On Monday, it’s back to school for the Muscogee County School District.
Having been a student for most of my life, having a kid in pre-K and being a college professor myself, I’ll take this opportunity to offer a few pieces of advice for back to school.
AP classes. Leadership roles in school clubs. After-school activities that don’t let out until after dark. Volunteer work. The list of accomplishments for the average student rivals the content of many adults’ resumes. High school is a rat race. The road to college applications feels like an obstacle course rather than a thoughtful, winding trail. And yes, a diverse and impressive list of accomplishments can help open doors for college and scholarships. But if you take on too many things, you will only end up adding unnecessary stress to your life and find that you are unable to give a full effort to the myriad activities in which you’re involved. It’s not only an unwise way to spend the school year, but a bad habit to form for the years to come. Know your limits. Set your priorities. Do your best at all that you commit to.
Remember that grades aren’t everything
I wish I could say that grades don’t matter. But we all know that simply isn’t true. Our academic system has become so assessment driven that our students are no longer engaging in critical thinking or curious learning. They are simply trying to figure out how to get the grade they need and doing only that in the classroom. If you are a teacher, please consider finding opportunities to prove that learning is about exploration, discovery, questioning and debate. If you are a student, please challenge yourself to take more away from each assignment than a letter grade and challenge your teacher if you feel an assignment has little value outside of a letter grade. We can all stand to reassess our obsession with assessment in the classroom.
Turn your phone off
When I was in high school, we were all just getting those Nokia phones with the snake game on them. We couldn’t text during school, let alone get on Facebook or Instagram (because the phones weren’t smart and those apps didn’t exist). I don’t know what the standard is now for area schools with regard to cellphone use, and I’m sure I would be shocked to learn how early students begin to bring cellphones to school. But I want to highly recommend that cellphones find their way out of the classroom. I admit I might be old-school here. I know there are ways to integrate apps into learning, but I also know that researchers have proven time and again that merely having a phone nearby (whether off or not; whether it belongs to you or not) impairs cognitive performance in students. In my classroom, cellphones are deposited upon entry and must be silenced. It helps to unify the shared learning space, and keeps us focused on what we are working on rather than what notification just popped up on our screens. This should be a part of the homework/study routine, too! Leave the phone in another room when you go to do your work. It’ll go by faster and your work product will improve.
Good luck, all! Have a great school year!
Natalia Naman Temesgen is an independent contractor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.