School can be a challenging world, we remember! Let’s assume that you don’t have bullying issues but are having academic issues. Your grades aren’t what they should be. You forget to turn in assignments. You don’t DO the assignments. Your interim report looks like it belongs to someone named Francis Frederick Frasier. (Ahem… lots of Fs. Okay, bad joke.)
- READING. There are MANY reasons why you might be doing badly in school. Are you a decent reader? Reading is at the cornerstone of all learning. If you’re not the strongest reader, approach your teacher and volunteer to be a reader to younger students. Reading aloud to others will help you become a better reader. And those picture books are fun! Don’t be embarrassed. No one will know that your goal is to build your own skills. And, you’ll be doing a good deed! Set something up on a regular basis. Maybe you can go every morning or right after lunch. Wouldn’t it be fun to read “Green Eggs and Ham” to some first graders? Yes!
- STRUGGLING. If you’re in middle or high school and struggling with reading, go to your teachers – privately – or guidance counselors. Say, “I’m struggling, and I want to do better.” Go on, practice saying it. It’s cool to be smart. Smart people get the good jobs. The fun jobs. The jobs they really want! The jobs that never feel like jobs, just someone paying you to do what you love to do! You can, too. But you have to be willing to acknowledge that you’re struggling. Teachers can sometimes seem like they don’t care, that all they want to do is give you boring worksheets and tests about nothing. Okay, some do, but most do NOT!
- TEACHERS. Most people become teachers because they truly care about kids. You have to trust us on this. Go straight to your favorite teacher first thing tomorrow. Say, “Can I speak with you privately?” And then be honest. Your teacher will feel proud that you came to him (or her!), and you can sit down and come up with a plan to improve. If for some reason your favorite teacher, who seems like the most caring person on the planet, doesn’t seem interested in helping, give that person a pass. Maybe they have personal problems of their own at the moment. So just go on to your SECOND favorite teacher. The point is, keep asking for help until you get it.
- COLLEGE. Have you ever thought about college? Think you’re not smart enough? Think you can’t afford it? Well, we’re happy to tell you that you are wrong! (But we’re not giving you an F!) More students are eligible to attend college in the U.S. than any other country. There are grants, student loans, scholarships and other programs to help pay for it. And by thinking about it NOW, you can have the grades to get you accepted. Start thinking about colleges you’d like to attend. Look at their websites. Look at their webcams and virtual tours. Email them for information. Put the posters up in your room. Have a dream! Take charge of your future.
- AFTER-SCHOOL. Join an after-school club or some other organization. Volunteer. (Like reading aloud to those first graders!) Research shows that students who belong to clubs do better in school and are more likely to get scholarships and be successful in college. That’s right! By joining a club or playing sports or joining band, you are more likely to get a scholarship! Now, that is a win-win situation! Also, it gives you something fun to do with your time.
- TV. Turn off your TV. (Yes, we really said that!) Turn it off. You’ll never miss it. TV (and other “screen time” like the Internet) turns your brains to mushy mush. The more hours you watch TV, the lower your grades are. The less you watch TV, the higher your grades are. Yep. That’s the truth. Turn it off. Pick up a magazine. Call a friend. Take a walk. Join a club. Use that beautiful brain in your head to learn a new language (What?!) or a new song or a new poem. Oh yes, we said poem. Be in charge of your brain. Don’t hand it over to those idiots on television. Did you know that when researchers did brain scans of people watching TV they could actually SEE their brains turning to mush? Yep. Fact. Save your brain. It’s your best friend.
- VIDEO GAMES. Turn off your video games. OH, NOOOOOOOOO! Now, there IS some research that says a little bit of video game playing is good for the brain, some hand-eye coordination stuff. There are even doctors who warm up with the Wii before doing brain surgery. (Would we kid about this? No.) So, however many hours you presently play, cut it in half. And watch what happens. Yep. Your grades will go up.
- SLEEP. Get some sleep. Believe it or not, sleeping 9 to 10 hours a night is shown to increase test scores in math and reading comprehension. The trouble is, you might not be able to go to bed early enough to get 10 hours. You might toss and turn at first, but if you keep heading for bed just a little bit early every night, eventually your body will get used to it and you’ll get the rest you need. If you have problems falling asleep, read instead of watching TV. TV will keep you awake longer.
- EAT. Eat smart. That’s right. High carb, high fat foods make your brain lazy, not just your body. Your brain loves a high protein diet – eggs, tuna, lean meat. Complex carbs are also good. Whole grains like oatmeal and whole wheat bread are good. Junk food and fast food taste great, but they are empty calories. They don’t give you energy – just fat. Good nutrition makes you smarter. So, eat right, exercise, and your brain will thank you.
- DREAM. Back to the subject of college… Have a dream. Make it yours. Go to those college websites and bookmark them so you can “visit” often. Imagine yourself on a college campus being in charge of your own life. Even poor kids go to Harvard. They make it happen by doing some of the things we’ve listed here. You can, too! If college isn’t your thing, what is? Find what you LOVE to do, and then figure out how to turn it into your career. There are schools for auto mechanics, computer technicians, etc. No matter what you want to do, you’re in charge. You can do it. Dream about it. Daydream about it. Visualizing your dream actually helps you to achieve it. When you hit an obstacle, think about your dream for a few minutes, and then press on!
- SHARE. We agree, school can be boring at times. It can be frustrating. But if you don’t let your teachers know you need their help, they think you simply don’t care, and they move on to some other student who IS saying, “I’m struggling, and I want to do better.” Maybe you just need a schedule. Maybe you just need to get organized. But if you can give yourself a dream – college or high school graduation or something wonderful like that – your motivation will really increase. Share your dream with someone who will encourage you and check in on you. We all need a little help!
- HOME. How is your home environment? Some of us never had a desk of our own, and the only thing in the house we could find to do homework was a dried out Magic Marker. (Remember, we KNOW what the challenges are. We used to be kids ourselves!) If you have to babysit six little siblings, and there isn’t a sheet of notebook paper in the house, how are you going to complete those science and math assignments? You already know the answer, so just say it: “I’ll ask my teacher for help.” That’s right. Some teachers had these kinds of challenges when THEY were growing up, so they understand. Maybe you can do your homework at school. Maybe you can stay after school each day to get it done. Maybe they can give you some paper and a pencil. Just ask.
“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.” ― Tom Bodett
Here are some resources that might help:
Homework Hotline has been dedicated to helping students for years.
Why struggle with an assignment when you can get immediate help online or by calling the toll-free number provided? This site is a student’s best friend!
Free Practice Tests help you prepare to get the best possible score on the GED, SAT, etc. Okay, no one loves taking tests, but in this case, why not? These are just for practice, and only YOU will see your score. Did you know that just PRACTICING on these tests will improve your score when you take the real thing? Yep! So, go ahead. Take a test!
The College Board (SAT) is usually a requirement for admission to college. The College Board is where you sign up to take the actual SAT. But you can start practicing now. Students who practice a little bit every day do much better when they take the actual test.
Oh, and don’t forget the public library. It’s a great place to work in a quiet, positive environment. And librarians love to help kids find what they’re looking for. Go get yourself a library card and watch your world expand immediately.