In our latest blog, experienced tutor Oliver (himself a student for many years), explains how goal setting and prioritising your personal growth and happiness can help you prepare for the new school year.
Another school year is about to begin, with all the usual hopes, worries and expectations that come with it. Students in 2019 have to face up to a lot of pressure, which arguably only increases each academic cycle. Demand for school and university places continues to be fierce, whilst social media and ever-more profound global challenges seem to raise the stakes for young people.
Whatever your age, starting a new school year can be a daunting prospect, both academically and socially. This is especially true if you are starting at a new school or going into a year with crucial exams at the end of it.
So, here are some tips about how to approach the new term with a real plan, a plan that will focus on maximising your happiness and fulfilment as much as helping you with your results.
Prioritise individual growth as much as achievement
Whilst of course you want to achieve the best results and grades that you possibly can, the bigger picture is that in any school year what you are always really aiming for is improvement and growth. This individual growth shouldn’t be measured against your peers, but instead be based on you improving your own performance or making progress that matters to you.
If you are underperforming at GCSEs, then going up a grade in all subjects will be a big achievement. If you’re a top student who already always reaches A or A* grades at A-Level, then perhaps this improvement or growth will be met in other ways than just exam results: it could be growth in music or sport, or reading books that stretch you.
Set yourself clear, definable goals
To effect this growth, having clear and definable goals is crucial. Breaking larger tasks down into smaller, specific objectives helps you focus and makes everything seem more manageable: your school year included!
For example, there is no point saying, “I want to get better at Maths”, as you haven’t defined what ‘getting better’ entails. Much more useful is to decide “I want to raise my Maths grade from a 6 to an 8”, or “I want to make sure all my Maths homework is finished and done on time”, as both goals have unambiguous targets which you know you’ll have accomplished.
So, to motivate you for the new school year, try setting some clear and specific goals!
Make those goals realistic
However, goals are only worthwhile if they are achievable. Ambition is great, but that ambition needs to be grounded in a realistic approach to what you can accomplish. If you set goals for the school year that are too much of a stretch, or are too broad, all this will do is demotivate you and make growth seem impossible.
Try setting goals that are challenging, but attainable. For example, if you are currently performing at a grade 5 in a GCSE subject, raising it to a grade 9 straight away will be very difficult. But if you aim to get it up to a 7, then that gives you an ambitious target but one that might be in reach.
Finally, to check that the goals you decide on are appropriate and to help you ensure you commit to them, share your goals with a parent, family member or friend. Ask them to give you feedback on the goals you have decided on, then see if they are willing to check up on how you are getting on throughout the year. This accountability will help you keep enthusiastic and working toward the goals you set.
Think about your mental health
In the midst of all the goals, deadlines and hard work, it is essential to look after your state of mind. A recent survey of teachers and support workers showed they are aware of the challenges students face to look after their mental health, while the government has committed to providing students with greater mental health support.
Your clear goals will make the work seem more manageable, but make sure to seek help and talk with people if things still seem too much during the new school year!
Plan to set aside time for the things you enjoy
A big part of maintaining a healthy state of mind is to make sure you don’t forget to set aside time for the things you enjoy. It is impossible to work all the time and keep productive and happy (remember the point above about being realistic in your goals), so allowing yourself healthy rest and relaxation shouldn’t be a stigma. Plan this into your week for the new school year: maybe you’ll have a regular trip to the cinema, or a games night you stick to each week.
Ultimately, your hobbies and pastimes may end up having an enriching effect on your studies; I certainly wouldn’t have been so inspired into studying History at university if I hadn’t been enthusiastic about cinema, watching all the films about the ancient world I could.
Team up with a tutor
Finally, it would be remiss were I not to highlight the role tutoring could potentially play in your new school year. Working 1-to-1 with a passionate and diligent tutor is a wonderful way to enhance your studies and reach the goals you have set yourself.
Whether it be a subject that you’ve earmarked for improvement, a specific exam you need to prepare for, or an interest that you want to take further (perhaps exploring outside the syllabus of a subject you are thinking of studying at university, for example), tutoring is entirely focused on your learning and your enjoyment of that learning. Tutors can create bespoke learning plans for you and provide teaching tailored to your learning style.
So, if you are interested in tuition, don’t hesitate to contact Ivy Education for more information and advice about how it might help you in your studies.
Have a great school year, and may you reach all your goals!