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How to Smooth Out a Rough Semester

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We’ve all been there. Things aren’t going your way for one reason or another, and it’s been a weird/rough/bad two to three weeks, and then, to top it all off, your progress report (or your child’s progress report) arrives with only more tough news.

But a poor progress report or a less-than-great couple of weeks shouldn’t ever be enough to tank a person’s entire semester, the same way they shouldn’t be able to ruin someone’s entire spring or fall season. Just as there are ways to turn things around in the working (non-school) world, there are plenty of ways to redeem a semester that’s started out roughly.

Here are just a few ideas to keep you busy:

  1. Obviously, seeking out tutoring and additional help with one’s assignments and study habits is a great way to get a student’s motivations up and their work back on track. Tutoring centers can be especially beneficial as students not only see other classmates seeking help (and thus feel better about seeking it out for themselves), but also because students then have a place to go to that is entirely dedicated to their after-school academic needs and skills. Tutoring centers can provide much more than professionals and teachers. They can provide a quiet, safe space for students to ask questions; a space for students to get work completed without distractions; and a place for students to receive any extra encouragement they might need regarding the maintenance and development of useful study and time management skills.
  1. Have the student in question meet with their teacher(s) to discuss how they might improve their work. This not only shows the teacher(s) that the student is taking responsibility and looking to move forward, but can also get an incredibly useful and productive conversation going.
  1. Start identifying and working to break bad habits (which may range anywhere from studying in front of the television to not studying at all—we all have our own unique weaknesses and dragons to slay).
  1. Draw up (either with yourself, your teachers, your parents, or all three), a Positive Academic’s Contract, wherein you outline all of the things you’re going to do to improve your work ethic, grades, and general appreciation of school, along with all of the things you’re going to give up/sacrifice. Then sign the document with as much formality as you’ve got in you (maybe even draw a couple of blanks for your parents and/or teachers to sign as witnesses to the document). This may seem like a silly exercise, but a public declaration and written commitment can really feel and become more powerful a motivator than you’d think.
  1. And, finally, turn off your electronics and have your parents lock them up somewhere secret until you’ve finished what you need to finish each night. Really, for most things, you don’t actually need a computer. Claiming you need to do “research” often only ends up devolving into YouTube and Facebook time, doesn’t it? And if it’s not one of these classic time-pits, it’s probably something else equally unrelated to school. So, you can always start things off by researching the old-fashioned way (cough*reading books*cough*libraries*cough*interviews*cough), before moving on to the loud, shiny, wild world of the Internet. And if you don’t need to do any research right away but know you’ve got something you’ll need to type up, try doing as many other school-related tasks and activities as possible before breaking out the laptop. You’ll be stunned by how much more efficiently you can get work completed in this way and by how much more information you can retain when studying without the added distractions and demands of unnecessary technologies.


Good luck! And remember, academic success begins and ends with you.


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