Friday, December 18, 2015

Bekki's School Bible.

Once upon a time, in the faraway land of PA, I was an adorable kindergartener...wearing a matching pink frock...with a despicable haircut.

BEHOLD!

I look the cutest—my outfit is the best.
I think after 16 years of school, I've learned a few things about how the system works.  I have this really weird thing about me—I really really like school.  I like the organization, I like learning, and I like having something to do.  Also, I think school is my #1 talent... or maybe even a gift of the spirit. I'm just good at school.  In high school and college, my courses never really posed a problem for me. I always knew that if I performed my best, I would succeed, and everything would be okay.  

I came to realize my... weirdness... after teaching at Snow College and BYU.  Some of my students truly struggled, which is okay.  School is meant to be challenging! When they met with me during conferences, some of them expressed frustration because they failed a math test, or they had to withdraw from a course because they were not passing.  They came to me for advice and comfort.  And how did I respond?

I lied.

I told them that everyone experiences a bum class.  To make them feel better, I told them that I've failed tests before and that I've even retaken a biology course.  But that's not true.  I've never had that problem for several reasons—my family is hugely supportive and has always pushed me to the next level, I am a perfectionist to a fault (Google OCPD), and I have this irrational belief that if I fail a class, I will go to hell.  Obviously, this is not exactly healthy, but it has gotten me here!

Last week, one of my cute students asked me, "Bekki...how did you do it? You're 21, and you're in grad school.  Do you have a school bible or something?"  Well, here it is... my school bible.

1.  Thou shalt not procrastinate the day of thy studying / homework / writing.

Students hear this all the time.  At the beginning of the semester, many of my students made a goal to avoid procrastination, but that didn't happen.  Even my classmates who are brilliant and talented procrastinate.  

I don't think I procrastinate... not because I'm better than others or because I'm smarter than others.  I don't procrastinate because I cannot procrastinate.  I just can't do it.  Even as I entertain thoughts of procrastination, my brain threatens to shut down.  I cannot work while feeling excessively stressed.  My body goes into panic attack mode, and I curl up into ball and roll around the room.  This semester, I had to start some projects last minute... not because I was procrastinating, but because I was investing so much time working on everything else.  Can you imagine my panic if I had actually procrastinated??? There would be much weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. 

I start my major projects and assignments early.  My paper topics evolve during this time, and I allow plenty of time for brainstorming.  By the time I sit down to write a paper, my thoughts and ideas are fairly organized and developed, and I still have plenty of time for revisions.  In the last week of the semester, a lot of my friends were stressed and discussing how they hadn't even started their papers yet.  When they asked me about how my papers were going, I lied again.  I said, "I don't even know what I'm going to write about," to make them feel better.  Man, I think this blog post is only suggesting that I'm a liar.  

2.  Glory be unto thy professors --> Peace and good will towards students.

Each semester, I always try to establish a good relationship with my professors.  I make it a goal to meet with my professors at least twice throughout the semester.  I mostly approach them with questions about my papers.  Often, our conversations take different directions.  I can usually find out when my teachers like to talk about... their kids, M*A*S*H, the Manti pageant, or artificial intelligence.  When you visit your professors, you are demonstrating that you value their insights and authority.  

Additionally, I occasionally thank my professors for their class as I leave the room.  Don't thank them every single class period... that just gets annoying.  And having taught for a while now, I know how difficult it can be to put together a lesson or a list of discussion points for class.  Teachers should know that their efforts are recognized!

3.  When delivering a presentation, thou shalt eat, drink, and be merry.

This commandment is more manipulative, I think.  Every time I give a presentation for a class, I always bring food—brownies, cookies, bread, whatever! Here's why...

When my classmates partake of my offerings, they feel more of an obligation to listen to what I have prepared.  I get really annoyed when people do not offer their best attention during presentations.  Additionally, if... for some reason... my presentation goes terribly wrong, people won't remember.  People will only remember the yummies that I shared and the goodness of my heart for sharing.  And maybe, just maybe, (but not likely), my professors will be more forgiving of errors as they grade.  

4.  Watch Netflix and pray, that ye enter not into depression.

I cannot study, or read, or write for hours on end.  My brain needs a break—it needs some love! I always schedule breaks throughout my day, so I can give my brain a rest.  I don't really recommend watching Netflix daily, but you can do other things, too.  I suggest going for a run, shopping at the grocery store, visiting family, taking a nap, or going for a drive in town.  

I have found that these breaks are actually extremely helpful, as I am writing or preparing to write a paper.  Sometimes, I will see something random that makes me think of an idea that's brimming with potential for my paper.  For example, my nephew Theo and his parents came to visit UT.  Theo's diaper was getting changed, and it was smelly.  When I saw the diaper, I thought of my paper about Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" and how the narrator, at first, detests the color of the paper and finds the smell repellant.  I thought that maybe the wallpaper reminded her of soiled diapers and the burden she feels in caring for husband and child within the domestic sphere.  

Kind of a weird connection, right? Definitely... but I never would have found it if I did not take a break from studying and watch my sister change Theo's diaper.  (You might take a different break.)

5.  Write in the fleshy tablets of your heart.

Technology really is fantastic, isn't it? It's a life-saver in my classroom.  Whenever I incorporate an interesting graphic, a music clip, or a YouTube video for my students, they are so much more engaged in discussions.  

But I am still a believer in writing... handwritten notes with pens, pencils, and even crayons.  When possible, I always try to handwrite my notes during discussions or lectures.  I find that when I am forced to listen carefully to a lot of information, it is much more beneficial to my learning when I synthesize the information and record the most important points. I always remember the information because it really is inscribed in the fleshy tablets of my heart! When I use my macbook, I pretty much type my professors' words verbatim.  Everything truly goes in one ear and out the other.  

I discourage my students from using their laptops in class.  I try to enforce a no-tech policy, but I'm not as strict about computers as I should be.  But you want to know something interesting??? My kids who hand-wrote their notes scored As and high Bs.  My kids who typed out notes and probably got distracted on the internet didn't do so hot in class.  Coincidence??? I think not.  

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For those who might be struggling in school, study this school bible carefully and deliberately.  In addition to the actual Bible and The Book of Mormon, make this your daily bread, too.  




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