understanding the student and establishing the RIGHT FIT (as they claim), the importance given to grades and scores is very high. While consideration is given to other factors, the transition from moving away from grades is not yet complete.

So am I saying that lets forget the skills and focus on the grades since they are so important?

On the contrary, I am saying – Focus on your Skills because the grades are important!!

Developing a Growth mindset that believes that we can train our brain for better performance is attributed to Skill development. A skill set that develops perseverance and discipline which will automatically help us develop these attitudes towards academic performance as well.

 I once saw a potter sitting by the potter’s wheel, spinning the wheel and trying to create something. He would put some clay on the wheel, spin it, mould it and then remove it. He did this over and over again, calmly and patiently. It seemed like the clay was not taking the shape that he intended. But every time he put the clay back on the wheel, he nurtured the clay with the softest touch. Did he make the pot he desired?

If a student, let us assume, is a photographer, dancer or even a painter, he/she will need to have the patience and the perseverance to revisit the same thing again and again till it is not perfected. They also attempt the same task with the softest touch. Do you not see how this patience and the perseverance, that they will develop that accompany these skills, will help them perform better at academics too? The attitude to perfect their art will create a habit to perfect and this will also apply to academic. Would this then not affect their grades?

They will apply these skills to their academics because eventually the attitudes required to master the skill or art will become a part of them. It will become a part of their nature and they will therefore apply them to every task that they will undertake, Academic is just one of them.

So did the potter make the pot he desired? I don’t really know, to me every pot that was being made looked beautiful, but then I don’t know what he wanted and what his idea of perfection was.

As students it is important that you understand the importance of grades and performance but it is equally important that you understand the importance of Attitude, Academic Behaviour , Strategy development, time management, problem solving – both social and academic. Each of these will have a measurable impact on your academic performance. It is therefore imperative that you develop these to have a positive impact and improve your academic performance.

In addition to these critical factors – there is one very important factor that you should consider –

Your attitude about learning and your belief about your intelligence.

What does this really mean? It means that if you do not believe in your own intelligence, then intelligence will not believe in you. It is a lot like friendship between two people. Intelligence is not limited to what books we have read and what we can remember from it. It is not an outcome of the Maths problems that we can solve and how fast. It is by no means a by-product of the chemical formulas that we can remember. It is connected to our attitude towards learning and belief.  We must have an attitude to learn, which means that we have the ability to revisit something and learn it (not memorize it) despite failing, it is then that you will have the right attitude. Believing in intelligence has a huge impact on developing the correct attitude. If you believe yourself to be un-intelligent or incapable, your mind will play the games with you and will render you incapable. If, on the other hand, you believe that you are indeed intelligent and capable, you will see your mind doing wonders. My mind is what I want it to be, I am not what my mind wants me to be!! Believe in this, it is easy when you try!!

 

SKILLS HAVE NO EXPIRY DATE

I have so far talked about the importance of knowing oneself, knowing the YOU. When I talk about the SKILL SET and the importance of recognising them in you, I want you to understand while I understand the need for most of you to squander and look for various aptitude test, psychometric tests and a zillion other that can help you understand this mystery a little better, I do urge you to not base your life decision on them. Yes they are scientific proven, yes they follow a system which is complex and yes they go about in a way that we do not understand and yes they are true. Well so is the phenomenon of ALIENS. I am no authority to comment on either other than the fact that I do not understand them, and hence my apprehension of believing in them completely. So go ahead and take the IQ tests, but use them with care to decode your life.  As for me, I do not think any set of 20 (or even 40) questions can tell me what I can or cannot do. After all Einstein was told that he would never be able to read or write – but wait there were no tests then. But what if there were? Do you think they would have given him the feedback that he would be the revolutionary scientist? I doubt it! They do however tell you, what you need to work at. So like I said, learn to read the tests in the correct manner.

While our life is largely determined by the skills that we may have genetically, our life will largely be determined on SKILLS that we acquire in the course of our life. With all the drumming about that our brain develops 80% by the time we are 8 years old, you might ask if the Learning is actually Age Specific. I think this belief is one of the reasons why parents are running to teach their child everything by the time they are 8, what if they have missed their bus?

I once met a parent who asked me about the Medicine course. Now with all my experience, I did figure that the child in question is young. You would be surprised how different the questions are depending on the age of the child. So I patiently answered questions that were being asked – which country do you think is the best for Medicine? If the child does not get through the medicine, are there any other options? What kind of experiences should they have while in school? What books can you recommend that as parents we should make them read?

After some of these, I couldn’t resist and asked her how old her child was. She was 8 years old – EIGHT!! You might be thinking that it was ok, some parents like to begin early and after all she was only taking information. You might be right!  I would much rather she asked me about Harry Potter!!

As parents we make it our life mission to assist our children reach the pre-determined destination and follow our passion and dream. I appreciate their single-minded determination, I do!! But my concern in most of these cases is what if this is not your child’s passion? And even worse they don’t even know this is not their dream until it is too late? I usually suggest that we should concentrate in helping them acquire skills, skills that they want to. Each of them will add to their intelligence and sensibility. It is an ongoing exercise that brings huge benefits. Degrees, while important and crucial, are not the only deciding factor in the child life and hence we should lend it some focus.

Skills, they are not age specific – no they are not. They thankfully do not come with an expiry date. I read about a grandmother in Uttar Pradesh who mastered the art of Shooting. She was encouraging her granddaughter to shoot and said this is a child’s play, takes the gun and shoots a fantastic round. It was indeed a Childs play for her; she has won many a medals since. Another OLD gentleman started running marathons when people told him he should retire. He is one of the oldest marathon runners in the world and an inspiration to million. While skills are not age specific, I do believe they however come with BEST BETWEEN age. Try to check this date for the skills you want to arm yourself with and then proceed with care.

Now we have established that you really can learn anything if you apply yourself (maybe with exception of being an astronaut, or maybe not!). We have also learnt that there is no age barrier. Hence – Learn some new skills. Each of these acquired skills will take you a long way into your career in the very least and a long way in your life for sure. A lot of young students that I meet want to believe that they have somehow missed the time when they should have learnt something. I am too old to learn how to dance, I am too old to begin skating so on so forth. All I want to tell you all is that let go of this inertia and find it in you to conquer it.

The next question – how do we determine what skills should I acquire?

Best answer to this would really be – what your heart desires. If I lived in an ideal world, then it should be about what we want to do, but since we don’t and we do have to follow the rules set by the society, job market, universities, schools, social clubs etc. The best path to take therefore would be to acquire some skills that your heart desires and some that agree with your career choice. I had explained that you should ascertain your SKILL GAP before you set out to taking courses and classes. Each of these is a skill acquiring systems and you should choose them with care. Determine what SKILLS would benefit you the most in the chosen career route and then move on to acquire them. Sometimes to master them would only require some small workshops/short courses which you can set out to do while you are still in school and/or in college. Let us say you want to be a journalist. It would benefit if you did a radio jockey workshop today and theatre workshop, even volunteer to work with a social group to get firsthand experience. It would give you valuable lessons on Voice Modulation, a skill set that would help you enormously once you make it to the Television. Another huge benefit is the social communication skill that you would develop. This is important to survive this world no matter which field you take on.

So go on SKILL UP, acquire skills and not just degrees. Think about your future career options and link the skills that you must have to excel in that field. These skills could take a long time and/or a lot of effort; prioritize them in accordance to the value they would add for you. If you want to become a journalist, Horse Riding is not going to be a pressing matter, it will however teach you Balance, definitely important. Acquire a new skill, they don’t expire and they last you a lifetime. Begin today!!

Being-Ordinary

I met a student last week – A nice kid, had all the right things to say, courteous and friendly. I don’t think he troubled his parents or his teachers much. He must have been one of those kids who submitted work on time, did neat work and even extended help to fellow classmate. Sounds like someone you know?

Well he was all that, so I was pretty confused because the conversation with the parent started on a strange note. They were almost apologetic for their child. So here I was trying to make sense of it all. The grades and reports said nice things about him but the parents seem to have a completely out of sync behaviour. After much contemplation I figured, they were apologetic because their son was an average student, his fault being – he was JUST ORDINARY

The description of the son went something like this:

“He always gets good grades but he does not focus enough to get the stars.

He is a soccer player. His coach tells me that he is a good team player but LACKS leadership Quality.

He plays the guitar. Always the Life of the party, we tried but he does not take it seriously enough to be professional.”

So on so forth, you get the gist right?

“Can you see the trouble here Madam”, asked the mother.

I could NOT SEE THE TROUBLE, not to begin with, but I certainly could now?

The problem was that the child was ordinary, Good but ordinary. The Trouble however was that the parents did not begin to appreciate that.

He would not make star grades; he would not be a professional musician or a soccer player. Effectively he had nothing for the parents to SHOW OFF when they sit over drinks and talk about the achievements of their child. It’s the most sought after social sport – counting the achievement of the child. Sometimes we want this perfect child only to score points in the social sport. Oh yah, all of this in the light of “I do not believe in Pressuring (its the favourite word) the child”

My Daughter can be anything so long as it is Doctor, Engineer or at least an MBA.

She can have any hobby so long as it is Piano, Guitar or Robotics

She can go to any college so long as it is an IVY League.

Does this sound Familiar?

I know the dilemmas of the parents, oh yes I do. I am a parent and I have, pretty much, the same concerns. I am an education consultant and yes I see and feel the excessive competition in the job market. Do I, Therefore, Identify with them? Totally!

But do I agree with them?

I wish I could say TOTALLY NOT. But this is the grey area that most parents live and face. What do I do? Direct the child to excel in everything he does or appreciate and encourage everything he does?

If I were to appreciate being ordinary or mediocrity, what if he relaxes and does not aim to excel?

What if I push too much, what IF he snaps?

The questions that torment most parents are similar but with varied answers.

My question to you is –

Why should a child face the BURDEN OF ORDINARY?

He carries this weight in addition to all the other weights of education, shouldn’t that be enough?

Being ordinary should not be made out to be a fault of the child and then punish him for it. The future is just that – FUTURE but it cannot define everything that we do today. A word of encouragement will go a far way with your child. Why not applaud a race well run rather grumbling over the medal lost?

You might argue that we are not punishing the ordinary just encouraging excelling. There is a fine line there that we as parents often cross. The encouragement often becomes an identification of failure for most students. It highlights all the mistakes that were made and focus from what was done right gets lost somewhere in the MEANINGFUL encouragement talk.

Do you know why you got 85%? It’s because you spent the last day watching a movie.

Do you know why you missed the Soccer Team?  You have been missing the soccer practice for all those parties.

Can you spot the fault?

Actually there really isn’t any! Each child reacts to criticism and appreciation differently. As parents we have to find the right mix and no one else can really guide you with this.

So what I am really trying to do here is to tell you that sometimes the problem is not the child. The problem is the approach. BEING GOOD should be the most important factor. Appreciate the good, applaud the effort and encourage the child to therefore take pride in him/her. By counting the faults or the shortcomings, even in a kind manner, will only lead him/her to doubt himself/herself at every step of the way.

Am I dressed fine? Should I add a scarf?

Should I submit this report or do I need to add another research study?

I have been offered a job with more salary, but it requires me to manage a whole team. Can I do it?

In this last question, the question should not be – Can I? It should be – HOW can I?

Doubts and insecurities will find a way to pollute their minds because we put these notions of DOUBT YOURSELF. There is a difference in doubting your abilities and analysing them. Analysing is a good sign, doubting has a whole new connotation.

Being Ordinary is fine. Being hard-working should be good enough. Don’t carry the burden of being ordinary – look around you it is a commodity hard to get by these days. Appreciate it!!

 

 

 

 

 

Some child in my daughter’s class lost a copy, her mother asked me to check my daughter’s bag-

this is what I had to say…

 

I have  lost my mind, perhaps in one of those school bag it resides, Patiently to be found

I lost my sensibility, in one of those copies it still exists, waiting to perhaps evolve

I lost my creativity somewhere along the way, the drawing book of your child may still have the painting waiting to be finished,

I lost my curiosity, accepted things as they were, a corner of the bag may be hiding it and it just might pop up as a surprise,

I lost my enthusiasm, it gave away with the routine of life, the tiffin of your child may still hold some of its crumbs,

I have lost a lot, but then I think If the children have them, let it stay there in their hearts and in their school bags,

A thief is out on a prowl and may rob them soon of all this too

Let us wake up and help our kids  protect what matters…

Let the bags be full, not heavy

Let the bags hold knowledge, not just books

Let the bags hold a goal, not a burden

Let the bags hold a dream, not just reality

Let the bags hold hope, not the stress

Let the bags remind them of what they can be, not just who they are

Let the bags be………

 

 

According to the admissions site of MIT:

“Some applicants struggle to turn themselves into clones of the “ideal” MIT student—you know, the one who gets triple 800s on the SAT. Fortunately, cloning is still for sheep. What we really want to see on your application is you being you—pursuing the things you love, growing, changing, taking risks, learning from your mistakes, all in your own distinctive way. College is not a costume party; you’re not supposed to come dressed as someone else. Instead, college is an intense, irreplaceable four-year opportunity to become more yourself than you’ve ever been. What you need to show us is that you’re ready to try.”

This justifies me constantly talking about the YOU. It may have seemed repetitive and even boring, but there is acloning minds strong reasoning there – I wanted to warn you against the consequences of cloning. Till we do not make time to discover ourselves, we will be attempting to be someone who we may not necessary be. Just because it is right for someone, does that make it right for YOU? Probably not!  If you apply it to yourself in an objective manner you may find the MISFITS. This is true for a college, and even life in general. You cannot be a clone of someone and expect to succeed. If I talk about the education side, you would be surprised to know that each of the high ranked colleges talk about the Right Fit. The admission officers are usually looking at an application to see how the applicant fits in the university and in addition also how the university/college fits with YOU, your goals and your aspiration.

How do we discover ourselves and NOT turn into a clone? This is the precious question all of you should be asking before you embark on your journey of finding your educational path.

There are no set rules for this. There is, unfortunately no book that you can mug up and arrive at an answer. Neither is there a person who can tell you with certainty as to who you are. Your parents, friends, family and even your teachers all hold some pieces that can help you put the jigsaw together, but you, my dear student, have to make the effort.

How would YOU begin?

Discovering oneself certainly does not require you to be off to the Himalayas, although, where I am sitting right now it does sound like an excellent plan. However,If that is not an option, you can start with little steps.

Know your Skill Set.

Each of you has a set of skills, know-how, knowledge, interests etc. Each of this together form your skill set. The skill set of a person is essentially what sets them apart from another.Let me take this one step further to understand the importance. Every profession require a certain skill set.

So to say – a musician needs at the very least, an in-depth knowledge of Music – Vocal and instrumental. A musician would benefit if he/she knows more than one language (if you are a music composer in India you would benefit knowing regional languages).Must understand music production, the technology know-how. You should have the knowledge of history of Music and the instruments. Should have good Communication Skill, and strangely enough Theatre association (look at all the reality show judges). The list can be very long, but it is important to identify these. If you aspire to be a musician, you should know the skills required to become one. The Degree pursued at undergrad level and post grad level also forms part of this skill set.

Now analyse your skills you HAVE. You may already be studying music for last many years. You have already done a lot of theatre. But you may not be good at communication Skills. you still have to pursue a relevant college undergraduate and a postgraduate degree, so on and so forth.

Once you know the skill you NEED and the skills you HAVE you can arrive at, this is very important, THE SKILL GAP.

SKILLS I NEED (to be a musician) – SKILLS I HAVE (at present) = THE SKILL GAP

If you can find this skill gap then identifying your next step would become considerably easy. It will also help you identify a possible route to take. Analysing Skill gap also means that you can identify the amount of effort that you need to put in to become, say a musician.

How to read and analyse your Skill Gap is not a difficult task, try some for different professions and let me know if it helped you arrive at some answers or even better, if it helped you raise some questions. Questions about yourself is good to raise so long as you are agreeable to find answers and are willing to look at possibilities even if somewhat unusual.

 

via Daily Prompt: Toothbrush

What does Toothbrush effectively do for you? Clean up!! Now you did not have to be a rocket scientist to know that, just a regular guy/girl with a bad breath.

Education is pretty much the Toothbrush of our lives as well. No I  am not making this unnecessary connection for the heck of it. Think about it.

It cleans up your life in the most beautiful manner, leaves you fresh and yes your mind sparkling.

Education is arguably the best Toothbrush one is fortunate enough to get. A mind is essentially a muscle which develops just when we exercise it. Unlike other muscles you can instantly feel the difference in the most effective manner. When I say education I mean it beyond school, college and classes. I mean education broadly as learning. You could learn a new skill – drums maybe, learn a new thing about science or history. It does not have to be related to anything, can be without a plan so long as it leaves you with something new and exercises  that brain of yours. In some cultures it is believed that your mind, and it’s skills crosses over into your next life with you. This is how they explain how some kids are born intelligent with certain inherent skills and some kids do not have that intelligence. I may not believe in it entirely but I must admit it holds some mystery there.

So Toothbrush yes it’s a tool to help you start your day and education helps you start your life in the most beautiful manner.

 

 

 

 

I like this word Demystifying because it adds , well,  Mystery!! (no claims on originality there). By definition Demystify – make (a difficult subject) clearer and easier to understand. ‘Demystifying you’ simply translated – make a clearer picture of yourself. It is an interesting word which engulfs a certain mystery behind one that is demystified. Does that mean that you ademystifying youre such a mystery that you essentially require Demystifying?

Well yes You are!!

It is strange to think that you are a mystery to yourself. You who lives and breathes you, you who make you are a mystery to you. Almost a mind twister there! And yet it is true in most cases. We often fail to find answers to the very basic and thereby make ourselves the biggest mystery to even ourselves.

How is that possible, you might ask?

Well let us see when we ask questions such as – What is your favourite colour or what is your favourite food or even which is your least favourite destination? Most of us will prompt an answer without a thought. This has a lot to do with where this information is stored in our brain (not elaborating on this for fear of making this technical)

However, let us ask a little deeper question: “What makes you happy?” or even something simpler “If your favourite colour is yellow, what does it really represent for you?” These questions are usually answered with “ err” , “hmmm” and similar sounds that are mostly difficult to decipher.

Would you therefore not agree that most of us find ourselves a mystery? This phenomenon is more prevalent in the students and its presence is essentially due to the fact that they have many stimuli and information thrown their which make is difficult to process and store it in the relevant box. It is often a task to know which information is relevant to the given question, thereby mystifying us further.

So how do we truly demystify ourselves?

There are various ways that we use to answer a question in a class – let us say a Science project on “How can we save the Tiger” (my son has been given this for the week). What would be the logical path that you would take to come up with the best possible answer?

  1. Do your research on tigers
  2. You start with the history of tigers
  3. The reason why they are endangered
  4. What are the steps we are taking to protect the tigers
  5. Finally what more can we do?

Let us start on this logical path

Do your research on you – include what you like, what are you good at, since we are essentially taking about education find out what subject you find hard to do and on the other hand which subjects do you enjoy doing. Do not however make it just about grades.

History of You should include more than your educational background and include your qualities, skills, interests and to some extent even your beliefs. Each of these defines YOU. Each of these will influence the decision you will take in a certain situation. Example if your belief does not allow you to tell a lie, there will be certain career that will be most unsuited. (You know which ones I am suggesting, don’t you?)

The Reason: this is an interesting one. Why am I who I am? (This is a question I will help you answer eventually). To look for an answer for this complex question will involve a number of things – your skill set, your background – both financial and cultural, your education – passive and active and a number of other reasons that have made you an individual that you are.

Steps Ahead: this involves primarily chalking a path to your future. This step shall come only after an initial knowledge on yourself. It requires identification of a path that you can set off on.

What can we do: an objective view on what should or should not be done in order to achieve our goals (in this case possibly the admission in a desired college?)

You may add as many subheads to make the report more believable and true, this is only a sample of the essential information you need to have to create an effective report on self. You will see that to take any step further in our lives, we need to have an understanding of self. There is another thing that is equally important to understand. You are a dynamic element, which means that you are always changing and evolving with every experience. Each of the factors that I have talked about will change or add to it. What is constant, however, is that each of these will have an effect on your decision. Therefore in decoding yourself, first step will be to gain an understanding of self!