A New Mindset for a New School Year

Featured Image: Hub/John Hopkins University

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Millions of students will be heading back to school in the coming days in ways they may have never done before. Some university students will no longer be commuting from the bus stop to the train station, and others will be atoning masks and social distancing while writing notes during lectures. While all of this is novel, it is important to recognize that much of the opportunity to learn and grow is still present despite different circumstances and many of us may use this uncertainty as a scapegoat for preventing progress.

In these past 6 months, you have changed. You have become more healthy, self-aware, and relaxed. Even if you think those lovely adjectives don’t apply to you, you’re wrong. Quarantine has brought new life to social justice movements, made us more aware of politics and our communities, and has been an excellent learning experience.

Think back and reflect on your life. Who were you in March? Who are you now?

With this new school year, I want you to accept a new mindset. Just a few months ago, school was a race for me. I never studied to learn, I studied to test. I never wrote for enjoyment, I wrote for a grade. I had been looped into years of enslavement to the education system, constantly aiming for a specific letter or a specific number to feel validated as if I had accomplished something by getting a 95% on an essay or biology test.

In English class, as I watched documentaries about Indigenous affairs in Canada, I was listening. Listening for the points I could use in my analysis of the video or how each person represents an aspect of society. I was not listening to understand their beliefs, values, and aspirations. Frankly, I didn’t care as long as I got the grade.

Yet, as I watched educational videos at home in quarantine, ranging from subjects about medicine to systemic racism, I was interested to learn. Interested because there was no burden attached to it. No compulsion to write a standardized test or write up a reflection. I found the mindset I associated with school was preventing me from learning. What a paradox.

My experience may very well apply to you. Most go through each year of school passively, aiming for the next grade, the next step, the next degree, until finally, we get a job and await a promotion or a vacation.

This is limiting.

But just how will you make learning in school just as fun as growing at home?

Focus on what you enjoy.

Hopefully, you have one course or subject in school you like. Maybe even a specific topic or teacher. Extract what you love from that course and apply it to things you don’t prefer as much. For example, let’s say you love all of your biology classes. You love the diagrams, the content, and how you can see the knowledge in your own body, but calculus, on the other hand, is not your favourite. Take the diagram building and application from biology and use it to enhance your calculus experience. Sometimes, this isn’t always possible, but so long as you have something you are passionate about, there is still an opportunity for enjoyment.

Don’t stop learning about what you want to learn.

It is common for us to put the things we love on hold for bigger priorities in life, but that shouldn’t always be the case. If you love reading about different cultures or watching documentaries about significant points in history, you will have the time to do that. We often think we don’t have time when in actuality, we don’t know how to manage our time. Little things like checking your phone every hour or watching one more episode may seem minute, but add up over time. Check out content from Ali Abdaal or Tim Ferris to learn more about time management.

You can do it.

Insecurity prevents us from taking the leap to do so many things. So, so many things. Positive affirmations, regular reminders of your long-term and short-term goals, and practicing good self-care are a true recipe for success.

So, what is your mindset for the new year?