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Co-curricular activities: Don’t be a Jack-of-all

December 08, 2012

It was time for the mid-term exams and Ali was having the jitters — will he pass with flying colours as in the past or will he just be considered an average student?

He had joined a new school which unlike his previous one, offered a lot of co-curricular activities. Back at his previous school, which just had sports twice a week, he was always among the top three students. But since he had joined a lot of activities in the new school, he could not give as much time to his studies as he used to or should be giving.

He found it hard to resist joining the dramatist club and the literary society as well as a couple of sports teams and when the declamation contest was announced, he got himself registered. How could he not? He had always dreamt of representing his school and delivering a fiery speech and later lifting the trophy amid thundering applause.

Ali was in class VII and it was important for him to maintain his grades — one, to establish himself among the good students in the new school and two, to be allowed to continue in the O Level section. His teachers had told the class that those who did not perform well in the mid-term and the final exams will be asked to shift to Matric system.

Seeing him in stress his mother sat him down to discuss and try to solve his predicament. She knew he was intelligent and never shied from hard work; exams were never a problem for him. Once she sat with Ali and he shared his dilemma, she understood what had happened.

She explained to him that he had got himself involved in more activities than he could handle. She explained that though it is good to not restrict oneself to studies alone, and that co-curricular activities are designed to provide mental and physical stimulus to students and a break from the monotony of academic life, the most important thing at this stage in a person’s life is academic excellence, as one’s whole career and future depends on that.

However, it is true that one cannot just study all the time. School, homework, tuition and nothing in between is sure to tire one mentally. One needs physical activity to maintain good health as well as to remain mentally alert. Remember the old adage “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy”. When one does not participate in physical activity of any sort, his health begins to deteriorate.

The key is to choose fewer activities and that too those that do not take a lot of time nor do they tire you so much that you are left with no energy — physical and mental — to concentrate on studies.

Depending on your interest, you can choose one sport/gym activity to keep yourself physically fit and one or at the most two other activities, so you get the chance of healthy competition among peers and are able to pursue your interests. If you are interested in tennis but your friend is more into cricket, the two of you can join the respective clubs or your school teams to pursue your interest.

Sometimes students often enlist in a sport of their choice and that of their friends’ as well to be with them. Dividing time between the two and not being able to concentrate on any leads to them feeling miserable and wasting precious time and energy. If you concentrate on a sport of your choice, you can hope to be selected for the national or regional team one day if you are good enough and show the potential.

The same is with other activities. If you are into dramatics you can join the relevant club and let your friend go for his music practice. Concentrating on fewer activities also allow you to excel in them — who knows one day you win a national or international award in the field of your choice!

These days there are many competitions for school students at the national and international level such as the Maths Olympiad, Science Olympiad, writing contests, drawing and even spelling contest. For these you have to keep practicing throughout the year; it’s not that you just enter the competition on you whim — surely you don’t stand a chance if you do so.

Sports and other co-curricular activities not only provide the much needed break from studies, bur they also inculcate and develop teamwork, confidence, interpersonal relations, etc., and most importantly spirit of healthy competition.

To add to these, there are so many things these days to occupy one’s mind and time — computer, TV, video games, etc. Of course, one is not expected to stay away from TV or computer. Though one should always remember to use these judiciously and not get carried away, spending the entire evening watching one programme after another, or chatting on the internet till the wee hours and then feeling sleepy in school.

Things do not move in the same way for everyone. Some manage to do well despite their involvement in other activities, while there are some who stick to their books and are still not top scorers. A top achiever once said that he participates in many activities, but two months before the exams he drops everything and just concentrates on studies. His commendable number of As in O Levels is the proof of the success of his strategy.

It’s best to assess yourself, and then take guidance from parents and teachers so you don’t learn the hard way.