Doing School Like a Professional
"When I understood school as a game, I learned the rules and how to win."
1. Show your teachers that you care and make them your ally.
- What if you sit in the front row in class? For my final year of school, I sat in the front. No longer could I hide behind rows of students when I was inattentive. No longer was I distracted by the other people in my direct line of sight to the teacher. No longer could I show up unprepared. The fear of embarrassment with an empty homework assignment that my teacher would clearly see in the front row motivated me to use my free moments wisely and get my work done. This one idea helped me change the game that I was playing in school.
Use speaker view with your teacher. You'll be less distracted by other students. Keep your camera on so she can see you. Interrupt her immediately if you don't understand. You may have to say her name to interrupt her. Be bold, your GPA depends on it!
- What’s the best way to learn how to play the game in each classroom? Ask the teacher. During your first week of school, stay after school or after class, and see the teacher privately. Share with them your goals for the course. If that’s getting an A, let them know it, but say it in a way that inspires them:
“I don’t know much about European History, but I’m excited to learn and do well in your class.”
Can you imagine how Mrs. Finklemeyer's ears will perk up when you say this? A student who cares!
“Will you please tell me how you set up the grading system for this class? Will the tests be mainly on the book or your lectures? I’d like to know what to focus on and what to review. Should I memorize the dates or be prepared to develop arguments in an essay?”
Try to get yourself interested in the subject, even if it’s just a required course. Being involved in what you’re doing is an essential habit for helping you live an exciting and joyful life. I get it; sometimes, subjects aren’t interesting to you. In this case, why waste your time and energy studying outside of what will give you an A? Ask the teacher how to get one and follow her instructions.
- Speak up. Teachers are getting paid to help you understand the material and get As on a test. This is their only job. When your prof gets a sense that you want to learn what they're teaching, they remember why they chose this profession in the first place. Raise your hand and ask questions the second that the idea doesn't click. Don't let her continue while you're confused. Or, if she must proceed, make a note of this point to come back to it later.
Teachers are responding to emails. It's difficult to speak privately with your teacher and awkward to speak up in front of the class. To get noticed as a serious student, and to speak up when you have a question, you need new methods. Set up calls before or after the school day for questions, utilize group chats if your teacher has set them up, and EMAIL. DO NOT LET the change in learning style become an excuse for neglecting the attention you need to do your best in school. There's a saying that the squeaky wheel gets oiled. If you earnest to learn and sincere in your questions, your teacher will love to help you out.
CREATE notes with the goal of mastering or making sure you understand the material. Use your notes like a conversation with yourself or like a to-do list. If there isn't time to ask a question in class, write it in your notebook for later. Learn to write in your notes what will be effective in helping you recall answers for a test. Cornell Notes are an example of a good way to organize your thoughts.
- Slightly more critical of the two five-minutes segments is at the end of class. The teacher is wrapping up the lecture, and the students put away their notebooks and zip their bags. Then they talk or sit there with a dumb look on their faces. This is your go time if you are in it to win it. These final five minutes are when you review your notes, finish your incomplete sentences, ask questions, or highlight important information. During these five minutes, you turn your messy canvas of a note page into a piece of artwork. Use multiple colors, underline ideas, star what you'll need to study later for the test, and put giant question marks next to ideas you'll need to review. While everyone else is talking about absolutely nothing, you are prepping for an A in Mrs. Finklemeyer's class.
- The second most important five minutes are before class starts or at the beginning of the class. This is when students file in, and the teacher takes roll. Everyone else is on their smartphone or talking about what happened last night, lulled by momentary inactivity. But don't be fooled. If your teacher is any good, she's itching to soar into her lesson plan like a pilot of a 747 who expects her passengers to be buckled up. These five minutes are your second critical edge when you pull out your notebook and remind yourself of the previous lecture and any notes that you took on the book. By the time the teacher handles her administrative tasks, she's revved up to spit out knowledge like Lin-Manuel Miranda drops rhymes. After reviewing your notes, you'll have broken your mental inertia, and you're ready to riff with her like an improv comedian.
Are you good at multitasking? Are you fast at typing? With online schooling, your notes can have added spreadsheets, graphs, colors, and even videos. You can listen to the teacher's lecture twice if she's recorded it. Take advantage of the tech!
3. Treat your school day like a pro
What if you worked a school day like an 8-5 job? Whether you’re at University or in High School, 90% of your classes will be during the daytime. Imagine considering that you’re on the clock during those hours. Any work you don’t get done, you have to bring home with you. Why waste your time?
- University Students
Remember my 2.3 GPA freshman year? If I had a slogan for that year, it would have been, "2.3GPA - Brought to you by the late morning nap between class hours." If you're a college kid, you need more sleep than you think. You're nearly a grown-up, so now's a perfect chance to practice adulting.The year I got straight As, I'd show up to the campus library at 8:AM like I was clocking in. I arrived at my 9 AM class, fully prepared. Between my 10:10 class and my 10:40 class, I'd return to the library where I'd finish my reading assignments, complete my notes, email questions to the teachers, and close all the gaps that threatened my perfect A. After my 10:40, I'd eat a sack lunch on campus and return to the library until my 2:30 PM class. At 3:40, I'd return to the library until 5 PM.I returned home early only when I couldn't get ahead any further in the teacher's syllabus.At 5:00 PM, sometime earlier, I'd go home. I had ZERO homework at home. Home time was for hanging with my friends or girlfriend, doing hobbies that I enjoyed, working on projects, and going to bed early.I was a pro. Finally, I'd figured out how to work the education system that had eluded me for so many years prior. I learned (no, it was more than learning, it was knowing) that if I can solve the education game, there had to be other games that I could master to succeed in life.
- High School Students
Every class and every day is full of wasted time, time waiting for instructions, time waiting in lines, time between classes. You're even given time to do homework in class. Take advantage of this time. Be organized. Get a daily planner and write down every assignment and every unlearned or unmastered idea you think will be on the test. Check them off or cross them out when you've completed the assignment or mastered the concept. Become vigilant about collecting every piece of information either in your memory, your planner, or your notebook. You might need to review a concept two times to lock it into your brain before the test, maybe more. Start the process now. You'll become more efficient at it as you practice the game.
Suddenly, because you're at home and your camera is turned off on your computer, you can do anything you want while the teacher lecture. Use this to your advantage for positive results. Some of you get antsy after 10 minutes of class. Now, you get to stand up and stretch as the teacher lectures. You can stand at your desk, do sit-ups during the breaks, and be completely fresh for receiving the lesson.
She'd sleep on it. When she woke, the info was in place in her mind, ordered and ready for her recall. Your brain wants to help you when you know how to access it. If you've learned the concept and attempted to review it, ask your mind to be prepared to give you what you need. Your brain loves to solve problems and will work with you, not against you when you ask it and let it do its job. Twenty years ago, this would have been taboo, but now it's backed up with science.
2. Show up to the test confident. What you tell yourself matters, so control your internal dialogue. It may sound cocky, but Tessa would look at the sea of students in her college class the day of the test, many of them she'd never seen before, and she'd say TO HERSELF, "Suckers, there's no way you'll get a better grade than me." She's competitive, and this worked for her to help her feel confident.
What works for you? Is it better to remind yourself of the effort you've put in so that you feel you deserve a good grade? Maybe, if you're like me, you have a moment of letting go, where you tell yourself that you've done all you can do, that you'll expect perfection, but that you'll be happy with yourself regardless of the result. My results were already recorded in the way I organized my time and effort preparing for the test. The test itself has an inevitable outcome, the effects of my hard work.
What you tell yourself matters. Even if you mismanage your time by mistake, you can show up with your best efforts on test day by recounting positive aspects of your character and effort vs. shaming or berating yourself. Professionals control their thoughts, actions, and emotions to the very end. After you get your grades, then evaluate and learn from the process. It doesn't do any good to label yourself as dumb or bad at math after a low grade. Consider a growth mindset. There will always be another test for you to determine how far you've come as a student of the game.
Your teacher would spend $100 getting his classroom ready to become your optimal learning environment before the year started. Do you have a good learning environment at home? You don't need to spend $100. Print your goals. Print and post vocab words that you struggle with on your wall or use them as your screen saver. In short - TAKE OWNERSHIP of your domain and make it work for you.
The CSF's purpose is to support students interested in entrepreneurship education by providing mentors and scholarships. We share information about character development, helping students succeed in business and life.
Anthony Ripley is a blogger, the author of On Success, and founder of CREATE Clubs, student Entrepreneurship and Character Development Clubs, now launching in the United States and Europe. He lives in Round Rock, Texas, with his wife and two kids.
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When students fill out a job application or apply for a loan, what do they put for their occupation? Student. How many of us treat our school lives like it's our profession, like a professional? What if your mentality about school helps you develop focus-habits that open the door to future opportunities?