Author: Valentina.G

How to Truly Learn

Added on January 22, 2015 by Valentina.G

How to Truly Learn

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.

 

IB, Honors, or AP- Oh My!

Added on January 18, 2015 by Valentina.G

IB, Honors, or AP-  Oh My!

 

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.

Standard:

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.

 

Honors:

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.

 

AP:

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.


IB Certificate:

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.

 

IB Diploma:

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.

 

Embracing the Now

Added on January 8, 2015 by Valentina.G

Embracing the Now

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!  

 

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