I’ve always been somewhat of an “over-achieving” student, always going the extra mile to make sure that everything I do, I do well. However, this trait didn’t become apparent to me until the summer going into my junior year of high school. I was 16 and had just barely passed my Sophomore Year Algebra 2 class by the skins of my teeth.
I knew that there was absolutely no way I’d succeed in a Trig/Pre-Calc class the following year and thought it would make a lot more sense for me to use that period to do a program at my high school called “Student Option” which allows you to be a TA and essentially intern through the district’s school system. It was an opportunity I wanted to take full advantage of, seeing as teaching was (and still is) a career I’d ultimately like to pursue when I’m out of college. So, I did something pretty unconventional and ambitious – I decided I would pay $450 and take my last required math class online, over the summer.
Though I was not the first to take on this challenge, I was one of the few who had taken it on in an attempt to complete a high school graduation requirement as opposed to taking it to move on to a higher level the following year. As a result, I didn’t really have anyone to look to for guidance and essentially went into it completely blind to what I was getting into. Over the course of 9 weeks, I taught myself a total of 23 chapters and finished the course with a 95 (primarily because I took my time on each lesson and made sure that I understood what was happening before I proceeded onto the test). Through this process, I learned so much more than just trig/precalc.
1. Time management is important.
Before this class, I had never understood why all my teachers were so persistently telling us that waiting until the last minute isn’t good. I’d always been able to write my papers the night before, do homework assignments the class period before and study for tests minutes before. However, this was not the case at all with this class. I actually ended up having to sit down with a giant calendar and plan out when I could do each lesson, factoring in time for vacations and seeing my friends. It was extremely stressful and there ended up being weeks where I was teaching myself 3 lessons in 3 consecutive days because I was busy the other 4 days of the week.
2. I’m much more of a morning person than I am a night person.
One of the biggest perks, in my opinion, of taking this class, was that I had the ability to study whenever I wanted. If it was 2am and I wanted to teach myself some Trig, I totally could. But I soon realized that 2am was not my ideal retention time. Actually, in spite of the fact that I’d always considered myself a night person, I learned that my best work was done between the hours of 9am-1pm, therefore making me so much more of a morning person than a night person. This didn’t really come in handy right away but as I was making my schedule for my first semester of college, I realized how nice it was that I already knew which time slots to avoid and which ones to go after. It ended up being the biggest blessing in disguise.
3. I have the ability to teach myself.
This is something that anyone who has taken an AP Level course or is already in college ends up learning very quickly. Unfortunately for me, I hadn’t taken a single AP going into this class and was forced to figure out how to do this by myself right off the bat. This was probably the hardest part about the course because up until this point, I had always had a teacher who was actively involved and was able to help me through all the tough problems and answer all my questions. Obviously, there were resources available to me where I could have a teacher help me online through a whiteboard styled application but nothing truly compares to a teacher physically being next to you guiding you through every step.
However, I realized that this was probably the best thing I learned through the course because it came in handy the next two years of high school since my schedule mainly consisted of AP classes and I was forced to teach myself a lot of the material.
4. Online school wasn’t for me.
This may be something that’s a little too personal for many to relate to but I remember being so interested in the idea of going to high school or college online. You’d be able to pace yourself the way you felt most comfortable, you would never have to get dressed (which, let’s be real, is the biggest positive) and you could work at whatever time you’d want. It sounded so appealing… until I took an online class. I realized how terrible I was about making sure that everything got turned in on time. I realized that my attention span just wasn’t enough for me to stare at a computer screen and work for extended periods of time. I learned how easy it is to be distracted when doing anything on a computer.
Bottom line is that I could never, ever go to high school or college online – I simply wouldn’t finish because I’d be distracted by my Pandora stations or a Facebook notification.
5. Hard work always pays off.
Taking a class online was rough. It was probably one of the least enjoyable things I did in my 4 years of high school. But the reward was inexplicably sweet. I ended up in the aforementioned TA program with a freshman Bio class and ended up falling in love with teaching. I did the program again as a senior except this time, I worked with 8th graders and discovered that I love teaching younger kids even more. I would have never been able to do this had I not done this online class.
As grueling as it was, as annoying as all my deadlines were and as hard as it was to turn down plans with some of my friends so I could instead finish another lesson, it was well worth it. I would have never majored in Secondary Education if I hadn’t done this program and honestly, it became a huge turning point for me, in terms of the career path I see myself going into.
For any of you out there who are just as ambitious as I am, I encourage you to go forward with that online class. You will learn so much about yourself, things that cannot be taught through any other source, and you will come out of it as a better and more appreciative student. It was the best decision I made and I can’t imagine my high school career taking any other path than the one it took.