Why bother? I won’t need it in “real life”. This is the question heard over and over again in bedrooms, school hallways and principals waiting rooms for as long as there has been chalk.
No one can tell you what will help you subject-wise in the future but the one thing I can guarantee you is that if you can master self-discipline in learning new things and being able to talk intelligently on the subject afterwards, you will do well in whatever you do.
It’s the process – not the subject
The tips below have been worked on by many of my students who have gone from average or failing grades to 80’s and higher. More importantly, the skills will be helpful in growing in this every-changing world.
Successful homework tips:
1. Those who do not learn from it are doomed to repeat it; they were talking about history but it could be pretty much anything. There is a big difference between beating yourself up about past mistakes and learning from them and moving on. There’s a whole other way to go and that’s denial. Don’t go there. It may feel good at the time but it doesn’t help. Learn from your mistakes and move on. We only get better by embracing our failures, dusting ourselves off and getting back on that exam bronco.
2. Sleep helps. Guarantee yourself an easier time to succeed (isn’t this what it’s all about?) by making sure you are well rested on school days. I know you’ve heard it before but make it be something that you choose to do for yourself. You’ll feel empowered.
3. Divide and conquer. It’s all about the notes. Good notes depend on how much of the important notes are in handouts, how much is in the texts and how much is in the class notes. Getting someone who has taken the class to give you the right blend of the three will go along way to having the right notes.
4. Keep your eyes on the prize. Your job is to figure out how to take good notes and to make sure that you can stay focused for the length of any given class. Too many smart students received less marks then they should have because they would tune out 30 minutes into the class. If your class is 45 minutes, find some interesting extra-curricular hobby that gets you to focus for that amount of time; meditation, martial art, discussion groups, debate clubs, chess… anything that gets you to push your concentration once or twice a week to the length of your regular school class. You’ll be amazed at how much better your note taking will be.
5. Teachers can help! The vast majority of teachers really want you to do well. Booking a time to meet with them and to understand what is important to them about their class will save you tons of guess-work and let you focus on what is really important in the class.
6. HTWFAIP – Anyone who knows me knows I rave about this book and for good reason. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a fantastic book that helps you understand how to appreciate people and benefit in your dealings with them. This may sound weird as a homework tip but there are times when stuff doesn’t go right. If you use the principles in that book when meeting with your teacher, you will find the best ways to succeed in any sticky situation. Remember, your parents will gladly stick up for you but you learn the most (for your entire life) by representing yourself.
7. Timing is everything:
Paper training. How often have you waited to just before the deadline of one or more projects, only to realize that you also had to start getting ready for your exams.
a) Take the date you receive your project and the end date,
b) Divide those date in half and make that your new due-date.
c) Organize the time from your start date to your new due-date by dividing the tasks that have to happen (research, notes, first drafts, editing, etc.,). This gives you more time to organize your exams.
8. Exam prep.
If you have followed tips one to six, you have the basic prep for a successful exam schedule. Remember, we want you walking out of each of those exams knowing you kicked butt! If it is the only exam in that time period, give yourself three to five days to review and test yourself.
If it is one of a series of tests, do the following:
1) Look over all the exams you have to take,
2) Rate them on difficulty and amount of study time needed,
3) Make a time chart of when you need to focus on the upcoming exam and how much time you need to keep prepping for the tougher exams.
Burnt Brains may be a delicacy in some Indiana Jones flick but they have no place in your weekly note-taking world. If you are fuzzy, you cannot study. Save it for a time that won’t compromise learning: Friday nights, Saturday nights and summers. You may get to the point that many of my students get to that realize it really is never worth not “being there”.
9. Reward yourself!
Pick something you really like; a video game, a movie, a great album – and give yourself a 50/50 treat. X minutes of homework gives you x minutes of your treat. Guess what! I’m using that system right now to write this article.
10. Don’t Panic! The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy had it right. Of course they were talking about the Earth being made into an intergalactic parking lot and we are talking about your exams. They’re pretty close… except for the end of the world part.
The biggest enemies to good grades are bad prep and needless fears
Go back in your mind to a great exam that you felt good in and remember how you thought and felt. Let’s call this your “success place”. Whenever you are studying or going into and exam and fears come, recall your “success place”. Especially how it felt.
You are tying your future successes to positive feelings. It works for golfers, boxers, musicians and it will work for you.
There you have it. The keys are in your hands. It has helped many of my students to succeed at their very best. Remember, reward yourself for the good stuff and don’t get too hung up on the bumps along the way.
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