School & After School

How To Stay Mindful And Engaged As A Student

These days, we have so many distractions and temptations that it's hard to focus 100% of the time on learning. Smartphones and social media have made it nearly impossible for many people to disconnect and put their attention on studying. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help pull your focus toward your schoolwork (and they're fairly easy to do). The key is to stick with things that work for you and keep your mind active.  Here are some of the best tricks for doing just that.

Warm up your brain

If you're tired because you stayed up late last night, or if you're starting to get bored with the reading material, start your study session or preface your class with a brain warm-up. Play a word game (which you can download on your phone), do a puzzle, or even do a simple picture search (Where's Waldo will do just fine).

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Get moving

Before a big test or an important class, fit in a workout or go for a jog. Getting your heart rate up and exercising regularly will send oxygen-rich blood to your brain, which will help you when it's time to learn and retain knowledge.

Get a partner

Learning on your own can become repetitive and boring, so enlist the aid of a friend or fellow classmate who can help quiz you and take part in study time. You can even make a game out of it to keep your mind engaged.

Put away your phone

Unless you're expecting an extremely important phone call, you don't have to keep your device by your side while you're in class or reading. Smartphones are handy, but they are also big distractions, especially if you belong to a lot of different social media sites and constantly get notifications and messages. Put it away and enjoy the thrill of all those notifications when you come back to it.

Get comfortable

When you're in an environment you can control--in your own room while studying, for instance--make sure you're comfortable. Wear comfy clothes, eat something before you start working, have a drink nearby, and keep the temperature a little on the cool side, as being warm will make you sleepy. If you're uncomfortable while you're trying to get reading done, it's likely you won't retain much of what you're looking at.

Get involved

It's important to change things up a little if you are a particular type of student. If you typically sit back and listen, but don't engage much in the classroom, make it a point to answer questions and have a back-and-forth with other students and the teacher. If you find that you talk a lot during class, sit back and listen mindfully next time.

Find out what type of learner you are

If you're having trouble in a particular class, it could be because you aren't engaging your brain the right way. Some of us are visual learners, and do our best work when ideas are presented to us with images or graphs. Others need to hear instructions before we can comprehend them. There is no one right way to learn, but it's important to figure out what works best for you and put it to use when you're studying.

We live in age where there are constant distractions trying to divert our attention away from the task at hand. It's never been easier to become sidetracked. That said, there are things you can do to remain focused and get done what you need to. Try our advice for staying mindful and see the difference it makes!

Photo via Pixabay by Rawpixel

Study Habits & How To Study.

How many of us have gone home, attempted to study, for an upcoming test but then, when the test date arrived, failed the test with flying colors? How many of us have been discouraged or frustrated because studying seems to accomplish nothing and yet we really do try?

The key, I think, is not so much how long we study but how we study. Too many of us study by reading the information once, maybe twice, by cramming it into our heads. We work on studying and homework non-stop until every bit of it is complete. This is the problem and if you think about it, you'll see that it doesn't even make sense. Our brains are not, contrary to popular belief, machines and they can only remember so many things at a time. In fact, did you know that the average memory can retain seven items, give or take 2, at once? So, since our brains have a limit on how much they can remember at once, cramming isn't going to help.

Instead, I have found a better way of studying. Open your books and study, do your homework in one subject, for half an hour and then break and do something totally different: eat a snack, watch a bit of a show on TV for 10 minutes and the return to the same subject for another half hour, then break again. Repeat the process until all subjects are complete. Breaking away from the work gives your brain time to digest what it has just been given and to remember it.

Also, the more times you see something, the more likely it is that you'll remember it. So, the way I study (and I pass every test, except for those in math, with flying colors) is by reading the material once, then going back and highlighting the information that I think is important, and then writing down everything that I highlighted. Then I use that sheet, the one I wrote the important things down on, as my study sheet until the test. It's tedious, and it takes time, but it works for me.

Making the grades that you and your parents want you to make is not an easy thing, but it's not impossible either and believe me the satisfaction of accomplishing something (like making an A in history) that you hadn't done before is well worth the extra effort. After all, once you reach high school, the grades that you make will help determine how many and which colleges you'll be accepted into. "If you shoot for the moon, you will land among the stars." Unknown Author

Study Guides

Added by Adam Marshall
(Partially adapted from the audio cassette by Steven Covey, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and some information taken from http://www.iss.stthomas.edu/)

You can prepare yourself to succeed in your studies. Try to develop and appreciate the following habits:

Take responsibility for yourself.

Responsibility is recognition that in order to succeed. You can make decisions about your priorities, your time, and your resources.

Center yourself around your values and principles.

Don't let friends and acquaintances dictate what you consider important.

Put first things first.

Follow up on the priorities you have set for yourself, and don't let others, or other interests, distract you from your goals.

Discover your key productivity periods and places.

Morning, afternoon, evening; study spaces where you can be the most focused and productive. Prioritize these for your most difficult study challenges.

Consider yourself in a win-win situation.

You win by doing your best and contributing your best to a class, whether for yourself, your fellow students, and even for your teachers and instructors. If you are content with your performance, a grade becomes an external check on your performance, which may not coincide with your internally arrived at benefits.

First understand others, then attempt to be understood.

When you have an issue with an instructor, for example a questionable grade, an assignment deadline extension, put yourself in the instructor's place. Now ask yourself how you can best make your argument given his/her situation.

Look for better solutions to problems.

For example, if you don't understand the course material, don't just re-read the material. Try something else! Consult with the professor, a tutor, an academic advisor, a classmate, a study group, or your school's study skills center.

Look to continually challenge yourself

Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking is "the careful, deliberate determination of whether we should accept, reject, or suspend judgment about a claim, and the degree of confidence with which we accept or reject it."
From Critical Thinking by Moore and Parker.

Strategies for Critical Reading.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the issue?
  2. What conclusion does the author reach about the issue?
  3. What are the author's reasons for believing as he does? Be alert to bad reasoning (i.e. pity, fear, misuse of statistics etc.) that can fool you.
  4. Has the author used facts or opinions?
  5. Facts can be proven. Opinions cannot be proven and may or may not be based on sound reasoning.
  6. Has the author used neutral words or emotional words?
  7. Critical readers look beyond the language to see if the reasons are clear.

Characteristics of Critical Thinkers

  • They are honest with themselves
  • They resist manipulation
  • They overcome confusion
  • They ask questions
  • They base judgments on evidence
  • They look for connections between subjects
  • They are intellectually independent

Concentrating when studying

"Concentration is the eternal secret of every mortal achievement" Stefan Zweig 1881 - 1942 Austrian

Concentration: the ability to direct your thinking The art or practice of concentration, no matter if studying biology or playing pool, is to focus on the task at hand and eliminate distraction.

We all have the ability to concentrate ... sometimes. Think of the times when you were "lost" in something you enjoy: a sport, playing music, a good game, a movie. Total concentration. But at other times, Your mind wanders from one thing to another. Your worries distract you, outside distractions take you away before you know it, the material is boring, difficult, and/or not interesting to you. These tips may help: They involve what you can control in your studies.

Best practices - What you can control in your studies:

  • "Here I study" - Get a dedicated space, chair, table, lighting and environment. Avoid your cell phone or telephone and even put up a sign to avoid being disturbed or interrupted. If you like music in the background, OK, but don't let it be a distraction. (Research on productivity with music versus without music is inconclusive).
  • Stick to a routine - Make an efficient study schedule and accommodate your day/nighttime energy levels
  • Focus - Before you begin studying, take a few minutes to summarize a few objectives, gather what you will need, and think of a general strategy of accomplishment
  • Incentives - Create an incentive if necessary for successfully completing a task, such as calling a friend, a food treat, a walk, etc. For special projects such as term papers, design projects, long book reviews, set up a special incentive.
  • Change topics - Changing the subject you study every one to two hours for variety
  • Vary your study activities - Alternate reading with more active learning exercises. If you have a lot of reading, try the SQ3R method (Survey! Question! Read! Recite! Review!)
  • Ask yourself how you could increase your activity level while studying? Perhaps a group will be best? Creating study questions? - Ask your teacher for alternative strategies for learning. The more active your learning, the better.
  • Take regular, scheduled breaks that fit you - Do something different from what you've been doing (e.g., walk around if you've been sitting), and in a different area.
  • Rewards - Give yourself a reward when you've completed a task.

Survey! Question! Read! Recite! Review!

Before you read, Survey the chapter:

  • the title, headings, and subheadings
  • captions under pictures, charts, graphs or maps
  • review questions or teacher-made study guides
  • introductory and concluding paragraphs
  • summary

Question while you are surveying:

  • Turn the title, headings, and/or subheadings into questions;
  • Read questions at the end of the chapters or after each subheading;
  • Ask yourself, "What did my instructor say about this chapter or subject when it was assigned?"
  • Ask yourself, "What do I already know about this subject?"

Note: If it is helpful to you, write out these questions for consideration. This variation is called SQW3R

When you begin to Read:

  • Look for answers to the questions you first raised;
  • Answer questions at the beginning or end of chapters or study guides
  • Reread captions under pictures, graphs, etc.
  • Note all the underlined, italicized, bold printed words or phrases
  • Study graphic aids
  • Reduce your speed for difficult passages
  • Stop and reread parts which are not clear
  • Read only a section at a time and recite after each section

Recite after you've read a section:

  • Orally ask yourself questions about what you have just read and/or summarize, in your own words, what you read
  • Take notes from the text but write the information in your own words
  • Underline/highlight important points you've just read
  • Use the method of recitation which best suits your particular learning style but remember, the more senses you use the more likely you are to remember what you read - i.e.,
    • TRIPLE STRENGTH LEARNING: Seeing, saying, hearing
    • QUADRUPLE STRENGTH LEARNING: Seeing , saying , hearing, writing!!!

Review is an ongoing process.

  • Day One
    • After you have read and recited the entire chapter, write questions for those points you have highlighted/underlined in the margins. If your method of recitation included note-taking in the left hand margins of your notebook, write questions for the notes you have taken.
  • Day Two
    • Page through the text and/or your notebook to re-acquaint yourself with the important points. Cover the right hand column of your text/note-book and orally ask yourself the questions in the left hand margins. Orally recite or write the answers from memory. Make "flash cards" for those questions which give you difficulty. Develop mnemonic devices for material which need to be memorized.
  • Days Three, Four and Five
    • Alternate between your flash cards and notes and test yourself (orally or in writing) on the questions you formulated. Make additional flash cards if necessary.
  • Weekend
    • Using the text and notebook, make a Table of Contents - list all the topics and sub-topics you need to know from the chapter. From the Table of Contents, make a Study Sheet/ Spatial Map. Recite the information orally and in your own words as you put the Study Sheet/Map together.

Now that you have consolidated all the information you need for that chapter, periodically review the Sheet/Map so that at test time you will not have to cram.

Job Hunting.

Searching for a job isn't easy, and hopefully no one will ever say it will be. Believe me, from personal experience it isn't easy at all. You tend to get your hopes up that you can walk into the easiest of jobs and you can get paid a lot for quite frankly doing very little and sitting on your ass all day. "No, " I hear you say? Oh well, it must be lazy little me then. I was hoping I could find a job that would fund my clothes and CD addiction. I've had a bad experience with my previous job but even the money couldn't keep me there. Last year I was working in a pub/restaurant. There seemed so many meals and I had to learn all about them in case someone asked me questions. It doesn't sound stressful and I know it sounds rather silly. It was on my first day I met my work enemy too, the touch screen till. Instead of the old fashioned tills, it was a computer thing, too high tech for me. But do you know what? It wasn't that there was anything wrong with the job, it was that it was my first proper job, where I get my own little pay slip and everything. So of course, because it was a new world to me, one where I couldn't tug on my Mom's apron strings any longer, I found the situation rather intimidating. I'm quite a shy person anyway as it is, suddenly it was like a rabbit being thrown into a lions den, surely I didn't stand a chance. It was an overreaction though and soon I settled in. In my experience, when you do find a job the best thing to do is to keep your head down. No-one is saying you can't talk to your colleagues, because at the end of the day communication is vital to provide a good service to your potential customers. It may be scary, nerve wracking and you may dread your first day like I did. It happens with a lot of things in life, driving for example. The first time is hard, you think it can't get any easier but it will. This logic can be applied to both starting a job (new place, new people) and job hunting (you think you won't find anything but you will).

So, you've decided you want a job, whether it be part or full time, the "rules", well my guidelines pretty much apply for both.

  • Make sure that you apply for a job, whether it be full or part time, that you know you will enjoy. There's no point doing a job you don't like or that you do not find fulfilling.
  • Try to find a job that suits you and your interests. It would be silly and a waste of time to get a job in a shoe shop if you aren't keen on feet (thinking of myself there and I shudder at the thought of working with feet) or working in a florists if you are allergic to pollen.
  • Be aware of the working hours. If you are at school/college/university and the job is only part time you can't let it affect your lessons/your courses/your degrees or to some extent your social life. Look for a job which has hours that are realistic for you and that you can handle.
  • Don't forget that when looking for a job, at least try and find one in your area or perhaps only a bus ride away. There's nothing worse than having only a four hour shift when it takes two hours to get there.
  • Try to find out the rate of pay/wages you should be expecting if you start the job. You will usually find this out in an interview. If you are giving up your time, while the experience is valuable the money you get does still have to be decent.
  • Keep your options open. Don't apply for the first job you find, keep your options open. Have a look around and when you do find a number of jobs that are suitable for you try and find out more.

As for interviews, they can make or break a job application. There are a number things that you need to remember if you do reach that stage.

  • Interviewers are not trying to trip you up. They are looking to see why you are suitable for the job and why they should hire you instead of the person before you.
  • Feel fairly confident but don't be arrogant about an interview. You must have impressed them for them to have offered you an interview, so far you have done fairly well. In a way an interview is the time when you can sell yourself, but the interviewer will most likely see through some things. Don't exaggerate your achievements or in other words claim to be something you are not. It will only backfire on you in the end.
  • It always goes without saying that you should be punctual and well dressed for your interview. This is the last chance you will get and it will leave a lasting impression on the interviewer.

Finally, never give up looking, keep your eyes open for vacancies. Always have a copy of your resume with you when you go out shopping, you never know. Even if there isn't a vacancy notice in the window of a shop you could always go and ask inside. Get your resumes spread around, then when an opportunity does arise the company has you on their books so to speak.

Good luck job hunters!

School Violence Solved By... Guns!

As a result of recent school violence, representative Frank Lasee proposed that teachers should begin carrying guns as a means of self-defense. He justified this position by stating that arming teachers worked well in Thailand, and thus it would be effective in America. Lasee equates ongoing and violent fights with Muslim separatists to a few disturbed individuals whose crimes, although horrid and tragic, do not merit a need for armed teachers.

Arming teachers will likely cause more violence than that which already occurs. Students who formerly had little to no access to weapons would have a facilitated means to get them. For guns to be useful for self defense
the teachers would have to be able to easily access them, but having guns out in the open would increase the amount of school violence because students would have no difficulty in getting them.

Furthermore, the cost to employ this law must also be taken into consideration. Teachers would have to be provided the guns, and the training to correctly use he guns as well. If proper training was not provided, the teachers could cause even more damage than the original danger because they wouldn't know how to use the guns. The risks associated with arming teachers clearly outweigh any potential benefits.

Statistically, the safest place for a child is school, and most students will never experience school violence. For those that do, there are trained school officers who are employed for the sole purpose of ensuring protection. Allowing more weapons in schools will compromise the safety of the students.

Can I Go For Post-Secondary Education Q&A?

Sadly, in the United States, a vast majority of high school students never go on to college. Instead, they immediately head into the work field, making little more than minimum wage. In my family, I grew up knowing that college was not an option: I WAS going to go. My mother, in particular, was adamant about my continuing my education.

As I grew older, and learned more of how this world works, though, the easier it was for me to understand the fears that make too many young students think that college isn't possible. At the same time, I also know, that all of the fears they have, can be overcome and that college isn't only possible, it's very important. Because I believe this so strongly, I thought it was necessary to try and put some of their fears at ease. Below are some common questions, fears, and the answers which explain how those fears can be overcome. The answers are based on laws and procedures in the United States but I know that, in most other countries, procedures exist to help students continue their education.

Q: One of the most, if not *the* most, asked questions about college, is about the cost. How much does college cost?
A: As with almost everything, the tuition of college, and the cost of books, varies from college to college. However, the average cost, including books (which, unlike in high school, students must pay for) in a state college is about $8,000 - $12,000.

Q: How much more is a private university and what is the difference(s) between a state (government run) college and a private university?
A: Again, this answer varies. There are a few private universities that aren't much more expensive than state colleges. A few, for example, start at $14,000. The college I attend, however, is $36,000 a year. The cost of a private university depends upon the reputation and the popularity of the school.

NOTE: The main difference between state and private colleges is that private schools are generally smaller, so the classes are smaller, which means that there is more teacher-student interaction. Also, a lot of private universities are religiously based and require you to attend chapel as part of your classes. Also, the rules at a private university, such as dress codes, and times that you have to be inside the dorms, tend to be more relaxed, looser, at a state school, than at a private university.

Q: How much financial aid can you get, and what types of financial aid are available?
A: There are five different types of financial aid available to students. The first type is called an "un-subsized loan" . An un-subsized loan is money given to you by the state which you do not have to repay, ever. There is also a "subsized loan" which is also money lent to you by the state, which you will eventually (six months after you leave school) have to start paying back. There are also "grants" and "scholarships". You do not have to pay back either grants or scholarships, ever. They consist of money that is simply given to you by the state and/or by the college you attend. The last type of financial aid is called the "Parent Plus Loan" which your parents can apply for. They may or may not receive it but you will receive every other loan you ask for. If your parents are denied because of their credit history, then you will be eligible for an extra $2,000 on your un-subsized loan.

NOTE: Some grants and scholarships are given to you by the college you attend, while others are given to you by the state. There are literally hundreds and thousands of scholarships. If you go to college within your state, for example, you could receive a "TN state grant", or "NY state grant". Colleges have so many different grants and scholarships: some for grades, some for sports, some for music, sometimes you can even get a scholarship if one of your parents are in the army, or work as a pastor for a certain denomination. There are a number of factors which determine how much money you can get to go to college. Sometimes, as with me, you can get a "full ride" where you pay nothing, ever. It's all given to you with scholarships, grants and un-subsized loans. Other times, you have to pay, eventually, some. Nearly all of the time, though, you can receive a substantial amount of financial aid.

Q: How do you apply for financial aid?
A: The first thing you need to do is fill out a FASA form, which you can get from either your high school guidance counselor, or by calling the financial aid office of the college you wish to attend. This application will serve as your un-subsized loan application, as well as your application for any state grants or scholarships that you may be eligible for. Your application to get into a college also serves as your application for any scholarships or grants that that college may have to give you. For example, if you wanted to go to Vanderbilt University, where I go, your application to get into Vanderbilt would serve as your application for any scholarships or grants that Vanderbilt has to give. I want to say here that if the reason you fear you can't go to college is because of money, don't let that stand in your way. You *can* get the money to go. I am going to a $36,000/year college and I am paying nothing. Even if all the loans, grants, and scholarships won't cover the expenses of the college you want to go to, there is Tuition Management Systems, which will allow you to pay what wasn't covered by the financial aid given to you in monthly installments, so that it is reasonable and doable.

Q: How different are college classes from high school classes?
A: In level of difficulty, college classes are not more difficult than high school. The difficult part comes in because the professors (teachers) treat you like you're an adult. They may assign a paper one day and not mention it again until the day it is due. Also, like most high schools, colleges have a limit on the number of days that you can miss. Unlike high school, though, they are very, very strict about going to class. If, for example, their rule says that you can miss three days of a class and you miss four, you fail that class. They look at it like you're paying to go to school so if you don't want to do the work, or go to class, then that's okay. You just won't pass the class. Because of this, college requires you to have a very mature and responsible attitude that involves self discipline to get the work done.

Q: How do you graduate from college?
A: College has a system called "Credits/Hours" (you can use the words interchangeably, the mean the same thing. It used to confuse the heck out of me when someone would say, "4 hours" and then right around and say, "you've got 4 credits". Credits and hours are the same thing). You have to have so many hours (credits) to graduate. In the school I'm at, for example, you have to have 132 hours to graduate. Each class is worth so many credits (hours), depending on how long you're in that class each week. In high school, you go to every class five days a week, but that's not the way it is in college. In college, you go to some classes three days a week, and others only two days a week. So, let's say you go to English on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for one hour each day. That class would then be worth three credits (hours). If you had a Biology class, which met four days a week, for an hour each day, then that class would be worth four hours (credits) and so forth. They add up until you've received 132 hours needed to graduate.

Q: Are there certain classes I have to take to graduate?
A: Yes. Number one, you have to have a major and a minor. Your major is what you want to be. For example, if you want to be a teacher, then your major would be education. If you want to be a doctor, then your major would be biology. Your minor could be anything at all. Your minor doesn't have to have anything to do with your major. For example, my sister's major is biology, but her minor is Art. Whatever your major is, though, you have to have 45 hours (credits) of that. So, if your major is English, you have to have 45 hours (which amounts to about 15 classes) of English. You have to have 21 hours of your minor. In addition to your major and minor, you also have to complete your college's "Core Curriculum" which includes so many hours (the exact number required in the core differs from college to college) of English, Math, History, Art, PE, etc. In the college I'm at, we have to have 52 hours of Core Curriculum. Once you have completed your major hours, your minor hours, and your core hours, you will still have about fourteen hours left, which means that you will still have to take about 12 classes, called electives. Electives can be anything you want to take: you're just taking the classes to get the number of hours needed to graduate.

Q: When do I need to apply for college?
A: The sooner you apply (and you can get applications for different colleges from your guidance counselor, or by calling the college you want to go to.) the more money you will be eligible for. Typically, they like you to apply by October or November of your Senior Year in high school.

Q: What do I have to make on my ACTs and SATs to get into college? What are colleges looking for?
A: With a score of 22 on your ACTs, you can qualify for extra scholarships at certain schools. Colleges like for you to have a score of at least 20 to get in. At least, that's what they say, but if you don't make that, don't panic: they will *still* let you in, on the condition that you pass all of your first semester classes. Colleges like for you to have been involved in things other than just academia: so they look for extra curricular activities: also your recommendation letters that you'll have to get from your teachers will matter. Colleges look at *you* instead of just your grades, so there's no need to let grades keep you from trying to go to college.

Q: Is college fun?
A: Yes :). I love college. There are lots and lots of opportunities to do things in college that you won't have any other place. For example, you can go on mission trips or Foreign Language Trips with your college, and get grants to pay for it, so that you have to pay nothing. There are also lots of clubs and sports and extra curricular activities. It's fun and it's important because it's the only way that you can fulfill your career dreams and have financial security.