Saturday, July 29, 2023

Top Hurdles for (some) (most?) students today and their easy (?) fixes

Top Hurdles for (some) (most?) students today and their easy (?) fixes

I am not looking down my nose or lecturing. What follows are some of the top hurdles facing students today in getting the most out of their journey through college and graduate education. Some of today’s students’ difficulties are different than those during my college years due to the dominance of technology (most students today were born connected) and mine; but some are similar or the same. Recently I have taught many students who are making their way through internship and school simultaneously; the stress of doing both aggravates these issues like iodine on an open wound.

1. Problem: Time management issues- Too much to do? Well, for those who have not had anywhere near such a full plate growing up, it seems to all fall at once, which gives inexperienced players the panic attack that it all has to be done at once. OR, my boss or my professor will think less of me! Giving in to confusion and fear in your limbic brain becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
a. Related to this-
i. Inability to establish priorities- Somebody said, “If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.”
ii. When the tasks seem to be too much for the time you have to spend, you become overwhelmed and freeze emotionally. A suprising amount of students in this position have a psychosomatic reaction and “feel ill.” Or is that a call for help from mommy or daddy? (be honest!)

2. Easy fixes-
a. Stay calm- breathe, meditate, whatever works for you. The more anxiety and fear, the worse it gets because you are crippled emotionally.
b. Land one plane at a time. Nobody can do everything at the same time and do it well. 
c. Write s**t down- I mean really write. On a sheet of paper or notebook. IN order of priority, by due date, and any associated activities needed. Then, as you finish, Cross them off.
d. Cut down or eliminate unproductive time- the majority of students, mostly GenZ ers, spend between 4-6 hours/day online on social media, video games, shopping etc. not related to today’s needs or responsibilities. Imagine how the crunch would abate if you took half of that back: 2-3 hours x 7 days=14-21 hours more and wouldn’t cut you off from the world. With the remaining hours, you can make better decisions about how you use your time: does it contribute to your personal improvement with people with whom you have a mutually beneficial relationship? Does K-Pop offer a degree? OR a job? Or a career?

3. Problem: Attitude toward learning: Many students view learning in the same light as mopping a floor or cleaning a bathroom: I really don’t love doing it, but I have to.

4. Easy Fixes:
a. Change your mindset- this is something you are doing for yourself, and spending time to build something for you. Nobody else. Not parents, friends, family—YOU. When I wax my car it is not only because I need to protect it from rust etc. but because I want to be proud of it and of myself.
b. Give up the short term for the long term- I can guarantee that whatever dire sacrifices you feel you are making now will pale in comparison to the rewards.

5. Problem: The
Dopamine Consequence: Overcome your technology-rooted hurdles brought on by dopamine addiction-
Not your fault. These are brought on by the fact that the world is literally at our fingertips and we can find and learn something in 5 minutes that took hours, days or weeks in the past. Some of these are:
a. ADHD-like attention span- Like a TikTok video, 30 seconds
b. Inability to listen- Too much noise in my life
c. Inability to focus- Too much noise in my life
d. Prejudice- No time or desire to really find out, so you go on what you know and were taught, better or worse
e. Ego and Blindspot- something you may not know about yourself and is untested because your personal relationships are superficial. 

6. Easy fixes:
a. Read a book- a physical book- from cover to cover
b. Meditate
c. Tai Chi
d. Deep breathing
f. BE honest about who and what you are
g. Most important: lose any denial you might have about how what I describe here applies to you.

7. Problem: Failure to recognize the most valuable elements of your education- Not the academics- you will forget most of that. So what will you/should you remember and cherish? 

8. Easy Fixes:
a. People you meet along the way- whether it is a professor, friend, classmate, speaker etc. they will carve their initials on your Wall of Growth and, in some big or small way, be a part of who you become.
b. Value your personal growth- Recognize that each small experience adds up to the most valuable element of your educational journey. This is your biggest reward, even more than the degree. 
i. Who were you? Who are you now?

I walked a mile (or two or a hundred) in your shoes and I understand that in your 20s, you may not understand or want to understand that you have to get real with your future. Doesn’t seem like as much fun. Maybe it isn’t. Can you make productive time fun? Sure you can.

I hope you can make use of the above information now. Time passes by in a blink and before you know it, you will be out of school and in a position of responsibility. Give yourself the tools for success before you look in the Lion’s mouth.

As an instructor, what can I do?

1. Understanding- Walk a mile in my students’ shoes
2. Firmness- Reminding them of their responsibilities and insisting they fulfill them by organizing themselves appropriately and not panicking.
(We used to call this the iron fist in the velvet glove)

Some gifts for you

I appreciate your reading this article and hope you will take it seriously. As a gift for getting this far, I want to share three critically important pieces of advice, maybe the most important I can share:

1. Lead by Example- If what you say and what you do are not the same, you will be ineffective in business and personal relationships. Others’ poor example is not an excuse. You are who you are, and people will respect you for that. 
2. Value others as you would have them value you- Nothing resonates better than authenticity, and nothing resonates worse than the lack of it.
3. Everyone has something to offer- including you. And each person is different. Look for the positives and understand the differences.

I have lots more of these, but that’s another article.

© Michael Serwetz 2023


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