Do you ever wonder how people study? I do. Particularly, I did in high school when Maritza, the smartest girl I knew, would routinely make AP classes like Calculus and Physics look like mere distractions on her way to awesome life/greatness. Our AP teachers were generous; they graded us on a curve so that we would be judged in relation to our peers--and not the books. That sounds great unless Maritza was sitting in the class, which meant an A was often times a 98, and rarely a 95. Us struggling students, barely getting B's, would never make the A--even on the curve.
I remember there were times I'd sit and look at Maritza, a beautiful latina with long curly hair and an easy smile, and wonder how the hell she did it. I mean really--I was a nerd too, I gave up my lunch hour and nutrition break to sit in class and do homework--everyday. I asked her many times how she did it, and ever kind she'd just say she studied a lot, or she'd smile and say, "Kiandra, your smart too."
My reply? "Um, no, because you keep messing up the curve, Maritza!" Truth is she was amazing.
Well, now I think I'm pretty amazing sometimes too. Now that I know how to study. Now that I've found my focus. Now that I love what I study.
Let's talk about that thing us students do--Studying.
To begin an effective studying routine you have to get clear about one thing first, time. What time are you at your best? When do you have the least distractions, we're not talking no distractions, but the least distractions? When are you less sleepy? When do you have the most energy?
This takes honesty and self/life-awareness. You have to get real on when you are in the prime of your day. And then you have to be honest about when you actually have the time. It may not be an idea time. But, you have to know when you can optimize your time, energy, and attention.
Me? I used to think I was a night owl and that I could pull all-nighters, plowing through anything. Nope, I can't. I'm not like my sis, up at 5 am, showering and ready to take on the world, but I am also not like my husband, up at 2 am, writing and reading feverishly. I'm a mid-day girl. But, I am at my best when I first wake up and my mind is clear.
Next, you have to know what conditions you work best under. Stress or no stress? Deadline or Massive time? Quiet or Music? Alone or Group? When do you get most done? When your with a group and feeding off others ideas? Or when you are alone, feeding your own thoughts and combing your own mind for ideas? What about stress and deadlines? Are you better when your back is up against the wall? Or are you better when you have time and nothing looming over your head?
The conditions you study under make a huge difference in the success of your study session. If you stress under deadlines, then saving your homework to hours before class is not going to be optimal. Likewise, if you know that having lot's of time makes you procrastinate and loose focus, then studying ahead may not be an option.
Me? I have to be alone. I have to have relative quiet--in the room alone with the fan whirling in the background. I have to be at home, that way I know I am available should the kids, or E needs me. And, I also need time, time to digest and slowly study what ever it is I am studying.
And then there are the materials. The textbooks. The pens. The paper. The computers. The nerdy office supplies that either foster your studying, or hinder it.
Some of us (ahem) are very particular about our study tools. What gets in the way of your studying? Do using used books bother you, or does the thought of paying full price for a book you will use a semester drive you crazy? Do you have a favorite notebook (writing kind), computer, pen, etc? If certain tools make learning easier than recognize that and use them. The goal is not to challenge yourself and see how long you can put up with reading a smoke-smelling, coffee stained textbook, but the goal is to get the information in your brain. In other words, learning needs to happen; don't give yourself unnecessary obstacles.
I am anal about my tools. I have a very particular set of tools and system that I must use. I have to have a dictionary present (I use the American Heritage Dictionary app on my iPad), I have to have a very particular notebook system that allows total customization (I'll review it in the future), I have to use the same pens and mechanical pencils, I have to have post-it notes, and I MUST have new books, or books that have not been marked by anyone. This is my plan and I stick to it--religiously.
Finally, we get to attitude. I truly believe that you get out of things what you put into them. If you approach studying with a negative, defeated, fearful, or know-it-all attitude, chances are you will get those results back. You have to open yourself up to learning. Make yourself available to learning. I really mean that. Have the right attitude and the right reverence for the ability and opportunity to learn.
So often school is viewed as a means to an end. No, scratch that, school is not a means to an end, but it is essentially the beginning. When you learn you open yourself up for future learning, future connections in either the real world, the work world, or the academic world to happen. Studying has affected my life. Not in that it has made me academically smart, or given me a high GPA, or even given me the means to get a degree. Studying, and more importantly learning, has changed me. I am more focused. I am more confident. I understand the world around me better. I see connections that I didn't see before. I am a more well-rounded woman.
This is only possible if you approach studying, and for all intents and purposes learning, with the right attitude. Be open to learn--always.
My Studying Rules:
1. Know what time of day you work best and optimize it.
2. Be informed about when you can study, when it is best for you, and again, optimize it.
3. Know the conditions that you work best under, and seek to create those conditions every time you study.
4. Find the materials that "get out of the way" for you and use them to aid your studying. Find your system and use it.
5. Have the right attitude towards learning.
I get the feeling these are things everyone has heard. I'm sure I have, maybe not all together, but I know someone has told me these things in my life. My point here is that we need to approach studying with thoughtfulness and we need to give ourselves every opportunity to succeed.
In the end there is no "magic" studying formula, except for the one that works for you. And guess what, that probably will only work for you.
It has taken me time and maturity to find the studying routine that works for me. I had to learn myself and then adapt to my life situation. I didn't always have kids and E, obviously, but now that I do have them I have to learn how I learn with them in my life. I had to look within and be honest with myself about what works--for me.
I won't lie, there are times when I try and force myself to study at night and I always hate it. Sometimes it is merely life, I don't always have the time to fit studying in when it's best for me. Those times I have to make the best of it, but they also teach me how valuable my quiet morning, or early evening time is for me. I cherish it and I bring myself to studying with gratitude and reverence.
And that brings me to my final point.
Have reverence for learning. This past week I have discovered how much learning, and teaching matter to me. It is so important to me that all people involved with learning, students and teachers/administrators, always have reverence for the process of learning. Learning is a privilege and needs to be treated as so.