August 11, 2012
I published a form of this article in a kids magazine back in 2006. In about 10 days, I start teaching at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (ABTech). I'll be teaching a class required for all first semester students on student success and study skills. Seemed like a good time to pull out this old article and post it. I've not updated it to include current technological aids, but I think you'll find these habits are timeless.
Disappointed in your grades? Want to be an A student? You can be. . .just fake it! All you have to do is find those academic superstars in your life and start imitating them. Here’s what you do: pay close attention to their class attendance; take note of how they take notes; and then study how they study. Once you have figured out how those A students act, just copy their behavior. Before long, your grades will look just like theirs!
One thing A students do is go to class--every time it meets. They treat class like a job. So do that. Be on time to class, pretending that you have to punch a time-clock. Be alert, ready to go to work. If you know you will have to miss a class, let the teacher know. Get your assignments. Act as if you care that you will not be there. If you do not know beforehand, just explain your absence to the teacher later. If possible, get a brief summary of the previous class and also find out how to make up any missed work. Then, of course, you should follow through and do the work. That’s what A students do.
C students often take lots and lots of notes, spending their whole class period with head down and pen to paper. Don’t do that. If you spend every second writing, you will miss the whole lecture. Most A students take notes sparingly. They have pre-defined abbreviations so that note-taking is more efficient. For instance, in a class on the Roman Empire, a good note-taker would just write a capital R for Rome or Roman, therefore writing less and listening more. After class is over, it’s a good idea to fill in any vague areas in your notes with details you might forget later. While you are doing that, quickly review all the day’s notes to solidify what you just learned. Take that a step further and breeze over them just before the next class begins. This way you have a fresh memory of the information from the previous class and can respond appropriately to the instructor’s questions. Not only does this make the upcoming information easier to digest, it also makes you look really smart.
A students study in many different ways. Some confine all study to an orderly desk. Others spread notes on the floor, prop up on an overstuffed pillow, and go to work. Whatever study environment suits your needs, that’s the environment you should create. It’s a good idea to post reminders in your study area so you will not forget what you are trying to fake. Make a sign for your study area that says, “A students enjoy studying!” Make a note in your car that reminds you, “A students make the most of every minute.” If you have a tendency to slouch in front of the TV like a solid D student, place a sign on it that suggests, “A students do not waste time.” (It’s not easy to be someone you have never been before; every little reminder helps.) Also, remember to allow sufficient time to study alone, even if you participate in study groups. Many A students benefit from group study; you might as well. But most A students prepare for group sessions in private and also do ample studying on their own.
One key aspect of studying is scheduling. At the start of your course, break down course requirements into daily study requirements. Stick to the plan whenever possible, but revise your schedule as the course progresses and as needs change. Sometimes classes need more time than you originally thought. Revise your plan if this is the case. And sometimes you will get behind. Again, readjust, refocus and get back on schedule. A students get off schedule all the time. The trick is, they make a new plan, they readjust, and then they get back to work.
Many times a study environment requires certain tools--things like computers, test tubes, calculators, books, notebooks and pens. But often, we find ourselves with time to study in places where these items are not within reach. When the tools that you normally use are not readily available, consider using mental rehearsal. This technique involves reviewing necessary information in your mind as if you were actually studying or practicing it. You can silently recite historical dates, mentally practice a music score or dance routine, or review mathematical or scientific equations, all without picking up a pen or lifting a finger. Mental rehearsal is convenient. It helps you make use of time that is often wasted. While you commute to class or wait in line, while you wait for your doctor's appointment or sit in line at the drive through window, wherever you are, you can use your best study tool--your brain.
One very irritating thing about A students is that they always do their class assignments, whether they get a grade or not. They practice formulas and do their reading assignments. So if you want to fake your way into straight A’s, this is crucial. No C student does assigned work just for the sake of doing it. So do those assignments, and do them in advance. A students usually have reading assignments complete before class discussion of that reading ever begins. They even bring questions to class about completed assignments that stumped them. And remember, A students do get stumped--all the time. They just ask questions, figure it out, and keep moving.
So are you ready for the test? You should be, almost. Because if you have done all these other things that A students do, cramming for the test will not be necessary. Complete additional study and review before the test. Do not stay up all night. Get plenty of rest and eat a good meal--that brain of yours needs sleep and nourishment! Get to the test on time, dressed in clothes that make you feel confident. (In other words, look the part.) Then get in there and ace that test!
See, you do not have to be an A student. Just pretend that you are! And in no time, you will find people are starting to imitate you!
Ever feel like your best efforts just aren't good enough? I've had many Finals Weeks in my life. And honestly, I think I always felt as if I just couldn't get it right. I studied material that wasn't addressed on the exam and I skipped what I thought was insignificant only to find in featured on my final. Most Finals Weeks I've managed to get myself good and stressed; sometimes downright depressed. I truly cannot stand finals. So for those of you in the midst of that drudgery right now, you have my sympathies.
Here's a word of encouragement: It does end. Every Finals Week I've ever endured did, in fact, end. I've aced my share of exams and I've bombed a bunch too. But every Finals Week did, finally, end. And after each one of those weeks ended, I found, to my surprise, I had survived.
So breathe. Do your best but don't stress yourself out to the point that you can't think straight. Just get busy. And then get some rest; when all this is over you will want to have lots of energy for celebrating!
(Need Tips? Check out this post.)
Another Guest Blogger: My own daughter Trellace. She made this speech for an awards ceremony; ACRHS does not recognize valedictorians at all at their graduation, so this was her pseudo-valedictory speech. It was awesome. And I'm not one bit biased.
During my Wake Forest interview this past summer, my interviewer asked me about the culture of my high school. “Well,” I told the woman, “we think we’re the best, and…we are the best.” Now, this might not have been the most humble or tactful way to tell an interviewer about the atmosphere of Reynolds, but I think you’ll agree that it’s pretty accurate. I went on to talk about our expectation for excellence in everything we do, whether it be in academics, athletics, or the arts. If you’re in our school and community, you are proud to call yourself a Reynolds Rocket.
Sure, from state championship rings, to award-winning publications, to widely-acclaimed musicals, we have a lot to be proud of. But more than our shiny resume, we should take pride in our fantastic teaching staff.
As I began to write this speech, I wondered how I could choose just one teacher to praise. All of mine have been amazing. Mrs. Love is fun and creative. Mrs. Kuster is dedicated and caring. Mr. Hutchinson is crazy and engaging. Ms. White is generous and kind.
But in particular, my AP teachers have shaped my education in profound ways.
My sophomore year, I took AP U.S. history with Coach Goode, where I learned that it is possible for someone to grade 200 essays in one night. In addition to speedy grading, Coach Goode demonstrated his passion for his students by working many late hours on History Day projects, amusing us with pick-up lines and the creative use of stuffed animals and other toys, distributing candy before the AP exam and encouraging us to touch the “staff of knowledge” for good luck. But we didn’t need any extra luck to help us succeed on the AP exam. Coach Goode had taught us well—we knew practically everything about America from 1700-present. He also gave us the tools to assess information analytically, laying the groundwork for the things that Marcia Hudzik would teach us in AP World the following year.
Through thesis-writing, short answers, document analysis, and class discussions, Mrs. Hudzik taught us a new way of thinking. When Mrs. Hudzik gets into a lecture, it is evident how passionate she is about her history. She loves her world history, and she loves her students. She has written many of our college recommendations and given us advice on everything from what we should get our parents for Christmas to how we should spend the next four years of our lives. In fact, it is not uncommon to find non-World or Civics students hanging out in her room before school, after school, or during lunch.
And though I love her dearly, I am not often one of Hudzik’s groupies, because I am spending many of my afternoons in the newspaper office with Ms. Cooper. If Ms. Cooper had a dollar for every extra hour she has spent at school with her newspaper editors, she could retire. As one of her editors this year, I know how thankful her staffs are for her unrelenting devotion to the school newspaper. She makes it possible for us to be proud of our successful publication. This year, Ms. Cooper has also served as my AP English teacher, where she has taught our class how to interpret and appreciate, if very rarely, the literary genius of Faulkner, Dunn, Keats, Dickens, and many others. Yes, we certainly respect the literature knowledge we have gained this year, but I think we enjoy more the pot of hot tea she keeps in her back office and the periodic breakfast treats she brings us.
And while those surprise breakfast mornings may be delightfully frequent, I have probably eaten just as much in Mrs. Wheeler’s class this year, between many food days and the bag of candy she gave us before our AP exam. Mrs. Wheeler, lover of fun and calculus, has given me a surprising appreciation for advanced mathematics. If you had asked me as a freshman about my senior schedule, it would not, over my dead and forlorn body, have included calculus. But after enjoying the teaching brilliance of Mrs. Wheeler in Pre-Cal, I decided that a year of calculus might not be too bad. In an engaging classroom setting, learning calculus has been almost enjoyable this year. Thanks to Mrs. Wheeler, I have realized that I should further my knowledge of math, and so in the fall I will be combining my love of the humanities and mathematics as an International Political Economy major.
As many of you know, I will be pursuing that major at Georgetown University. But let me tell you, I was not Georgetown material when I came to Reynolds as a freshman. I believe that it is the result of my teachers’ efforts, not any innate intelligence of mine, that has allowed me to enroll at a prestigious university like Georgetown. My teachers have shaped me into the well-informed scholar that I am today. Without their guidance and instruction, I would drown in the academic challenges that Georgetown presents its students. But thanks to the ways that my high school teachers have already pushed me, I know that I am ready to participate in analytical and intelligent conversations there. Now that I’ve completed hundreds of IDs, 40 minute speed essays, 15 minute free response questions, and hours and hours of late-night homework, I am so grateful for the energy that my teachers have put into my education. So, thank you, not only to my teachers, but to the entire Reynolds faculty, for making all of us the successful student we are today and will be in the future.
Trellace graduates in June 2012 and starts at Georgetown in the fall. She likes church, tennis, and Just Dance 3. We call her Queen.
When I was in college, people often said things like, "You think this is hard, wait 'til you're out in the real world." Or, "Honey you ain't seen nothin'. When you're out in the real world--that's when the hard work begins."
Real world? Have you not been to college? It is scary real. Plus: in the real, real world, there are no finals.
Oh don't give me that. I know there are proposals and pitches, deadlines and due dates, but it's not the same. Really. It isn't. I know. I've been to college not once, not twice, but three times. And I've had about that many different careers. And seriously? Nothing compares to the intensity of finals. Often the only thing that got me through was telling myself, “In two weeks, it will be over; good or bad, it will end.”
There are some things that make it easier though. Here are a few tips I’ve learned from the 17 semesters I have spent preparing for finals.
Speech at Annual Gardner-Webb University Graduate Luncheon
May 12, 2011
Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore
I was asked to speak today about what I’ve learned in my three years at Gardner-Webb University Divinity School. And I’ve been asked to do that in five minutes. So hold on: here we go.
I’ve learned that the 77.2 miles from my house in Asheville to the Divinity School here in Boiling Springs gets longer and longer over the course of 3 years.
I’ve learned that coffee tastes better at Broadriver Coffee Shop and that the grilled chicken salad at Italian Garden is big enough for two meals. I’ve learned to eat in The Snack Shop. But I haven’t learned to like it.
I’ve learned to format my bibliography and footnotes as I do my research. I’ve learned reconstructing a bibliography after a paper is written is nearly impossible.
I’ve learned never to take Old Testament, New Testament, and Greek I in the same semester. I’ve learned you can get a lot done in the last minutes before a paper is due.
I’ve learned what the inside of an Egyptian Pyramid looks like. I’ve learned it’s a long, long, long way from Egypt to the Promised Land—even in a motor coach. And I’ve learned that skirts don’t look too bad on Docs West and Robertson.
I’ve learned that David killed Goliath. But so did Elhanan. I’ve learned that 1st Thessalonians is the oldest book in the New Testament and that the gospel writers did not have laptops or even voice recorders.
I’ve learned that God is too big for a pronoun. I’ve learned nothing is too big for God.
I’ve learned always to take extra money to buy books. I’ve learned that books take up a lot of space and may just need their very own room.
I’ve learned that Martin Luther wasn’t exactly a saint, but Oskar Romero just may have been; That the Catholics got a whole lot right in Nicaea, that the Protestants will probably always protest something, and that Jesus was Jewish, not Baptist.
I’ve learned that I’m an ENFJ and my husband is an ISTP. I’ve learned my conflict style, my ministry type, my leadership style, my communication preferences. I learned all that about me. And so infinitely more about God.
I’ve learned to sing the Hebrew Alphabet and to recite the Greek one. I’ve learned that neither language translates into American English without interpretation. I’ve learned that Jesus spoke Aramaic and I’ve learned what the Lord’s Prayer sounds like in Jesus’ own language.
I’ve learned that Jewish people leave little stones on headstones as a sign of respect and that one visit to DC’s Holocaust Museum will last me a lifetime. I’ve learned that even a fraction of 6 million pairs of shoes is a lot of shoes.
I’ve learned that Rosa Parks wasn’t so much worn out as fed up, that Martin Luther King, Jr. was an extraordinarily ordinary man and that George Washington Carver was probably a genius. I’ve learned that Denzel Washington occasionally attends commencement at Morehouse College. I’ve learned when commencement is at Morehouse College.
I’ve learned that “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is the African American National Anthem. I’ve learned to listen to U2.
I’ve learned that Roger Fuller* can drive to Alabama and back and never complain. And that he can endure unspeakable loss and still testify to God’s glory.
I’ve learned that loss lingers, that children die too young, and so do parents. I’ve learned that God remains.
I’ve learned from famous speakers: Jimmy Carter, Charles Adams, Carlotta Lanier, Anthony Campolo, William Shaw, Fisher Humphries, Julie Pennington-Russell, Marva Dawn, & Fred Craddock.
I’ve learned from books by Gustavo Gutiérrez, James Cone, Roberta Bondi, Elie Wiesel, Frederick Buechner, Glenn Jonas, St. John of the Cross, Henry Nouwen, Joan Chittister, Clarence Jordan, Barbara Brown Taylor & Joseph Webb.
I’ve learned from professors who give beyond the limits of their paychecks, love students & like them too, and read their Bibles not just for academic gain but for deeper devotion.
I’ve learned from colleagues who were raised in the church and those who weren’t, ones who worship like I do and those who don’t, ones who have pastored churches for decades and from ones just starting out; from ones who vote differently or dress differently than I. I’ve learned from colleagues who have experienced grief beyond measure and joy beyond reason. I’ve learned we often take different paths to the same destination. I’ve learned that’s ok.
I’ve learned that God keeps calling. I’ve learned the joy of answering. I’ve learned that God’s calling may not make good sense. I’ve learned not to question someone else’s calling. I’ve learned people will often question mine.
I’ve learned that three years is a long, long time. I’ve learned graduation really is bitter sweet. And I’ve learned that God was right: GWU really was the perfect place for me to become.
*Roger Fuller graduated a semester or two ago. My first semester at GDub, his beloved son, a college student himself, died suddenly, tragically, of an undiagnosed illness. Roger is one of my heroes.
Originally posted to a wellness support group September 12, 2009
It’s different in Divinity School. Our Greek prof hands our tests back to us and says, “Okay, now let’s grade these things.”
“We are grading our own tests?”
“You’re trustworthy aren’t you?”
“Well, yeah, but. . .”
“Then, let’s get these things graded.”
So it came as no surprise then that another prof gave us a rather nontraditional midterm. See, we’d missed class when the exam was scheduled on account of a rare snow day. Later that same day, we found an announcement on our class website and an email in our inboxes. “Due to the class cancellation, I’m asking you to take your midterm at home.”
Cool, I thought, a take-home exam: My favorite.
Except not really.
“I’ll post the exam on the website and you are to take it exactly as if you were here in class.”
“That is, you may use only your Bible, and that only on the essay questions. No outside materials are allowed on the objective portion.”
You really must be kidding.
“You may complete this exam at your convenience any time between now and Friday at 5:00 pm.”
You're not kidding.
So here’s the deal. The exam was posted on Monday. All the exam questions were right there—every last one of them—for my own private consumption. But I wasn’t exactly ready to take the exam yet. So there they were--waiting, beckoning, cajoling:
“No one would know if you just glanced over the items.”
“What if you just look at the essays?”
“You could just look at the questions—that’s like looking at the study guide, for heaven’s sake.”
Except not really.
Where this kind of temptation is concerned, I have endless willpower. There is absolutely no way I could have looked at the test before I took it: even though it would have relieved stress to know what was on it; even though it would have saved me a lot of time; even though others might give into that kind of temptation. Not me. No way. No how.
So it occurred to me: if I can handle temptation in one area of my life, I bet I can handle it in another. The truth is I could apply my skills regarding academic temptations to the enticing calls of a fresh bag of Cheetos® or an unopened box of Capt’n Crunch®. I could say, “I won’t do that because I don’t make those kind of choices.” I could realize, “I prefer the inconvenience of not giving in to temptation to the consequences of being swayed.” I could claim, “I will be obedient because my behavior is not dependent on the behavior of others.
Temptation. We can handle it.
15 May 2009 Here’s a conversation Margaret and I had on the way home from school one day last week. I thought you might enjoy eavesdropping. (I’ve changed names and identifying details of all other kids mentioned—well, except for Charlie who is indeed a kid in his own mind . . . and I suppose in ours too. . . .)
“Hey, Mommy! Hey, Charlie! Come sit with me, buddy. That’s a good boy.” Margaret buckled up as our beagle stepped into her lap.
“Hey Margaret, how was your day at school?”
Margaret shook her head. “Not so good: there was a tornado warning.”
“Yeah, I heard about that.”
“It was awful because I needed to go to the restroom, but we had to sit in the hall with our heads down and we were in the downstairs hall with the kindergartners and first and second graders and it was really crowded and hot and boring.”
“You had to go to the restroom?”
“Yeah but at first I didn’t have to go that bad so I told Mrs. Seals I could wait but then after like 20 minutes or something I told her that I really did have to go and so I went but it was so embarrassing because there were girls sitting in the bathroom—because see the hall was so crowded that some girls had to sit in there the whole time—and so all those girls knew I was going to the bathroom. . .”
“I bet that was embarrassing.”
“Yeah, it sure was. Oh, but Mommy, some kids were really scared about the tornado and some were even crying. I’m talking about kids who don’t ever cry, they were crying. Like Natalie she never cries but she started crying because she has family in Black Mountain and somebody said the tornado was headed out to Black Mountain, you know, and so she started crying and Brandon he started crying—you know Brandon he is that big tough boy—and he never cries, you know, he never cries, ever, and he cried, because he was worried about his grandparents, because they don’t watch TV or listen to the radio, so he was scared they would be caught in the tornado because they hadn’t heard about it, and how would they hear about it if they didn’t listen to the news, you know? and then of course Taylor cried because her family lives in a mobile home and, I don’t know if you knew this Mommy, but—did you know this?—it is really, really, super dangerous to be in a mobile home when there is a tornado, and her whole house could have just blown away, so of course she was crying—I mean, who could blame her?”
“Yeah that was really scary for her. A lot of kids were crying . . .”
“Were you scared?"
“Not at all? Come on.”
“Well, I was a little worried about Charlie.” Hearing his name, Charlie turned to face her, expectant. “Yeah, I was worried about my little buddy,” Margaret told him, scratching his ears as he leaned into her.
“Yeah, Charlie pretty much freaked out,” I told her, “You know how he gets in a storm.”
“Was he shaking?” She asked, knowing. She wrapped her arms around him, pulling him close.
I chuckled. “More like quaking.”
“Poor Charlie,” Margaret said shaking her head, “I knew it; I just knew it.”
“So that was all you were worried about, really?”
“Yep,” she said, repositioning Charlie so his white-tipped tail could swing free.
“Good for you, Margaret. I’m glad you were not fearful.”
“Well,” she said, shrugging her shoulders and stroking her beagle’s back, “I figured if there was anything to be worried about, Daddy would take care of it.”
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” Matthew 5:26-27