How To Be A Great Student: Forever

“The swagger is not a strategy.”
Prof.Salam Al Shereida


How To Be A Great Student: Forever

Face it, we are all students for life. There is a lot of world out there with a lot of history and it is a lot of fun to go and learn about it. The following are some ideas that you probably have thought about before but not quite in this way. Therefore, read on!

1. You can’t be part of the conversation until you know the language.

When you are in school, you are taught how to do a something. And then, hopefully, you will go out and do that something for pay. If you have an idea to make change, no one will listen to you unless you speak the language of the field.

When you join two people who are having a conversation about the Catchetti Movement and you don’t know what it is, they won’t stop and tell you. They will ignore you.

Think about a dancer who goes to dance school. The dancer is taught their body. They are taught some of the language like port de bras, plie and grand battlement. And everything is perfectly fine. But, to be part of the conversation to make change, that dancer needs to know the language of the choreographer and the history of the field and the parts and names of the theater. An astonishing amount when wanting to be heard with an idea but, thankfully, this is a chosen field and one that is loved. Otherwise, it is life as a dancer in a company with no say.

This is true for everything. Every field has it’s own language; military, sales, cooking, art, accounting, software design, landscaping, sports and a million others. You might be trained to use a rifle but you’ll never have a say in how it is used until you can speak the language of warfare and peace.

Of course, you could take it yet another step. You might want to collaborate.

For example, if you are a designer you have to know all the stuff of your arena but also a lot about choreography and theater and music composition and video projection and dancers and musicians and costumes and scenery — just to be part of the conversation. Or be left out and your job is to make it brighter or darker, a humbling situation believe me.

Don’t get stuck in a cubicle with no say in how you are being managed. This can be fixed and made better.

2. Know who you are talking to.

When you pick a school or a school picks you, you are going there for the faculty. For all that is holy, find out who they are! They are real human beings who have decided to share their own knowledge with you and if you know who they are, you will get a lot more out of the class.

English 101: Hamlet. Why Hamlet? Does this teacher know a whole lot about it? Once you know who you are talking to, then you can take your class much farther because you can address the teacher on their terms and in their arena. Get their best and their expertise.

You should always know who you are talking to. Church has a much deeper meaning of you know that the Pastor lost a child three years ago and is passionate about the piano; those things put weight on the message of the Sunday.

And you should really know about the person you are handing a job application to for work. Ask. Find out what they are looking for in a hire. You can do this years in advance and become that person. You are not really that novel or talented or original or passionate or interesting or pretty or smart; you are a penny when the cost is only a dime for a dozen.

3. You are getting professional training but you are not being trained to be a professional.

This one is lost on everybody. You go to school, take your classes and get your grades and pass. There, you met the standard. What is missed is that being a professional is on you to learn. Your task in school is to make professional work, not student work. You don’t magically suddenly become a professional once you get a job. The skills to make solid work must be done while in school which leads to straight As.

The obvious easy to me are the dance schools all across America. You look at the students in those classes and you see soft dancers. I call them, to myself and never out loud, tubarinas or chubarinas. They do well in classes and are creative. But, the task of being a professional is on them and without that honed body with upper-body strength, no one is going to hire them. And they don’t get it because they never read this blog. It is never stated in school to write professional level papers for a book report or a year in history in England. In school, no one tells you to behave and work like a professional.

It is up to you to raise your standards and not settle for getting by with a C. Sure, you can get a degree with marginal grades but why do that?

4. The curriculum in your school is the minimum.

If you took a class from me, I’d want you five days a week for a minimum of four hours a day. Such is the wealth, breadth and enthusiasm I have for the topic. I’d need to teach and re-teach and go deep and I’d want a class size of five.

Of course, I don’t get that and no teacher does. The student has to take many classes in an array of subjects to get a degree. So, instead of my wish, I get my student for an hour three times a week for one semester. All of the teachers only get that.

Your education becomes a highlight reel of the topic. The designers of the curriculum have to keep cutting back to allow for other classes or lab time or performance time and spring break right in the middle of important instruction because, supposedly, the student is exhausted from all of this learning.

The curriculum is the minimum created to give the student enough to earn a degree and it is backed up by accreditation. But, once you know this, you can’t allow yourself to get the minimum. You have to beat up and subdue the topic, take it farther than the requirements.

In school is the only time in your life that someone with expertise will stand in front of you and take you as far as you dare to go. Your boss won’t do it, your manager won’t do it. You have to soak that teacher who has put in the work that you want to put in the work to get the education.

5. Go slow until your slow is fast.

There is technique in your job. Whether it is manipulating numbers with software or writing a news column or cutting up onions for a dinner. Your job deserves your attention to detail and your ability to produce. Have you ever seen those chefs who can dice up an onion in ten seconds?

The cutting of an onion with a very sharp knife is something that needs to be done slow and deliberate. All work needs to be slow and deliberate. With practice and I mean a ton of practice, you will get faster even though you are still working slow and deliberate.

Never try to do a fast work. The high-end professionals seem to be working incredibly fast but that is because they’ve practiced the technique so much that the crafting becomes the work. If you ever get a chance, watch a choreographer work for a television commercial. They have their dancers and they are surrounded by cameras and crew and producers and everyone else. They need to do a good job and fast but never sloppy, never. They are going slow and deliberate but have done it so much that it looks really fast.

The high-end professionals in any field, business or arts or sports or whatever will zoom right by you and leave you in the dust. While you are gathering your thoughts a deal has been made and the ink is drying. No one has time for you because time is very expensive. You needed to up your game in school.

Even more scary, you are behind everyone and will never catch up. You think you can draw? That guy next to you has been drawing since he was four years old, you can’t make up that time. If you work your butt off drawing every waking moment, by the time you catch up, that guy is that much farther ahead of you. Going into English Lit? That guy sitting next to you in class went to prep school and was taught the classics when he was thirteen years old.

All you can do is go slow until your slow is fast.

6. Effort is always worth it.

When you write a paper for school, say a book report, write it as if you expect it to be published. That is how good you want your work to be. When you work at anything, put the effort in it to make it high quality. You may not be brave enough to submit it to a magazine but you will have learned how to make the work at that level.

Failure is never wasted effort.

All the effort that you put into any project (scrapbooking!) will show up the next time that you try to do it. There is reward in effort and should never be dismissed because of failure.


Oh, there is more, of course there is. Enthusiasm for life is a wonderful thing.

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