“Let’s Start at the Very Beginning” – Do You Lack Any “Background Skills?”

"let's start at the very beginning; a very good place to start..."
“let’s start at the very beginning; a very good place to start…”

Let’s start at the very beginning
A very good place to start
When you read you begin with A-B-C
When you sing you begin with do-re-mi
Rodgers and Hammerstein

You can’t skip fundamentals if you want to be the best.  The minute you get away from fundamentals – whether it’s proper technique, work ethic, or mental preparation – the bottom can fall out…
Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.
Michael Jordan — I Can’t Accept Not Trying:  Michael Jordan on the Pursuit of Excellence


I teach Speech at the Freshman level for a local community college (as a  member of the Adjunct Faculty). I have two kinds of students – those who are fully ready to do college level work, and others who, maybe because of inadequate earlier education, or maybe because of their own lack of learning disciplines, didn’t quite get “ready’ for college-level work.

They, of course, have to prepare and deliver speeches. That means they have to know how to… study: how to ask the right questions, how to find the answers to those questions, and then how to put those findings into a flowing, understandable, coherent argument.

In other words, the best speeches are the best because the students know how to do the work required to prepare the particular speech for each specific assignment.  They start with good, basic, background skills.

So, I was describing the difference between these students to someone, and stated it this way: the students who have difficulty

don’t have the background skills.

Consider this, from a page on the Carnegie Mellon site:

Students lack critical background skills

Writing is a complex task involving many component skills, some of which students may lack completely, some of which they may have only partially mastered. These skills involve, among other things:

  • Reading comprehension
  • Analytical skills
  • Writing skills, including:
    • writing mechanics: grammar, sentence structure, spelling, etc.
    • planning a writing strategy
    • communicating ideas clearly and concisely
    • constructing a reasoned, demonstrable argument
    • effectively marshaling evidence and using sources appropriately
    • organizing ideas effectively

When students lack skills in these areas, their writing (or speaking – R.M.) may be unsatisfactory in multiple ways—from poor grammar and syntax to unclear organization to weak reasoning and arguments. Complicating matters is that students often lack the meta-cognitive skills to recognize the areas in which their prior knowledge and skills are insufficient—and thus which skills they need to work to improve.

Moreover, students may have learned bad habits in high school that they need to un-learn.

Here’s a hunch: you’ve got an area or two yourself in which you lack critical background skills. I know I do.

So, the life-long learning challenge is to identify the areas where we lack such skills, and then tackle some “get-up-to-speed” learning; even as we continue to enhance our knowledge where we have advanced beyond the basics.


Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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