Study Tips from Our Boarding School Teachers

Top study tips from boarding school teachersby Jonathan Pederson ’15

We’ve asked our boarding school teachers from both STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and liberal arts areas to discuss with us the must-read tips on how to do well in classes at a boarding school.

Starting with the STEM departments, Cynthia Michael advises us on how to boost that math grade!  Ms. Michael teaches Algebra I, Honors Algebra I, Geometry, and Honors Geometry. She says she sees improvement in her students’ performances when they follow these easy tips:

  • Write down everything your teacher puts on the board.  You cannot learn math from listening.  You need to watch and do.  Writing makes a connection in your brain; taking a picture does not.
  • Ask specific questions.  Don’t just say I don’t understand this, say I don’t understand why you did step 2 or how you got 12.
  • Do your homework every night and show your work.  Write down correct answers when you get them so you know what you have learned and what you haven’t learned.  
  • Be an active participant in class, don’t just go through the motions of being a student.
  • Practice! Practice! Practice! 

Teaching both math and history courses at the middle school level, Karen McManus sees a variety of learning styles among her boarding school students.  Mrs. McManus teaches General Math, Math Plus, Algebra I, and U.S. History.  She advises, “Before you sit down to begin your homework, make sure you have everything you need so that you don’t have to keep interrupting your work to get things you have forgotten.”

Dr. Larry Cousineau focuses a great deal on advising students how to effectively take notes. Teaching both U.S. History and AP U.S. History at R-MA, Dr. Cousineau notices a common struggle of students is recording effective notes during lectures.  He utilizes the first week to introduce his students to these useful note-taking tips:

  • If the instructor writes something on the chalkboard/overhead or repeats an idea then it is usually a key point and you should write it down.
  • Try to use a three-ring binder, it allows for more flexibility in rearranging your notes and any handouts that you may receive.
  • Try to sit towards the front and center of the class where you’ll be less distracted and can hear the professor the best and have a good angle on any visual aids that may be shown.
  • Don’t rely on someone else’s notes, you may not understand everything that they write down, and you’ll learn the best by taking your own notes.
  • If your instructor talks fast, it may help to bring an audio recorder and record the lecture while taking notes.  After the lecture is over you can replay the lecture and fill in any parts that you missed in your notes.
  • Do reading assignments or homework questions before class; it is easier to take notes when you know what the instructor is talking about.
  • Date your notes. Add titles and subtitles when you move onto a new topic for easy referencing.
  • Write down any terminology along with the definition that the instructor may present.
  • Make sure that you write legibly, if you can’t read them later, they’ll be useless. If you have sloppy handwriting it may be wise to type your notes so that they are easier to read.
  • If you missed what the instructor said, ask them to repeat it or go to the instructor after class and ask for clarification. If you are in a rush, ask the instructor at the beginning of the next class or try to find the answer from a friend or the text.
  • Compare notes with a classmate to make sure you didn’t miss any important points.

Those are some of our top tips from our boarding school teachers! Share yours in the comment section!