Studying (102)

What I offer here is drawn from my experience at the GBSS Hostel, where, of course, some of the determinants were already decided for us. Obviously things would differ in a non-Hostel environment, and might differ today.  So I do not claim that what I am going to offer below was or is the only or the best way to study. But I also base my offerings on my own life experience and considerations post-Hostel. I share with you my understanding of what it means to be a student. Let us first drop terms like school-boy or school-girl. They do not fully carry the implications of what being a student really means.

I view a student as having a job, which is to study and to learn.  You get paid for that job with love, shelter and nurturing from your parents; the same things you seek or buy when you are on your own, working professionally. You have before you a limited number of years in school, which you are to use to prepare yourself for surviving in the outside world. Once you leave school, you become a life-student for the rest of your years. Your major task in school, as in life, is to advance yourself. A working study system helps you to do this while in school.

So what are the ingredients of a serious (let’s not use the word ‘good’) study system. Let me add here that the great secret of the GBSS Hostel was having a ‘consistent routine’ in the big things we did – meals, study, play, and even in small things, like listening to the radio. The word ‘routine’ has most times been treated negatively, but think now of its positive roles in your life. It did great things for all Hostel Boys.

What goes into this routine? Here are some ingredients:

The Personal:

(1) Understanding the goals of being a student.

(2) A dedication to make the effort.

(3) Developing a system of studying that includes homework assignments.

(4) Recognize that for all this to work you must give up or rearrange some things (such as sleep; being out at the time you have selected for studying, etc.).

(5) Set study objectives e.g., being one step ahead of the class; reading your textbook at least twice during the term, etc.

(6) Persistence in studying systematically over an extended period of time, a term or a year – develop a consistent routine.

A Strategy: Find a place where you can study without interruption or too much distraction. Develop time tables that indicate with time allocations for Homework, advancing the work; taking breaks, Revision, focus on weak or strong subjects, etc. Try your best to stick to the time table you have established or if it does not work, change it, but keep one (consistent routine).

A Method: Develop a method of studying. In Literature, for example, studying is difficult only because one cannot read! Well, I’ll modify that and say only because one cannot read well! All writers wish to communicate something in their works. The point is that an ardent reader of Literature is always seeking to understand what the author is trying to say, if he is not to come away with only a literal meaning of the work.

My primary School Headmaster, Mr. John Morris, used to tell his students that education came from the Latin word ‘educare’ which means ‘to draw out of’. And so the good reader seeks to draw out not only what the writer is trying to say, but also to draw out of himself how well his sentiments accord with the writer’s.

Together these approaches provide opportunities for seeing and understanding things in different, and sometimes in unique ways. It is then that things get interesting and enjoyable with studying.

A useful general guide is to “learn something new every day”; learn from everything you see and experience – the good, the bad, the ugly. This adds to your stock of knowledge. Modern communication wonders make available tremendous information sets.  Treat these as providing gifts from which you learn. Develop the skill of making notes. Information sifting is a must in today’s world, as well as the ability to do this “in your own words” to avoid the trap of plagiarism.

Other general guides would include flexibility in whatever system you set up; you want to be in control. So at times you may determine to change the schedule or not to study at all, but the idea is to stay in control.  In the Hostel the breaks was provided by Literary League on Saturday nights when the quiet of study was broken by  a completely different event. Secondly, look for the total picture; to see different sides and angles; learn the difference between the forest and the trees.

The big point here is that having a consistent study routine sets you up not only for later in school, but also for later in life. I think that despite the changed educational and informational situation, the above guidelines on studying will work for today’s student as it did for GBSS Hostel Boys. What do you think?

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