Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Learn When Others Don’t Want To?
LEARNING is not easy for 15-year-old Nozomi, a high school student in Japan. “Instead of taking their lessons seriously,” she says, “my schoolmates defy the teachers, discuss immoral things, and show a lot of interest in the opposite sex.”
Talking, flirting, teacher harassment, fighting—such distractions are common to many classrooms. And even if such things do not go on in your school, you may still be subject to subtle pressures to fail. Says 13-year-old Roslyn: “I was really worried about what the boys would think if I was answering too many questions. . . . So I answered questions just enough to get by with my grades—I didn’t want to get too smart.” How, then, can you deal with all the pressures that work against learning?
The Pressure From Peers
Brian was placed in a class for high-achieving students. The reaction from his peers? “They laugh at you if they put you in such a class. They think you’re really stupid to be there because it means you’ll get more homework.” Understandably, it may often seem tempting to ease up on one’s studies. But would there be any point in spending the bulk of your teenage years in school and have nothing to show for all that time? And since grades are an indicator—admittedly not a perfect one—of how much you are learning in school, does it not make sense to get the best grades you can?
Granted, this may mean taking some amount of abuse from peers. But the Bible warns: “Trembling at men is what lays a snare.” (Proverbs 29:25) Should you be so afraid of what others think that you set aside your own convictions and self-respect? Whom should you be more concerned about pleasing: your schoolmates or your parents and your heavenly Maker? Besides, youths who discourage you from doing well in school certainly are not thinking of your future, for says the proverb: “The one working with a slack hand will be of little means.” (Proverbs 10:4) Failing grades may thus be a rehearsal for future failure in the job market.
Easing the Pressure
So stand up to classmates who discourage you from learning! This may not be easy. But it may be of help to you to understand what often motivates their harassment. Explains ’Teen magazine: “Low-achieving teens who make fun of good students usually are suffering from fear of failure and lack of self-confidence. To cover up the fact that their self-esteem isn’t any higher than their grades, they try to convince other people that they’re actually glad not to be counted among the good students.” The youth who ‘keeps hating knowledge’ merely exposes his own foolishness.—Proverbs 1:22.
The High School Survival Guide advises: “If your friends continually ask you to go against your own convictions . . . , take another look at your relationships.” Michael was influenced by his friends to start skipping classes. “But then I saw my friends getting caught and getting thrown out of school. I said, this isn’t for me.” He thus broke off those relationships and began applying himself in school.
As your schoolmates see that you will not give in to them, the harassment may even stop. Says Walt: “I don’t expect the whole class to change. But if they see that they aren’t bugging me, they find someone else to bother.” Remember, too, that peer pressure doesn’t stop when you become an adult. So learning how to handle it now can prove very valuable later on.
Ignoring Classroom Distractions
What, though, about annoying classroom distractions? The Bible says: “A wise person will listen and take in more instruction.” (Proverbs 1:5) Julie Hahn, author of “Have You Done Your Homework?” acknowledges that “distraction by others in the classroom can make listening difficult.” Nevertheless, she indicates that a good listener can learn, even in a noisy classroom. How? By ‘coming to class prepared to listen intelligently.’ That means doing your homework the night before so as to be familiar with the material being discussed.
Also, take meaningful notes—nothing elaborate but at least a list of main points and some supporting details. This helps keep your mind on track when distractions occur. And when concentrating in class is simply impossible, you may have no choice but to increase the amount of homework you do. Even modest efforts along these lines can improve your grades. Homework allows you the opportunity to apply yourself in an atmosphere free from school distractions.
Sometimes, though, you find a distraction—such as a couple of girls (or boys) who whisper incessantly—too irritating to ignore. In some cases it may be a good idea to try speaking with the person or persons involved. Let them know how you feel and how their behavior affects you. Who knows, maybe they’ll be reasonable about the matter and quiet down somewhat.
You may even find that your classmates’ irritating actions are a reaction to something on your part that they find annoying. Perhaps an offer of some sort of compromise—or an apology on your part—would be in order. And while school is serious business, don’t become “righteous overmuch,” so that you lose your sense of humor. (Ecclesiastes 7:16) Often a situation causing class commotion is genuinely funny. There is no need to alienate your fellow students by being grim and humorless.
If your classmates react with hostility or refuse to change, it may even be necessary to talk matters over with your teacher. But wait for the appropriate time to speak, preferably in private. (Proverbs 25:11) Perhaps you can be assigned another seat in class, or perhaps you can be transferred to another class where students take learning more seriously.
Let Your Parents Know
What if your best efforts to work matters out with your classmates and teachers fail? One Christian parent who works as a public-school teacher advises: “Communicate with your parents about what’s happening in school—your losses and trials. They will become more interested in you and more communicative, and this will help you to cope.” Likely your parents want you to ‘give your heart to them’ in this way.—Proverbs 23:26.
They may even have some practical suggestions. They may, for example, suggest that more attention be given to your homework and offer you personal assistance. They may also have some ideas as to how to approach your teacher and disruptive classmates. In some cases, they may even feel it necessary to visit the school authorities on your behalf.
Making a Success of Your School Years
Remember, you are in school to learn. And whether you succeed or fail often depends upon your choice of friends. Zélia observes: “If you want to be part of the gang, you are going to have more trouble because to be accepted, they expect you to do all the things they do.” Yes, “bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) On the other hand, good associations strengthen our resolve and ability to do the right things. Pick friends that share your convictions and love of learning.
At times one simply has to live with a bad situation. Yet, “a righteous man’s supplication, when it is at work, has much force.” (James 5:16) Writes one Christian girl: “Constant distractions can be difficult to deal with. I simply have to tune them out. When I feel like screaming out of frustration, I pray to Jehovah for self-control.” You too can do this, and not just as a last resort. Make prayer a part of your daily life.
Learning is indeed a challenge. But with some determination and help from your parents, teachers, and Jehovah God, you can succeed, even when others do not want to learn.
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Taking notes is one way to block out classroom distractions