Starting School? Keep It Cool.

The first week of school in Malaysia has just ended, and slowly all those in primary and secondary schools are getting back into the rhythm of classes, homeworks, and tests. For many this would be their first experience – first time in primary or secondary school, first time with a child or family member in school, first time in a new school.

Here are some ideas on making your schooling life meaningful and worthwhile:

Relax! A lot of people get unnecessarily stressed out by what happens in school. It’s not the end of the world if you fail a test, or get a tough homework assignment, or get too tired or ill to attend school. Take care of your own sanity, first and foremost. If things are getting too much, take some time off to relax – meditate, work on a favourite hobby, or just lie back and sleep.

Take care of your health. Some schools have the unhealthy notion that no matter how sick you may be, you must come to school, except if you’re bedridden. This is insane and really doesn’t help anyone – you’ll only stress yourself out, and you may be contagious. (Personal experience: I was down with the flu but still worked a million things in school. I ended up being so exhausted and ill that I had to be hospitalized for a few days.) Take some rest and recuperate – you’ll learn better when you’re healthy!

Don’t worry too much about grades or scores. They’re not as important as people say they are. Sure, in some cases they’re helpful, but ultimately what matters more is what you do with yourself regardless of grades. If you fall short of a perfect gradesheet, or end up failing your papers, don’t despair – there are always other chances for improvement and proving yourself.

Broaden your horizons. Here’s your chance to explore the world outside yourself. Don’t just hang out with people of your race, or stick to a clique, or make your textbooks your only source of information. Make friends with people of all backgrounds! Get involved with different things and different groups of people! Read vastly and partake in all sorts of experiences! The world is your oyster – go out and explore.

Have some interests outside of school. Yes, you are allowed a hobby or two. Don’t let what you enjoy disappear just because it isn’t academic. Try out some new things once in a while – a new sport, a new craft, a recipe you’ve tasted somewhere, a play you’d like to watch or perform in. Don’t worry about maintaining standards – you’re not being graded here. Enjoy yourself.

Don’t overload yourself. Sure, it’s good to have all sorts of interests and activities, but trying to do too much will only tire you out – and ultimately, you won’t be able to make the best of anything. Give yourself time to rest and do nothing but recharge. You don’t need a full schedule – especially not a schedule that’s packed with things you don’t really enjoy just because you want to impress someone!

Learn elsewhere. School isn’t the only source of education. (Indeed, whether some schools are sources of education is debatable.) Education comes from everywhere – different books (and magazines and publications), the Internet, the media, people, experiences. Take stock of different viewpoints, and think critically and creatively – don’t just accept one viewpoint as gospel.

Rethink tuition. Tuition classes, despite the publicity, aren’t actually necessary. Pay attention in class and do your own self-study, and you’ll be fine. Much of the time, they’re a waste of time and money anyway. Do go ahead and get extra help if you’re struggling, but don’t go to tuition classes just because they’re the “thing to do”.

Keep your options open. You don’t have to take Science classes and get straight As in all exams and get a scholarship for Medicine in a top university. You can build your life however you want it. Be open to changes of plans – life is never really set in stone. Don’t let other people tell you how to live your life. It’s yours to develop as you see fit.

Any other ideas and tips for those new to school? Share them here. And good luck!

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