Most of my students I work with are engaged learners. They enjoy learning. They are motivated. They are organised and they know what they need to progress in their studies. They come to me with specific questions and focuses and together we work to understand the topics, identify misconceptions and develop the skills to move forward.
Ok… Actually, most of my students most of the time are like this. Some of my students are a little… less enthusiastic! There are varying levels of enthusiasm amongst students whether in school or managing their own learning in a home environment. So why is this? And also, why do children seemingly not not enjoy learning as often as their parents do? And why do some children love learning and others watch the clock until they can be doing anything else with their time?
A day in the life of a student
Let us start by understanding what it is like to learn in a school environment for a child. Studies have shown that teenagers’ body-clock prefers them to wake up much later and go to bed much later. This produces the typical lazy teenager stereotype who keeps refusing to get out of bed until the last minute after repeatedly pressing snooze. They might miss breakfast and rush to school still bleary eyed in time for their first lesson. Sleep deprived and malnourished, they are made to sit in rows and listen to someone explain algebra, World War 2 or the different parts of the digestive system. Anxiety builds as they realise they have not been listening for several minutes in a row and now the teacher catches their eye. “Just nod and smile. Look attentive!” they think. “Please don’t ask me a question…”
Distractions and social media
Well, it’s well and good moaning about how hard life is, but that’s not going to fix the problem is it? We all have our struggles and we don’t get anywhere wallowing. So, let’s make sure we get to bed on time, up on time, have a good breakfast and take on the day! Hang on… but oh what’s this? Someone just posted something on Facebook, and there’s this new funny TikTok video people are all talking about and I need to make sure those photos are ok for Instagram and… buzz buzz… Argh!
Social media is no joke. It is a serious issue. It is not all bad of course. There are lots and lots of benefits, but aside from the obvious distractions and very real threats of cyber-bullying, they can encourage a very egocentric outlook on the world.
Of course, social media is not the only distraction, but I think most people agree that it is the main one nowadays. There are a lot of very useful learning tools on the internet and as phone-apps, but that’s not much good if you have to use the very tool you are addicted to to access the learning!
So what’s the solution??
The first thing to do is to realise why it can be hard and to not beat yourself up or, if this is a parent reading, to sympathise with them. So, we accept the situation just as it is and then we formulate a plan of action to move forwards. Here are some suggestions:
- Get a good night’s sleep: I know you are a teenager and your body wants to go to sleep much later and wake up much later, but accept that that may not be an option. You still need to sleep, so get used to it. No phones at least an hour before bed. Ideally no screens. Read, chat, meditate… Relaxing stuff. Avoid bright lights. Make sure you don’t eat too late.
- Get up early enough: Now you have got to bed early enough, you will find it easier to get up early. This will mean a calmer, more stress-free morning to start the day with.
- Eat a good breakfast: Slow release carbohydrates. Avoid high-sugar cereals. They wake you up, but they you’ll crash mid morning and feel tired and hungry.
- Consider giving yourself some distance from your device(s). Notice your environment. Notice who you are with. Whatever you are doing, just focus on doing that.
- In lessons, try and pay more attention to what the teacher is saying. If you notice any negative thought patterns come up, just notice them, smile, and let them go. You may start to notice the same patterns in your classmates. Empathise with them as you have been there too.
A bit about the author, Paul H:
Paul is a qualified and experienced Physics, Maths, and Science teacher, now working as a full-time tutor, providing online tuition using a variety of hi-tech resources to provide engaging and interesting lessons. He covers Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Science from Prep and Key Stage 3 through to GCSE and IGCSE. He also teaches Physics, Maths, and Chemistry to A-Level across all the major Exam Boards.