In middle school, I was the kid who failed every test. People would question why I was in an honors class and make fun of me constantly. I’m graduating high school now as the salutatorian with a 4.0 unweighted GPA and a full ride to college.

“You’re naturally smart.” said everyone in my school.

If I could, I would shove this tumblr and my notes into their faces because spending hours studying and rewriting notes isn’t called smart, it’s called hard work.

set small goals for yourself! you don’t need to be fluent right away, or graduate with straight As. it’s way better to have smaller goals, like “get an A on this test” or “use memrise every day for a month” - it’s so important not to overwhelm yourself, which can harm your motivation a lot. same goes for having a (study) blog, just set yourself some small milestones, instead of having one huge aspiration that seems impossible to achieve.

1. Take a clipboard to school.
You have to be prepared to do homework ANYWHERE at ANYTIME. Carry it in your hand with some paper and your homework clipped onto it and get work done whenever you can. Don’t keep the clipboard in your bag.

Keeping track of assignments and important dates helps clear your mind. You don’t have to worry about remembering everything because all of it is written down. If you have a lot going on at once, start a bullet journal. If you can, divide your planner into sections based on different activities. For example, my bullet journal has 4 major sections: school work, extracurricular activities, community service, and general life issues. This creates order in the midst of chaos and also enforces the idea of taking everything one at a time. Your planner shouldn’t overwhelm you.

3. Get the biggest calendar you can find and hang it on the wall.
The purpose of the calendar is to allow you to establish a general time frame for everything you need to do. PLAN AHEAD. Make sure EVERYTHING is on that calendar. Being overwhelmed by your planner is bad because it leads to a stressful day; your calendar takes on the role of allowing you to see the big picture. Having everything written down on a calendar creates a sense of urgency that’ll decrease the likelihood or duration of procrastination.

4. If you’re taking multiple AP classes, dedicate at least one day of the week to each subject.
I had 7 AP’s so I studied a different subject each day. For example, every Monday was Macroeconomics day. I took my econ review book to school on Mondays and studied whenever I had some extra time. Start doing this 3 or 4 months before the exams in May to avoid cramming and excessive stress.

5. Sleep whenever you can but avoid sleeping on the way home from school.
If you enter your home feeling sleepy the bed is going to be extra enticing.

6. If you NEED to pull an all-nighter (try to avoid them), drink a cup of straight up black coffee (no sugar) and take a 20 minute nap.
It takes some time for the caffeine to kick in so you might as well get some sleep. You’ll eventually get used to the bitterness.

7. Sometimes you need to skip school but don’t skip unless you absolutely have to.
If you do, you better not sleep in! Wake up normally and get to work ASAP. Do the makeup work and turn it in the next day, even if you don’t have to.

8. Study smarter, not harder.
Figure out which study methods work for you. Note-taking is time-consuming so try to find alternatives. You don’t have to make everything aesthetically pleasing to post it on tumblr. In fact, if you’re compelled to take pretty notes just to post it on tumblr, LEAVE NOW. DO NOT WASTE TIME.

9. Do homework for the learning experience instead of the grade.
Don’t copy work from your friends. If you use homework as a study resource, you won’t have to worry about long review sessions before a test. I have never studied for a Spanish test but the lowest score I’ve ever gotten on one is a 93. How? I did my homework.  

Perfection = waste of time. Don’t spend 10 hours writing an essay if you know you can get the same grade by only spending 2. I used to believe that the most important thing was being proud of everything you put your name on but none of that matters when you haven’t slept in 48 hours.

11. Complete the difficult tasks first.
One of the many reasons people procrastinate is to avoid difficult tasks. If you save the hardest assignment for last, you’re more vulnerable to wasting time.

12. This one is very bad because it involves lying but it saved my grade a couple of times: ALWAYS turn in your homework.
Why? Rarely missing an assignment gives you a good reputation and teachers tend to trust hardworking students. If you ever forget to do an assignment and you’re known to be a good student, your teacher is more likely to believe your excuse. Or, if you really left it at home, he/she/they might give you an extra day.

Can’t turn in your essay because you told yourself you’d print it in the morning and forgot? No worries! It’s in google drive! Need a past assignment for reference but have the copy at home? No worries! It’s in google drive!

14. Your study space significantly impacts productivity. Organize your room/space to maximize concentration/productivity.

15. MOST IMPORTANTLY, give yourself some time off.
If you don’t, you’ll eventually burn out and nothing will be able to motivate you again. I like to go watch a movie alone once in a while because it clears my mind for 2 hours. Being constantly bombarded with due dates can lead to massive anxiety issues. And guess what? You can’t get anything done if you’re having multiple panic attacks or if you’re in bed all day because you’re depressed. Take care of yourself. School can wait but your physical and mental health can’t.

Proposal for an Alternate Grading System

As my profession is that of being a teacher, one of my concerns has always been the efficiency of assessing student’s knowledge. Some ideas (standardized tests) simply do not work. However, as a fellow mod has pointed out, the grading system itself is not an efficient measure to a student’s knowledge of application of any particular subject.

The main problem with the grading system (to be defined as the system that gives grades like A’s and B’s) is that it creates a caste system for students. You get the students that receive A’s, those who generally get B’s, and so forth. The A students are then touted around as being geniuses with hope for the future, while the F and D students are treated as failures by the faculty, which in turn leads their fellow students to treat them as such as well. Further, this grading system is nonsensical when you stop and think about it: there’s a distinction between an A(100%-90%) and a B(89%-80%), but why not a distinction between an A that scored 91% and one that scored 98%?

I propose abolishing this system and replacing it with one that is much simpler; one with a mere 3 grades. I call it the PNI System. There are only three grades total: P for Pass (received a score between 100-75%) and N for No Pass (lower than 75%). The third and final grade, I, stands for Incomplete (speaks for itself). Those who receive a P are allowed to move on to the next lesson/grade as normal, while those who get an N are either given tutorial sessions and a make-up exam (if the N was for an exam) or made to repeat the class (if the student does not pass a sufficient number of exams). Those who get an I are allowed a chance to defend their reasons for not being able to complete their exam/class, which will then be reviewed by the faculty. In cases of physical conditions that prevent the student from finishing the lesson or class, the faculty shall negotiate with the student a manageable and convenient schedule that will allow their to finish the class or retake the exams.

The former system is not only inefficient, it sends the student the wrong message regarding education. An ‘A’ typically stands for excellent work, while a B means above average. This can (and has) lead to various students who typically receive A’s to suddenly have panic attacks when they get their first B. Getting a B isn’t bad, we’re often told, but many parents refuse to accept that their straight A student got a B, and so they increase their work load. A C is an “average,” meaning that there is nothing inherently wrong with the grade. But a C student is seen as an underachiever, someone with no hope of being anything more than “just another face in the multitude.” Getting D’s and F’s are seen as signs of failure. It shouldn’t be like this!

The system I propose is much softer on students. Getting a P means you Pass, you’re ready to keep on going. Getting an N doesn’t mean you fail, it means you are not yet ready for the next lesson, try again. There’s something you did wrong or something you didn’t understand, find out what that is so you can Pass next time. The I merely indicates the student is not yet done with the lesson and needs an accommodation. The previous system teaches kids that they only get one shot at success in life; mine teaches that you can get back up if you ever fall down.

Which system sounds better to you?