Good Habits Make Life Easier
Even at the start of the year, a student’s eyes will wander towards the windows. They gaze longingly at the mountains and hills cast against the sky. These majestic geographical features were not formed overnight. A great struggle took place deep in the earth; an unseen battle produced the natural beauty we see all around us in the Shenandoah Valley. Just as the earth rarely displays the great tensions that produced its wonders, the life of a student hides the struggles of growth that will one day produce men and women who are profoundly human and faithful to God’s holy will. At Chelsea Academy, a demanding curriculum is offered to students because a demanding task waits for them in the modern world. While a great war of ideas rages in today’s society, students at Chelsea face the daily battle of vocabulary quizzes, science fair projects, and thesis papers. Fortunately, through the formation of study habits, Chelsea students are also taught how to manage these tasks.
Study skills cover a wide range of habits, from habitually arriving to class on time all the way to savvy exam-day techniques. Some skills are specific to a discipline, while others can be applied across the board to every field and every level of learning. Here are a few general study tips that will help students succeed in the daily adventures of their education at Chelsea and beyond.
Planning ahead is better than improvising
Jesus provides the image of a foolish king who sets out to war without first making provisions for the war. Even while we train Chelsea students to become independent works, no student should begin the school year without a deliberate plan of attack. Especially at the younger ages, this will only come about with much assistance. Provisions need to be made for resources such as notebooks and poster boards, but more importantly time. While a teacher may deliver content in class, learning occurs when the student is able to internalize the lesson. In most cases, this happens when students are doing their homework. During the school year, as much as possible, a regular pattern of study should be established. Study doesn’t consist simply in completing assignments. It primarily consists in reading literature, reviewing material, and rewriting notes taken in class or from the textbook. In order to do this, a regular and reasonable amount of time should be set aside each day for each subject, but that won’t happen by accident.
Keeping up with the class is better than catching up to it
Perhaps the greatest challenge facing most students during the year is the inability to keep up with the demands of their classes. This usually occurs for one of three reasons, and each reason has its own separate solution.
- Time Management: Some students struggle to keep up with their work because they lack the ability to budget their time effectively. Perhaps they procrastinate, perhaps they don’t prioritize their work. Before a student begins studying, they need to identify work that needs to be done immediately verses work that should be done routinely. Both need to be done, but assignments and projects all need to be done in a deliberate and timely manner.
- Organization: Some students find it hard to stay on top of their work because they don’t have their school materials organized. Generally, they also struggle to keep their notes organized. Organizational techniques are easily taught, but painstakingly learned through repetition. In order to help these students, the specific areas of disorder need to be addressed specifically.
- Understanding: Some students fall behind in class because they don’t understand the material. This can make assignments nearly impossible to complete in a timely manner. The solution depends on the degree to which a student doesn’t understand. Sometimes it’s enough to ask a friend for improved clarity. Sometimes students will have to face their fears and ask their teacher. However, if students need regular assistance from a teacher on a weekly basis, it may be time to consider some kind of formal tutoring.
Active listening amounts to better note-taking
One of the most important study habits is the habit of active listening. Active listening is more than just a study skill, it’s a necessary social skill. Many students watch class in the same way that they watch a TV show. Their eyes are open, they follow along in a general way, but they aren’t evaluating any of the information that they receive. The result of this type of participation is that students write down notes that they don’t understand. One way to assess how your child participates in class is to have them explain their notes, or to interrogate them about their notes. By holding them accountable to what they write down, students will keep that in mind during class. Many teachers try, to the best of their ability, to do this; however, in large classrooms the exercise simply can’t be sufficiently frequent or individual. There are tremendous benefits when this is done at home, especially for middle school students.
Perfect study is preferable to careless study
As is true with physical habits, intellectual habits are learned through repetition of basic actions. Perfect practice consists in deliberate repetition of correct form. When a child does repetitive math homework wrong, they are training themselves in the art of getting answers wrong. A student learning vocabulary, who misspells or misuses the word repeatedly in an assignment, is working against their education. For this reason, it is important for students to understand the material and the instructions before beginning their study or their assignment. This is not to say that students won’t make mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable, but they should never be made thoughtlessly or knowingly. When a student makes sloppy or willful mistakes, completing assignments carelessly can be worse than not doing them at all.
Daily review is better than last second review
Often times, unfortunately, Chelsea students feel the stress of academic demands on the day before major assessments. They stay up till unreasonable hours the day before a test, only to find that cramming late into the night makes them too tired to write coherent answers. When students maintain a regular study routine for each discipline, they begin to learn rather than memorize, material is kept fresh in their mind as the class progresses, and students are able to relate ideas from past units to present ones.
These habits reinforce and depend on each other. Daily review must be planned. Consistent planning requires and trains habits of organization and time management. Daily review is impossible without notes. A student invested in his notes is more inclined to revisit those notes. Daily study time creates the necessary environment for perfect study. Perfect and routine study helps a student learn incrementally at the pace of the class. Taken together, these habits will help students avoid the need to cram for upcoming tests and exams. More importantly, these habits will last them a life time.
We are very fortunate at Chelsea to have a student body that grasps the importance of iron-clad study habits. Not only do the Chelsea Faculty work very hard to instill this in the minds of their students, but a great majority of students have taken these lessons to heart. In every grade and every class, students are engaged with their classes. Chelsea families have formed a culture of academic achievement that is both necessary and rare. Great minds stand on the shoulders of giants. Climbing the back of a Giant is no easy feat; it is not an individual endeavor. Chelsea can ask its students to reach great heights only because it can rely on a faculty that supports its students, families that create an environment of learning at home, and students open to the grace of God that compels us to cast off fear and pursue the light of Truth.
Post by: Robert Farris, Chelsea Teacher and Coach