Michael Chapasko, Blinn College, Texas
When I was a kid, I didn’t learn as fast as my classmates. My mom suggested that
I go to the public school where she taught because they had a content mastery
program that helped kids one-on-one when they needed it. I wasn’t happy about
it, but I made the move and got prescribed Adderall to help me stay focused.
Come to find out I was a very smart kid when I could focus. Being one of the few
kids with dyslexia, I felt embarrassed when I had to take my tests in different
rooms or needed one-on-one help. When I got to high school, classes were
getting harder, and I started to think I couldn’t learn at the pace of everyone else,
even with the Adderall. I got down on myself and didn’t study much. I blamed my
problems on my ADHD and dyslexia. Then in the middle of high school, I moved
to a new school. Everything about this new school was intimidating. It was one of
the top 10 academic high schools in the nation! Even though I didn’t study while
at my previous high school, my class rank had been 56 in a class of 808. In my
new high school, however, I dropped to number 203 in a class of 480. Then I
really got down on my ability to learn, but I still didn’t study.
After high school, I decided to go to Blinn College, and in my first semester I took
an On Course class. I didn’t expect it to help me the way it did, but it really
changed my whole outlook on studying. I got really interested when I read how
the human brain learns. I played football, basketball, and baseball in high school.
Now I’m into body building, and I work out every day. I understand how muscles
work, and I found it interesting to think of the brain as a muscle. Instead of
thinking about the brain as a muscle, I just figured you were either born smart or
you weren’t. I know the harder you work a muscle, the bigger and stronger it
gets, but you can’t do it all in one day. I also know the more you practice a certain
movement or pattern, the better you get at it. When I got a 52 on my first exam in
business law, I knew something had to change in the way I studied. So I decided
to apply my new knowledge about how the brain works and use some of the
learning strategies in On Course.
Just like working out, I started spreading my studying over more time and using
different ways to learn. Eventually, I came up with a way of studying that works
for me. When I was studying for my first business law test, I had quit reading the
book when I didn’t understand it. With my new approach, I read each assignment
completely and got as much out of it as I could. I even tried to stay a couple of
weeks ahead in assignments. My professor posted video lectures on our
eCampus site, so after reading, I’d watch a related lecture online. The professor
cut the information in the book down to what I really needed to know. When I
attended the next class, his lecture would be a review of what I had read and
what was on the video. That repetition deepened my understanding of the
material because I had already heard it before. When he asked questions in class,
I was ready to participate. I also found flashcards to be helpful, especially for
introductory courses like business law where you have to learn a lot of new
terms. I usually prefer to study alone, but if it’s something I don’t understand,
then I like being in a group with students who understand the course. I often get
their explanations better than the instructor’s. Another strategy I’ve found
helpful is to look over my past tests. Even glancing at them for a few minutes
helps me remember things I need to know for the next test.
By the time I took the second exam in my business law course, I had a whole new
way of studying. Using my new strategies, I ended up making a 96! I no longer
thought about dropping the class because at that point I knew I could do it! One
of my coaches used to say, “Hard work beats talent when talent refuses to work
hard.” Now I’m not only working hard, I’m working smart.
1. What others say about you can hurt. Michael Chapasko’s short
essay teaches us that negative comments from others can become
the basis for our Inner Critic or Inner Defender later in life. Have
you had a similar experience? How could you listen to your Inner
Guide and overcome your own negative memories?
2. Michael describes what it feels like to be defined by others. Have
you had a similar experience? Who tried to define you and how did
you react? Did you behave in accordance with the definition or
rebel against it? Define yourself in the coming years. Who are you
going to be as a college student? Who would you like to be after
Rehearsing and Memorizing Study Materials:
Do One Different Thing This Week
In this section of your Toolbox for Active Learners, you’ve been
introduced to 25 strategies for rehearsing and memorizing study
materials. Here’s an opportunity to experiment with one of them.
First, review the strategies. Identify those you marked because they
could help with one of your learning challenges. Now pick the one
strategy you think would best help you improve your ability to
rehearse and memorize study materials.
Below, write the strategy with which you will experiment. Write
just the number of the strategy and the one-sentence description of
it that is in bold print. (For example, “9. Test yourself.”) Then
track yourself for one week, noting each day that you practice this
strategy. Your goal is to do it every day. After seven days, evaluate
your results. If your skills for rehearsing and memorizing study
materials improve, you’ll have a learning tool you can use for the
rest of your life.
1. Record your commitment for rehearsing and memorizing
study materials here (again, just the number of the strategy
and the one-sentence description of it in bold). Which days
of the week did you keep your commitment?
2. During your seven-day experiment, what happened?
3-As a result of what happened, what did you learn or relearn?
4. Complete this sentence: As a result of what you learned or
relearned, I will…
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