I occasionally lament that I do not blog anonymously (like Dean Dad, I love him) so I am not able to share some of the day-to-day situations I encounter with students or coworkers. But something I can share are my communications to students. I try to send one brief email per month to my caseload. Our semester started last week and the students I advise received the following email.
How to Ace the Spring 2010 Semester
I always love the start of a new semester. It is a clean slate and another opportunity to put my best foot forward. I’m looking forward to working with you during this semester to make the most out of your academics and activities here at Owens Community College. I’ve compiled a few helpful hints from two of my favorite sources. In this email you will find two ways to help you make the Spring 2010 semester your best ever!
No way a Pen and Paper can make you a star student? Sure they can, if you know how to use these powerful tools to your advantage! Using a these tools can help you focus your thoughts, avoid distractions such as email and Facebook, and promotes critical and creative thinking.
- Buy a good spiral bound notebook for each class. Use the notebook only for the specified class!
- Buy a comfortable to use pen or pencil. It is important to buy one that does not cause hand cramps!
- Pack-up your notebook and pen and head out for a quiet and relaxing place with minimal or no distractions (this means turning off your cell phone and leaving your computer at home). Finding such a place can be challenging, but don’t forget places you might not normally visit – like the LIBRARY or an out of the way coffee shop.
- Spend a dedicated predetermined amount of time (say, no less than 50 minutes and no longer than 3 hours) working on the course.
- This is a great way to develop thoughtful questions to ask in class.
- Be sure to spend some of this time free writing about what you are learning in the course and how this connects to other courses, your goals, and your life.
- Before you pack-up spend some time summarizing what you have learned and worked on. Be sure to date and title your summary page.
Hocus-Pocus-FOCUS! One of the most important skills for students is the ability to focus. I’m not talking for 10 or 20 minutes during a lecture. I’m talking about hard focus, to push past the desire to check Facebook for ‘just two minutes’, or to leave your email running in the background and your cell phone on. Hard focus does not need to be a natural talent. It is possible train your ‘focus muscle’ (that would be your brain).
- Start by putting away all of your distractions and setting a timer for 20 minutes. Focus ONLY on studying or homework for those 20 minutes before allowing yourself a break.
- Keep your break times short. Just 5 to 8 minutes and use that time to get your blood flowing. Grab some cold water and move around a little. Avoid using this time to check email or other electronic distractions.
- Get back to work! Repeat this process until your allotted study time is up.
- Each day extend the time between breaks a little further building up to 50 minutes of work for each 5 to 10 minute break.
I’m looking forward to meeting with you in January to see how these ‘Study Hacks’ are helping you reach your academic goals! Please call the office at your earliest convenience to schedule our first meeting of the semester!
Focus, have fun, and do good work!
So far, what little feedback I have received has been positive! Yeah!!