Back to School from A to Z

Who says learning the alphabet is just for kids?
by Shiloah Matic   |  Jun 3, 2010
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Though cramming is by far the most popular way to study, it's never the best way to learn. Think of your lessons as brain food. Wouldn't it be a more memorable meal if you had time to savor each bite rather than put it all in the blender and chug it all in one gulp? If it takes you five hours to confidently master dates, names, and ideas, divide the work your mind has to do into bite-sized portions (for example, 30 minute sessions) you can chew on every day leading up to the exam. Then take a break the night before, and munch on some mental dessert (a book, a movie, your favorite reality show) to give your mind a break.

Raising your hand
C'mon, higher! Class participation is often a big part of your grade-and for good reason. When you recite in class, it tells your teacher you're an active member of the group and not just a pretty seat warmer. It also shows respect for her and for the time she took preparing the lesson. You don't need to know the right answers to speak up. Not knowing the answer but caring enough to ask questions is just as important.

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Secret Crushes
You've tried smiling, batting your eyelids, and saying hi, but he has yet to ask you to marry him and move to Paris... What gives? Crushes are part of teenhood. Unfortunately, so is heartbreak. His feelings for you (or absence of them) have nothing to do with how beautiful, charming, or dateable you are. When you've looked past him (after casually admiring his smile-no strings attached!), you'll be able to see that shy but cute seatmate who's got a secret crush on you!

Teachers (and their secret lives)
It's easy to see teachers as mere mouthpieces that announce pop quizzes, drone on about theorems, and scold you for laughing with your seatmate. But behind the intimidating eyeglasses and out of the uso button-down blouse, teachers are ordinary people with interests, social lives, problems, and plans. Talk to her outside of class-you may discover that you both feel strongly about feminism, Bloom lip gloss, or Hugh Jackman. And you just may learn a few things more important than how to cross multiply.


Thank the fashion gods for accessories that keep school uniforms anything but uniform. Slip on a brightly colored bag, barrette, or bangle to battle the school drabs. Feeling rebellious towards your school's strict dress code? Embroider cool designs, or use fabric marker to write sassy sayings on the bottom of your socks (or even on your underwear!) as a secret celebration of your creativity and individuality.

Vacation Blues
Miss the summer? Take mini-vacations to places where you feel relaxed: the corner table at a coffee shop, the bench behind the school canteen, the balcony of your tita's apartment. You don't need a two-month break to "get away from it all."

Waking Up
Good-bye, lazy morning brunches; hello, grab-and-munch breakfasts at 5 am! If you can't seem to get out of bed in the morning after a summer-long snooze button ritual, trick your body into wanting to wake up by making your mornings worth waking up for. Use your stereo as an alarm clock, and ask Mom to play your fave get-up-and-go song, like a club hit you can't resist or a cheery '80s classic that gives you happy vibes. Awaken your senses with some morning aromatherapy; the smell of fresh coffee and French toast may be just the motivation you need.


Extra credit
Go the extra mile, and do more than what's expected of you. It's the geeky thing to do, but it's a great habit to start now. If something in class interests you, research about it on the Internet or put that library card to good use. Write essays on class topics or use class discussions as inspirations for home movies, art projects, or after-school clubs. Do it for your sake, not just to impress teachers or get better grades. Those may be rewarding effects for your hard work, but learning and learning to love learning are incomparably greater rewards.  

It's never too early to start making yearbook-worthy memories. Scream the loudest at intramurals that the school photographer has to notice you, take pictures of your club's activities, and show your school spirit and attend events. Start campaigning for "Most Likely  to Brighten Everyone's Day," (which beats Prom Queen or "Most Likely to Succeed" in our books any day!).


Bad grades happen to the best of us. When they do, don't stare at your paper hoping it'll go away. The only real mistakes are those you don't learn from. Talk to your teacher, if not to re-take the exam, at least, to go through it with her so you'll understand why you got each question wrong. If she sees you making the effort to improve, she'll be more willing to offer you the help you need to turn that zero into a perfect 10.

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Shiloah Matic
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