The Most Important Skill NOT Taught in School
“So, based on your daughter’s participation in class, she understands the concepts. However, that isn’t coming across in tests. How does she prepare for tests?” I asked nervously. (Teachers get just as nervous at parent conferences as parents!)
“Studying doesn’t work for her,” her mom sighed. “We’ve just come to accept it.”
I had variations on this conversation multiple times while teaching. Though the parents were well-meaning, they had stopped encouraging their daughter to find study or organizational strategies that would improve her performance. They had a fixed mindset that their daughter would never become a good test-taker. However, we know that anyone can become “smarter” and improve their skills. #growthmindset
[click_to_tweet tweet=”We know that anyone can become “smarter” and improve their study skills!” quote=”We know that anyone can become “smarter” and improve their study skills!”]
I get it, though. Many of us don’t know much about studying, even teachers themselves. In high school, I sort of stumbled into some study techniques. My mom was an educator and gone through a LOT of school – her techniques worked for me.
However, I didn’t know why I was doing well in school and others weren’t. I chalked it up to my work ethic. (Clearly, I did not understand or know about the MANY factors that affect academic achievement. I was 16.) Even as a newbie teacher though, I just assumed that all my students knew how to study. After all, I figured it out – why wouldn’t they?
How I Changed
Then one year, I was assigned to teach study skills classes for the first time. These small classes focused on basic study and organization skills. As I taught planner use, notebook organization, and study strategies to my students, I realized that my students had literally never seen these strategies before.
Was this true of all my students? I went back to my history classes and started asking them. The answers were sobering. Some kids had lucked into strategies like I had. Most had never been taught any study strategies, at home or at school. Some had looked something up on the internet, but it wasn’t helpful. And sadly, my students who struggled the most didn’t even know where to go for help.
I was devastated. All this time I could have been helping my students, but I didn’t even know they had a problem.
Listen, I don’t blame teachers for this one. Many high school teachers assume these skills were taught in middle school. Middle school teachers think elementary school teachers take care of it. And parents think that schools teach these skills.
With the growth of standardized testing in schools, most teachers have so much content to cover that they can’t imagine giving up precious class time to show kids how to organize a notebook. Even I didn’t give up class time. My last few schools had extra time built into the school day (remediation time, Mustang Block, Eagle Time, you get the point) and that is when I would introduce these topics.
You can change, too!
If you or your teen are struggling in school – organization, study skills, test-taking skills – you don’t have to accept the status quo. You (or your kid) aren’t stupid or a bad test-taker. You just haven’t been taught the necessary skills to be successful. And you can learn them!
Educate yourself and others.
Find out all you can about organization and study skills. Start with my post on study skills. Spread the word about study skills to friends, family, and your school. Encourage the school to integrate study skills into classes.
If you or your teen are not using a planner, get one. Organize those notebooks. Clean out that backpack. Check out my popular post on setting up and using a planner!
Try different study strategies.
Go through my post on study strategies and pick 1 or 2 that you think will be the most helpful and use them for at least one month. After a month, look at your grades and see if there were any improvements. If so, keep using them. If not, pick out new strategies and try again. You will find ones that work for you.
Also, download the Study Skills checklist I created. It will help you focus on the necessary skills for studying, including organization, note-taking, and study strategies!