By: Paige Wolff
A new school year is upon us, and now is the time to set the tone for a successful year. As with anything, you need to be both mentally and physically prepared in order to make gains. Mentally, you’ll be at a great advantage if you’re cognizant of your learning style. You’ll also benefit from practicing a growth mindset. Beyond that, developing an organizational system that works for you will be key.
What kind of learner are you? Do you know? EducationPlanner.org has a 20-question self-assessment to help you find out! You can access it by clicking here. Perhaps, if you’re like me, you’ve heard someone say, “Oh, you seem like a visual learner!” You may vaguely understand that seeing something helps you understand it, but there are strategies associated with that strength (i.e., color-coding to organize content) that may help you succeed as a learner. When I took the learning style self-assessment, my results yielded seven distinct strategies to boost my learning experiences. As someone with a good 20 years of schooling under her belt, I can affirm that many of the proposed strategies were spot-on in efficacy. Give the assessment a go!
A focus at my school this year is embracing Dr. Carol Dweck’s growth mindset. In a nutshell, embracing a growth mindset means welcoming the unknown as an opportunity to expand your horizons rather than shying away from it because you don’t immediately experience accomplishment. While this may seem nebulous, and even a bit intimidating, it’s really quite simple. When you feel yourself tempted to throw in the towel and exclaim, “This is too hard!” try channeling that energy into resources: ask yourself where you can get more information. Perhaps it’s in something you already have, such class notes or a textbook. Maybe you can find an explanatory video on Khan Academy or YouTube. If you have an interpersonal skill set, you may want to ask someone for guidance towards the next step. Talking it out can even trigger ideas within your own mind that you hadn’t previously considered. When you set your mind to the exercise and practice of learning, you set yourself up for a more encouraging and successful year.
Last, but not least, you need a system of organization that helps you track and plan for homework, exams, projects, etc. Figure out what works for you. Some people remember things better when they write them out. If you’re one of those people, you may want a paper agenda in which to record your assignments. Personally, I find it gratifying to physically cross out an assignment once it’s done. If, on the other hand, you find it cumbersome or pointless to write out each assignment—or if you’re prone to forgetting an agenda at school—you may want to take pictures of your assignments using your cellphone; you’re far less likely to forget that, and it’s convenient in terms of portability. Once all of your work has been assigned, it’s up to you to decide how and when it’s going to get done. Ask yourself if you prefer to get the smaller items out of the way or if you’d rather knock out your least preferred task while your mind is still fresh. This may include some trial and error to learn what approach works best for you. It’s worth the investigation! Regardless of how you tackle your nightly assignments, always take a few moments to sit down and review the expectations of large assignments. Once you do that, plan ahead by breaking them into smaller steps. Pick specific portions or steps to accomplish each night so that the assignment feels more manageable and less rushed; you’ll end up with higher quality work when you set your mind to specific tasks along the way.
I wish you all a year of self-discovery, personal challenge, and peace of mind. It will be what you make it, so make it great!