The students that volunteer their time and knowledge on Reach a Student are eligible to receive community service hours. We are looking to expand our roster of academic and athletic mentors, interviewers, and video editors to help inspire and answer school-related questions.
Reach a Student is a website established to give students direct communication access to student mentors in various grade levels. Students will be able to reach out to other students and ask any questions they have regarding student and campus life. The site will also stream videos of students sharing their experiences at Windermere Prep as well as activities around campus.
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Sometimes as a child I would describe myself like an egg. On the outside a hard shell, smooth and flawless in appearance but on the inside a mushy soft, runny liquid.
I was put ahead a grade in 1st grade basically because I knew my ABC's and could read while our Pre-K students now a days can recite their ABC's and read in usually more than one language:) With a late spring birthday this made me very young for the class which was like a neon sign saying come pick on me. I was lucky academically where I liked school and the subjects came easier than normal to me, again a flashing neon sign. I was painfully shy and didn't have a lot of friends, this time the flashing neon sign is playing a tune here, you follow me?:) Grades 1-5 were uneventful, no one noticed me so I went about business without any problems. By 6th grade though, that was another story. My middle school years were tough. I was picked on and ridiculed. I wasn't physically bullied, it was all verbal which to me is worse. I would've much rather been hit once and been able to walk away with an external bruise, instead I had to be the egg, hard on the outside but a pile of mushy liquid inside.
Unfortunately, I have no words of advice on how to deal with a similar situation at the time of occurrence I put my head down and prayed my way through but I can tell you now that those crucial years most definitely made me the person I am today. I have tolerance, I have compassion, and I have empathy. Strangely enough I'm an eternal optimist, I see the good in everyone and everything. I am a parent who will not tolerate my child treating their friends and peers with anything but respect and courtesy. I will not partake in gossip or hearsay and I only surround myself with positive people. Sounds like I got it all together right, not in the least! I don't talk about my middle school years often but I will divulge them to a crying student who thinks no one could possibly know what they are going through at the moment. I hope to give them some hope, some reassurance and some optimism. Because everything you do in life shapes what kind of person you can become.
In my IB HL Biology class, we recently began an extremely interesting section on Neurobiology and Behavior. This Option (an additional lesson elected by the teacher as part of the IB course) forces us to question whyand how we learn. Between class discussions on the ethics of Skinner's pigeon experiments and the biological genius that is the withdrawal reflex, we were asked to define "learning". According to the IBO, learned behavior is characterized by experience. This clicked. The way we truly learn is not by meaningless rote memorization. Rather, we learn by immersing ourselves completely in what we do and by making an experience out of it.
In my earlier blog post ("IB, Honors, or AP – Oh My!"), I briefly mentioned the importance of selecting classes that you are interested in. Although this may seem obvious, I think it is a fact that some people overlook. Rather than enroll in a class they are passionate about, too many students opt for the more challenging (and less interesting) class because they feel the need to prove themselves. By doing so, students forget the true purpose of school: to grow toward your future with purpose. Although you may not know what purpose that is, taking classes that do not resonate well with what you enjoy will only serve to alienate you further from your future.
When I study I enjoy making an experience out of what I am learning. Sometimes that means I get to spend time on YouTube researching the material or watching videos from other IB or AP teachers. I highly recommend watching Crash Course videos for your Science and History classes. Other times I prepare a bowl of grapes for my study session! When I reach a certain page number or outline a certain amount I will eat a grape as a sort of healthy reward. My Neurobiology and Behavior class would classify this under positive reinforcement. I feel good and I am incentivized to keep working. Studying in a different location, reciting what you know to a family member, or even making a catchy jingle to relate to a lesson are all different ways to make an experience out of your studying.
The hardest part of studying or doing schoolwork is getting started. However, I have found that once I start my work it is a lot easier for me to just finish it. An analogy I use is "A Valentina in study mode, stays in study mode until she is stopped by an object of equal or greater force". Minimize the equal or greater forces that can snap you out of "the zone". Turn off/turn down your phone and place it in the opposite corner of your room. Do not have too many webpages open on your laptop. At the same time, remember to take breaks. Do not force yourself to study one subject for an hour straight; you won't remember what you learned. Take a break every 15 minutes by walking around, talking to your family, or grabbing a healthy snack. I have also found that taking a nap after a good study session will help retain the information better.
Imbue yourself with the knowledge your teachers provide in class. Embrace the experience of learning, but at the same time go out and live real experiences. You will become a truly rich Laker, human being, and global citizen.
When I was in high school, I was in a special math and science program that pushed students to go as far ahead as they could. I'd already been a year or two ahead of most of my class thanks to my middle school math classes, but my Sophomore year of high school, I was pushed even farther.
A special independent study program was created for about 6 of us to finish Calculus by the end of the summer and begin Calculus 2 in our Junior year, then going to the local junior college our Senior year to take more advanced math classes. Being someone who thought I'd be majoring in math, I said yes and began the program. The problem became when the work got hard, and the independent study teacher didn't have time to explain it, and I started becoming interested in journalism. I realized my Sophomore year that there was more to high school than just math. I'd joined a sports team and was interested in joining the newspaper. With so much else on my plate, I walked in on the last day of school and turned in my Calculus book that I'd barely been understanding as an independent study class and told my teacher I'd just take it again the next year.
What followed were meetings with the teacher and guidance counselor and my parents. In the end, I kept playing sports, ended up being editor of the high school newspaper, and still finished two years of Calculus before graduation. The writing knowledge and practice I got on the newspaper helped in writing my $36,000 college essay (as I called it because of the scholarship money it awarded). The diversified program I ended up working out did far better for me than just a plain math education. It even led me to double major in college in both Mathematics and Elementary Education.
Don't just let yourself be led through your school life by people telling you to do stuff just because you can or just because it's offered. Take control of your education and branch out. You never know what you're going to end up doing, so experience as many things as possible now! It's OK to say NO to some classes, experiences, clubs, etc. Especially when it allows you to say YES to others!
Mr. Matt Masem
5th Grade Math Teacher
Deciding which classes or program to take is certainly a big decision to make when students move from middle school to high school and from underclassmen to upperclassmen. As a senior, I have seen it all: IB, Honors, Standard, AP. Although the information is definitely available for everyone to research, I have found that after sitting for 4+ years as a New Student Ambassador that sometimes the best way to explain the options is to hear about them from someone with personal experience. So, without further ado, here are some tips and points to note for each option.
The majority of electives at Windermere Prep are classified as Standard classes, however some Core classes are also Standard. They are weighted on a 4.0 scale. One of my favorite classes that I have ever taken at WPS was Creative Writing my freshman year. PE is also Standard. Use Standard classes to explore topics that you would not normally expect yourself to study in high school. Sports Medicine, Yearbook, Life Management Skills, Class Piano… the list goes on and on. These classes are extremely enriching and the more you can take, the more you will get out of your high school experience. Test your limits and step outside of your comfort zone. You never know if the Standard class you take during your freshman or sophomore year will turn into a passion of yours later on.
There is a wide array of Honors classes in the high school (most of which are concentrated for 9th and 10th graders as part of the normal course load). These classes are a little more challenging than your Standard options and encompass many Core class options as well. Your freshman and sophomore year nearly ever class has the option of being Standard. It should be noted that Theory of Knowledge (TOK) is weighted as a Standard class even though it is a requirement for the IB Diploma. This will be discussed below.
Although Windermere Prep is known for offering IB classes, its AP program is extremely strong as well. AP classes are on a 5.0 scale. You can sign up for these classes are early as your freshman year, but do not overload yourself with challenging classes as you transition from middle school to high school. I took these classes sophomore year on. From what I recall, we offer AP European History, AP Human Geography, and AP Environmental Science. However, students can take additional AP classes on Florida Virtual School. If you are interested in pursuing additional AP classes, speak to your guidance counselor and see if this is possible. The AP program is definitely a time commitment. There is a good amount of work associated with these classes. This applies to all course options, but make sure you take classes you really love and are interested in. Explore your horizons but make sure that you are doing something you are interested in. This will make your work more enriching and easier to tackle.
The IB Certificate is an option for juniors and seniors in high school. You can either take IB Standard Level (SL) or IB Higher Level (HL) classes. Some IB classes that are offered are Mathematics, English, Spanish, Latin, French, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Film, Art, Music, History, Psychology, and Economics. For foreign languages (Spanish, French, Latin), there is the option to take Ab Initio (from the beginning) courses. This means that during your junior year you can begin to learn a foreign language from the very beginning and complete this class your senior year. IB Certificate students do not have to take all IB classes, but can take Honors, Non-Honors, or AP classes in addition to the Certificates they wish to pursue. This track is still challenging. Many athletes or people who are extremely busy outside of school opt to take Certificate classes.
I am an IB Diploma candidate. The IB Diploma has a series of requirements that are more comprehensive and immersive than the Certificate. Students must take 3 SL classes and 3 HL classes within the IB, take Theory of Knowledge, write and Extended Essay (EE), and complete 150 Community, Action, Service (CAS) hours. Make sure to sign up for IB Diploma classes you are thoroughly interested in and would likely enjoy pursuing in college. This program, along with Certificate classes, is two years long and the classes you choose junior year have to be completed in your senior year.
Although 3 SL and 3 HL classes are offered, I take 2 SL and 4 HL classes. This is very challenging, and I suggest you speak with a guidance counselor before pursuing this option. I am enrolled in IB SL Economics, SLMathematics, HL Chemistry, HL Biology, HL English, and HL Spanish. In the future I hope to attend Medical School with a focus on global health and humanitarian initiatives in developing countries. For this reason, I took two HL science classes, Economics (the Developmental portion of the syllabus is fascinating), Spanish (both for cultural enrichment and because I love Spanish literature), and English. Normally students take one social science, science, math, English, and foreign language with the IB Diploma, and they have the option to take an Art class or double up in one of the pre-requisite disciplines.
The Theory of Knowledge class is an extremely enriching facet of the Diploma. This class asks students to question what they learn and become more engaged in their academic and personal pursuits. I firmly believe that this class was the tipping point for me to truly be able to call myself a scholar. If you take the Diploma, this class will change your life. It also comes with the requirement to write a TOK essay and give a presentation. Organization and open-mindedness is key.
The Extended Essay is essentially a Senior Thesis for IB Diploma students. You can write an EE in any of your IB classes and it is due right after your first semester of senior year. It is a capstone for the IB and truly the time to explore research and immerse yourself in one of your favorite classes. I'll quickly add on here that CAS hours are basically community service hours with the added component that you have to create a project that includes Community, Action, and Service components.
Please feel free to email/message/comment/stop me in the hallway if you have any questions about the information above. Speak to your guidance counselor and teachers to decide which route is best for you. Do what you love and you will completely fall in love with what you do.
It's been said that to be successful, you have to be organized. Well, whoever came up with that probably didn't have to deal with three tests, an essay and a project all due the next day after they got home from practice or rehearsal at 7pm. Welcome to High School.
Sometimes, you just get swamped with so much work that you really don't know where to start and, consequently, you don't end up doing any of it. This is where organization can calm you down and prevent you from, say, stress-eating. So how do you get organized? Confusingly, you must first organize your organizational process. Let me explain.
1. Establish a Home Base
A home base is essentially where you'll log all of your tasks. This can be a giant whiteboard in your room, a planner, or your hand (though that is not advised). Most often, your home base will be an app on your computer or phone. Having an app on all your electronic devices that syncs your tasks is extremely helpful, though if you're a more hands-on person a physical home base will work fine as well.
I personally use the application Things, which is available on Mac and iOS. It's not cheap, but it works really well and syncs promptly across its various platforms. I have a master list of tasks on my computer that also appears on my phone, and I can add and edit tasks from both devices. Other notable apps are iProcrastinate, Wunderlist, and Clear, which are all decidedly less expensive. Of course, there's always good ol' iCal if you like the calendar feel. Whichever platform you choose for your home base, make sure it's something that you'll always have with you.
Once you have a home base, start adding your tasks to it. Order your list of tasks by priority. For me, tests come first, projects second, quizzes third, homework fourth, extracurriculars fifth. If you have multiple tests, quizzes, homework assignments, etc, order them by class. So it should work out something like this: a test in your hardest class (or class that requires the most studying) will be the first thing on your task list, while a set of questions for your easiest class will come last. You should also save the fun stuff (yes- amazingly enough, there are enjoyable projects and assignments in High School) for last, that way you have something to look forward to after all the hard and boring stuff.
Another tip (and you're not going to like me for this): start your assignments EARLY. I know how excruciating it can be to sacrifice your free time for something that's not even due tomorrow, but trust me; when you finish an assignment three days early and stuff starts piling up as the week progresses, you'll have one less thing to do on Thursday night. And once you start doing stuff early, it gets easier and easier every time you do it. Proactivity, my friends. Proactivity.
When it's time to actually start doing your work (yes, this will inevitably happen), make sure you're as focused as possible. That way, you'll get more stuff done in less time. Tip number one: spend as little of your time on the computer as possible- the temptation to check Instagram or Facebook or play online games might be too great to resist, and that squashes your productivity. Of course most assignments have to be typed and/or researched online, so it's not always possible to avoid the machine.
If you have to be on a computer, take advantage of the numerous programs and applications available to keep you focused. If you're writing a paper, try a distraction-free writing program like iA Writer or OmmWriter for a full-screen page without any app icons or formatting buttons. If you're doing anything else online, I recommend using FocusAtWill. It's a free online music service with songs selected specifically for getting work done (with genres like classical, acoustic, and new age), and I find that it actually helps me focus.
Your environment can also help you focus. Always pick a spot to do work where you don't feel distracted by anything (for most people this is somewhere quiet, like a library or their bedroom). It's rarely a good idea to do homework on your bed, especially if your assignment is particularly boring and it's 9:30 at night- you might just fall asleep, and that's totally not what we're going for here.
That doesn't sound too bad, does it? Just have a singular place where you write down everything you have to get accomplished, arrange all your tasks by difficulty and importance level and create an environment conducive to focusing, and you'll be ready to own all your work. Of course if you have any questions about organization or good study habits, feel free to ask me a question.
Too often, as students fall back into the swing of a new semester, a certain degree of monotony begins to seep each week. We are familiar with our own patterns: wake up, put on a permutation of our school uniform, drive to school, class-to-class lessons with quick hallway chats in between, after school activities, homework, sleep. Rinse and repeat. However school does not have to be a re-run of Saved by The Bell (or for our younger readers, Ned's Declassified). I am writing about two true and tested ways to help you embrace the now and love every day (even Mondays).
1) Be a human being, not a human doing.We have all had rough days. Those days when you get home and when your parents ask how your day went you flippantly respond, "it was ok". Perhaps you were preoccupied with friend problems, a test that didn't go very well, and/or copious amounts of homework. We may not realize it, but it shows. Last year I was having one of those days, my feet dragged a little more than usual between my classes and I wasn't smiling and greeting everyone that walked by as normal. One of my best friends, Manny, lightly grabbed my arm and what he said completely turned around my day (and has still clearly stuck with me now). "Valentina, why are you sad? Look around you: life is so beautiful!" From then on I have made a conscious effort to realize just how much I have, how blessed I am, and how beautiful life is. Things that seem life shattering in middle school and high school are so trivial in the long run. We should all look around us and realize this.
2) Live with your eyes open.
Cross-country promised not to be an easy sport, but that was why I joined it. Dr. Williams coached our team and each practice was an extremeworkout. I remember one particular practice in which consisted of a 2-mile ladder following an intense warm-up. After the first mile, I will admit, I wanted to give up. I paced around the track with my hands on my hips and looked up, rather than solely in. My teammates were all surely thinking the same thing: their eyes were glazed over with a mixture of tears and sweat. But when Dr. Williams blew her whistle for us to get back on the starting line, we all did without hesitation. Sometimes when school and personal activities seem overwhelming we shut out those around us. We do not take the time to notice that others are struggling too. Furthermore we do not look up to see our own personal Dr. Williams, standing with a whistle and tacit support for us to keep moving forward. Keep your eyes open and realize you aren't the only person standing at the starting line of your second mile.
As always talk to your family, friends, and teachers when life feels overwhelming or repetitive. Fill each day with what you love. Embrace the now and I wish you all the best of luck for this last semester!
Dear WPS Students:
If I had the chance to go back to middle school and high school there would be some things I would do differently. Although I am a teacher- and teachers love learning- we all didn't start off perfectly and I am certainly one of those. Here are some pieces of advice that I think will help you capitalize on your chances of making the most of your education and the time and resources in front of you all.
From a WPS teacher
Hi my name is Bella and I am an 8th grade student at Windermere Prep. One of my greatest passions in life is dance. I find myself dancing almost everywhere I go. It is something that I could not live without. Each week I dance for about 10+ hours. I also attend certain dance competitions every few months, which means a lot of extra rehearsals. Sometimes I find it a little tricky to maintain a 4.0 GPA as well as attend all of my dance classes and rehearsals. However I seem to always find a way to make it work.
One tip I would give others who are struggling to juggle all of their extra curricular activities along with school is to stay organized. I would suggest keeping a planner to write all of your assignments down on. As well as keeping a few folders to organize any papers you receive from teachers. This way you do not lose any time due to searching for a lost paper or assignment. Another tip would be to get lots of sleep and eat healthy as well. Being tired or getting sick would only lead to more schoolwork piling up, which will make it much harder to balance school and your extracurricular activities.
My last tip is to get some of your schoolwork done over the weekend. If you wait until the week everything is due it will be extremely hard to complete everything on time and attend your extracurricular activities. Even spending an hour on your work over the weekend can make a huge difference. I know that all of these tips have definitely made it a lot easier for me to keep up with my schoolwork as well as dance, which is very important to me.
I truly do not know what I would do without dance. It has provided me with so many great opportunities that I am so thankful for. Through dance I can express myself and teach others. I have even gotten to work with an incredible nonprofit organization known as Dance Out Bullying and got to educate others about bullying through dance. I hope to one-day dance on Broadway as well as eventually own my own dance studio and teach others. I hope to have a positive impact on someone's life through dance. I also hope that all of my tips will help you maintain your busy schedule and allow you to follow your dreams and achieve your aspirations and goals.
During my time at Windermere Prep, my biggest challenge was definitely time management. Seeing that we are all surrounded by technology, it is easy to get carried away, and I am certain that others struggled with this issue as well. On the other hand, many of us become preoccupied with other extracurricular activities that take up more time than expected, and it seems now often forgotten that perhaps we have spent too much time with extracurriculars that it becomes near impossible to even cope with school work. However, with the right planning one can successfully manage their time between multiple activities and not have to stress out about school.
The greatest challenge may be allowing your extracurriculars cut into precious time that could be used studying. So create a schedule that revolves around how long these activities will take. Plan out a schedule of each subject. Assess how much time they will take to complete. Then prioritize. It would be useless to spend most of your time in a subject that you are already very familiar with, so I suggest quick reviews of the easy content (just enough to get you by for the time being, don't put it off so much to the point you fall behind). Then spend most of your time looking at the content that troubles you. Try to understand it. If you don't understand, be prepared to ask your teacher for help. Your teacher is your friend and will always be willing to help you out, so long as you make it clear to them that you need help.
Of course, too much studying can overwhelm one, so make time just to relax. Don't give yourself too much time, because then you will eventually come to regret it. Just give yourself the right amount to de-stress and do whatever pleases you. However, once it comes time to work, then work. Don't stop until your next planned break. And should a big test or exam be right around the corner, and then you must not take any breaks. You will need all the studying time, and doing anything other than studying will do you no good. You will have plenty of time after the exam to do whatever you want; until then, work!
If you utilize your time and these methods properly, then you will be successful. I will not pretend that it will be easy; it will not be easy, but this will help you tremendously.
I hope everyone has an amazing New Year! I would like to thank Valentina G., a 12th grade student mentor on our site, for suggesting blogging which will add a unique aspect to Reach A Student. This already proves the importantance of peer to peer help and support.
Our goal at Reach a Student is to help the students at Windermere as much as possible by providing tips and help from a student's perspective. Answering questions is a great way for students to connect and share with one another, however, the knowledge shared is limited by the questions asked. Blogging allows students to share their thoughts more freely and anyone can provide their peers with whatever information they think would be beneficial.
Since I believe that every student has some kind of insight that could be useful to others at WPS, anyone can contribute their own personal entries to the blog. I can even make your entry anonymous if you choose to. I also believe that the WPS teachers have valuable experience from when they were students (for example, how they faced and overcame an obstacle that a student might be facing today), so I reach out to all WPS faculty and hope you will contribute to our blog.
If you would like to submit a blog entry, email me at email@example.com.