I messed up enough so you don’t have to 

Growing up, school was always a struggle for me. Sitting there at a desk for hours. You probably thought that first line was over the top. Think about it. On average a kid sits at a desk for 40 min a class. Now let’s start in middle school. That’s 40 min times 6 periods (minus homeroom, lunch and if not in gym, health) that 240 min that equals 4 hours a day 20 hours a week. That’s 800 hours a school year. That’s 2400 hours just in middle school.

Today I see students on scavenger hunts. Working in the hallway on laptops. Doing powerpoint presentations. They really look like they are having fun learning. I envy them. We had books, pencils, pens, paper, and the occasional movie. Everything was repetition. I was lost in the monotony of school and the sea of so many kids. So, I escaped, to my imagination and my doodles. In the long run, it gave me an excellent imagination but horrible listening skills. 

So here are my do’s and don’ts of education for students and some for teachers.

Lessons

So most teachers have lesson plans for the year. Some jazz them up every so often, those plans change and evolve. Some teachers have been using the same ones since 2000, no change, they got it memorized. 

As a student you should always identify the main theme. Let’s say we are talking about WW2. Big topic, do not be afraid to ask the teacher what the focus of the WW2 lesson. Most teachers will let you know what’s the main topic. It could be the allies and the axis powers, The leaders of the time, The battle of Normandy, The Tuskegee airmen. I was the type of student who had to start at smaller terms and then let it grow from there. I do this today, in everything I do. Start with the small and let it grow by itself. 

Never be afraid to find what you like and connect it to the topic. We will take WW2 again. Let’s say you are into fashion. Learn about how women gave up their nylon stockings so the fashion industry had to adjust to the lack of Nylon. If you love geography, well you are in luck, after the war there was a big change in borders. Basically there is something in every lesson for everybody, you just have to look. 

Know your limits

As a youngster I never thought I had an issue focusing. I always thought, “I’m listening but I’m like 10 steps ahead in my thought process, cause I’m so deep and intelligent”. Oh the arrogance. No, fool you weren’t paying attention. I remember I had a science teacher in 7th grade who took a real interest in me. She would not let anybody fail her class. It was then I learned the power of pacing myself. I also learned I was a very visual learner. I absorbed the history and the science channel like a sponge. Put it in a book, I’m like wwhhhaatttttt, God has such a sense of humor. I realised I needed the book, some audio and visual aids to fully get an understanding. Alas, I was in college when this became common (Youtube). 

Knowing where your faults are and how to strengthen them takes a lot. It’s not easy but it’s extremely rewarding. 

Studying

This is like a continuation of the last one. This one is simple.Listen. Rest. Read. Watch. Listen. Rest. Try to Apply. 

So let’s lay out the scenario: You have a test coming up. Ask questions to get a better understanding of what you need to do. Rest and let that marinate. Read up on the topic. Watch something about the topic. Listen to it in your car or on your phone with headphones while jogging or working out. Rest. Read or watch something on that topic. Sleep. After repeating this cycle for a few days try to teach it, talk about it with a friend, or just use the knowledge. If you can teach it or do it, then you got it. 

Avoid the classic study all night. Avoid the last minute bombardment. If you didn’t study at all, Take the L or ask to take the test at a later date. Avoid cheating. Yes you will possibly pass or possibly get caught. Learn the material and do your best. 

Learn what you are passionate about

From elementary to middle school we have very few say in what we learn and how it has to be presented. By High School and college you are making your schedule and working toward a goal. Make sure it’s a goal you are passionate about. In elementary school I loved Legos. By middle school I just liked the building portion of it, but I had so many minifigures. I started to come up with names, personalities, abilities. By high school I had typed up back stories, love triangles, I actually built a set and had scenes in my head. So you know what I went to school for, right?! You guessed it…

computer science. Yup, with all my imagination (see we came full circle) during class, my character building and writing I decided to go into a field I knew nothing about. I failed so hard. Academic probation and everything. “But J, why did you pick that major?” One word: $Money$. I knew this would be the hot field when I graduated (and I was right). But it was not for me (I failed so hard). I would have chosen literature but I was failing that too. 

I chose my other passion, History. The lesson that I learned, do what you love. I wrote rarely after that. One day I found my old notebook. I was inspired again. I later wrote a book (yet to be published. Look publishing can get expensive and I have a mouth to feed). 

Do not be afraid to learn new tricks       

We unfortunately as a society put an age limit on knowledge. We scoff at a 40 year old who doesn’t know (what we call) “common knowledge”. We are impatient with a 50 or 60 year old if they can’t keep up. Never realizing they have a wealth of knowledge, in other areas we don’t have. Also, they aren’t dead yet. If you can breathe, you can learn.

Because of this societal stigma I never ventured out to areas that I might have been really good at doing (among other things going on in my life). Last year I took the leap and entered a contest and presented a concept to DC streaming for a new show. I didn’t make the cut, but I did it, I tried. Now, imagine if I had asked questions, studied, pushed my limits, learned what I was passionate about, applied myself and was not scared to learn new things, IN MY 20’s. How different would my life be? (I really have to thank my wife, my pastors and family for pushing me all those years and a lot more lately) 

When it comes to school, learning and your education, learn what you love. Yes people will discourage you. Don’t be mad at them. Remember everybody learns differently and some people stopped learning at a certain point. That doesn’t mean you need to stop also. Take the good advice and filter out the bad. School is not the gauge of your success. I am just figuring this out. So take my mistakes and learn from them. Continue to grow and learn.                         

Published by Jamar Reed

I'm just a Father who likes to write. Hopefully my words will mean something in a sea of countless others.

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