I thought I should do a post sharing my experience as a teacher, tutor and working student. I have learned a few things along the years, things that might be helpful to you, either if you’re still in high school or if you’re starting university or already there.
Topic I – Revisions and notes in class
- You should always revise your notes after each class. You can do it at the end of your day, or at the end of the week but you cannot afford to look at those notes just the one time, or just before the test. If you’re trying to be super organized, I advise you to write them again, reorganize them, use colors, markers, schemes, post its, whatever helps you understand what was given in class.
- Do not worry about taking cute little notes in class. Just pay attention to the teacher, write things fast, with just one pen or pencil, no need to be changing colors or to worry about your handwriting. You have time to fix that later, and make it into something more presentable;
- If you cannot understand something that the teacher just said, write key words, anything you can remember. You can look that up later, or go to the teacher and ask what he meant when he mention those words;
- For me, the best way to take notes is by writing topics and doing schemes. I use a lot of arrows to relate thoughts. For me, they’re more effective than using more words or connectors;
- You should do revisions every day, even if you only have 15 minutes to spare. But every day is a must. Never go a day without doing a little work. Classes are not enough and the more you do each day, the less you have to study before the test. It’s better to read 5 pages a day than 100 in less than a week;
- Share your notes with your colleagues. They might have heard something different or have picked up on more information. Just compare notes and make sure you have as much information as you can;
- When I’m reading some pages of a coursebook, I like to divide things by paragraphs. I read each paragraph once, and see if I understood the ideas presented. If so, I take small notes on the side of that paragraph and go to the next. Only after I understand one paragraph can I move on to the next. If you divide things into small units you are less likely to find them boring or loosing concentration.
- If you have a big number of pages to read, count the days until you need to be done and divide the pages by those days. As I mentioned before, you’re more likely to read it if you have 5 pages a day than 100 3 days before the test;
Topic II – Before class
- You should always go to class as prepared as you can. It goes without saying that you should take all the necessary materials such as paper and pen, the books, worksheets or handouts the professor might have given you before (I always keep all of the materials for each class on a folder and take everything with me, even old worksheets. You never know when you might need them), dictionaries, calculators, etc. I don’t want to be caught without the necessary tools, do you? You should also always carry the syllabus with you, and make sure you know what the next two or three classes will be about; Make sure the teacher knows you are the informed one, that knows what it’s going to be discussed next, what is homework, test and exam dates, etc.
- Being prepared also means reading the materials before the class, if you have the chance. You should never go to class unprepared. If you don’t read anything prior to class, you’re less likely to participate in class discussions. Make sure you know what your class is about and make sure you read about it, have questions to ask the teacher, comments to make, etc;
Topic III – Classes
- First of all you should make sure you attend all the classes. Unless you’re a working student which we will talk about later. You are paying for them. Go. Attend and be there on time. Teachers hate those who come late or those who leave too soon. Try not doing either;
- Be there; Don’t be on your phone, or drawing in your notebook. You should take advantage of the class. Listen to the teacher, participate, ask questions, take notes; You want the teacher to know you by name and to remember your face and the fact that you are active in class. There’s nothing more difficult than grading someone you have never see or have no idea who it is;
- If you have the chance, sit in the front row. If you don’t like it you can go to the back, but be honest with yourself and only go if you know you can pay attention being back there, away from the teacher;
Topic IV – Homework
- I don’t think I need to tell you to do homework. Everyone knows homework is essential. Is great for you because it’s the same as revisions. You are practicing what you’ve learned. It is also important that the teacher knows you always do your homework. If there is a chance, ask for extra and the teacher will love you, while you have a chance to practice even more;
Topic V – Tests and exams
- You need to make sure you are prepared way before the test or exam. Not on the day before. You should study a bit every day but if you know a test is coming you should also study every day for that particular course. I always recommend two weeks in advance, to make sure you have time to cover all the materials, re-do all of the exercises and ask questions if there’s something you don’t understand;
- Don’t come to the test pulling an all-nighter. This is a big no-no. Please study with time and make sure you sleep enough the night before the test. Eat a good breakfast, with something that will give you energy. Don’t drink coffee if you tend to be anxious or too nervous. It will make it worse. If the teacher allows it, eat something during the test, like some chocolate or chew some gum. That helps with anxiety;
Topic VI – The teacher
- Once again, make sure the teacher knows who you are. Don’t be afraid to approach him/her to ask questions or discuss any issues;
- You should keep their email in a place you can check easily, in case you need to contact them;
Topic VII – Organization
- You absolutely need a planner, where you should keep class schedules, test dates, when homework or projects are due and everything you need to know in terms of dates;
- You should also keep a to-do list and write your tasks by priority. If you know what you need to do and when you need to do it, you are less likely to become overwhelmed.
Time management and study tips for working students:
- Separate things well. When you’re at work, be at work and focus and give it 100% of your time and energy. When you’re at school, the same applies. Leave work behind, you’re just a student for a few hours;
- This doesn’t mean you can’t multitask. If you are waiting for class to start, you can do some reading for work or take some notes or write down some ideas or update your planner or to-do list; If you are having a slow day at work, of course you should take advantage of your time to study;
- Have everything organized and separate. I would even say different bags (this is what works for me), one with your work things and another one just for school, with all of your materials. You should also have one folder by course. By separating things, you can organize them better. This is especially important if you are also a parent, have a household to manage, etc. Divide things into small categories and separate issues;
- Always schedule study time in your planner. You should study a little every day and make sure you are up to date with the rest of the class. With whatever time you can find, write “studying time” on your planner and how much your can spare. Give more time to the courses that are more difficult to you. Example: Saturday 10 a.m – Calculus (1 hour), Biology (30 minutes);
- Make sure the teacher knows you and that you are a working student; If you can’t go to every class, make sure he knows it’s because you’re working. Be in touch with your teacher, send emails, ask for materials, for homework and always take advantage of office hours. If you can’t attend office hours, talk to the teacher so you can arrange a time when you can meet him. Most teachers are flexible.
- At work, make sure they know you are a student. They might be more flexible with your hours. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for the day of an exam or even the day before as a day off. You can compensate later.
- Have a good planner where you can write everything down. All your appointments, test dates, homework assignments, papers due, work schedule or shifts, everything. This is the only thing I don’t think you should keep separate. Buy a big planner with big pages and write everything down. You need to know you can’t schedule a dentist appointment for Friday at 6 p,m because you already have a meeting with a teacher.
- Always keep a to-do list. I always have a monthly one, a weekly one and a daily with. Write all your tasks or things you hope to accomplish, by priority.
Maybe there are other things I could tell you, that I can’t think of right now. Feel free to ask any questions and to add advice in the comment section!