Starting the School Year Off on the Right Foot


Photo/Allie Peters 

This is a photo of organizational methods that used to help me stay on track with assignments and activities.

Allie Peters, Staff Writer

With the announcement that State College Area School District(SCASD) students would be fully online for the week of Tuesday, Sep. 8, many students shared with me how they were struggling to adjust to fully remote classes. Although you can’t change the structure of online classes, you can apply new tricks found in this article, which can help you make the new school year a great one despite the challenges. 

Due to the new shift in learning, many students have been struggling to focus and succeed academically with online school. Sophomore Joe Peters said that online school is negatively affecting his ability to focus.

“With online school, you are sitting on your computer for 6 hours. It takes a lot of energy to stay focused and put in hard work, especially when you are in the same position and same room for so long,” Peters said. “I especially find it hard because I have ADHD, so I usually have a hard time paying attention and focusing on things for a long period of time.”

Peters is not the only one who is struggling with online school. A poll taken on Wednesday, Sept. 9, asking State High students about their reaction to online school, showing that 70/108 of students surveyed didn’t feel good about online learning. 

Online school isn’t going to automatically disappear just because students are struggling, but there are some strategies and tips that might help improve your overall online school experience. Tips and tricks for focusing can help strengthen students’ work quality and mindset. You can turn to other students and teachers for helpful advice. When talking to students at State High, I found 5 tips that many have said made a difference in their overall productivity in school. 

Have a designated workspace.

Having an area for just you and your work helps to limit new distractions that come with changing environments. I used to work in the kitchen, with people flowing in and out and a bunch of distractions, whether it be cooking food or music playing in the background. Once I moved to a quiet desk, my work ethic improved. I am now able to maintain focus for a longer period of time. A workspace’s purpose is to help maintain as much focus and as much organization necessary for success and productivity. Sophomore Mary Lambert agrees about the importance of having a designated workspace. 

“I have a few things I try to do to be productive, but the most important is probably having a designated workspace,” Lamber said. “I do all of my Zooms from my desk and I try to keep all of my work there too. Also, try keeping family out of your space when you try to work.” 

Break down work into smaller pieces.

When you break down work into smaller pieces, then the assignment or task becomes less daunting and more realistic. Making the task more doable helps students get to work, instead of wasting time dreading the task ahead. 

“If you’re working on a long project and you’re dreading the long process, break down the project into smaller sections and try to focus solely on the first step, pretending that the first step is the entire project,” said freshman Amy Liu, who agrees with this productive tip. 

Personally, I have found that when I break down work, I don’t think as much about the pressure and responsibility of the whole task, but instead focusing on something that I can easily control, giving me a sense of productivity. Once you finish the first step, you can go from there and reassess the rest of your work to fit your schedule.

Have a positive attitude.

It can be hard to have a positive attitude, especially in the middle of a pandemic, but it plays a big part in efficiency. How you react to something plays a big role in the pace of a project. If you have a positive mindset, then the motivation and excitement that comes with being optimistic sets you up for success by not wasting time procrastinating the task. 

Stress is an inevitable part of life. We can’t escape it, so having a positive attitude when handling stress really helps you stay in control of yourself and emotions. Website Mayo Clinic adds to the idea that a positive attitude can help with manage stress, writing, “having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations.” Additionally, I have found that having a positive attitude turns stress into the good kind of pressure that motivates me to perform better. 

Stay organized.

Organization plays a big role in your path to success. By being organized, you stay aware of the tasks you have to do. Having everything the way you want it plays a big part in productivity and focus. This is because you do not have to waste time searching for misplaced materials or assignments. Organization presents itself in different ways for different people, so knowing what works best for you is very important when planning. Personally, I like to have a daily planner and a color-coordinated binder for my classes. I do this because it helps me know where everything is.

Be engaged.

No matter how boring the class is, asking questions will always help you stay on track. Colleges of Distinction found that participation lowers your chances of zoning out: students that regularly participate in class are constantly involved with the material and are more likely to remember a greater portion of the information.To debrief, zoning out is a big issue with online learning because of the distractions that come with it, so participating in a class discussion is a good way to engage your brain and keep in on the right track. Whenever I contribute to an online class, I stay focused for a longer period of time while applying myself to the curriculum. 

It takes time to really develop good study habits, so it is important to remember that patience is key. Sophomore Natalie Konkoski expands on the journey taken to find a routine that works for you. “It’s been a process to develop my schedule throughout all of middle school and most of last year, but I think I’ve finally found a routine that works,” Konkoski said.

Many students also have to juggle high expectations and extracurricular activities. It is hard to fit time in your day for homework, especially when you are exhausted and do not want to focus. If these tips work out for other students who are in the same situation as you, then they could positively impact your work, too.