It’s September 1st. Back to school.
Here are some fun, yet efficient tips and thoughts for a good beginning and a successful year at school.
# 1 -There is no competition
High school and college are not an American Idol competition with one final winner.
Teacher: “And the A goes to (opens envelope)… BENNY MORGENSTERN! Sorry kids, it’s the school’s policy not to have more than one A.”
On the contrary! Schools want as many students as possible to get A’s. Every school wants to show off its collective success vis-à-vis other schools, and what this means is that hundreds can get A’s. There is no quota. There are no limitations. There is no competition!
It’s only ego and competitive nature that generates artificial competition with our classmates.
As long as you know, deep inside, that you made sufficient effort, be satisfied with yourself.
# 2 — Take your Superman pill.
Each of us has one. I’m talking about our secret motivators and sources of inspiration.
When I was studying in the College of Europe in Belgium, I learned this from my good friend, Martin.
During exams, Martin would always amuse us. He would arrive for the exam wearing a high-end, tailor-made suit, fancy shirt, expensive tie and…shorts and sandals.
“Why are you dressed up like this?” we’d ask, between giggles.
“These are my lucky clothes,” Martin would explain. “They make me feel special and if I feel special, my exam will be special.”
Do you have a lucky shirt, or a lucky pen? Use them to generate confidence.
Does praying make you stronger? Then pray. Prayer can help you concentrate. Pray to your inner strength, to faith in yourself. Prayer is a declaration of intention.
In Judaism, for every deed and action there is a designated prayer. Before eating a meal with bread, Jews are commanded to wash their hands and say a blessing. Before venturing out on a journey, they recite ‘The Traveler’s Prayer’.
Prayers are supposed to divert your attention from other things so you can concentrate on what you’re about to do. Such focusing aids in digestion, enhances awareness when driving and, relevant to our discussion, boosts the level of effectiveness when studying.
You can invent your own prayer or personal mantra; a catch phrase that you really believe in that will give you some kind of joy or motivation to begin whatever it is you set out to do.
Rule # 3 — Become intimate with your teacher.
Well, not THAT intimate!
That’s rarely a good idea, especially if you’re 12 years old and your teacher is 74.
Let me explain myself better…
Contrary to popular belief, teachers are human beings just like me and you. What this means is that they actually have feelings. They can feel joy, they can feel pain and some even feel compassion. New research even indicates that they have a social life outside of school.
What this means is that many take your success or failure personally. Teachers take it personally if you don’t show up, especially the really boring teachers. They realize that they’re boring but they believe that you haven’t noticed this shortcoming.
If you don’t show up at class, it will hit them:
“Oh, he noticed I’m boring… he doesn’t enjoy my lectures…that really hurts my feelings – I guess I’ll have to flunk him.”
Excuses for skipping class are unacceptable. Not even “I was sick,” “My thumb hurts,” and any popular ones either.
Actually, the following are the only valid excuses worth trying out:
“I have to prepare for my interviews with Oprah and Dr. Phil.”
“I got stuck in Moscow because the pilot didn’t show up.”
“The class is based on a book I wrote.”
“Make for yourself a teacher…” This is a well-known saying from ‘Pirkei Avot’ (the ‘Ethics of the Fathers’). Choose a teacher whom you like most and befriend him or her. Transform them into your mentor — someone who is aware of your plans and goals, and who can guide you.
As mentioned, teachers want to interact with their students and offer their help, so why pay for private lessons when you can have the best for free?
Go to your teachers and ask questions on issues you need clarifying. Before exams, consult with him or her.
It’s all about the personal relationship. If the teacher sees you care and are genuinely interested, he will be flattered and will go the extra mile for your success. That may also include some hints on the upcoming exam…
Rule # 5 — Don’t be perfect.
I received a phone call one morning from my daughter’s 5th grade teacher.
“Your daughter fainted during physical education. Please come pick her up from the nurse’s room at school.”
I rushed to school and escorted my daughter to the car.
“What happened?” I asked, worried.
She described her difficulty running two laps around the yard. After several additional questions and clarifications, she confessed:
“…and I didn’t want to come in last.”
We continued talking about nutrition, getting in shape and — more important — about ‘pride and prejudices’.
“In your next class,” I said, “There’s a very difficult task I want to give you. Are you willing to take the challenge?”
“Yes,” she replied, more curious than willing.
“Your mission is to run the first lap, walk the second lap and come in last. If you don’t come in last, your mission will have failed.” I smiled. “Can you do that?”
She was amused but also felt uncomfortable. “Yes. I’ll try,” she said.
What do you prefer: Being a successful student with the highest grades or a success in your life?
Isn’t the answer obvious? You’d prefer to be a success in your life.
If this is the case, don’t try to be in the top five percent of your school. Try to be a good student – just not the best student. Why?
For two reasons:
- There’s no absolute correlation between success in school and success in careers.
In fact, studies show that those who receive the highest grades at school usually don’t reach the top level of their companies. They get stuck somewhere in the middle. Far more interesting is that top executives usually had average grades.
It makes sense – to reach the top you need social skills, you need to be a good communicator. When you devote all your time to just studying, by definition, you interact less with others.
- Aspiring to be at the top of your class may be very distressing and create the opposite result. It can become an obsession for some, and like other obsessions, things can get blown out of proportion. You’ll review the material ten times, when three or four times is enough; you’ll spend two weeks learning for an exam when three days are enough, and so forth.
Do you know the best book that was ever written?
Well, it’s still being written because it needs… just a little bit more editing, just some tiny little improvements, just one super-fast review…
There will always be one more thing to do, or add, or change to make it the best.
It NEVER ENDS for certain people!
Are you one of them?
Trying to be perfect creates anxiety and stress.
Don’t try to be the perfect student. Try to be a good student.
Don’t try to be number one in your class. Try to be number 4.
Then you’ll discover that something surprising just might happen – you might become the best.
Eran Katz is a memory enter-trainer and the bestselling author of ‘Where did Noah Park the Ark’.