Being a student is tough – you’re constantly being inundated with new information, examinations and tight schedules. It’s often hard to know how to get the most of your teachers.
The toughest part is actually absorbing what we hear and read and understanding it. Most people often resort to rote learning and cramming – everyone has had days before exams where they simply memorise information only to have it dissolve as soon as the teachers announce “pens down!”
The problem with this, of course, is that you don’t store the information you’re taught in an efficient way. If an exam throws you a curveball question that tests how you adapt knowledge, you can end up in trouble, as you haven’t learnt essential theory and problem solving skills. But how do you learn and retain content in a way that helps you in long run?
The obvious but difficult answer is that you need to communicate efficiently with your teachers. Here’s how:
1) Ask questions in an efficient and reasonable manner
An oft-repeated piece of advice is that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions, which is easier said than done. A lot of the time, it’s hard to ask questions – maybe your teacher isn’t someone you get along with, or you’re feel self-conscious. Maybe you’ve missed your moment and the class discussion has moved on without you.
But the simple fact is that teachers are there to assist you in your learning; don’t be afraid to ask politely if you can turn back the discussion to address an earlier problem. If you’re shy about this, make sure to jot down all your questions in class whenever you’re unsure what your teacher is talking about. Ask after class, schedule a chat with your teacher or email them immediately.
If you find that your teachers are unhelpful and hostile (that is, they aren’t doing their job properly) then that’s what your tutor is for! No kind of learning can take place without confusion and uncertainty, and asking questions is the only way you can move forward.
2) Cross-check information with multiple teachers
Teachers can often say contradictory or unclear things. That’s why it’s important to check that information you’re learning is right by asking different teachers. As you are attending a tutoring college, you have the benefit of having a second opinion tailored to helping you succeed in school. Make sure to take advantage of that! Cross-checking is something you’ll be doing a lot of in university, and can also be done via reliable websites online and by looking through library resources. Going that extra mile will be key to your success as a student.
3) Always be on top of schedules and don’t be afraid to ask teachers for them
This might seem like an obvious but it’s really important to know what exactly you’re learning in school. A lot of students I meet seem to have no idea what their topics are, and what they will be learning in the very near future. It’s important as a student that you know exactly what topics you will be going through in the year, in order for you to set clear goals and to be familiar with information that will definitely pop back up again in later exams.
Don’t be afraid to politely ask your teacher if they have a particular term schedule that can help you organise your studying, or any hard copies of rubrics (if not, download the PDFs from the Board of Studies website yourself).
4) Be involved in class discussions and take in what your peers say
There’s nothing that stunts learning more than an unresponsive class. Being involved in class discussion means that you can bounce your knowledge off others, and help each other reach new conclusions. This allows your teacher to guide you more smoothly, and also gives you more opportunity to ask detailed questions. It’s especially helpful in subjects that involve idea and thesis generation, like English subjects, as discussion stimulates new and unique perspectives on topics.
5) Ask teachers for personalised feedback
Don’t wait for your report card – if you ever feel like you’re struggling in class or unsure about content, go talk to your teacher about your performance. Ask what they feel like you can improve on, and what you can do to get on that level. Teachers can be really busy and won’t always have time to comment on every aspect of your work, but getting a big picture idea of what you’re struggling with, and fixing it before it’s too late is essential.