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Old 2nd July 2020, 15:37   #1
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Default Retrospecting: Things I wish I knew in school & college

Before I write about the intent of this thread let me give a small background about myself. I was born in Mumbai, lived here till 3rd and from 4th till my 10th I lived in Nasik. From 11th std till date I am living in Mumbai. I am a supply chain professional and pursue hobbies in music, treks, camping & travel. I have never been a scholar but I was always good in learning, and good with people. I am 32 yr old and started working since I was 20.

During this lock down most of us had ample time to think of things we never did before. One such topic that struck me was, "wish I knew some things much earlier in life which would have helped me now". My plan is to have 2 lists.

1. For kids who are in school studying in class 9 & 10. I feel this is a time when what you do, and how you do it, shapes up the outcome for your board results. And board results will shape the outcome of which college you get to study in. A good college that has a good balanced environment of academic and fun, forms the base for future studies.

2. Another list for folks who are in college. Mainly the ones studying graduation. These are the years just before you either get into an engineering/MBA school or many would find jobs, gain some experience and then might do their MBAs or further studies.

The list for school kids: School days are days when you are carefree. Everyone in the same uniform, we would either take a bus or cycle to school and till date it remains more or less the same with students. Usually the school timings would be from 8 till 2. In 9th/10th, chances are that either you have tuition before school, say 6:30 to 7:30 OR you get up early to study. I know a few kids who have tuition before & after school also. That leaves barely any time for the kid to focus on actions or habits to inculcate to be future ready. But still I feel there are some things which can be worked upon even in the tight schedule.

1. Improve English speaking skills: I have observed that till 10th many schools mandate SPEAKING in English. And then in college no one really mandates this. This is even more in tier 2/3 cities where in school other than the "English teacher", everyone speaks in Hindi or local language. I wished I spoke English more often when in school. It would have helped me improve my pronunciations and grammar much earlier in life. When one goes for an interview, the ability to communicate our thoughts effectively can make or break the day for you. Also, majority of the kids belong to a family where barely anyone at home talks in English. So school remains the source of people with whom you can talk and improve your communication skills. I came from Nasik to Mumbai in 11th and I was overwhelmed seeing that most around me spoke fluent English and I really had to put in a lot of efforts to improve myself. Please note, the intent here is to not demean or reduce the significance of local language or ones mother tongue. It is just to ensure that in an English speaking corporate world, one never feels lagging behind.

2. Read, read & read: The first non-academic book I read was "20000 Leagues under the Sea" by Jules Verne and I was just smitten by it. I would imagine the captain and his Submarine and its interiors and it gave me a fascinating access to the power of reading and imagination. But this happened to me when I was in 11th class in college. To not inculcate an early habit of reading remains one of my regrets in life and I wished I had taken more efforts on this front. My mother is an avid reader and she would always urge me to read more books. Wished I had listened to her much early in life.

3. You have 1 body, take good care of it: Last year when I visited school, I was shocked to hear from my teacher that some students have started smoking. I understanding that at that age there is a strong urge to try something that is forbidden. Its the age when we rebel and challenge the norms, most just for the heck of it. I would like to tell the kids that in the world within the air conditioned offices, they will be sitting at one place for hours and that they will be doing this 5/6 times a week, for a good 30 yrs or so. How they treat their body till their 30s will decide how in the next 30 yrs the body treats them. Personally, I was so active in sports until school. All those activities literally came to a stand still when I started college. Its been only a few yrs that I have again started playing badminton and turf football but I have lost all the flexibility and agility that I could have maintained if I would have stayed active in sports. Activities like Yoga, a daily exercise routine, breathing exercises, etc will go a long way in ensuring they live a healthy life ahead, not just physically but even mentally.

4. Take up summer jobs: I find this relevant for kids from 7th grade onward. The intent here is to not earn money, but to earn experience, life lessons and respect through performance. I wish I had not wasted my summer vacations visiting relatives and cousins. Thankfully, a good chunk of those summer vacations went trekking the hills around Nasik, but then not many cities have such hills and not many parents find it comfortable watching their kids walk on narrow edges and climb mountains. Example of such jobs can be: A helper at a store, helper to count inventory or track deliveries or schedules. Something that is simple but has accountability. Such experience would have helped me in learning how to interact, to understand responsibility, to adhere to work timings, etc. My best friends dad paid a shop keeping 500 Rs and made my friend work there as a helper. The shop keeper paid him 500 rs at the end of the month. For my friend, he learnt some duniyaadaari (to be a street smart), understand what it means to run a small business and earned his 1st salary. It was years later that his dad told him he had paid that money to the shop keeper to pay to him, & the intent was served.


The list for graduating students: As I mentioned above, the years of graduation are like your last few yrs of a carefree life where the only responsibility you have is to pass with good scores. After graduation, majority would join a company and take up responsibilities. Expectations are in place from day 1 and the zeal to outperform everyone is so strong that one is willing to put in long hours and slog hard. Below are the list of things I wish I knew while I was graduating:

1. Learn that vlookup: There was once this fresh graduate who studied management. Landed an interview with Asian Paints for an entry level position. In the waiting room were 7 other candidates, most freshers, some with a year or so of experience. A fresher is someone who has not yet achieved anything, the resume has more white than ink and confidence levels are low. He rubs the shoe at the back of his trousers for that final touch of shine and steps into a swanky colorful office for his first ever interview. When he gets called inside, the interviewer spends a minute or so asking about the schooling & college background and then gets straight to the point. His first question in the interview, "Do you know what a vlookup is?" The boy says yes and explains the feature. Then he asks, "Do you know what a pivot yes?". The boy says NO, but promises to learn it by tomorrow. A few days later he gets a call asking him to join work from 1st Aug 2008. The interviewer is his manager at work and few months down the line the boy asks him out of curiosity, "Boss why was I hired? I was a fresher, had zero experience and there were 7 other folks in that room who did not make it. Why?". The Boss answers, "Because you were the only one in those 7 who knew that damn vlookup & your "No" followed by "But I will learn it". That boy was me. At 20, with zero experience, but with decent knowledge of using excel (thanks to my dad who made me learn it since I was in class 11), I landed that job and my life changed forever. The world works on excel. To know it well will give students an edge when they join an office. While many around them would be struggling with data, those who are good at excel will find data handling easy and they can improve it further with experts there.

2. Practice writing: In my decade of experience in purchasing stuff, moving trucks and building warehouses, all that I have ever done is write emails. It doesn't matter what you do, chances are, in reality, you do it by reading, analyzing and writing emails. To be precise, to the point and drive an action out of your email is a skill that needs a lot of practice. The sooner one starts, the better. College professors can share topics on which students can write one pagers and then they can have review workshops where writing skills are improved. Many times, an extremely well drafted email improves your perception in the readers mind significantly and you get a positive revert.

3. Learn to say "We" Vs "I": Throughout our school days, we are urged to be competitive. We are urged to be the best at what we do. It is all about me, how can I do something better, how can I be the smartest and fastest and so on. And suddenly you land up in an office where from day 1 you are expected to be a great team player. You are expected to have fantastic rapport with folks around you. This shift in behavior expectation is daunting at times. I have realized that whenever there was a need for someone else to stretch and do something that mattered to me, that person did it because of the relation that I had build, rather than doing it for the sake of it or for the authority position. To build and nurture relations at work is what decides the slope of your ladder, it doesn't matter if you are an employee or an employer. In college, there has to be programs where team building, recognizing others for their work and a habit of saying "we did it" vs "I did it" should be inculcated in students. It will slowly instill a natural tendency to be a great team player/leader.

4. Manage Time & set priorities: This is one skill which is so underrated. Most of the times, the reason for the stress of an unfinished task is not the task but the fact that a lot of resources required to do the task were not managed efficiently, TIME being the most important one. To be able to understand how to prioritize and then allocate time to it can work wonders for you. Especially early in your career where you want to stretch, do more, learn a lot, time management becomes all the more important. To be able to say No to something that does not matter at that time is also important & this is where knowing your priorities matter. To de-clutter your mind and put all your efforts in a focused way will give better results in minimum efforts. I would urge the students to have a schedule, to have a calendar, to write what they have planned, no matter how trivial it is. These are habits that will help them. The place where I work, my CEO writes down things that he has to get back to and also what he has expected others to get back to him. To see that discipline and orderliness even at that position is inspiring.

Well, these are some of the points I thought of writing. Earlier I was also planning to have a list of things that one should not do, but then I thought that would be a very negative conversation. I would rather focus on sharing things that one can do and thus eliminate the time and space for the things that do not matter.

Might be, many of you must be thinking that some points I mentioned here are too obvious for kids to know or a bit old school, but do note, I plan to have these talks in schools at Tier 2/3 cities where the exposure to the things as we see it living in tier 1 metros is not there. I can only hope these pointers will inspire them to inculcate some of what is said, if not all.

If there are any points which you feel are worthy to be mentioned, please feel free to share your thoughts. There are so many students who do not have someone to guide them. Who have parents who are not modern/tech savvy or up to date with where the world is. I feel its my way of Thanking my school/college by sharing these insights with the students in a hope that may they never feel in future that "wished I knew it back then".

Thank you for reading.

Last edited by Aditya : 3rd July 2020 at 21:33. Reason: Typo
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Old 2nd July 2020, 17:51   #2
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Default Re: Retrospecting: Things I wish I knew in school & college

Good Thread.

The most important one - Learn how to fall down and get up, because no matter who is your daddy, you will fall and if you can not get up & suit up, it is going to get tough.
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Old 2nd July 2020, 18:12   #3
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Default Re: Retrospecting: Things I wish I knew in school & college

Good thread.

I truly believe the failure I faced during my academic days has a lot of influence on what I am as a person today and my career too. I am in a way glad to have faced failure at a young age.

A few years ago I had written the below text as a response to a question on another forum. I believe it will fit in here too and will be useful for youngsters and students reading this.

Quote:

Let me tell you my story.

School:

I was always a mediocre student scoring 70s and 80s. I was quite active in sports and a bit of cultural stuff like stage drama etc. I was quite famous and would always be accompanied by a friend at any time of the day.

Class 10, meant serious business. Parents and teachers were at their best advising me and pepping me on. Sports and other extracurricular activities were stopped and daydreams of a good college and great career were played again and again in front of me. I tried my best, rose to the occasion, and ended up scoring 91%. At home, I was a hero. At school, some were surprised and others had a bit of newfound respect for me.

PUC:

A good score in 10th meant the best "tuitions" in town even though at a towering fee. This was the time where tuitions were more important than the college you were studying in. In spite of all the hype, I had the balls to bunk tuitions, play around, and enjoy life. I ended up with a "below average" 67% and a 5 digit rank in the Karnataka CET.

I still remember it was my Dad's friend who read out my CET rank over the phone from his office where he had a fast internet connection. "2...4..4..2......<my heart jumps with joy and sees dreams of one of the best engineering colleges in Bangalore> ............7". I was shell shocked.


Engineering:

Thanks to my telephone-number-like rank, I ended up in an average college and chose Mechanical engineering (which I grew to love later) since all other branches were opted or were available in below-average colleges.

The plan was to study really hard for the first 2 semesters and then opt for a branch change after the second semester.

Semester 1:

I knew a couple of papers did not go well. Result time... P,P,F,F,F,F.

Wait.....what? Is it my number? Is it my name? Is it some sort of a mistake? Mom's in shock, tears. Re-evaluation it will be !! Blah Blah Blah ...

Slowly, I came to terms with the fact that I had 4 backlogs in my first semester.

I was always a mediocre student barring my class 10 heroics, but this was a new low.

Semester 2:

I study hard, or so I think. Now I had to write 6 subjects from semester 2 and 4 from semester 1, totaling the number of subjects to 10. This meant I had some papers on consecutive days.

Result time.. Cleared 2 from the first semester, failed 2 from the first semester again, and failed 2 more from the second semester. Hey, I got 4 backlogs again!

Forget thinking of branch change, I had barely scraped through to the 3rd semester. One more back would mean I would have lost a year.

By this time, I had got accustomed to failure and I guess my parents too. They had started lying to my probing relatives about my results. Only a few knew the truth. I used to lie to my friends and I wouldn't remember the exact lie if I met them again. It was all shady.

As you would have guessed by now, semesters 3 and 4 got tougher and I could never cope up with the backlogs. I did not know what to study and what to skip.

In the 4th semester, I had to do a few morning-matinee sessions. Yes, imagine giving two papers on the same day! Things went from bad to worse and I used to win bets with like-minded friends during exams.

The bet was simple - Who comes out of the exam hall first? - I personally consider this one of the stupidest things I have done in my life.

So, finally, it happened. I lost a year. At the end of semester 4, I had those 4 friends from my 1st and 2nd semesters who wouldn't get rid of me, 1 from semester 3 and 6 from semester 4. Totally I had 11, yes eleven backlogs after semester 4.

So eleven backlogs and one year to make the impossible possible.

After the initial few days of reality setting in, I gradually slipped into depression. Typically, I stopped talking much and doing anything at all. My life was pointless and directionless. My parents did not know whether to scold me or support me. They were scared that I would try to kill myself if they scolded me. They tried to take me to those family functions where the topic of how I was free on weekdays was carefully avoided. I realized, with great surprise and shock, that out of hundreds of friends I had, less than 10 of them were in touch with me. Out of that, only 3 really supported me.

One day, I was standing in front of another college, with a BSc application in my hand. I had decided to quit engineering. I had decided I am not competent enough to finish it. My mom and dad spoke to me on the phone and convinced me to come back home.

They sat with me, advised me, encouraged me, reminded me of my good days. Days where I used to be a confident, young guy. Days where I was a guy liked by so many people. My dad shared some of his failures in life, treated me as a friend. Most importantly, they hid all their anger, frustration, and disappointment and LOVED me.

I gradually started studying again. I was in such a bad situation that I had to read a line and write it to keep my concentration intact. I gave up many times or went into an unknown day-dreaming session many times. But my mother sat next to me as if I was a 3-year-old kid starting to read and write.

With hours and days and months of hard work, I started regaining my concentration. I started to organize my thoughts and learned to strategize. I kept smaller targets. I decided to take 5 of the 11 subjects for the first attempt. I did not study to pass anymore. I studied to score well. With great embarrassment, I went to college to write my exams and met my friends. They were writing exams too but the subjects were of next year.

At last, I had cleared 5 out of the 11 backlogs I had. I had not only just passed, but done so convincingly and with respectable marks.

One of these 5 papers, I gave alone. Just me and the invigilator in the entire darn classroom. Probably one of the shittiest moments of my life.

But now, I had regained my confidence. I had learned how to be organized, how to plan, and strategize. I had a technique to study and I could study things faster than before. It was all new found.

In the next attempt during my one-year hibernation, I cleared the remaining 6 subjects.

So in the one year gap, I had cleared 5+6 subjects and I was ready to go back to college with no weight on my back and with a fresh mind. I was more nervous than ever before. Thoughts of sitting in a new class, making new friends, being looked down upon by my friends and lecturers created havoc in my mind. But I somehow managed.

Now, the focus was to keep the momentum going and study well. I always knew that the final degree certificate from VTU will consider semesters 5,6,7,8 to declare the score of my BE. So I focussed on scoring well.

In semester 5, I worked hard and scored a very respectable 66%. When my results came, I jumped with joy!

Semester 6, I had a new goal. I wanted to score a distinction (70%) at any cost. I worked my ass off. For some reason, the papers were very tough, even for the usual top scorers. The overall result was lower than normal and I could manage only 67%. I was so disappointed that my mother had to remind me of my situation a year ago to make me feel better. :P

Semester 7, my determination was higher than ever. I studied hard from the beginning and maintained very good marks in internal assessments, with the aim of scoring a distinction.

When I got my results, I could not believe my own eyes. I had scored 79% and TOPPED my class. Messages started pouring in on my cell phone. The usual topper of the class called and congratulated me and I could just not believe what was happening. My mother was in tears again, these were happy ones.

The next day, I was called onto the dais by our lecturer. He knew my history. He announced me as the topper. He even jokingly wondered aloud if it was the same guy who's been doing BE from semester 1, or if the failure twin is sitting at home. Some students in my "new" class who hadn't noticed me till then wondered if I dropped down a year due to attendance shortage.

From here onwards, there's been no looking back. I work with an MNC now and I am reasonably happy. I have seen some major failures and the smaller, usual ones can't set me back.

What did I learn from all this?

  • I am glad I learned failure at a young age. I see many guys who were successful academically, grapple with small issues.
  • I learned who my friends are and I learned to value relationships.
  • I learned how to be an organized, calm, and composed individual in all situations. I learned self-control.
  • I learned that, no matter what, it is my parents who will always be there for me. Others will judge me and put me down. My parents never will.
  • No matter what, hard work pays. If not now, then soon.
  • Have no regrets. Whatever happens, happens for a reason. This failure was meant to happen to change me as an individual. I grew up from a boy to be a man.
  • Taking responsibility for success is easy and comes naturally. One needs titanium jewels to accept responsibility for failure.
  • Looking for motivation from other sources is not bad, but will help to only a certain extent. The best source of motivation is yourself and your own thoughts.


Finally, I would like to say "You are who you want to be." So go out there and get what you want. Don't let small and temporary failures set you back. Cheers!
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Old 2nd July 2020, 18:17   #4
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Default Re: Retrospecting: Things I wish I knew in school & college

Thank You for the very good points @Dieselritzer.

My few additions:

1. In school, the focus should be on all-around development and not just focusing on Board exams marks. I remember The Scindia School, Gwalior and DPS, Delhi to be excellent in this aspect.

2. Developing Interpersonal skills

3. Thriving on chaos

4. Industrial/ practical training for six months - this should be mandated in all undergraduate courses - even if it means introducing an additional semester. This gives people a good exposure to transition from academics to Industry.

5. Developing a never say die spirit

These should be through a diligent concerted effort by both academicians and industry experts for the larger benefit of the new generation.
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Old 2nd July 2020, 18:26   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Added_flavor View Post

Out of that, only 3 really supported me..
This sentence hit me hard. Have been through this situation where life gives you an opportunity to filter out your true friends. Thanks a lot for sharing your life experience. What a bounce back it has been. Extremely inspiring. It is in those small achievements that one gains the confidence to achieve the bigger tasks in life, and it is in the downfalls that we know and learn what pain and failure feels like. It is this feeling that gives us the push to stand up and win what was lost.
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Old 2nd July 2020, 18:29   #6
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These are my 2 cents.
Learn coding from very early days in school instead of wasting time on useless subject. In India maximum lucrative job prospects lies in CS related profiles, period.

Choose a CBSE school over ICSE school. Seriously it's of no use today to study so many subjects in excess detail even though it's not of much use as far as Indian scenario is concerned.
In CBSE you can get extra time to something more useful.
Choose a school near to house or vice versa. Seriously this helps you interact with friends better and take part in school extra curricular activities more easily.
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Old 2nd July 2020, 19:40   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dieselritzer View Post

1. Learn that vlookup:
Index + Match over Vlookup anyday

Nice thread! Wish I had got some career counseling in high school/ early college years. By the time I got it in my fourth year it was already too late to change the career path.
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Old 2nd July 2020, 19:55   #8
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Default Re: Retrospecting: Things I wish I knew in school & college

Good list. I would also add work on your social skills. This is something a lot of guys lack. I would break things down in 3 buckets
1. Social
2. Financial
3. Fitness (Just having a clean diet in itself is a big deal)
All areas should be simultaneously worked on
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Old 2nd July 2020, 20:46   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Storm2.0 View Post
Learn coding from very early days in school instead of wasting time on useless subject. In India maximum lucrative job prospects lies in CS related profiles, period.
Education should not be just about landing the most "lucrative" career or scoring well in 10th or 12th standards. It should be about overall development, sports, social skills, meditation etc. might help. I don't know much about coding, but I'm sure people who like it and want to do it for a living will learn it later on.

Last edited by ike : 2nd July 2020 at 20:49.
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Old 2nd July 2020, 21:19   #10
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Default Re: Retrospecting: Things I wish I knew in school & college

I was a stubborn child who did not learn anything that I did not want to learn. I wish I had not been so falsely confident in my fixed ideas of what was useful and what wasn't. Ignorant and arrogant.

I wish I had somehow managed to break the mental block on learning a second (or more) language. That block persists today, and it is to my shame that I cannot put together a useful sentence in the language of the place where I live.

I wish I had done some sport. It was fine to be non-competitive and disinterested in the sport itself, but it would have been good for strength and fitness. I wish I'd learned to fight too!

I'm glad that life was kind and that, despite being an academic washout, was able to find niche situations in employment where I fitted in. No riches, but didn't do too bad in the end

My advice to the young would be either...

a) find a profession you love and do the necessary to get there, and do it. If, like medicine, it benefits the world, then all the better,

or

b) don't spend your life chasing money, or, worse, just breaking even. Chase money when young: get as much as you possibly can. Plan to retire young and live the rest of your life as you choose, even if that means going on working. Saving and pension plans, etc, is not boring, like I thought: it is buying yourself future freedom.
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Old 2nd July 2020, 21:37   #11
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Default Re: Retrospecting: Things I wish I knew in school & college

Nice thread! I don't think I would like to change anything in my school and college days. What I have learnt is that "past is past" and no point in thinking what could have been done. Till a few months back when I would be in a pensive mood, I would think that if I had forced my parents to let me study Automobile Engineering in Bangalore and not Electronics and Telecomm in Kolkata, I would have done much better in life. After Covid, I have stopped thinking what could have been better. I am alive and still have a job, this is the best I could have done.
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Old 2nd July 2020, 22:46   #12
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Nice thread. I would add:
  • Story telling: In addition to knowing good English, today one needs to be a great story teller.
  • Active participation in sports: This may appear very obvious but many students who are good at studies would ignore sports. Sport teaches many life lessons including being competitive, strategies and accepting the defeats and learning from it.
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Old 3rd July 2020, 00:50   #13
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Hi, the intent of this thread is to not look back and think, but to rather jot down learnings which I can share with students today who can then take action on it. After Covid related restrictions end and schools and colleges re-open, I will seek permission and have face to face small talk sessions where I will talk these things out and will hope that many of these points will be an eye opener and if they do many of these things now, in the long run they will have an edge over people who didn't.


Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackPearl View Post
Nice thread! I don't think I would like to change anything in my school and college days. What I have learnt is that "past is past" and no point in thinking what could have been done. Till a few months back when I would be in a pensive mood, I would think that if I had forced my parents to let me study Automobile Engineering in Bangalore and not Electronics and Telecomm in Kolkata, I would have done much better in life. After Covid, I have stopped thinking what could have been better. I am alive and still have a job, this is the best I could have done.

Last edited by Sheel : 3rd July 2020 at 06:30. Reason: Typos.
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Old 3rd July 2020, 05:02   #14
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Default Re: Retrospecting: Things I wish I knew in school & college

I don't know how the system is now but I wish I had realized how much the rote learning approach in my days was a waste of my time.

For example, in the CBSE syllabus, one was required to know the speed of light to nine significant figures i.e. not just 3x10^8 m/s but instead 299,792,458 m/s. I know this number by heart and it is utterly useless information. There was so much more taught in this way where students are treated like parrots.

As the quote goes, I wish I hadn't let schooling interfere so much with my education.
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Old 3rd July 2020, 06:29   #15
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Default Re: Retrospecting: Things I wish I knew in school & college

Quote:
Originally Posted by McLaren Rulez View Post
I don't know how the system is now but I wish I had realized how much the rote learning approach in my days was a waste of my time. There was so much more taught in this way where students are treated like parrots. As the quote goes, I wish I hadn't let schooling interfere so much with my education.
The system hasnít changed much. That was the reason I didnít enroll my kid into pre-school,LKG and UKG. But had to enroll directly to 1st standard to give exposure to other kids, but have told the teachers that the kid is just here for acquiring social skills and basic education and not bothered about getting high grades or stuff and we arenít expecting to Ďmakeí our kid into anything!

Expectations from our children are one reason for most unhappiness I feel and unnecessarily push them into distress and undue competitiveness. Not every kid is going to be an academic success, so chasing that is a mirage. We all have some talent, just help it flourish rather than trying to become someone else. In the end it all boils down to whether you are happy in life.
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