Class Participation is a Team Sport

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For many of you, the last few weeks have brought a welcome return to the classroom for in-person learning. One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been a deeper appreciation of things we’ve all grown accustomed to taking for granted, and going to school definitely falls into that category. I can’t tell you the number of times over the last year that many of you have told me how much you wished you could just go back to school. And, of course, most of you immediately followed that with “I can’t believe I just said that!”

Most of you weren’t simply referring to missing your friends, sports, and extracurriculars. (Though, clearly, you did.) You also missed class. Why? Because it’s just easier to learn in the classroom than over Zoom. It’s easier to pay attention, to ask questions, and to feel like you’re part of the school community. Well, guess what? You’re back in school now! It’s time to make good on those promises to make the most of your classroom time and NOT take it for granted.

Not only is this the first time you’ve been in class in person all year, it’s also the first time you’ve been in a high school classroom, which would have been a big transition in and of itself, even in a normal year. So it’s all that much more important for you to use the time remaining in the year to get your feet under yourself, lean into your class time, and make sure you’re as prepared as possible for school to resume as normal next year.

Be Prepared

One of the most important changes from middle to high school is the amount of responsibility you need to take for your learning. In middle school, information was presented for you in easily digestible ways, and you didn’t need to do much to be prepared for class. You just had to show up. With every passing year, however, there’s more expected of you before you even get to your desk in the morning. Did you do the homework? Did you do the reading? I hope you did! What would be even better, though, is to write down some questions from what you read or what you did.

I’m going to let you in on a secret: your teachers don’t expect you to magically understand everything you read or every homework problem. Heck, if you did, they’d be out of a job. And here’s another one that you may have noticed: Teachers love to talk. They love to answer questions. They’d be more than delighted to answer yours about the work you did or the work you struggled with. So actually write down the questions you have while you do your work so that you’re ready to be a solid contributor to your classroom discussions.

Be Part of the Team

Now that you’re all back in the same room together, it’s hopefully easier to all feel connected. I often think of a classroom kind of like a sports team, with the teacher as the coach. You and your teammates all have different skills and strengths, which your teacher hopes to understand so that they can get the best out of each of you. And, to be really corny, the game is learning and it’s a new game each day.

So what’s your role on the team? Are you the lead-off hitter? Are you easily able to confidently open up the discussion with your thoughts or a question? Awesome. Maybe you’re more into trick plays and misdirection: the class is going one way with the discussion, but you’d like to take a different angle. That’s great, too. Perhaps you’re the unselfish player that just wants everyone to get along and have fun — every team benefits from players like that. Maybe your role, then, is help those two other classmates who are arguing better understand where one another are coming from. Because, when it comes down to it, everyone learns better when the classroom is a fun back-and-forth between the teacher and as many students as possible. You win as a team.

Aaron Golumbfskie

Senior Tutor & Education Director

Aaron is the Education Director at PrepMatters and has logged more than 20,000 hours of one-on-one tutoring, helping teens change their self-images and achieve success, whether on standardized tests or in academic classes. He continues to tutor every day, but, realizing that individual efforts only scale so far, he hopes to serve even more students by spending much of his time leading the train...

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