Back in school, I was academically studious student, securing my seat amongst the top ten rank in a batch of sixty students. Reflecting back, I realize although I was not very erudite (I never could finish within the top three), I had keen interest in the extra curricular activities (ECA) organized by my school.
I took part in almost all of the ECAs organized by the school – from debates to elocution, and from spelling bee to quiz competitions. The school did have basketball and table-tennis in the sports division, but I was more of a football person; so I skipped out of those sports but took part in road races. Especially towards the tenth standard, which would then be followed by the then School Leaving Examination (SLC), I ensured I participated in everything (more than 25 events) that the school had to offer.
What I missed?
Looking back to all those events in today’s date, I did miss out classes to participate in the ECAs. To be honest, a few times I voluntarily participated in some events just to keep myself out of the class. I was fond of few subjects – compulsory mathematics, geography in social studies, astronomy in science, and programming in computer science were what kept my mind curious and excited. I did miss those classes when I opted for the ECAs.
Furthermore, my handful close-friends in my class weren’t excited by the idea of missing out classes in participating in the ECAs. It meant while I was out of the class preparing myself for the day’s event, my close friends would be inside the class. While I resumed my class, the topic of conversation would turn into something I wouldn’t understand. While my friends did their best to explain the present the secondary information to me, I did miss out being the primary audience to any in-class events.
Sometimes, there were others events happening in the class, which I missed. At times there would be group assignments, or some teacher would choose that class I missed to share their personal stories, and some time, they would all go to the AV room to watch a documentary or a movie. When I would come back, I wouldn’t hear the end of it, which would be understandably exciting as well as irritating if it went too long.
What I gained?
At this point of time, I would conclude I gained more than I lost.
While I did miss my favorite topics, I was happy to skip all the topics I absolutely hated (or didn’t just understand back then). I was happy to skip the topics of balancing chemistry equations, classifying different species of animals and plants according to their characteristics, and the deathly trigonometry and vectors (I haven’t yet understood these topics!).
More than all these, what I actually gained from participating in all these events was the development of “people skills”. My school used color-coded houses to group the students – Yellow House, Blue House, Red House, and Green House. I was picked to the Yellow House. In any event, I had to team up with any junior or senior within my house. While some events were more individual focused, many events were team based. This not only helped me harness my individual logical and reasoning skills, but I was also learning sub-consciously about how I can work along with my juniors and seniors.
At times, the team members would disagree, fight, and threaten to back-out. Those were the times when leaders were born. I might have missed out being primary eye-witness of an in-class fight between my classmates, but I didn’t miss out witnessing how people handled the disagreement. At times, I stepped up to persuade, influence, and negotiate; while at other times I saw how others do it as well.
What I realize now is that participation in quiz competitions and spelling bees weren’t about being technical and answering questions right. It was more about how even when you think you know the answer, you consult with your team member, take their views into account, and respect their views, even if it meant your “100% sure” answer was challenged.
I realize now those events were not about winning and earn bragging rights for the “Yellow House”, but it was more about expanding your people skills beyond the classmates – with your juniors, seniors, and even with your teachers at times. Debate and elocution competitions weren’t just about literature, logic and language, but it was more about developing confidence to speak in front of mass, and more about conscious listening and trying to understand the view point of others.
Reflecting back – Realization
Sure I won few events, and lost many events – but that was NOT the point. While it also taught me to embrace losing, and celebrating victory, it was something more than the results. It was all about the process than the outcome. The point was to develop the mindset and harness skills required for working with any PEOPLE, and not just remain academically dexterous.
I’m glad I chose to participate in those events. And I’m thankful to my school for teaching me these out-of-syllabus life learnings.