As well as studying sections of the ‘Successful Student’ book, my students have to write an essay in which they are challenged to evaluate the ten rules and principles that most caught their attention. I hope you will enjoy reading Victoria’s essay as much as I did. It may not be perfect but in terms of effort and enthusiasm I was happy to give Victoria an A+ for her stirling effort, which perfectly shows what students can learn from a few hours of reading and five lessons. The longest essay I received this year was 8,560 words from a student who said in his first essay on “Class Expectations” that he would settle for a ‘B’ – thankfully he assiduously set his sights ever higher and ended the semester with a 99.
My Ten Rules and Principles for Academic Success. (Victoria)
“You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.” (Arnie Schwarzenegger).
1.The first rule of success – show up. When you told us in class that we would have to guess this first rule of academic success I initially thought we would get it easily. Ultimately, it took us about twenty minutes before someone came up with the right answer and that was after you had given us so many clues. When you explained why that was the right answer it seemed so obvious that I am still a little baffled at how we took so long to get it right. By the way it was a fun way of learning something important – you seem pretty good at finding ways of making your class entertaining or “sexy” as you call it. (I never thought I would use that word in school let alone in a theology class – that’s not a complaint btw 🙂 Bottom line: you are so right! You cannot win anything in life if you don’t show up for the competition. If I want a good SAT score then I have to haul myself out of bed on a Saturday morning and go through over four hours of testing. So, if it is okay with you my first rule for success is the same as yours: show up every day – both physically and mentally. If we turn up and tune-in to every class, every day for four years of high-school then we give ourselves every chance of being successful in our lives. It is difficult to be a success without some measure of education or training. I think I now understand your quote about ‘everything that is good about life has come about through some form of education’ – not your exact words but hopefully this is what you meant.
2.If it is to be it is up to me. It is neat how you created the Luigi character to make this point. In your book, you say that when we point the finger of blame at someone else then we always find three fingers pointing back at ourselves. I honestly have done that in the past and it is something that I am still working on. Sometimes I think that I am not doing well in a subject because the teacher doesn’t like me or that he isn’t a good teacher, but that is just me looking for excuses. The fingers of blame quote is a powerful mind-sticker. If I want to be successful in life then I should also adopt the line from the Rudy movie, “No excuses, get the work done!” Nobody wants to come to my pity parties, so instead of whining about how tough life is for me I am going to get myself a helmet, suck it up, and show as much grit as possible. Like every other successful person in life, I have to believe that fortune does favor the brave and ‘Just do it!’
3.Application is far more important than Zip codes or Social Class. While I think it is easier to be successful if your family is wealthy because you can afford private tutors and the best equipment etc., nothing beats hard work – hard work always beat talent when a talented person doesn’t work. So many people that you have showed us in the motivational videos from YouTube have said that success is often down to sheer hard work and determination. In fact, I think every video we have watched has stressed the importance of having a strong work ethic. Twenty hours a week on top of the time we spend at school sounds a lot, though I also know kids here at STA who do twice that amount and, of course, most are ultra-successful – especially at sports. Other schools may be envious of our successes, but they don’t see the hours of practice that we put in after school and at weekends. The girls’ volleyball team is now one of the finest in Florida since they started to work so much harder. To quote you, “There has never been a sport called the Comfort Zone.” If you want to achieve anything in life, you gotta work hard!
- Turn stumbling blocks into Stepping Stones. My favorite video was the one on AGT about the young guy, Drew Lynch, who went to sleep on a concussion when he was at high-school and now has a permanent stutter. I teared up when he explained how it happened and how he had struggled with the problem. But when he told those jokes and made fun out of his stutter I thought that was about the coolest story ever! I’m so glad that he got the Golden Buzzer from Howie – that part made me cry tears of joy. His joke about being the voice of GPS was amazingly funny and it showed how he had turned his stumbling block into the gift of humor. You also explained how as a student you couldn’t memorize anything and so you studied extra hard to summarize the books you had to read for your Degree into 500-word handouts. I will definitely adopt this strategy as I don’t have the best memory either. Everybody has their weaknesses, so we must work on our “bouncebackability” scores or we get left behind in life.
5.Get Organized. Like most students I need to work much harder at getting myself properly organized. I probably waste at least an hour a week – maybe more – on finding things that I need e.g. flashcards, calculator, pencils, and White-out etc. I have taken your advice and bought myself a pencil case to keep all my bits and bobs in and now I’m less often discombobulated. I have also made a separate folder for all of my classes and now I can easily find my class notes for every subject.
6.Take notes. Again, this is so simple. We can get far more out of our classes when we pay attention and take notes on what is being taught. This may not make classes any more interesting but – as you said – taking notes means that we usually know what teachers expect us to know. I can’t stop the class from being boring but I can at least get a decent grade out of the class. I have also started to see that the more boring a teacher is the more they set busy work which is at least easy. So many students complain when they get bad grades and yet when they are in class they are always playing with their phones or Chromebooks or just talking all the way through the lesson – get real guys! If you don’t take good notes in class when a subject is being taught then you are making it harder for yourself to learn the material for tests. You can get the notes from a friend in the class though usually the notes make little sense when the class itself was missed.
7.Little and Often. 2 x 15 is better than 1 x 60 is hands down the best study tip that any teacher has ever shown me. I thought it was brilliant how you took us for a walk around the track to prove your point – just like an actual science experiment. Although we are only three weeks into the semester, using this technique has improved my comprehension and work-rate because I don’t have to spend long hours on anything without taking a break. At first, I didn’t believe that it was possible to reduce my work time and get better results, but that is exactly what has happened. In the past I would have tried to do this essay on one night without a break and that usually meant that I would rush the end just to get the paper finished. However, now when my mind starts to wander I take a short break and then I come back refreshed. Talking of which, I am going to take a break now! See you soon. J
- “If your attitude sucks then so do you.” As you admitted in class this may not sound pretty, but it is true and everyone knew what you meant. If we walk into our classes expecting them to be boring or too difficult then, of course, that is exactly what happens. There isn’t much teachers can do for kids who have a badass attitude to school. If we at least try to do our best in class and also be ‘kind and courteous’ to our teachers then school isn’t so bad. Incidentally, I think this principle applies to faculty as well. Some teachers clearly have a poor opinion of students and seem to spend more of their time looking for the worst in us rather than the good. There are some difficult kids here but most of us are pretty easy going; even when kids are difficult it usually doesn’t help when teachers yell at them. I like the poster by your desk: “Shout at me and I will hear you. Talk to me and I will listen.” I also like your traffic sign by the door which says that “Respect is a two-way street.” When we all show respect for each other then everyone gets more out of school.
9.Keep the Dream Alive. My favorite quote so far is from the Dead Poet’s Society movie when Mr. Keating says, “Only in his dreams can man be truly free – it was always thus and always thus will be.” You made an intriguing point when you said that everyone dies twice in this life. The first time we die is when our dreams die. Dreams play a huge part in my life and they have for as long as I can remember. When I was younger I think I had a new dream every week and most of my friends did as well. I can’t imagine what life would be like if I didn’t dream of being successful. For now, I dream of going to a good college and getting a good Degree and, of course, I want to meet my handsome prince who is also successful at what he does. None of this will happen if I don’t work hard now and make the most of the opportunities that I am lucky enough to have every day here at STA.
- Put the Phone Away. I absolutely agree with your views on cellphones. Our generation are obsessed with them! We are so focused on our phones that we don’t learn properly. I am ashamed to say that I have asked to go to the restroom (not in your class) when all I wanted to do was to check on messages. You may remember that when we walked around the track I told you how my girlfriends and I wasted our entire Labor Day off taking selfies and constantly responding to our phones. It was maddening to me that we had so many broken conversations because we were all responding to various cellphone messages – none of which were in any way urgent! When we finished our day at the beach we had hundreds of pics though we hadn’t really enjoyed the day – so the camera actually does lie. We may be smiling in the snaps we took but we did NOT have a great day. We have now agreed that when we go to lunch – the only time all five of us are together – we will switch our phones off – period! I think that any kids who think they can learn when their phones are switched on are in denial. You have shown us that technology can be both good and bad for us, and it is up to us to be self-disciplined enough to use technology to help us rather than to harm us. I have discovered some great apps that help my studies, but I take your point that kids are wasting entire days playing video games etc., instead of studying.
These are my ten rules for success and happiness in my life. Thank you for introducing us to so many cool new ideas about being successful. Although I didn’t think to begin with that I would be able to find ten rules, when I checked my notes from your class over the last week I realized that you have given us enough material to write twenty, or even more, rules. I didn’t get to include discipline which I now realize ‘is a gift rather than a curse’ and nor have I acknowledged how you have helped me to increase my vocabulary quite easily by teaching me the five new words a day rule. I am excited to see what the rest of the semester brings. Thank you. (2120 words)