Back to School Tips Part 1: Attitude and A New Schedule!

It’s time to go back to school! Whether teachers and students are homeschooling, going to public or private school, or heading to college classes for the first, second, or fourth time, it’s time for us to gear up our study habits.

What kind of “gear” do we need to study?

First, we need a “study habit” attitude which includes patience, grace, curiosity, and confidence.

We need patience and grace for ourselves (and/or our students) because learning takes varying amounts of time for each concept, skill, and person. Some of us learn language quickly while struggling in math concepts, some of us learn math concepts quickly while struggling in language. We need to practice patience and grace for ourselves and others when we are studying. This means we do not expect ourselves to “get it” on the first pass through the information, or in a short amount of time.

We also need curiosity because curiosity about the subject will lead to questions and questions will lead to a higher level of focus on the subject at hand.

What I mean by a question based on curiosity: While writing the first paragraph of this article, I realized I used the expression “gear up” and then I wondered, where did that expression come from? Is it weird to use it?

So, I did a quick google search of the expression. One article stated it was used first in 1875, another article stated the expression was used first in 1200. It can mean to gather gear or prepare gear for any kind of excursion, or specifically to prepare machinery components. It depends on the era. When I used it, I either mean to gather gear or to gear “up” by shifting into a higher gear like one does in a manual transmission vehicle when driving on the freeway.

What I do not mean by a question based on curiosity: Why do I have to study this subject? (Roll eyes, cross the arms, and slump in your chair while asking this question and trust me, it will cause some reaction by your teacher.)

Although it is a perfectly good question and can lead you to make some inquiries on why we study what we study which can lead to research into the educational field, both for subjects we learn in schools and the methods we teach them, it’s not necessarily something a teacher will cover in the context of the subject.

However, I believe it’s a good question for any teacher to be able to answer. (Teachers, I am giving myself and you a hard look with this statement.) I teach English Language Arts because I believe written and oral communication is key to having community, to expressing ourselves in healthy ways, and to gaining employment in any field. I can give specific examples of this from my life, the lives of my family members, and the lives of former students.

I know someone who is a supervising engineer because he can write clear emails and communicate succinctly in team meetings. Many of the engineers under his supervision do not communicate clearly verbally or in writing.

I know someone who is a supervisor at a warehouse because he is gifted with communicating clearly and in a friendly but firm way with everyone around him. He struggles with writing, but his verbal communication skills are excellent.

I know a PhD student at a university who is writing a thesis about a specific type of communicable disease. She has also written novels.

I have more examples, but I chose three from fields I know most people do not associate with English Language Arts.

How did these individuals get to where they are? They studied. They had a good attitude. They were patient with themselves and gave themselves grace when they needed it. They were curious and asked questions which led to a deeper understanding of the skills they needed. Plus, they had the confidence to believe in their ability to learn concepts, to gain skills, and to do the work needed.

Confidence can feel slippery and out of our grasp when we do not seem to have it, or when a skill or task feels out of reach. I know from my own experience how it feels to lack confidence.

To Gain Confidence In Your Learning Ability, Try These Three Steps Verbally or In Writing:

  1. Say/Write something you are thankful for in your life. (Each day is a new day.)
  2. Say/Write something you can do well. (I can organize my school supplies.)
  3. Say/Write something you are learning, and one thing you learned as a part of the process. (I am learning to write transitions between paragraphs and I have learned about transition words.)

Build your confidence in a tough skill or concept area by affirming what you have already learned, even if this means starting with something small. This is also a good review of the skill or concept, and review often helps us prepare for the next skill or concept.

Before studying, gear up with attitude. Practice patience, grace, curiosity, and confidence.


My new schedule for tutoring will be:
Mondays and Wednesdays, 2-6 Pacific Time Zone (Seattle/LA), for Zoom or in-person appointments. Each session is for forty minutes. If a different time works better, please email me at and we may be able to make arrangements.

Classes offered this year:

College Entrance Essay Writing Course – Single Session Course for Two Hours: This course is for high school students who would like help in creating a good college entrance essay. Students may bring the writing prompt they wish to use to the class, but writing prompts will also be provided. The cost is $30. To sign up on an interest form, go HERE.

Writing classes for adults will take place on Tuesdays/Fridays on Zoom. Classes will run on Tuesdays and/or Fridays for 90 minutes. Upcoming topics: Writing from the End, Interactive Settings, and Four-Sentence Exercises to Stretch Your Writing. Registration is due for each class three days before it begins. To sign up on an interest form, go HERE. (Please note, this is not a formal registration link, but merely a link to note interest.)

Editing services are available for short story writers, novelists, college students, and high school college entrance essays. I have a schedule which fills up a month in advance. Please email me for a time slot in the schedule and for specifics about the editing process. My email is

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