Owning a full set of study skills runs from mundane approaches to studying to complex psychological issues like life balance and classroom expectations. I will discuss these two rich issues in this brief article. |
Life Balance I recently read that one should never try to balance one's life between study and enjoyment. Life, the author argued, is too short and keeping a moral compass in line was too difficult to have fun. No, went the argument, studying morals and ethics is the only thing that should occupy our minds.
I thought at the time I read this that this view is dead wrong. Now, after some time has passed, I don't think I was harsh enough in my assessment. Life, I will argue, is truly too short to be forever serious. Quite the contrary, in this brief life of ours, it is necessary to seek both the ethical and the enjoyable. Spend too much time doing any one thing and see just how balanced you are. In that lack of balance are you able to think clearly, to do the right thing, or to feel as if you are contributing to something? I think it takes balance in life to focus, to act right, and to contribute.
What do I mean by balance? In the case of a student, one generally has responsibilities to school, to family and to friends. If you allow one of these areas to dominate your life, you are out of balance, unable to effectively focus on the other two. Too much of a concentration on school and you lose the ability to have fun. Too much on family and you lose focus at school and with friends. Too much focus on friends means school and family suffer a loss. Balance, in short, is the ability to focus appropriately on all facets of life so that all aspects of life are enjoyed.
There are times, say around exam time when one must focus more on school than on family and friends. At other times friends or family will take precedence. But overall, one must find a way to reach a balance between all three.
One way to strike a balance is to schedule time for all three every week. This begins with scheduling time to study, time to spend with friends and time with family. It means keeping a calendar up to date. It also means deciding what is important and what is not. You may decide that each facet of life is equal and schedule equal time for all three. You may, on the other hand, find that there is an order of importance. If so you might want to consider assigning a percentage to the level of importance. Say school as 60%, friends at 30% and family at 10%. Any way you choose to strike a balance is fine, so long as you understand the consequences of your decisions.
Expectations In my experience, most students see expectations centered in the other. In school, they think about the expectations of the teacher. At home, the parents expectations rise to the top. With friends, one focuses on pleasing their friends. While these appear, on the surface, to be appropriate, I will argue that they are always misplaced. I will suggest that expectations are, and must be, pointed inward and not outward. If I only rely on the expectations of others, I might just find myself riding a roller-coaster of changing demands. If I rely on my own center to establish expectations then I can be quite sure of a smooth ride.
Let's just focus on scholastic expectations. The same thing holds for both family and friendship expectations. Most students try to figure out what their teacher expects of them so that their understanding of the teacher translates into a good grade. My question is a simple one, "Is that even possible?" How is is possible to crawl inside the mind of another human being and 'know' for certain what they expect of you? To think in these terms allows one to relinquish personal responsibility in favor of being led around like cattle to the slaughter.
Turn the tables. Decide that the wrong question is, "What does the teacher expect in order for me to get an 'A?' Rather, ask the following question of yourself. "What do I wish to learn from taking this course. I can almost guarantee that if you do this your personal expectations will be much higher than your teachers' expectations of you
It is important to note that when you turn expectations upside down you are still subject to changing expectations. As you learn more, your expectations will rise. Never be afraid to make adjustments along the way.
Conclusion When thinking about study skills in terms of life balance and academic expectations, one is always faced with an internal question. By turning the issues inward, one is no longer dependent on the will of the other, rather one is responsible to no one but oneself. This is a move that will serve you well when graduating to the world outside.
Dr. Roger Lewis is the owner of Effective Study Tips where he introduces parents and their children to the most effective study habits we know of. Dr. Lewis is a career educator teaching in both middle-school settings and in university departments of education. His specialty is in the teaching of reading methods for k-12 students. He is now retired concentrating on sharing his knowledge with a broader audience.
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