Coping With the “Dreaded” Class: 7 Strategies to Help Students Survive All of Their Classes
©2015 Cynthia Z. Hansen, M.Ed., ET/P
So you’re sitting in class and understand the importance of listening, paying attention and taking notes…but you can’t figure out what IS important: the dates, the cool concepts, how the teacher’s monotone could be a sleep aide, the person texting three chairs over, the buzzing florescent lights… You know your Job is to separate the nonsense and focus on the relevant (according to the teacher/professor/instructor). You know the academic expectation that you must live up to is filtering not only sounds, sights and movements, but also the social and emotional realities of being in middle or high school.
Yet those other things are swirling around in between the dates of the Battle of the Bulge and the true meaning of Hamlet’s speech even with your best intentions to focus on the facts and concepts. Why? Because your brain is doing its job—examining all of the stimuli in the room including temperature, the fly on the windowsill, the feel of your clothing, the rustling of papers, the sounds of shoes tapping the leg of the desk, your best friend’s newest social dilemma…you get the idea. Our brains take it all in because instinctively we are always scanning for danger and meaning. Deep down humans, especially those with high potential, are curious and enjoy novel ideas. We are constantly seeking patterns, making connections between old and new information, predicting outcomes and chasing after ‘AhHa!’ moments.
So what do you do when the whole “paying attention” intention is further complicated by an assignment which seems like busy work, or you dislike the teacher, or they ruin King Lear by reading in a monotone with tons of mispronunciations? How do you stay alert when paying attention is painful? How do you learn to care when it may feel so pointless?
How do you survive the Dreaded class?
There are two main tasks to coping with the Dreaded class. The first is to understand your dread: your discomfort or impatience with this subject or teacher. The second is to examine your go‐to skills and discover the ways your brain sustains interest.
This article/blog focuses on understanding. Think about what makes a particular class, assignment or task so distasteful while also attending to your true interests and goals. Being aware of why you might need to cope with this class can shift your focus from anger or resistance to amusement at the futility of the situation. This may help you to become more willing to comply with dreaded tasks.
1. Think about these questions as you contemplate your attitude and expectations about school:
a. Do you know what you want to be when you Grow Up? Many of us don’t, even as adults. If you don’t know, think of what makes you happy, take an on‐line survey, consider what you do when you are avoiding homework, what you do during vacations. The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, (offered at many public schools or at recruiting offices) and is a great way to discover areas of interest or the potential of your combined strengths.
b. What are your strengths, areas of passion, and areas of Dread? Do you know how you like to learn? Try to transpose the style of the dreaded class into your preferred methods such as drawing your notes or thinking of a song that you could transform to remember important facts. If fear is a factor, challenge yourself by seeking out others who overcame the same fear (some of the best mathematics teachers did just that).
c. Are you only living for now or are you able to see past the day, the week, the month, the year? Being able to recognize that moments pass—sometimes too quickly, sometimes too slowly—helps us to cope with dreaded circumstances.
2. Question the source of discomfort for the class you Dread.
a. When you walked into the classroom were you already nervous about the class topic, the teacher, the amount or type of reading, the work load?
i. Are you feeling uneasy because of a rumor from peers, or a passing comment?
ii. Did you have a negative experience with the teacher unrelated to this class?
iii. Are you willing to discover if the teacher may become a mentor or advocate?
b. Has this subject always been stressful for you?
i. What is your earliest negative memory about the subject?
ii. Do you remember a time when you were successful or intrigued by the subject?
c. Is the stress in this course related to stress in other courses, only stronger? If so, how do you cope with the same stress in other classes (ones you enjoy)?
3. Is this class vital to your goals and aspirations?
a. Will the information provide a foundation for a later class?
b. Will the grade matter?
c. Are there options to move to a different class?
i. Are you willing to discuss your desire to move in a logical, fact based manner?
ii. Do you have the courage to discover how to request a change and accept the
1. Do you have a good relationship with your school counselor?
2, Are you willing to let your parents back you in your efforts?
4. Investigate how others cope with the Dreaded course or subject. Seek a new (positive) point of view about the topic or teacher‐‐something that you can keep in mind in order to cope with the class.
a. Talk to friends who seem to do well in the class
b. Talk to adults you admire or trust such as grandparents, cousins, parents, teachers, coaches, etc. Design questions that will entice others to reveal their thoughts. Do not accept simple answers such as “I’m good at it”, or “I enjoy the stories”, but dig deeper, ask for specific details:
i. Was there a specific point when you became passionate about the subject?
ii. What is an idea or concept from the subject that you think is cool, neat,
iii. How did they cope with classes they didn’t like or understand easily?
iv. (What else would you like to know?)________________________
c. Seek ideas that may motivate you, keep you alert, help you visualize and formulate a big picture.
These first four steps take time even for the most determined students. 1 The second half of this article/blog will continue with ways you can sustain your motivation and some daily skills to help keep you on track.
Now, the work begins. Go forth and investigate your Dread.
Cynthia Z Hansen, M.Ed., ET/P, is an Educational Therapist/Professional in private practice, the Coordinator of Educational Services for The Knox School of Santa Barbara for Gifted and Talented Children, a SENG Model Parent Group Facilitator, and an active member of the Tri‐County GATE Council in Southern California2 She specializes in the needs of the high ability and twice‐exceptional communities and mentors students who need specific, systematic support with sustained focus, organization, motivation, and study strategies in multiple domains. Examining social‐emotional skills is an integral piece of this work as students learn to embrace their complex learning profiles. Ms Hansen has published several articles for web magazines and for the 2eNewsletter and is a frequent speaker at national and international conventions. Learn more about educational therapy at AETonline.org.
1 For adults: You might use similar questions to think about Dreaded co‐workers or tasks at work.
2 TCGC is affiliated with the Pacific Region of the California Association for the Gifted (CAG).
|Tags: Coping strategies, Dreading class, Student advice|