What is your party trick? That skill that you learned from a mentor, or a friend in boarding school, or from your older cousin, or on YouTube? I am talking about a hard skill that you have honed, not in the line of your work or because it was in the ‘syllabus’. Many of us have something that we can do, or used to be able to do, that makes us interesting people. Sadly, because of our busy lives and drive to maximise out time, we tend to lose these beautiful skills through neglect or never find time to learn new ones.
I used to be able to balance a chair on my chin; I know how to classify wool; I was fluent in isiZulu by the time I went to school and played the piano up to the middle of high school. But here’s the thing: The golden rule with skills is, if you don’t use them, you lose them! Although I retained my near mother tongue isiZulu accent, I have lost most of my once rich vocabulary. I will probably break my jaw and the furniture if I attempt to make a chair stand on my chin! I haven’t been in a shearing shed for two decades but might still be able to take a fleece apart correctly. My greatest sadness is that I cannot play a musical instrument beyond a few cords on a guitar. And I envy my wife’s ninja skills in sewing and touch typing!
What is my point actually? It is learning! I am sure that most of us can either demonstrate a skill or tell a story about one that we once had. We all attained these skills by learning them. Babies are born with no skills, only instinctive abilities, but they have an unbelievable capacity for learning skills. They can master the skill of effective verbal communication in more than one language within the first 1000 days of their lives! How do they do this? They practice! They try and fail; try and fail, fearlessly.
At DSG we encourage learning beyond the syllabus by offering opportunities for acquiring skills via our clubs and societies, cultural programme, sports offering, outdoor education and community engagement. This is good but I think we should become even more deliberate about self-selected, self-driven learning outside of the formal academic curriculum. The objective will be that pupils fall in love with the joy of learning and continue to develop their special skills and remain to be curious lifelong learners.
It is hard to believe that we have arrived at the end of the second week of term three already. We must have had fun, because time just seemed to have flown. When I walk the campus, I most certainly get the impression that the DSG girls are indeed having fun as they find their stride into the term. We are looking forward to the Grade 8 and 9 boarders arriving on Sunday and having the entire school back in session again from next week, for the first time in months.
We are not taking this privilege for granted. It is the privilege of a lifestyle of learning at DSG that allows girls to go from one learning experience to the next, for the entire day. I see them from my office window, walking across campus, bearing the evidence of this lifestyle. They walk with books in hand, or a musical instrument. They carry a tennis racket and wear sports kit. They walk, laughing and chatting, but with purpose – clearly on their way to a learning moment. I see them in deep conversation with teachers, or running out of the school gates in a group. They are en route, learning!
So, here is a challenge to the rest of us who are not DSG girls right now. Check what you are busy learning and if there is not much to show, find something, or dust off the guitar, dig out the running shoes, sign up for the cooking course and join the isiXhosa class. Learn a new trick, even if you are not a puppy anymore!
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