Making time to engage with class work outside of class

Originally Posted on The Triangle via UWIRE

The 2010s are over and the 2020s have kicked off. It’s a great feeling, having a completely fresh decade to look forward to an infinite number of possibilities. Nobody knows what’s going to happen in the coming years. But with that said, there are some things that we can predict, like Drexel’s winter quarter.

Just like any other student trying to navigate a new set of classes, I’m always sifting through the internet for ways to improve my studying. This includes reading things like how-to guides, top 10 tips and tricks for success and college for dummies. There’s an abundance of resources. Now there is a lot of material out there that isn’t all that great, as every genre admittedly has, but at the same time, I’ve come to find that there is a lot of helpful stuff floating around in cyberspace.

I spent a good portion of this past holiday break doing some research , and one of the most interesting things I found is that you can improve your level of success in classes by regularly interacting with the type of material that you study. Now yes, that may sound like a very vague idea to you, but just bear with me while I break it down a bit.

Every term, there is always that one class that just does not understand the concept of a manageable workload as it attempts to drown students in homework. Often times I think that this is unintentional on the professor’s part, as I’ve had classes where after the professor assigned way too much material for a week, several students in the class pointed out that there was no way we’d be able to get through it all in a reasonable amount of time, and the professor was fine with scaling back the amount of work. Those are great moments when they happen, but obviously those are in the small minority. The majority of the time, students will just roll with it, and if they do air their concerns, the professor will tell them to simply manage it.

Back in the fall term of freshman year, I was one of those students that aired their concerns about too heavy of a workload for a course, and my professor  told me that college is a 60 hours per week job. At the time I just took it as a joke, but looking back on it now, I realize that he was being completely serious.

The amount of time that students spend each week attending classes and doing homework is massive and quite frankly absurd in some aspects, and this can be extremely tiring.

Too much of anything is bad for you, and even though I love reading, having to do so much of it has led me to, at times, detest having to read something for a class. To me, this concept can be applied to just about every major.

Now, what I think I’ve come to realize over the break is that we aren’t tired of the material itself, but rather we’re tired of the parameters in which we are interacting with it. Having a specific number of pages assigned, having a deadline or date that we have to have covered whatever the material is by and knowing that we’re going to be tested on specific aspects of said material takes the enjoyment out of the process. This gradually kills any motivation, desire or interest that we have for working with the material in any capacity.

To me, this is an interesting phenomenon because I’ve always felt that the main point of college classes was to increase both your level of interest in a specific subject, as well as your knowledge. But sometimes they fail to do both of these things. Whether that’s the fault of the students, professors or class structure is a subjective question, but I think on the surface, all three can be considered responsible.

That said, it can be difficult to keep oneself engaged as the weeks churn by, but one method I want to offer is to engage with a subject outside of class. By this, I mean that you take whatever the type of work is that you have to do for a class and do it outside of the constructs.

So take me as an example. If you’ve read some of my other articles, then you probably know that I’m an English major who has to do a ton of reading and writing every term. I love both of those things, but they can quickly become frustrating chores if I’m only doing them for classes. I’ve grown weary of discussion board posts specifically, and if I didn’t write creatively in my spare time or write articles for the Triangle, I would probably be far less likely to actually do discussion board posts for a class, let alone put in any real effort for an entire term.

It may seem obvious that we students get tired of the work that we do for classes because we have to do so much, but what wasn’t obvious to me is that it was the context in which I was doing the work that I was getting enjoying less and less, not the work itself.

Admittedly, I know that this is much easier to do in theory than it is to put into actual practice. After several hours of reading short stories for an English class, the last thing that I feel like doing is picking up a novel I’ve been reading in my spare time. I would much prefer to play some video games, listen to music or do some baking. But the times when I do go and pick up a novel right after studying, I’ve found myself feeling no sense of reading fatigue anymore.

I haven’t been able to put this fully into practice during a whole quarter of classes, but I’m going to make an effort this term and I think you should as well. You may find yourself becoming more tolerable of heavy course loads if you can separate the work itself from the context. Obviously it’s nearly impossible to make a full separation, but the mentality you have when approaching the work most certainly has an impact on how much you enjoy it.

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