I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit, suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion’ ~Muhammad Ali
Interesting quote, I must say. Used by many teachers, parents, and counselors who persuade you to start studying harder and score well.
However, the persuasion done is to a great extent- flawed. Teachers and parents will bombard you with statements that make you feel bad and keep nagging to you to study. But get this, you’re telling the academic low achiever why he should study when he clearly does try, but you don’t tell him what strategies he should adopt in order to achieve your expectations of improvement from him (how to study).
Personally, in my life, I was a mediocre before and I faced the same persuasion on why I should be studying, but the thing is, I know I should be studying, but I don’t as much as you expect cause I don’t understand how to effectively learn. When the persuasion was getting annoying, I spent a year of my life experimenting new ways and saw drastic improvement.
Before getting into the strategies, you must adopt and accept a few things with full determination and willpower.
1. Get out of your comfort zone!
You are a king, and the comfort zone is an empire, Just like how a king keeps expanding his empire, you must keep expanding your comfort zone. How? By simply getting out of it everytime you’re in it to try something new and when you get used to it, that becomes your new comfort zone, so you step out again and the process just keeps repeating and your empire keeps expanding. Ultimately, you must never stop conquering. Never.
2. Take up the task of improving upon yourself.
Push yourself, because no one else is going to do it for you.
Adopt the strategies yourself, look for proper time utilization yourself and follow your timetable with a true intention and willpower. Don’t let anyone remind you of what you have to do.
Exceptions- If you need help with concept clarity you should and must approach a teacher regarding the same. If you feel shy, shoot up youtube and look for an explanation there, if you don’t find any. Then you’ve got no choice but to approach a teacher, and trust me, they won’t mind you asking doubts. I’ve asked my teachers to explain long concepts again and they don’t deny. They do explain it.
3. Ask them “how?”
Now we all know that getting yelled at for not studying and/or scoring low is humiliating, then you get the usual “these years are your studying years”, “study hard now and enjoy later” lectures. If they really hurt you, just shoot back a question asking how should you study to improve. It’ll make you feel better for sure and that’s a logical question and no one can tell you that you’re back-answering them. And on the brighter side, they may actually know some wonderful ways and answer you with a helping attitude!
That’s basically it for the initial mindset you need, moving on to the “how-to”s.
1. Time management
Knowing how you should balance your day and all your work is vital in the process of improvement, working hard isn’t always the best thing to do. You must work smart. For that, you need to know how to properly spend your time.
Do not keep study sessions for more than 2 hours in a stretch, if you are an academically low scorer and don’t already have fixed hours, don’t study for more than 1.5 hours in a stretch in initial days of studying, later, develop your hours and sessions. Keep 10-30minutes breaks between each session of study (depending on how long it was).
Make sure in a whole day during exams you have all your hours defined, basically, don’t just write the lesson names under the date you have to study them in, write the time frame under which you will study them as well, choose multiple timeframes if they are large or difficult. eg: “6:30 to 8 AM- *insert lesson name* …. and so on”
An example of a section from one of my days-
2, Subject wise strategies
English and languages- Read the textbook, answer its questions, go online and look up interpretations and more questions, Value Based Questions etc. Practise comprehensions and writing skills, use quotes, idioms and popular phrases in your writing to have a unique style. Don’t exceed the word limits.
Maths- Practice; start with understanding and listing down all formulas, then start with the textbook exercises, once you’re done with them, use a guide or go online for more important questions. For geometry, make sure you know to derive theorems. Most importantly, pay attention in class and ask doubts if you don’t understand something. Go online for explanations and you should be good.
Science and Social Studies- Read through the textbook and write down notes of important points, maintain a separate register to write notes. Go online for important questions and try to understand the concepts, not memorize them. If maintaining a register for notes is boring and difficult, consider writing the important points on A4 sheets like a mind map along with drawings and colors to make learning fun!
3. Stay focused and know what you’re doing!
You should know what you are studying for and you should know what your goals are. Always have set targets that you need to achieve and go forth and improve yourself! Everytime you achieve on target, make another and run after it! Keep doing this to a point where you feel incomplete without having goals.
Keep all distractions during study hours away, turn off your phone and keep it in another room and any other mode of distraction must be kept away as well.
Make sure the environment you study in is clean, pleasant and favorable. Personally, I have my own little storeroom with a huge table where I do all my work at, including writing this post right now. A magnet board is available to me as well to stick my portions, study plans etc.
Keep yourself motivated! There are many ways in which you can do this. Don’t give up! Stick motivational quotes or phrases in your room, I have a self-designed home screen on my phone and my background has motivational phrases in a small font like “you can do it”, “don’t give up”.
Oh and my favorite one-
You run the day or the day runs you.
4. Keep an open and cool mind; don’t stress
Studying hard and smart doesn’t mean to keep studying the whole day, do have some time to calm yourself and go outside for fresh air and nice views. Really helps.
Stress will destroy all your progress and make you forget all that you have learned.
That’s enough for the basics of what you should be doing,
Believe you can! Don’t give up!
Now that you’ve developed a mindset of what you have to do, just don’t let it go! Ask your teachers and parents to keep you motivated and keep supporting your struggle to improvement! Don’t let any criticism get to you (analyze it first whether it makes sense and ignore or consider depending on its relevance).
Don’t limit your strategies to this blog, you might be able to come up with your own strategies and discuss with other high achievers on what they do.
Relation with neuroscience, how your brain works?
Neurons that fire together wire together!
Every experience, thought, feeling, and physical sensation triggers thousands of neurons, which form a neural network. When you repeat an experience over and over, the brain learns to trigger the same neurons each time.
It can be beneficial to have neurons wired together. The neural network helps us learn, store, and recall information in an effective way. For example, when you’re getting to know an acquaintance, the neural network helps you to remember the person’s name through many subtle triggers.
When a student has a poor classroom experience on a regular basis—perhaps they’re bored by the curriculum, or a teacher shames them repeatedly in class—the student begins to think of academics as something negative.
Over time, the negativity becomes embedded in the student’s neural networks, and they learn to respond to school on the basis of that negativity since their brain is wired to do so.
We must recognize that children are born wanting to learn, and for many years they love learning. Their learning in those early years is fueled by curiosity and joy. They’re eager to discover everything they can about their world, and they’re not afraid of making mistakes—that’s how they grow!
Teachers must adopt methods of teaching which are fun, relevant and practical. Teaching students in a simple, persuasive and forceful manner is just further going to strengthen such a neural connection of negativity.
When students make mistakes, don’t laugh at them, and to teachers- please don’t humiliate them, explain to them where they went wrong and what they need to do to improve. Being honest, in the student community, being publicly humiliated and pinpointed with insults devoid of solutions instills hate for that teacher or whoever it was.
Different way of thinking about why you’re studying
A lot of people (including myself) find the education system flawed and will refuse to study cause they find it impractical.
However, you must understand, not everyone can be like Bill Gates or any of the-ish, who can drop out and do well. Even those people didn’t just drop out cause they hated school, they had their own big plans and own ideas of innovation which most of us critics don’t.
Hence you can just convince yourself to go along the system and keep studying for marks, but keep working on side hobbies and other stuff that you can use in your portfolio! Like how I write posts for my blog, alongside studying. Balance all your interests.
Balancing Hobbies with study routine
This is something important for a good and developed portfolio, you must be doing other productive works alongside your study life. Colleges won’t accept you if you just have a 98% score but no other merits. Often, people who scored less than others have been selected in good colleges because of a volatile portfolio.
For this you must have good time management and know your priorities, don’t give everything its equal time, but give everything its required time. An example is how I wrote my blog during exams as well, I gave writing a very small proportion of time compared to studying but that’s cause that’s what’s required for it.
Moreover, I don’t see student-life as something only for studying. Explore and live to the fullest! If you have to, let your scores drop from 95 to 90, or 90 to 85 if you need to work hard on other hobbies, but prioritize trying a suitable balance to develop both things equally, I wouldn’t recommend letting a score-drop happen but if your side interests are that important and necessary. Go for it.
Again, don’t restrict yourself to these points. Go out, discuss and discover more methods and strategies! To improvement, there are no boundaries!
Do you have a success story that you want to share? How have you risen in your school life?
Any and all doubts and queries are welcomed!