This is an example of vector addition taught in a typical high school physics class. Now here is another hypothetical vector addition problem: A high school student arrives at school. She uses 60% of her energy for studying. Her available study time is controlled by 70% inefficiency. What will be the net result of her efforts? I know this is not a real math problem, but it may be a real problem for you or your high school teenager.
What does a successful high school student look like? Is it someone with perfect grades or someone who can pass a standardized college entrance exam? When I was in high school, I believed that success meant that I was supposed to impress the colleges with perfect grades and a long list of extra-curricular activities. Allow me to suggest that grades are not the final proof of being a successful student. The basic definition of success according to the Oxford dictionary is “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” To become successful with anything in life, including high school, it’s important to define a purpose or goal for what is to be accomplished.
What is the goal of high school? What if high school prepares you for more than getting into a great college or landing a high paying job? What if the goal is to cultivate wisdom, virtue, and the joy of learning? What if your goal is to honor God and serve Him and others? What if your focus is on learning to think clearly and listen carefully with discernment in all situations that will arise beyond high school, while still preparing for college and the work force? What kinds of habits would you need to adopt to make you a success? Here are 4 keys to success in high school.
1. Be Intentional
Being successful in anything in life, including high school, requires intentionality. Being intentional involves deciding what you are planning to do. Then make a plan to see it through to fruition. A practical example is to look at the class syllabus at the beginning of the semester and write all the due dates on a calendar. Then ask yourself daily if you are working in the direction of completing the required assignments by the appropriate due dates. This involves disciplining yourself to do what you need to do to do well. Being intentional as a student also involves getting to class on time, paying attention in class, engaging yourself with the class, and respecting your teachers.
2. Manage Your Time
If something that needs to be accomplished is of value to you, you will find a way to make time to do it. Part of being a successful student is setting aside the time to do the work. Carving out the time involves creating priorities for your time. Pay attention to not only how much time you are studying, but how productive you are depending on how much time you spent. Give yourself breaks that encourage you to get back to studying and are not a distraction. A successful student will determine if the current way of dividing time for study is proving to be productive. If it is not, then new ways are sought out. For a list of links to help with time management and how to study for certain types of subjects look at a local community college. Here are some homework tips designed for younger students, but work equally well for high school students.
3. Keep a Passion for Learning
There will be subjects that are of little interest to you or are difficult for you to understand. There will also be subjects that are amazingly interesting. High school is a great place to discover your God given passions for certain topics. Ultimately some of these topics will be the basis for jobs or careers you choose to pursue. While in high school, you may not even realize the significance of all that you are learning until many years later. Because only God is the one who knows your future, show Him honor by maintaining a love for learning and a curiosity for all that He has to show you in every class you study for. My father-in–law took a love of science from high school and that love developed into a scientific career.
4. Learn from Failure
Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He apparently understood that perseverance was the key to his success! If we set ourselves up to always demanding perfection, we may never invent something really big. High school is a place to learn things that were not previously known. There will be good grades and bad grades. Do not let the grades define who you are. Allow all the tests to strengthen your skill and your character. If I could go back in time, I would not have put quite so much emphasis on the end result as I would on the character building process. Math and science were never my strongest subjects. I excelled in literature, history, and grammar style topics. However, I chose a career path that is primarily math and science. If I had given up when my studies became the hardest, I would not be here today to help people see as clearly as they can. (I’m an Optometrist.)
Now let’s return to the hypothetical word problem. A high school student arrives to school to learn. She arrives on time and listens in class. She uses 100% of her energy towards pursuing knowledge, wisdom and virtue. She seeks God first and sets her priorities in a way that is honoring to God and her parents. What is the end result? She is a successful student.