Planning For Success!

ASAD was feeling proud as he showed his test copies to his parents. He had scored the highest marks in all the tests during the first monthly tests of the new academic session.

The teachers’ remarks were encouraging and he wore a confident look on his face, totally opposite to the crestfallen one when he had got his last annual report card. Being one of the best in his class in mathematics, his annual result was a big disappointment for him and his parents.

Asad was one of those students who are not deterred by failure. He was inspired by the famous quote of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” Instead of losing confidence, he sat down to list the reasons why he had failed to achieve the grades which were so usual for him. He realised that his overconfidence had let him down as he had not worked hard enough for the mathematics exam.

After the paper, he had hurriedly submitted his answer copy, instead of rechecking it carefully. And most of his marks had been deducted because of careless mistakes. After carefully assessing the reasons for his poor performance, he resolved to make his failure the recipe for future success and this set him on the right path!

Often in our school life, we have to face such disappointments. These are the years when we are preparing ourselves for the future. A positive approach makes a drastic difference in what our personality and career will be once we finish education. The manner in which we react to failures and chalk out our future plans to overcome them, prove to be stepping stones which lead us to a successful practical life we have to enter after our student years are over.

Friends, failure does not mean that we cannot succeed at all. Often we have to accept failure as a challenge and make it a recipe for success.

Here are some tips which may help you to attain your goals and lead you to the road to success.

A positive approach

Instead of losing confidence and giving up if you cannot achieve the grades you had set your heart upon, try to ponder upon the reasons of your failure. Resolve to overcome these shortcomings. Hard work, patience and a positive frame of mind almost always lead to the road to success. There may be difficulties in the beginning but with endurance and dedication, they will ease out with time.

Practice for perfection

At times you may feel that you know everything that has been taught in class. Even then, do not stop revising. Soon you will realize that there are some fields in which you can improve your grades. Practice your math exercises daily. For other subjects, writing down answers to questions you think you have learnt, will make you identify and overcome the small mistakes that you make.

Seek help when needed

Never hesitate to seek help if you feel you require it. In school, if you do not understand a lesson your teacher is explaining; do not feel shy to speak out! If something is not clear to you, you must know that it is your right to request your teacher to clarify it again! And if some of you are slower than your peers in picking up a new lesson, you should not feel ashamed about it. Often teachers give extra time to such students after school or during recess, so that the rest of the class does not slow down. If the problem persists, you can discuss with your parents, your siblings or get a tutor to help you out.

Set a timetable

Always make a timetable in which you expect yourself to finish a certain lesson. This will keep you more organised in doing your homework and preparing for your tests. And be sure to follow the routine you have set for yourself.

But the rule is to plan practically and not to be too harsh on yourself. A timetable which you can follow steadily will always bring better results.

Aim high!

Set goals for yourself and keep on moving towards them with dedication and hard work. If at times you cannot attain a goal within the time you gave yourself to achieve it, do not be disheartened. Be realistic in your approach. Maybe you are pushing yourself too hard. Readjust your priorities and try to find out where and how you went wrong.

Long hours of study after school will slow you down after some days because we all need some time to relax! Once you are back from school, be sure to create a good balance between work, play and rest.

Friends, there are times in life when we come across new opportunities and options. Our attitude towards success and failure determines whether we will take these opportunities or cringe away from them. The fear of failing often hampers our journey on the road to success, and unless we realise that when we resolve firmly and plunge into something with determination, no amount of failures will keep us away from attaining our goal.

To achieve success, you have to keep in mind the prospect of failure. Even if you fail in the beginning, you will learn more about your strengths and talents, in this way be better prepared for the next challenge.

It is very important that you create a balance between overconfidence and doubts! Knowing your strong points and working on your weaknesses, plus a firm belief that you can overcome your shortcomings, will go a far way to lead you towards success in life!

In the end I would like to quote the American author, H. Stanley Judd when he so wisely says, “Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t waste energy trying to cover up failure. Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge. It’s okay to fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not growing!”

Bonding Times!

The cherished months have finally arrived. It’s summer holiday again! It’s time to laze around and relax from the strict regime of school life, home-work, tests and, for some friends, the additional burden of tuitions too! But it is often seen that after the initial week or two, the excitement and charm of the vacation seems to wear off and we start complaining of boredom.

What should we do? This is the question which you all start asking your mothers and it makes them want to groan out aloud as they wonder how to keep their kids busy, happy and mostly out of their way!

Some lucky ones amongst you may go out of town (or country) to spend your vacation. There are also a lot of summer camps which offer a variety of activities, but in these times of insecurity and inflation, most parents do not find them affordable or convenient.

Friends, instead of getting on our parents’ nerves, we must find such means to keep ourselves busy that are not only fulfilling but also easy on our parents’ pockets!

This summer you can find a very fulfilling activity which will not only keep you busy, it will also provide a sense of immense emotional gratification. These are the months when we have lots of free time at our hands, and we can make this time precious by using it for bonding with relatives, old friends, books, nature and the environment around us!

Bonding with relatives

Often, in the busy school months we have hardly any time for our elderly relatives. Grandparents specially look forward to vacations as they know that you can visit them more often and also spend nights with them. The luxury of Grandma’s delicious pulao, her special cookies and the traditional kheer, which no one can make as perfect as her, are for yours to enjoy.

You can also help Grandpa with his gardening, in rearranging his bookshelf, or accompany him when he goes out for his daily walk or to the mosque. You can also help your grandparents to clean up their cupboards and room, a chore they do not have the energy to do without help. Maybe you will find something interesting like old photographs, grandma’s trinkets which she doesn’t use anymore or old coins and stamps Grandpa once collected as a hobby. They may allow you to keep these with you and they may one day turn to be a sort of souvenir from them.

There are also elderly family members, like your parents’ aunts and uncles or an ageing neighbor. A visit from you or a phone call can brighten up their day as deep down old people are usually lonely! You can indulge them by playing a game of ludo or chess, or reading out to them from their favorite book. The happy look you will see on their faces would make your free time worthwhile.

Bonding with old friends

Sometimes you lose track of close friends once they move out of your neighborhood or change school. In these leisure months it would be a wonderful idea to look them up and refresh your ties with them. You can email them to find out about their whereabouts or call common friends to trace them out. Meeting old friends is often a tonic for our mood and spirits, providing us with a deep sense of pleasure.

Bonding with your books

With the hectic routine of homework and class tests, most children usually like to spend their free hours relaxing in front of the television, texting or chatting with friends and browsing on the computer. Reading good books is no more a favorite pastime for most of you. But you must realize that books are your best companions and there is no better time to cultivate good reading habits than the long afternoons of your summer vacation.

To make your time more productive, look up some good classics, and be sure that every day you spend a couple of hours in reading. In this way you will learn a lot as reading not only broadens your insight, it also provides you knowledge beyond your textbooks — the most enjoyable pastime one can have!

Ask your parents or elder siblings to help you in the choice of books. You can visit old book shops or the Sunday markets where you can get good books at affordable prices. Create a chain by exchanging books with your friends. This way you will be able to read more while you spend less. Soon you will realize that reading is the most enjoyable pastime one can have.

Bonding with nature

Bird watching, going for walks and gardening are all means to bond with nature. Place small pots of water and baajra (millet) in your garden and you will be delighted to see the sparrows specking at the food and drink!

Bread pieces leftover from the breakfast table, a spoonful or two of cooked rice can also go into these pots and don’t be alarmed if crows also come in for the treat. After all they also help to clear up the environment and we can set out a morsel of food for them too.

Gardening is also a very fulfilling activity which will bring you closer to nature. You can set out small pots in your garden or balcony and nurture and water your personal plants. The tinge of delight at seeing your plant grow will make your time rewarding as well as give you a sense of fulfilment.

Bonding with the environment

This summer vacation set a goal for yourself to make your surroundings better. You can organize a cleanliness drive with the help of your neighborhood children. Clearing up your lane and going from door to door to ask people to help you by not throwing their trash on roads will create awareness and a better civic sense. You will also immense satisfaction of seeing your surroundings cleaner and more hygienic.

The list goes on and on. These are only some suggestions for your summer holidays, but I am sure that my little friends are intelligent enough to take their initiative from these activities and plan a number of positive ones themselves! Happy vacation!

LIGHT THE TORCH! (MY MUSINGS ON THE EVE OF PAKISTAN DAY)

Gloom hangs heavy in the air as Pakistan is going through one of the worst phases of her short history! The most common emotions we are experiencing these days are of insecurity, anxiety, fear, frustration, disappointment and all other such negative feelings! Although elections are just round the corner but the common citizen does not seem to be interested in casting his vote! We have been hoodwinked so many times by the clever and greedy politicians that we have lost all hope that things will or can improve for the better! Tall promises made in the past (and which were never fulfilled) have made us doubt any new claims made by these same faces!

The media is crying its throat hoarse on the intensity (read hopelessness) of the situation. Day in and day out, we witness participants of TV talk shows spell doom. The hosts of these shows invite people at the helm of affairs, people who have influence as well as authority, to discuss on the various issues troubling our country. But these people do nothing except fighting like wild cats, slinging allegations at each other and behaving like a bunch of spoilt brats! No one is ready to come forward and take responsibility, the best that they do is comfortably placing their opponent responsible for the quagmire we are stuck in. Problems are discussed and defined, but no solutions are offered.

I am just a face in the crowd, an ordinary woman in a country of millions. But like every educated and dedicated Pakistani, I feel depressed by the state of affairs and often ponder on means and ways to come out of this situation. I strongly feel that every one with an iota of patriotism should do his/ her share. It may be a drop in the ocean, but with time, effort and dedication, eventually every drop will count! Because every contribution (however small it may seem at the moment), towards a better society, may make some difference tomorrow! According to Shahzad Roy, founder of the Zindagi Trust, “To go big, we must first start small. Alas there are no shortcuts!”

 I and my readers are lucky, in the sense that we had access to quality education. We went to good institutions and had sincere teachers who brought out our abilities as best as they could. We know what our rights as citizens of a state are, and what duties we hold in return. We are leading a relatively comfortable and respectable life and can only imagine the sufferings of the down trodden masses. The current state of affairs strongly demands that it is our turn to pay back to our Homeland and not take our good luck for granted. We must understand that holding discussions over a cup of coffee, comfortably seated in our drawing rooms will not change our lot. We have to do something urgently, nay, on a war footing, to save our country from total turmoil.

The crying need of the hour is to create awareness among the masses. People must learn to identify their rights as well as be aware of their duties! And this mind-set comes only with education. We in Pakistan have a very low literacy rate, although official figures paint a brighter picture of the situation, as they declare near half the population literate. But their criterion is indeed pathetic; as a person who can read and write his/ her name is called literate in Pakistan. We have a dismal education system, teaching a listless curriculum by teachers, majority of who lack any sense of dedication to the cause of “Education for All”. Some of Pakistan’s problems like the rise of the crime graph, unemployment, hatred, intolerance and poor health conditions due to poor hygiene, are created by the lack of education.

Successive governments have failed to work for raising literacy levels in Pakistan (134th position in the 180 countries of the world and 31st out of 35 Islamic countries). Our selfish and greedy politicians realize that mass literacy will give people dignity, self respect and the courage to fight against their oppressive policies. Because with education comes enlightenment and the will to fight tyranny!

In the past Punjab government did come up once with the slogan Parha Likha Punjab. (I beg to state that the name is suggestive in itself of the political motives behind it as Parha Likha Pakistan would have been a more patriotic slogan). But it was rolled back after millions of rupees were misspent. So whatever tall claims they may make, education has never been on the top in the priority lists of our governments.

Whoever is in power, in every budget only meager funds are allotted for education, while much bigger chunks are spent on the luxurious spending of the government high-ups. Although the outgoing government had announced that over 80% literacy would be reached by the year 2015, but with no note worthy efforts in this direction, this proved to be only a verbal claim. We can easily understand how sincere their claims were by the fact that approximately a paltry 2% of the budget was been allocated for the educational sector. (UNESCO has recommended increasing this to at least 4%). In which I call only a vote gaining tactic, a resolution to implement free secondary education was passed in the National Assembly a few months back, but every educated Pakistani felt that this was “Too little, Too late!

In the rural areas, the situation is worse. The influential landlords consider it against their interests that their Haris or their children get educated. They know that their uncrowned kingdoms will have to face a down fall once awareness is created amongst their domains. To keep their powerful tentacles firmly rooted, they discourage their Haris and threaten them with dire consequences if their children are sent to school. They forcefully have schools shut down, using them as their Autaqs, or worst still as their cattle pens. As most of our feudal landlords have a strong hold on the country’s political power, they can easily have their way. So majority of the population continue to live on as illiterates, in abject poverty and unaware of their basic rights to a minimal quality life.

          NGOs, philantropists and private trusts are working in the education sector and doing a lot to provide free or affordable education to the poor children. The parents are urged to pull their children out of child labor and sent to schools; something they are often reluctant to do, as the children help out their parents by bringing in additional income. But the problem is so enormous that these efforts can not be enough to tackle the situation and bring our country out of this culture of chaos, corruption and confusion. Each and every educated person in Pakistan should come forward to do his/ her share.

My slogan is “Each One, Teach One”. If each educated Pakistani vows to impart education to only one illiterate person, young or old, soon we will see winds of change blowing. By adopting just one person as our student, be it our maid, chowkidar or their child, the boy selling tidbits at traffic signals or the Chota at the motor mechanics or Pan shop, we have to coax and urge these people and take them under our folds. By sparing a couple of hours of our free time and making all out efforts to impart education from the basic level, we can change the destiny of at least one person, as our student will not just learn to read and write his/her name to be called a literate, rather would have the awareness and vision only education can create. Making only one person literate by the educated ones, will double the literacy rate of Pakistan in no time. And the only repayment we may ask from our student is to ask him to pass on his knowledge to someone else in his circle.

Being a firm optimist, I believe that there is light at the end of the darkest tunnel. Every educated Pakistani must come forward to light the torch of literacy and to make sure that this torch keeps on burning. It may take time, patience and endurance but in not- too- far- off days we shall see hands coming out of the darkness; hands which shall pick up this lightened torch of education and awareness and march ahead, spreading the light of literacy to each and every part of our country! In Sha Allah!

 

Parenting: The sky is (not) the limit! (http://dawn.com/2012/10/14/parenting-the-sky-is-not-the-limit/)

Arif had been tense since the last two months. As the top debater of his school, he had won many medals. His other passion was cricket and the school team was not considered complete without him. However, his studies suffered because of these activities. Although his parents proudly displayed the trophies and medals he had won, they never hesitated to show their disappointment with his grades. Finally, he decided to leave the school cricket team and did not enrol for the interschool debate contest. He wanted to devote all his time to his studies and come up to his parents’ expectations. On the result day, his teacher praised him for the improvement he had shown and urged him to keep up the effort.

“I was very excited when I proudly handed over my report card to my parents. I had more than 70 per cent marks in all the subjects, but to my frustration, they were still not satisfied.
Mummy was expecting a position and Daddy compared my result with that of my cousin. I feel I can never come up to their expectations. How can I excel in every field of life?” he asks with a sigh.

We, as parents, are seldom satisfied with our children’s academic performance. We coax them, urge them, nudge them and push them to do more, to improve. For us the sky is the limit! But do we ever stop to think and ask ourselves whether we are being fair to our child? Are our expectations from him/her realistic or are we over burdening our children?

Most parents become defensive and argue that they want their child to perform well for the sake of his bright future. After all, he is the one who will benefit in his future life from the success. But is it not true that a child’s achievement is also directly linked to the parents’ prestige? Does it not satisfy our ego to boast in front of our friends and family about our child’s extraordinary performance?

Parents have the tremendous power to affect their child’s emotional health and attitude towards life. Our opinion of him plays a great role in the child’s self-esteem and what he feels and thinks about himself. But sometimes, in our eagerness to see them at the top, we unintentionally harm their confidence and sense of worth. Instead of making a child feel that life is a race, which he must win to feel loved and wanted, we should make him believe that he is loved for what he is, not for what he achieves!

Shaista, a mother of three children, says, “My second son is the most intelligent among my children. He gets good grades although he studies less than his siblings. Previously, I used to scold the others, setting him as their role model. But I felt their grades declined over the years. Then I realised my mistake. Each one of my children has a distinct personality and all of them cannot excel in every field. After my husband and I drew a line on what were our expectations from the less brilliant ones, we were able to help them better. And now I feel they are improving. My youngest is a great sportsman while the eldest has a very creative mind. Their talents were nurtured once they were given the opportunity.”

Parents must learn to create a proper balance between asking or expecting too much from a child and not asking enough of him. We must understand that our expectations may become a burden instead of a boost for our children.

This does not mean that we should not urge them to improve their grades. But there should be a difference between nudging and pushing a kid. Our children are like tender saplings which need a correct amount of water and sunlight to grow. We all know that an excess of these will do more harm than help. By creating a balance between what we want from him and what he can possibly achieve, we can gently lead a child towards a better performance.

The “you have done well, but you could have done better” attitude is frustrating for a child. It develops a sense of insecurity and decreases self esteem. In extreme cases, the continuous dissatisfaction of parents can make a child rebellious and often his performance suffer. Impatience, haste and comparison with other children can do more harm than good.

So, instead of declaring the sky as the limit, parents should never make the academic performance of their children a matter of personal pride. By trying to understand their strong points and helping them out in their weaknesses, we can boost our children’s self-esteem, so that they cater for themselves with more confidence in their abilities when they venture out into the world to start their lives on their own.

 

Opinion: Early start (http://dawn.com/2012/02/05/opinion-early-start/)

How do we decide what is the perfect age for a child to start school? With Montessoris and nursery schools mushrooming in every nook and corner of the city, parents are often confused on the issue.

At a party, I overheard a group of young mothers discussing (read boasting) about the academic achievements of their kids. “Ahmer is doing so well at school; he has been going for hardly a year but already tries to speak English (which is the ultimate aim of most parents!),” a young mother declared pompously. “May I know how old is Ahmer?” I

couldn’t help asking as she herself looked so young. “He will be three next month,” she announced proudly. “What a shame,” I couldn’t stop myself from blurting out, “Don’t you think he should have spent this year with you at home?” The arrogant mother gave me a disdainful look before turning back to her friends.

When asked the reason for opting to start their child’s schooling at a tender age, when he/she can barely talk, is not even potty trained or is uncomfortable when left alone with strangers, most mothers often say, “We want time for ourselves,” or “We want a few hours of peace when the little tyrant is not around!”

To attain these few hours of peace, they sacrifice their sleep (and that of their child), bathe and dress him, cajole him to take his breakfast and then sleepily drive him to school. To be picked back after three to four hours! Once back, the child has to be pampered, changed, fed and put to bed for a nap. Handling a cranky young child, who is exhausted
from the strain of going to school, is another hectic activity for the already tired mother.

If we calculate the time and energy enthusiastic mothers spend in all these efforts, we will find that instead of the so called ‘some hours of peace’ or ‘time for ourselves’, they actually lose the few hours they can devote to their personal activities.

Call me orthodox, but I am against sending children to school at such a young age. When my daughter-in-law, Saira, wanted to send my two-and-a-half-year-old grandson to pre nursery, my reaction was a firm no! And as I am very possessive about him, she complied although reluctantly. But she often complained laughingly that her son was considered a ‘Jahil’ among her friends who teased her for not sending him to school. “His grandmother knows better,” was the only weak argument she could produce. Now at six plus, he is attending a reputable school, is in the same grade as his peers and doing fairly well in his class.

Hina Nauman, a young mother, who herself teaches in one of the elite school in Karachi, says, “My personal experience was different with all my three children. With my first born, I was an over enthusiastic mother. Giving my child the best of everything was my prime aim. He was not even two months old when I eagerly set out to register my son in a reputable school! I remember being told at some schools that I was LATE!

“My eldest started school when he was 2.5, which I think is a good age for kids to start. My second born started school at 18 months which from experience I learnt was too early and a sheer waste of money. I had put undue pressure on the child, the effects of which I faced till he was in grade 1, as he seemed tired of the same ‘school routine’. My third child also started school at 2.5, but he fared better as exposure to elder siblings had made him more mature.”

Sheeza believes that for a stay at home mother, this is the time to enjoy your child and develop a lasting bond with him/her. “I enjoyed the years with my two children and as I taught them basics like alphabets, numbers, shapes, colours, parts of the body, etc, they did not lag behind when they started going to school.”

Hina’s suggestion is, “Don’t fall for the school scam, sadly like all other commercial ventures; the education sector (especially the private schools) is one big racket. Instead of sending your under age kids to school, indulge them by sharing activities like reading out to them, taking swimming classes, playing simple games, collecting flowers or
butterflies. In this way you will pay less, enjoy more and feel more bonded with your children.”

Being an old timer, I firmly believe that it is really unfair to the child to make him leave the safe haven of home and venture into the outside world before he is four. Young mothers usually do not agree. Saira still feels that her son started school a bit late, as her second born attended a pre nursery at age three. “There is a difference, however subtle in the approach of my two children,” she says wistfully. This may be what we call the generation gap!