You are not a number. Your value is not defined by a grade, a percentage, a GPA or an SAT score. You are a human being, with hopes, dreams, aspirations and a mind to think for yourself.
Your presence in school may be required, but it is up to you to make something of it. From kindergarten until you graduate and beyond, it is you who determine what you get from your education. That’s not to say that the school you attend, the classes you enroll in, or the teachers you end up with have no impact, but ultimately it’s all on you. That should not sound like a crushing weight or just another responsibility – it’s actually freeing. Getting a good education is a privilege that not all children and young adults get and often it is those that are more affluent or are enrolled in a better school that see the least value in it.
True motivation only comes from inside you. There may be other aspects that motivate you, such as family expectations or peer pressure, but only you can find the motivation to actually learn. If you are blessed to attend an excellent school, you sit in classes with teachers that enjoy their jobs and that work to create engaging and creative lessons. But eventually, the onus will land back on you. You can be the student that tries to understand complex, seemingly irrelevant, and detailed math formulas, or you can be the student that scoffs at the interactive Shakespeare dramatization. Only you can get something from your own education and the motivation to do so can only be intrinsic.
Seek knowledge that you are interested in. A well-rounded student, one who is proficient and interested in a multitude of areas is a joy to teach. You might not know this, but a student who asks an incessant amount of questions out of sheer curiosity can be the highlight of a teacher’s day. If you have any choice in the courses you take, choose the ones that you are interested in, even if they may be harder or require more work. Learn a skill, a language, a process, because you are interested, not because it looks good on a transcript, your friends are in it, or because will give you need an easy A. Be passionate about your learning.
Learn for the sake of learning, not for another outcome. Grades, GPA, prestigious colleges, parental approval, peer comparison – these may be worthy of consideration, but they so easily become the sole focus and soon the curiosity, the joy of learning, and the drive to better your mind is left behind. The pursuit of knowledge is pure; you should look forward, you should think about universities you’d like to attend, or the sort of careers you want to participate in. But those who are truly engaged and seek knowledge for its own sake, they will go further. Make learning the focus and foster curiosity and these other things will follow.
You have been given a mind – what will you do with it? It is easy to dismiss and dislike those aspects that are forced on you, but will you really deprive your mind of learning because you did not choose it? Use your mind, expand it, enhance its capabilities. Learn to do tasks that you thought impossible, challenge yourself, set your mind on goals and strive for them. As you do so, incorporate these three elements: tenacity, curiosity, and integrity.
Don’t give up. That’s not to say there cannot be a time to set something aside, or a moment when something becomes infeasible. But mostly, finish what you begin. Even if the novel you are writing isn’t going where you intend, finish it anyway. When you begin something, know that you will finish it before you start. The more often you complete a task, the easier it will become to complete the next one. And once finished, be willing to go back and take a critical look at it in order to learn how you could do it better the next time. Don’t let finishing it be enough; look to better yourself.
Seek out new opportunities. Have dreams that include not only possessions but also learning. Rather than wanting to be respected, having a lot of money, a yacht, and going on a yearly cruise, your bucket-list should include goals for the betterment of your mind. Learn how to be a beekeeper, find someone to teach you a new instrument, take up kayaking, become proficient in a computer language, read 100 books in a year. Don’t do them all at once, but strive to learn new things and spend energy, time, and money on them, instead of on possessions and fleeting memories.
Be honest. Not just with others, but with yourself. Integrity, like motivation, comes from within. Academic dishonesty baffles teachers – the only harm is to yourself. Congratulations, you just got away with not having to learn something. When you set your own learning goals, the urge to achieve them dishonestly dissipates. Cheating is a hollow victory and has no lasting, positive impact. But the sense of accomplishment after completing a difficult task with integrity has almost no bounds. Be honest for your own sake.
So why do you go to school? Because a law demands it? Because your parents make you? To hang out with your friends? To eventually matriculate at an Ivy League school or land your dream job?
Or do you go to school because you genuinely want to learn?
Whether you like your teachers, are interested in the material, don’t get along with your lab-partner, or disagree with the educational philosophy of the school, you should still strive to learn. Learn to better your self, your mind, and do so in a manner that is tenacious, curious, and honest.
A Passionate Teacher