Have you ever felt regret for not being able to bring your grades up in a certain class? Possibly from very little and common mistakes that you look back on and can’t help thinking ‘How could I have done that?’ Sure, we all make mistakes, but are they preventable? The answer to that…kind of.
The truth is you’re just not going to succeed all the time. It’s a fact of life. But have you ever really dug into the motives for having late homework or poor test grades while having sufficient motivation for a particular class? If you feel like you’re currently experiencing this, take note: The next time you walk into the class where you want to succeed but struggle academically in it, observe how you feel as soon as you walk through the door. Are you happy, anxious, angry, tired, excited, or even depressed? Might there be anyone in the room that alters how you feel? This could be from any of your classmates or the teacher. You would notice that your emotions have an impact on how much you concentrate, which sounds obvious, but it’s probably not as obvious as you think. Your psychological environment affects you to a high degree. Don’t believe me? Think about the first time you walked into that classroom and how it’s different now. It’s like a completely different room dressed up identically. Your psychological environment is a better indicator of how you’ll do in that class rather than your aptitude for learning concepts.
Desk arrangement has a great impact on a student’s attentive skills. The Professional Learning Board (PLB) looks into seating arrangement as a major culprit to lacking attention span in classrooms. According to student reports, the ones that sit front and center to the teacher are the most attentive for self-explanatory reasons. Students sitting in the back have a greater field of view and are more apt to distractions. This also makes it harder to not talk with other classmates when whispering is harder to resist doing. PLB also found these factors in seating arrangement to affect attentive skills in a classroom:
- Proximity to a door or window
- Taller students sitting in front of shorter students
- Orientation of a student’s chair to the teacher
- Walking space in between desks
- Room size
- Desk sizes
- Student reluctance to moving desks.
PLB also discusses different desk arrangements that can help attend to every student in a classroom. Here are three arrangement styles that can help:
- Row Arrangement: This traditionally includes a set of three main columns. The two end columns are made of up of rows of two and are oriented in towards the center of the teacher’s wall. Then the middle column is composed of rows of three or more or desks depending on the amount of students in the class. This works best for larger classes, directing focus to the teacher, and helping teachers navigate around the room. Adjustments may need to be made if any students block other students’ views.
- Circle Arrangement: Encircling a teacher’s center with desks is the most effective arrangement for class discussions and conversation. This will create better collaboration dynamics and makes every student equally distant to a teacher. In semi-circle arrangements, it’s best for active students to sit perpendicular to a teacher while passive students are facing opposite to them.
- Round Table Arrangement: This last arrangement depends on the desk type. Round tables work best for working in groups. The orientation of a student to the front doesn’t matter as much opposed to one student desks simply because information retained by at least one of the students at a desk is freely discussed among other members. This arrangement works best for science classes because of the hands-on element added to a large desk space.
If you feel that your position inside a classroom isn’t enriching to paying attention, talk to your teacher about switching seats. This is extremely important to do because you’ll have better control over distractions. If you can’t necessarily work something out, that can be a huge problem. It’s probably best to take as many notes as you can on paper in your own words. This will be the best course of action to maximize your attention span.
The most obvious distraction a student can experience while in class are the other people. Whether that be the teacher or other students, it’s easy to think about everyone inside a classroom simply because it’s a social environment. These social environments elicit emotions in us. However, the people of a classroom are not the only things that create emotions. Simple elements to elicit strong enough emotions that can distract you.
Going back to the question of how you feel once entering a classroom, what could be the causes for the emotions you feel once entering a classroom? The first day starts off fresh and positive with everything being new, including meeting your new teacher and classmates. The mindset mainly consists of ‘What’s there to expect?’ If there was a way to expect that you would be feeling completely different about the class from day one, what could be done to steer yourself in a positive and attentive direction? Take into account these aspects:
- Your mental set: Simply not being in the right mindset is critical. Students like you are probably preoccupied with something else in your life that the makes learning seem unimportant. After all, there are other classes in the picture beside the one you’re in at the moment. Not to mention extracurricular activities, having a job, homework, etc. makes it almost impossible to feel focused.
- Physical elements: Classes also have numbers physical elements that can . Temperature is one of the most common things. Simply being too cold or too hot is enough to be uncomfortable. Even lighting is another physical element. The lighting in every classroom at Garnet Valley is pretty similar, but sunlight coming in through the windows can be irritating if it shines directly into your eyes. These physical elements might not seem like too much, but they do have the ability to distract you for long enough that an important concept being taught is missed.
- The overall mood of a class: Back to discussing the social environment. Sometimes it’s not just an individual that elicits an emotional response, but the overall tone and mood that a class gives off might also indicate how you’ll end up feeling. Classes with low energy and charisma can make you feel the same way about it. For example, when no one raises their hands or participates, that doesn’t encourage you to raise your hand every time you know something because you would stand out being the “teacher’s pet.” Social mobility can demotivate anyone from what they actually want to achieve. It’s possible of happening in class too.
- The time of day: The time of day a class takes place is extremely important too. During first period you’re tired and half dead, second and third lunch students are thinking about lunch during third period, and your brain is exhausted by fourth period. The time of day presents different drives that take away from classwork.
- The duration of class: Even if you don’t have ADHD, losing your attention span just happens no matter what. But if the class doesn’t bring excitement for you, you’re bound to get bored.
For every distracting thought as listed above, there are ways to decrease the frequency of these scenarios from happening:
- Neutralize yourself as soon as you enter the classroom. Sometimes you’re going to need to take a step back, and realize that the emotions you feel when in a classroom are going to be distracting. Having a neutral and clear mind with the goal of achieving success will take away stress
- Bring water or a snack. This will help to reduce hunger cravings before lunch or if you didn’t have breakfast.
- Carry a jacket with you if you get too cold. I’d suggest bringing a light jacket since heavier jackets can also make you too hot.
- Be positive and optimistic. It sounds cliché, but getting into the habit of saying positive things to yourself can help cope with stress or worry about getting a bad grade
- Sit up and face the teacher. Good posture alleviates and tension in your body and energizes you. Slouching and putting your head down is easy to give into when you are tired, so resist doing both of those things. It also allows for you to put a lot more focus into the teacher’s lesson
- Take notes on paper instead of from your laptop/device. If you also happen to take notes on your device, I wouldn’t recommend that because studies show students do better when they take notes on paper.
- Take breaks! Some classes don’t allow breaks and simply run through the whole time. This is not helpful at all. Breaks allow you to collect yourself, relax, and recharge. Without them, you wear out and lose focus. If your teacher doesn’t take breaks I’d highly recommend bringing that up to them. You should also take breaks if you’re studying or doing homework.
- Get sufficient sleep. This, in my opinion, is hard to do. Everyone is always so busy throughout the day, getting the right amount of sleep seems inconceivable. Teenagers between the ages of 13-18 need 8 and 1/2 to 10 hours of sleep every night. From what I’ve been hearing from many students is that they rarely get enough sleep. Especially since getting that much sleep requires going to bed around 8-9:30.
Making all of these changes will be hard, especially because there’s little time in the day to manage our schedules. But if all of these aspects are affecting you and you want to bring your GPA or class rank up, these are the things that have to be done in order to achieve that. Controlling your psychological environment will help in the long run.