At the beginning of the semester, I believed that school only entailed reading and passing exams. This belief was incorporated in me by my parents, who instructed me never to get engaged in sports, debates or music festivals. I was told to focus my energy on the Library, consultations with teachers, researches and passing my exams. I also believed that the only way to pass exams was through reading during the whole night and attending lessons during the day. I would spend my free time either in the class or in the Library. I also believed in keeping to myself. To me, everyone could negatively influence my grades apart from my teachers and top performers in the class. My definition of working hard was to ensure I had read all the books, revised all the past papers and consulted more than five times a day. I believed that reading anything that was not taught in the class was a waste of time. For instance, I would not read any newspaper or watch news, because I thought nothing would be tested in exams. Holidays were no different to me as I would wake up very early and embark on rigorous revision and reading ahead of my teachers. I rarely went out to meet my friends. I believed I was in school for one purpose, and that was to get good grades. A failure meant no job and rejection by the entire community.
School is a factory that moulds young children to be fully acceptable grownups in the society. It is the only place where one meets people from all walks of the society, who help him or her realize his or her potential and nurture his talents. Apart from academic growth, we go to school to grow spiritually, morally and socially.
With time, I associated with fellow students, who excelled in the class in the field of sports and debates. The most interesting thing was that I had never beaten any of these people in the class, since they planned their time to accommodate curriculum and co-curriculum activities. They had timetables that guided them on what to do and when to do. They got ensured that they followed their timetables to the latter. I realized that they had enough time to do everything I had never done. For instance, when a teacher asked about the current issues in the world, they were updated, while I was clueless. They did their assignments on time and were awarded as the best athletes. They were always happy in the company of their friends, while I had my books as my only consolation. I inquired from them what drove them through their lives. Some talked of their mentors, who advised them to perfect their talents, and to learn such life skills as critical thinking and decision-making.
I also attended some motivational talks organized by the school and found out that ‘no man is an island’ and that ‘knowledge is power’. The notion that I had only to read my books and to know what was taught in the class was challenged. I realized that I had to know what happened all over the world in preparation for my life after school. I have also realized that our friends play a major role in our success, but only if a person chooses the best company. My teachers also emphasized the importance of group work and developing our talents. I learnt that most people had made history through their talents. One only had to plan his time to do everything at the right time, with the right people and at the correct place. In the process of conducting my survey, I learnt that some students deceived others. They would mislead their friends during the day by being engaged in vices, such as drug abuse, but embarked on serious revision during the night, while the rest spent their nights sleeping. Some people were mot willing to share their experiences with me, while others could not reveal anything. My survey was also limited to the pupils of my school. I had no time to interact with pupils from other schools. As I conducted my survey, some people would criticize me and laugh at me. This greatly demoralized me from going on with my survey.
My interviewees, including fellow students, lecturers and motivational speakers, also told me that school was meant to instill skills that would help us survive in the society. For instance, most units we learnt in school are theoretical rather than practical and that the education system is inclined to train white collar workers. If one cannot get a white collar job, then he has to find alternative ways of surviving. These skills include entrepreneurial skills, such as recycling scrap metals and turning them into useful tools, which can be sold. Haines affirms that such talents as athletics, acting and singing can be improved to careers, as some people, who compete internationally in sports, earn their living from their talents (44). Interviewees also told me that proper communication would be needed in businesses, politics and our day-to-day operations, since no man is an island. To them, success comes as a result of holding group discussions with their friends, as this enables them to learn new things and deeply understand what they did not understand. They associate with as many people as they can in order to learn from them both in class work and normal life.
Their ideas were different from mine, since I considered school as a place, where one goes to read and pass exams. In my opinion, getting engaged in co-curriculum activities was a waste of time. I also believed that employment could only be a white collar job after graduating school. I had never thought of running a business or earning income from my talent. I also believed that what I knew was adequate to enable me to pass my exams, and that friends would only lead me to a failure, while they told me that friends could be a source of vital information that would lead to success. To them, success does not necessarily require hard work, but also smart work. They had timetables to guide them through their activities, while I spent the whole day reading without any plan. When they went home during holidays, they relaxed a lot, visited each other, got engaged in community service and were exposed to many life skills, while I stayed in the house reading during the whole day.
I also believed that my parents were always right in everything, what they said, and I was not supposed to go against their demands. I could not make decisions on my own without consultation with my parents. On the other hand, my interviewees believed that they had to make decisions after consulting different sources. First, they analyzed their findings and then made informed decisions. To them, decision-making is a process that requires patience and understanding of circumstances. They also believe that we do not have to make decisions blindly, because we are told to do it, but we have to establish the basis of our decisions.
They challenged me by giving examples of people, who had gone to school, but were earning so much money through their talents. For instance, Bolt, the world’s fastest runner and the best footballer, used his talents to earn a living. They also explained to me the importance of socializing, as it might help in my life after school. Richard affirms that through connections with other people, we can be informed about employment niches, as we will be connected by the people we know (62). They also told me that proper communication skills would help me boost my sales in business and purchase wisely. I would also have the convincing power to lure people towards my opinions. They also challenged me by telling the need to read widely, including newspapers and watching news, as these would help me during job interviews, whereby most of the questions asked relate to daily occurrences. The fact that school was the only conducive environment, in whichone could discover his or her talents and build communication skills apart from growing academically, made me change my perspective about school. I concluded that I would have wasted my time if all I got from school was a certificate and not a possibility to become an all-rounded citizen.
During my traditional research, I have discovered that one has to be a rational thinker in order to think critically and compare his thoughts with other people’s thoughts to make informed decisions. Group working and holding a discussion with other people increases our knowledge and understanding of what we read. As one goes through school, he has to think of life after school and prepare for it. I have also learnt that parents should let their children decide on what they want to do with their lives and not dictate what they want them to be without considering their interests and talents. Haines asserts that parents play a major role in the future of their children. They should help their children discover their potential and provide the best environment for improving their abilities (74). Similar to the case when my parents misled me believing that I had gone to school for the sole reason of passing my exams, and I had a difficult time trying to find out the realities of life, any other parents could mislead their children, wishing the best for them.
Experts say that success is a total sum of decisions we make every day. If we decide to be rigid in our thinking, we may not realize our potential. They say that education can only be beneficial to us, if we are brought out as acceptable members of the society. As we learn, we should be able to plan our activities in order to accommodate everything we want to achieve. They add that school is meant to produce an upright person spiritually, socially and psychologically. Although we are pushed by the drive to pass exams, we should also exploit our potential. This challenge influenced my belief, as I discovered that I would graduate school as an incomplete person, who might not fit in the society. I was only in the pursuit of grades. I would also be disadvantaged spiritually, morally and psychologically. I also realized that after school I would not be equipped with proper communication and technical skills that would help me secure a job in case I was not employed.
Some experts also say that the main cause of a failure is fear. It is similar to the case when I feared my parents. I could not do anything against my parents’ instructions. They say that as soon as one can overcome this fear within him, then he is free to decide his destiny. In order to make informed decisions, we need to be free from any coercion. The fact that we are away from home does not give us the license to disobey our parents, but in some instances, we need to disobey them for our own good.
My observations have enabled me to become a critical thinker. Now I know that success does not come on a silver platter, and it takes a lot for one to achieve his dreams. Only the wise can smile at the tribulations of life, as they understand the best ways of handling tricky situations. Most successful people in the worldhave struggled to reach what they have through their brains. Now I believe that school is a place that helps a person grow, both academically and socially. Though we may spend most of our time reading, how much we understand determines how much we excel in school. We should set right priorities and ensure that we achieve our goals. Richard intimates that working smart works better in determining our success as compared to working hard (84). We should always read to understand and apply what we learn at school to our day-to-day activities.
In conclusion, many people have been misled by the pressure put upon them by parents, teachers and the society. Most parents demand quality results from their children, but advice them wrongly. As we go to school, we are bound to meet different people and situations, and how we deal with these situations determines whether we succeed or not. We should be aware of what happens around us and should not be rigid on what we believe. We should always embrace changes and be willing to cope with the pressure mounted on us by our environment. Children should be taught how to make decisions on their own without being influenced by peers’ pressure. We should also learn to give back to the society the skills acquired in school. Even when we interact with our fellow students in school, we should be careful in order not to be negatively influenced.