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Three ways to a better grade (when you already think you are doing everything right)
  • Calendar Mar 30, 2018
  • User Jared Wells
  • Category In Uncategorized
  • Comments 0 Comments
frustrated-student-620x412-1 I hear from students all the time: “I am working hard in this class. I am doing all the homework. I study for the tests, and I know the material. But I am just not doing well in the class. It’s so frustrating!” Students who are not succeeding in a class they believe they should be, despite their honestly held belief they are doing everything possible, are usually focusing on a very narrow definition of everything possible: following the teacher’s instructions. Do the homework, do the reading, and study for the tests. And the student may be doing these things quite earnestly! But it simply isn’t true that, if these things aren’t enough, the solution is to just do the same things but more. Here are three things that, in my experience,that can really help make a qualitative shift for students who feel like they are treading water in a class (that they are usually not doing): Talk to the teacher. Often. Raise your hand in class. Email the teacher with questions about assignments (when you have them). Go see the teacher before school, during lunch, or after school. For a class you want to improve in, it isn’t a bad idea to make it a habit to talk to the teacher on a weekly basis, just to check in and share what you are struggling with and see if the teacher has any advice or insight on how you can improve. A teacher who sees you repeatedly initiating communication sees a student who cares about their grade in the class. That alone could make a big difference in your grade. You may get valuable information on what to focus on for tests or projects. For an English class, your teacher my give you feedback on a rough draft to help you turn your paper into an A paper. The key, though, is to not make these communications about hectoring the teacher to boost your grade. If you want to talk about a poor grade you got on a essay, the energy should always be from the perspective of “What can I do to improve my grade on my next paper/test?” If you are frustrated with your grade in your class, ask yourself, “How many times have I had a 1-on-1 conversation with my teacher in the last month?” Create/join a study group, and teach the other students. I got my degree in mathematics at UCSD. As challenging as that was, and as much as I learned, I learned more math TEACHING math at Wells Academics the first year I worked here. It’s one level of knowledge to get a problem correct; it’s a much higher level of knowledge to explain it to an intelligent teenager! It’s easy to mistake the ability to memorize how to do a problem with true understanding. But when you have to teach someone else not only the HOW but also the WHY, you give yourself the opportunity to find out (crucially, before the test!) that you don’t know it as well as you think you do! Not to mention that study groups create a pre-commitment to actually schedule time to study consistently, and a pre-commitment to come to the study session somewhat knowledgeable so that you can help your fellow students. So find 1-3 like-minded students in a class you are struggling in, and schedule a weekly time for you to get together and teach each other problems/concepts. Don’t just sit at a table and silently work alone. Present and discuss problems together. Pre-read (and take notes) If the first time you are hearing material is in class, you are already behind. Make your class lectures more comprehensible by familiarizing yourself with the material before the session! Yes, that’s right. If you have a history test on Friday, read the next chapter that weekend. Your goal is to a) get a big picture idea of what the next chapter covers and b) identify areas you find confusing or difficult. Cornell notes are GREAT for this. Doing this will allow you to keep up and make much more sense of lectures, and prime your mind with the questions you have so that you can listen for the answers (or ask questions at the right time). If you’ve already taken notes for your reading, you’ll have fewer notes to take during the lecture, which means you’ll be able to actually listen and understand rather than trying to furiously keep up!  If what you are doing isn’t working, the answer isn’t to do more of the same. It’s to try something different. What are some other out-of-the-box strategies you or your children use to succeed in challenging classes? If your son or daughter is struggling in a class and can't figure out why, give us a call at 858.551.2650 or email to schedule a free consultation. We can help! -Vince

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