By Vandana Arora October 2000 Poor academic performance may not necessarily mean a low IQ. A change in attitude and a switch to novel learning techniques may be all that it takes to get that elusive first division! Amita, 15, was sent to me by her mother who felt that her daughter was dumb and disinterested in studying. She was in the Xth standard and the board exams were just three months away. In the first preliminary exams, she had failed in almost all the subjects. Amita’s mother had given up hope of her clearing her final examination as Amita admitted to not comprehending any of the subjects. Her attention span while studying was less than five to seven minutes. As Amita and I began interacting, we discovered that her poor academic performance was more due to a lack of motivation and poor understanding of fundamentals than stupidity or a low IQ. Take the case of mathematics. She was not even confident about finding the square root of a number. Also, her mother, who taught in the same school, constantly berated her. Regular insults from her mother led Amita to lose interest in studies and confidence in herself. Amita realized that her poor performance was because she had no goals in life. The priority for us now was to set long-term and short-term goals for her to work towards. SETTING GOALS ‘What is the result you want to arrive at?’—is the first question I ask any student. Whatever your goal may be—passing your exams with 98 per cent marks, getting admitted to a prestigious MBA course or clearing the Civil Services examination—it is of the utmost importance to have clarity of vision. Amita’s long-term goal was to become an airhostess. She discovered that she needed a graduation degree, and preferably, knowledge of foreign languages to fulfill her ambition. To do so, she would have to first clear her Xth standard examinations with a good percentage. As a short-term goal, she set a target of obtaining 60 per cent marks. Successful completion of short-term goals provides motivation to achieve long-term goals. CLASSIFYING STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES If mathematics has been your Achilles’ heel, as in Amita’s case, tackle it ASAP. I taught Amita easy-to-learn techniques of Vedic mathematics. As a result, she overcame her fear and started enjoying it. Each individual’s learning mechanism differs. Some are predominantly auditory learners, others are visual and yet others are kinesthetic. Knowing which category you belong to helps you to increase your output and makes studying a lot easier. LEARNING TOOLS If you are an auditory learner, audio cassettes of your lessons. Listening to a teacher talk is also a good way of studying. On the other hand, visual learners memorize best by observing. Storing data in the form of mental maps is an ideal learning technique. Kinesthetic learners are receptive to activities. For example, a history teacher could encourage the kinesthetically inclined pupils to enact the lives of freedom fighters. APPLY LEARNING TECHNIQUES Research has shown that one who regularly performs yoga, breathing techniques or follows any self-development technique tends to be relaxed and perform better. Amita practiced yoga nidra, a special relaxation technique, before her second preliminary exams. Consequently, her marks shot up from 19 per cent to 47 per cent within 20 days. SELF-COMMUNICATION Communication, at the most basic level, begins with talking to oneself. What do you say to yourself when you hear the word ‘study’? Do you think of a task imposed upon you by a teacher, parent or a boss? Do you think that it is what you must do to get good grades? You will resent studying if your reasons to do so are dictated. When Amita felt that she needed to study to become an air-hostess, she did so happily. To learn, you must continually question because ‘when you stop asking you stop learning’. COMBINING CREATIVE AND LOGICAL THINKING Different parts of your brain perceive and interpret information differently. When you act rationally and logically, analyze information, plan, keep track of time or put thoughts in words, analytical thinking is in play. Conversely, when you daydream or listen to that voice at the back of your head, you are using your intuitive and subjective thinking. You must learn ways to develop both your creative and analytical thinking. Work towards your dream step by step. Amita with her newfound awareness, started setting and achieving minor goals. She achieved her target of 60 per cent marks and also improve her relationship with her mother and friends. She is now studying at Ruia College, Mumbai. And dreams of becoming an air-hostess one day.
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