Academic Excellence is a journey, discipline is the first step

Image of myself with my tag line

A motivational talk with students, Gaborone West Junior Secondary

Image of myself with my tag line
Ready to shape young minds


Winners embrace hard work. They love the discipline of it, the trade-off they are making to win. Losers on the other hand, see it as punishment. And that’s the difference.” John Lawson

Quite often we associate discipline with punishment for a wrong doing. We are not familiar with the positive aspect of discipline that centres on commitment, staying on the course you have determined, persevering and going on even when the body or the circumstances tell you to stop, because you know the benefits that lie ahead.
Think of…
An athlete who has to train while nursing blisters from a previous race
A working mom who completes a task holding a baby on one lap and a laptop on the other
Yourself with books to read, assignments to complete and extra curricula activities to take part in… Are you going to take the easy way out and only do what you are comfortable with?
That is the first sign of lack of discipline.
Discipline means setting goals and seeing them through even when you do not feel like doing anything.

Habits that drive academic excellence

Good grades and hard work are birds of the same feather. Put effort in your studies in order to obtain good grades: learn a new thing every day, develop skills that attempt to solve the problems of the society using technology, participate in class and volunteer. Academic excellence is a product of all these and more. It is a process. I have outlined some of the habits that lead to academic excellence and the first one is reading.

Isn’t it magical how we can transcend borders, evade the minds of the greatest men ever to live, join in the adventures of strangers and share moments [thrilling or melancholic] at the turn of a page. Or a swipe across the screen!
This is a quote from my reading project overview ‘The Magic in the page’, which I started in 2016 with students at Segoditshane Primary School, to build a culture of reading. The aim of the project is to take readers on an adventure that will transform their lives beyond school years. That is what reading does.
I want to challenge you to set reading targets and read not just your notes and text books. Read short stories as well, novels, newspapers and magazines. Just read, you will thank me and your teachers later.
During my project launch I quoted from Paulo Coelho’s novel titled Eleven Minutes: a librarian was responding to a question from a visitor to the library…“my dear you should read. Forget everything they have told you about books and just read.” I am repeating this statement and directing it to all of you.


I am sure you know this proverb ‘show me your friends and I will tell you who you are’. This simply translates into the people you spend time with determine what you become. You share ideas, experiences, try new things together, dream together and most likely fail or flourish together. Friends also hold one another accountable. Many a times my friends have asked how far I am with one of the goals I had shared with them. If it happened to be something that fell off the rails of course my first reaction would be “why is she asking me about this?” I can choose to be defensive and avoid the subject but I cannot do this all the time because it is somewhat disrespectful and ultimately it would destroy our friendship. I have to explain what happened and why I decided not to pursue what I had promised. Friends do not ask about our plans to annoy us. They ask because they care and want to know what is going on in our lives. They want to share the joy in times of accomplishments or the pain during disappointments. True friends are the best cheerleaders!

Something to ponder
What type of friends do you have? Do they want to know how you performed in a test or exam, or how you are doing in a school project? Do you share accounts of books you read? Do you uplift one another and make plans to excel academically? Your answers to these questions will determine if you need new friends or the ones you have are gems!

During my childhood, our time wasters were very few. In fact as soon we were done playing with other children in the neighbourhood and got home there was nothing to do apart from chores. Things are different in the 21st century and there are so many time wasters: TV and social media, which on the flip side can be turned into sources of information, skills development, everyday motivation and inspiration, depending on how one wants to use them. You can choose television programs and shows that contribute to your passion and talents, inspire you and nurture your creative abilities (cooking, music, art, and reading). Follow social media pages and groups that do the same. Of course the entertaining shows and programs are still very important.

As a teacher who is also aspiring to further my studies I follow and watch TED Talks, follow Instagram and Facebook pages on teaching, writing and other topics that help me navigate through life. I find resources that teach me how to manage my afro and keep fit without going to the gym. These are virtual community support networks and everyone can find a community that meets their specific needs.

Writing Tips from Instagram
Writing Tips from Instagram.
Hair Tips from Ruutos on Instagram

Making a difference

When I received an invite to come here and talk to you today I did not think twice about accepting the invitation. I am swamped with marking and other academic activities associated with end of the semester (which is a school term in your context). But I saw this as an opportunity to make a difference, a contribution in shaping young minds. Making a difference is not for extra ordinary or special people. It is for everyone who is alive and believes in themselves. My top of the list are Gogontlejang Phaladi and Malala Yousafzai, who became change makers at a very early age. Oh! and Greta Thunberg

Gogontlejang Phaladi
She is the founder and Executive Director of the Gogontlejang Phaladi Pillar of Hope Project which she established in 2000, at the age of 5. I call her ‘our very own local brew’.
Malala Yousafzai
Yousafzai was born in 1997 in Pakistan. Her family came to run a chain of schools in the region. She was particularly inspired by her father’s thoughts and humanitarian work.
On the 9th October 2012, while on the bus from writing an exam, with two other girls, they were shot by a Taliban gunman who was against her activism. The event led to her prominence as she became the most famous teenager in the world in 2013. The very year I came to know about and started following her. She was all over the news: on television, print and social media. You can find her on you tube. Listen to her various speeches and get inspired.
How and where are you making a difference? It does not have to be at a large platform.

Your environment plays a huge role in your academic life
I will be failing in my address if I do not talk about the various issues we have to deal with, resulting from the circumstances we live in: child headed families, single parent households, absentee parents and poverty, just to mention a few. These require difficult, painful adjustments and sometimes affect our studies. Nothing makes these circumstances more difficult than a society that treats them as taboo and does not openly discuss them, or even worse trivialises them. Just because I do not experience something does not mean it does not exist. I know your pains and I am confident in your teachers’ continuous efforts to help you deal with these issues because they care about your welfare.

I want to finish this motivational talk with the following words…
I know some of us don’t get to hear this often. Others do not get to hear it at all. But you need to know that every child is special. Every child is capable. That child is you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s