FOCUS ON SKILLS FOR GRADES

Good grades – Good University – Good Job – Good life. We all have this path laid out for us. Somewhere along the path we forget that Good skills will help us reach the very first step of the journey – Good Grades. it is time we FOCUS on the skills.

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!!

 

Your choice of career should largely be based on Skills that you have and Skills that you acquire. The Skill Gap will help you prioritise the skills you must acquire in order to excel in your chosen field. The question arises, when do you start acquiring these skills? Answer to which is NOW!!

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!!

Cloning is for sheep

 

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.