Guest Post: Tips on How to Make This A Productive and Successful Semester
by Ana Homayoun on
Dasha has been working at Green Ivy for several years, and is a thoughtful and popular instructor. She is finishing up her requirements for being an EMT, and has been taking additional courses since graduating from Stanford in her quest to apply to medical school. Below she shares her three tips for helping students begin this semester in a positive way:
1. Limit social media
Social media is probably every young person’s guilty pleasure. To me, social media is any technology that requires you to be consistently connected and to respond at any moment. This includes texting as well as all of the well-established media sites. It can be difficult to develop self-discipline and focus when a notification could pop up at any second and demanding attention. Responding to a text or seeing who just liked the last post may only take a few seconds, but regrouping to find that focus afterwards can take much longer
One way to deal with this is to create a “Zone In” time. Have your child choose two hours a day in which they turn all of the notifications off on their phones (except calls from you, of course), and have them use a different browser to do their homework. For instance, I use Google Chrome when I leisurely browse the Internet, but when it’s time for me to study, I switch to Firefox. If and when I have a lapse in judgment and start to type in, “www.facebo…” I stop myself when I realize the browser has no history for that site, and it reminds me that it’s not the time or place for me to check if I have any notifications. Having the notifications turned off on my phone takes away the possibility that it can buzz at any moment. It’s amazing how much can get done in two hours when attention isn’t divided between text messages, three social media sites, e-mail, and homework.
2. Weekly regroup time
Every Sunday, I wake up and make myself a nice cup of tea, take out all my study materials, and plan out my week. I keep the schedule dynamic and flexible, since unexpected things can come up. Regardless, it’s nice to look at things from a bird’s eye view, and feel confident that if I stick to this schedule, I can accomplish all of my goals for the week. It is difficult to employ a “plan-as-you go” technique to scheduling, especially for homework. Most teachers let students know what’s coming up for a reason: balancing six or seven classes is no easy task, and early planning is the best antidote for cramming and procrastination.
My planner doesn’t just include homework and tests: my next upcoming assignment is called, “Don’t be lazy and do your laundry!” which is due this evening at the latest. I plan out when I will write essays for my medical school applications, when I want to write for leisure, and when I want to look up programs or opportunities for an outside project I am working on. Doing well in school is most likely just one of your child’s long-term goals, but all goals should be broken down into smaller, chewable pieces.
I would encourage you all to check out this great planner that got it’s seed money from Kickstarter, The Passion Planner. There are spaces to write what went well during the day, any new long-term goals, and space to plan out each day in half-hour increments. I think planning is a great tool to encourage the cultivation of long-term goals.
3. Get outside help before it’s needed
Working at Green Ivy has really allowed me to be a proponent of getting help for mastery. In high school, I shunned the idea of getting tutoring because I was already doing well. I now realize that the point of tutoring isn’t to save the ship after it has already began to sink, but to check and double-check that the ship is ready to set sail before the voyage, and be confident that sinking isn’t even an option.
Doing well in school is tied to comprehension of the materials your child is presented with, and also feeling confident about the materials. I do the best in classes when I feel comfortable teasing apart every aspect of a subject or idea, until I can really own it in my mind. That’s difficult though, especially with a new, scary subject, sitting in class with peers that are learning it for the first as well, and a teacher that is supposed to be an expert in the subject. Outside help can fill that gap: providing your child with a person that has seen the subject before and can smooth over any gray areas, but may also seem less intimidating than a teacher who has taught the subject for 30 years and knows their entire textbook by heart. Outside help could be as simple as talking through concepts with you on a car ride to the supermarket. Allowing academics to infiltrate everyday life is, in my opinion, a sure way to guide a student towards the mastery of a subject.
Thanks to Dasha for her thoughtful tips – what are your favorites for creating a successful and productive environment?