Words of Praise for “Good Habits, Good Students”

“Eric MacKnight’s wide experience with diverse students has gone into producing the book so many students, parents and teachers have been waiting for – all those individual tips that teachers want to pass on to help turn struggling students into better, happier ones. Well, they’re here within one cover in an easy to read format.” —Jan Archer, teacher of English in Singapore and UK; Head of English in Tanzania, Uruguay and Vienna

Use a homework diary every day (book excerpt)

Whether you call it a student agenda, a day planner, or a homework diary, it’s the most important tool of a successful student.

You need a homework diary to stay organized, and you need a homework diary for successful goal-setting. I have yet to find a disorganized student who uses his or her diary regularly. I have yet to find a failed attempt at goal-setting in which a daily record was kept in a homework diary.

So why do so many students ignore this vital tool? Because teachers rarely require the use of a homework diary. They may encourage it, they may nag or remind, but few require it, and even when they do, most of their colleagues don’t. So, at best, students will be required to use their diaries in one or two of their five or six classes each day. As readers of this book should know, habits are created by repetition, and under such circumstances the repeated behaviour is to ignore the homework diary—exactly the habit that most students cultivate.

If you want to do something to improve education in your school, lend this book to your principal or head of school, and convince him or her to require the use of homework diaries by every teacher in every class (even gym teachers sometimes assign homework or give out information that needs to be diaried).

As with so many other good habits, using a homework diary becomes more important every year. You may be able to do fine without one in the younger grades, but don’t let this fool you into developing bad habits that will hurt you later on. Don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed with a busy schedule and heavy workload. Cultivate the habit when you’re younger and life is simpler.

If you’re on your own, enlist the help of your parents and make daily use of your homework diary your first goal. Use a wall calendar at home to record the number of classes each day in which you use your diary. A simple “5/7” (5 out of 7) or “4/5” will do. Ask your parents to remind you to take your diary to school each day, and take it to every class. When you arrive in class, take out your diary and put it on your desktop, first thing. If you do this in every class, it will become a powerful habit. And if the diary is on your desktop, of course, it’s quite easy to remember to open it up and record the homework assignment.

A final tip: If the teacher assigns no homework, don’t just leave your diary blank. A blank entry could mean no homework, or it could mean you forgot to write the assignment in your diary. Instead, write something like “Science: No HW”. That way, there’s no confusion.

Using a homework diary in every class is the key to staying organized, and the key to successful goal-setting. Start today!

Social Bookmarks

When you bookmark a web page, you save its location for yourself. When you ‘social bookmark’ a web page, you save its location for yourself and, if you wish, everyone else. Social bookmarks are saved on sites like Digg, Technorati, del.icio.us, and Rojo. People who view such sites can then check the pages you’ve bookmarked, and you can see the ones they’ve bookmarked. Result? The best—or the goofiest—pages on the internet are seen by more people. Continue reading “Social Bookmarks”

Drink lots of water (book excerpt)

The brain—and the rest of the body—needs plenty of water to work at its peak levels.

Recent research by scientists studying the brain tells us what our grandmothers have always known: the body needs plenty of water to stay in good working order. When you study at home, have a pitcher of water at hand. At school, ask permission to have a bottle of water at your desk. The rule of thumb is that we should drink 6–8 glasses a day (about 48–64 oz., or somewhere between 1.5 and 2 litres).

Soda pop is not an approved substitutes for water. The sugar content in these drinks puts you on a roller-coaster of sugar highs and lows, and it does nothing to help your body—including your brain—work better. Fruit juice? Energy drinks? No. Stick with water.

Eat properly, get enough sleep, and stay drug-free (book excerpt)

Your brain—have I mentioned this already?—is part of your body.

You can’t expect your brain to do its best unless you take care of it. Junk food, irregular meals, inadequate sleep, cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, “recreational” drugs—all of these diminish your brain’s ability to work. All of them, too, are entirely avoidable—bad habits people slip into because they take the easy way, the lazy way. Be smarter than that.

And if you’ve already developed, or begun to develop, a bad habit in this area, break it now!

Skipping breakfast is a common error in today’s society. I’ve made this the topic of my sample goal. If you aren’t sure what a “proper breakfast” is, now is a great time to learn a bit about nutrition. Your parents and teachers may be able to help you with this (see Chapter 4: Getting Help from Parents and Teachers).

How to Define a Goal (book excerpt)

A poorly defined goal will be pretty useless. Look at this one:

“My goal is to improve my marks in English.”

This is a nice idea, but it’s not a well-defined goal, because it leaves many important questions unanswered. For example, how much improvement is desired? How will the improvement be measured? Over what period of time is the goal to be achieved? What action is required to achieve the goal? How will progress toward the goal be recorded and judged?

A well-defined goal answers these questions right from the beginning. Continue reading “How to Define a Goal (book excerpt)”