The beginning of a school year is always an exciting time; new classes, new teachers, maybe even a new school. But by now, the first day of school is a distant memory. The excitement of a new school year has long since worn off, and it’s a bit too early to count down the days until summer. This is the time of year when teens wonder why it is so easy to drift off during a lecture, be too social during social studies and stare out the window when the math problems just don’t add up. But never fear! Here are some strategies and tips, tested and used by yours truly, to help you focus in class:
Get enough sleep
Maybe you had a sporting event to play in. Maybe you’re cramming for a big test or writing your English essay and complaining about how much work your teacher hands out. Whatever the reason, there are some nights when you’re up later than expected. Here’s a tip: Go to bed! Don’t scroll through your newsfeed on Facebook for another half-hour (I’m sure you already did plenty of that while you were “doing your homework”). Instead of watching the end of the “Spongebob” marathon, record it and watch it over the weekend. You may think animated sea creatures and a talking cleaning appliance are important now, but you will regret it when you’re drooling on your notes in class.
Keep your head up
Some teachers just make you want to put your head on your desk and go to sleep. This makes it all the more difficult to pay attention. Propping your head up so that your ear is resting on your hand isn’t helpful either. I have found that I can hear much more clearly when my hand isn’t blocking the droning sound of my teacher’s voice out of my left ear. Also, sitting up straight makes it much easier to focus. I’m sure there’s some scientific explanation involving blood flow to the brain or something, but whatever the reason, it works.
Of course, check with the teacher to make sure it’s OK first, but eating a little snack can make you less tired and help you focus on the lesson. Plus, food in your stomach means you won’t be distracted by hunger. I have a late lunch, and even though I eat breakfast every day, I’m always hungry by third period. It’s great to have a granola bar, small apple or even a mini-sized candy bar when your stomach starts to make noise.
Choose your seat wisely
You can’t always pick your seat, but when you can, be sure to choose a good one. If you know you’ll be distracted if you sit in the back, then move up. Sitting on the sides in a wide classroom isn’t a great idea either; in one of my classes, alphabetical order put me right in front of the door, which my teacher rarely closes. I get free entertainment every class from those kids who walk really slowly to the bathroom and make faces at every classroom they pass, not to mention the sound of female teachers clomping down the hall in their monstrous black heels. One can imagine how much extra effort it takes to pay attention. Sitting toward the front in the center of the room is probably your best bet.
Force your mind to stop wandering
Sitting in class one day, I thought to myself, “I really should be paying better attention.” It was at that moment when I came up with the idea for this article. I began brainstorming ideas … until I realized that I wasn’t listening to anything my teacher was saying. Don’t follow my example. Try not to think about anything other than what the teacher is talking about. Don’t think about why Mildred dumped Renaldo over Facebook, or how cute Judy Ann looks in her new outfit. It’s really hard, I know, but it’s important!
Be conscious of distractions
You probably don’t realize it, but the miscellaneous background noises in classrooms that you don’t think about are just as efficient as lullabies. The hum of the furnace is a great example, as well as the strange clicking noise that happens when someone drops paper or a pen cap in between the slots on the heater. Combine this stealthy symphony with a monotonous Monday morning and you’ll soon find that spiral notebooks are not the best of pillows. If you are aware of the sounds around you, they are less likely to carry you off into nap-land.
Know what is going on
It happens to the best of us … the teacher calls on you to read a passage or answer a question, and you don’t know what continent you’re on. If there is a wrinkle in your brain that has the slightest idea of what is happening, use it! It’s a lot easier to pay attention when you’re knowledgeable about a conversation. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even raise your hand and add in your 2 cents. Imagine that!
Try to have a positive attitude
Yes, this one sounds corny, but I have learned that complaining about how boring a class is doesn’t make it any more interesting, and whining about how much work you get doesn’t deplete the workload. Have an open mind about the material and don’t be too harsh of a judge if you don’t particularly like the teacher. You’re way more likely to pay attention if you enjoy or appreciate the content of the class, and that won’t happen if you don’t give it a chance.
Next time you’re sitting in class bored out of your mind, maybe you’ll think of these tips. Maybe you’ll even try some of these strategies. But once you decide which idea to try, stop thinking about this article. We wouldn’t want you not paying attention.
Ethan Ahuna is a sophomore at Amherst High School.