Coming into high school a few years ago, I could not have anticipated how valuable skills like marking up important parts of the text or re-reading certain passages could be to my grasping of the material. As a sophomore last year (and a freshman the year before), I shrugged off most of the advice, as well as the warnings, on how much I would need those skills later on. Without those two skills, I would have made many more mistakes in my test taking.
Throughout my time in school, I've noticed that I have an easier time in my English classes than others. And, of course, being the teenager I am, I relied on this edge and coasted through many tedious essays or ignored lectures while doodling or whispering to friends—content that my know-how would carry me through most tests and land me a decent lot in life.
“Suggested” strategies—like underlining the important-looking parts of a text or re-reading a passage with confusing grammar—I treated as just that: suggestions. They weren't presented as rules so much as guidelines to the average student, so I didn't deem them crucial enough to master beyond showing the teacher I at least knew how to use them.
But, SATs were what finally got it through to me that those strategies are vital to my performance—as opposed to crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. My scores benefitted greatly from going over the material once, re-reading it, and then underlining or circling important bits to assist in answering the many passage-based questions. I became more confident in my answers once I started doing these things, which helped me move onto other questions more quickly than if I had stared blankly at the question for a few seconds, wondering what it was talking about. Times like those make me wish I had paid better attention in the past. It's not like my test scores were bad in the past, but I realize now that they could have been much better had I known how essential those strategies are.
Nowadays, I strive to learn as much as I can in the classroom. My teacher has many years of knowledge and experience over me, and it's great to be able to ask questions and get criticism on my work. Of course, I still mess around and ignore her periodically, but at least now when she says something is important, I believe her. I call that progress.
In retrospect, I'm glad she taught those strategies. If I had learned right off the bat and never once failed, I feel like I would wouldn't know nearly as much as I do now. It's an invaluable experience, being able to make a mistake and then learn from it. As my math teacher takes great joy in reminding us, “Failing is just another word for growing."
See our other posts and news stories from the Mary Walker School District, including School Improvement From Students’ Point of View and A Behind the Scenes Look at a School Making Gains on Reading Scores.