Picture this — it’s March 13, 2020. You’re digging through your locker, looking for your chemistry textbook while simultaneously attempting to hold a conversation with three different people.
The bell rings, and the sound of footsteps fills the hall. You wave to your friends and head off to your after school Model UN meeting, followed by your basketball practice and your usual after-practice meet up at McDonald’s.
Fast forward a year, to March 2021. You’re not at school; you’re at your desk, staring at the same computer screen that you’ve stared at every day for the past year. You barely see your friends, you’re in your fifth Zoom meeting of the day, and your basketball hasn’t been touched in months. Online school is absolutely fantastic.
Unfortunately, while virtual school is not the ideal situation, it’s our situation. Luckily, there are numerous ways to minimize stress and maximize learning.
Here are six ways to stay on top of your work and succeed in a virtual school environment:
1. Turn Your Camera On
I recognize that you might not be a fan of this one, but trust me — there are so many reasons to keep your camera on. First and foremost, your teachers want to see your “beautiful, smiling faces!”
Okay, that might not be the most convincing argument, and I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times before; regardless, turning on your camera can mean a lot to your teachers, especially when no one else turns theirs on. Teaching to a blank screen, I imagine, is extremely awkward.
Turning your camera on might also help you score some extra brownie points with your teachers. At the very least, it will help them remember who you are.
Besides this, turning your camera on will prompt you to actually pay attention. When the camera’s off, there’s nothing stopping you from laying in bed and scrolling through TikTok. With it on, you’re more likely to sit up and focus on the lesson like you would if you were on campus.
2. Make Class Group Chats
It’s definitely harder to make friends in virtual school than in actual, physical school, and the dreaded breakout rooms don’t help. Still, it’s important to get to know your classmates — if not for the sake of healthy socialization, then for the sake of your GPA.
If you find a particular class to be especially hard, chances are you’re not alone. It’s likely that others in the class are struggling, too.
Reach out and message several of your peers during class, or DM them on Instagram if you can — ask if they’d want to join a group chat with you and a few others. This will make the class a lot easier, as you’ll have a group of people to count on when you have questions about due dates and assignments or just want to talk.
3. Make a Study Playlist
Many teachers see school being online as a reason to give students more busy work. I will never understand the logic behind this, but I think most students can agree that they’re drowning in pointless assignments. This can be extremely discouraging, but don’t let yourself fall behind.
I like to separate my work into two main categories — busy work (which includes the more pointless, mundane tasks), and actual, beneficial work (the assignments that add to my knowledge and understanding of a subject). Chances are, a large portion of your work will be busy work, but this isn’t a bad thing. You simply need to power through and pound it out.
This is where a good playlist will help. Just plug in some earphones and let the music play while you go through your work. It will put you in a far better mood, and the work will go by faster. If you don’t listen to music often, here are some good artists to get you started: BØRNS, Declan McKenna, The Hoosiers, COIN, and Young the Giant.
4. Use the 50-10 Rule
With school being at home, there’s no clear distinction between work and play. It’s easy to get distracted and lose focus of the work that needs to be done.
If you are like most students doing virtual school and distance learning, it’s likely that you find yourself giving in to these distractions often — “rewarding” yourself with a two-hour Netflix binge after writing the thesis statement of your six-page essay, or scrolling through Instagram between each page you read from your fascinating textbook.
If this sounds familiar, the 50-10 rule will benefit you greatly.
The 50-10 rule is simple: it encourages students to spend 50 minutes working or studying, and ten minutes taking a break.
The work-to-break ratio might seem unappealing, but it’s an extremely effective method of studying. If you truly stick to the rule and focus entirely on your work, not even checking your phone or leaving to grab a snack, you’ll find that 50 minutes goes by pretty fast.
Following this rule will help you finish your work faster and more efficiently, and it will keep you from procrastinating. In the end, you’ll find that you have more free time at the end of the day.
5. Be an Active Learner
This one is important — make sure that you’re actively learning. A lot of the time, we forget that the whole point of school is to learn. Now more than ever, it seems like the point is to simply get through the long list of assignments in time.
It’s hard, but try to change this mindset. Don’t just drown out your teachers in class. Trick yourself into thinking that you’re a student who is actually interested in what they’re saying.
It seems pointless, but if you commit to your character for a few minutes, it works.
Class will go by a lot faster if you’re engaged in the lesson, and you won’t have to spend as much time reviewing on your own.
6. Do NOT Procrastinate
This is obvious, but I still feel the need to include it as a tip. Procrastinating will only hurt you and your beautiful little report card, stressing you out along the way.
When I say don’t procrastinate, I don’t just mean start your month-long project two days before it’s due instead of one. Instead, try to start working on your assignments as soon as you have time.
Prioritize and finish the things that are due first, and make your way through your work. Personally, my definition of not procrastinating would be starting homework right after school, making sure to fully understand every assignment before moving on, and working on projects slowly from the day that they are assigned.
It might sound like a lot of work, but you’d actually be doing the same amount of work as if you had waited to do everything closer to the due date. Starting your work earlier, however, diminishes your stress greatly and opens up more free time later on.
Hopefully, these tips help you succeed in virtual school. It might be hard at the moment, but just hang in there a little longer. With COVID vaccines rolling out and public places opening up, it won’t be long before we’ll be back on campus.
Annabelle Ink is a current junior in high school. She enjoys cheerleading, playing the piano, baking, and writing. She also likes going to the beach with her friends (when she’s not social distancing, of course).