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With school looking so differently this year, midterms have a chance of appearing equally different compared to what students are used to.

Online school is something not a lot of people were truly prepared for, dropping straight A students into the B and C range. For in-person students, the increased workload has also been cause for grades going south, making many students decide to switch to the online alternative.

While seeing these lower grades on the progress report may cause negative reactions from students and parents alike, do not lose hope. School is only nine weeks in, and there are nine more to raise grades before the end of semester report cards. In order to help raise these grades before the finish line, here are a few tips on how to make online school work better for you.

Making a schedule is the first step to success. By assigning certain times to do work every day, habits will form and doing the work will come naturally. Stomachs begin growling right around lunchtime because of eating schedules, so getting in the habit of doing math at math time will make it more bearable and take less willpower to get started.

When making this schedule, consider when certain classes would be occurring in the regular school day and go from there. Waking up at 8 a.m. despite not having a regular class or Zoom class is admittedly unrealistic, so if the earliness of the schedule is what is standing in the way of creating one, shove all classes back by an hour.

Now that a schedule has been made, it’s time to keep up with this. Most West Virginia schools are using Schoology for their coursework, which has a calendar built in that shows when each assignment is due. However, finishing these assignments doesn’t feel nearly as satisfying when they remain on the calendar after submission.

To fix this, write classes down in order of when they are due and in the order they would be done in the schedule. This can be one piece of paper every day like a to-do list, in a store-bought planner or in a notebook. This can be a great way to take a creative break in between assignments by making a bullet journal with sections for each day to write down assignments.

After submitting an assignment, cross it off of the list to avoid mistaking the finished assignment for a different, unfinished assignment. Check the planner in the morning, after lunch and at the end of the day to ensure that everything gets finished and turned in. This will help keep those sneaky zeros out of the grade book.

While keeping track of things like that makes school seem simple, I understand that it can still be difficult and overwhelming, causing a lack of motivation. To keep on task, make a playlist of songs that you love to hear, but only allow yourself to listen to them while you are working. To start the jams, start the work.

Another way to keep on top of assignments is to play music from video games in the background. These instrumentals have no distracting vocals and are designed to keep players focused and wanting to play the games, so they can help students stay focused and motivated to finish work. In a time crunch to get an essay turned in by midnight? Turn on the Mario Kart soundtrack. The rush of energy and desire to go fast is a great way to stay engaged and keep ideas flowing.

Finally, though it may feel and look different, school this year is still school. The workload is a bit more with less time to do it, but the concepts are still the same. Show up to each posted team meeting and take notes just like if it were a lecture in class. When these are posted to Schoology, watch them all the way through.

Turn in assignments on time and complete. If this is hard to keep track of, refer to the schedule and planner tips above. Read directions thoroughly, and if you don’t understand or need any help, don’t hesitate to ask. There is nothing wrong with asking for help and there will be no judgment.

Tests may seem easier with many open book policies, but studying can help with the time limits. For more tips on studying, check out my November 2019 article, “How to study like a superhero” at wvflipside.com.

Above all else, be patient with yourself. Everybody makes mistakes, and everyone gets a few bad grades every once in a while. How often do race cars make it to the finish line without having to make a few pit stops? Learning right now is tough, and no one is expected to get it right away. Take the time to understand. Take ten minute breaks when frustration sets in. Grab pieces of candy for each task you get done and each good grade you get. You deserve the reward.

These grades are not the be-all and end-all of school right now. There are still nine more weeks to change them before the report cards and the grades that go into transcripts. Take these tips and the things learned throughout these nine weeks to improve. On your mark, get set, go get the grades you want.

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