Back in the day (which, in this case is going to be of my high school days, 1992-1997), “Back to School” meant getting a new JanSport book bag, wondering how you’ll remember your locker combination, and making an oath to make it the BEST YEAR EVER. Nowadays it means huge displays of the wide assortment of school supplies that goes up July 1st, routinely checking the school’s Facebook page for updates regarding registration dates and times, and an oath to a make it the BEST YEAR EVER.
How does one know when they have achieved this level of “Expert Student”? Getting 300 followers on InstaGram after coming up with the theme for Homecoming? #duh. Being the recipient of an epic promposal that goes viral? OMG, YES!! Successfully orchestrating a love connection between two unsuspecting teachers? Definitely. And this stuff totally happens all the time (English lesson: that was sarcasm.) There probably won’t be some dreamy exchange student with a foreign accent who sweeps you off your feet, the star quarter-back may or may not be fighting inner demons while he soulfully and secretly pours his heart into his songwriting, and I am pretty confident there won’t be a really great spontaneous musical number in the middle of lunch one day. I like to think of myself as a hopeless dreamer, free-spirit, positive-seeing kind of gal, but even I know that these are the works of fiction. Great for Disney or Netflix, but definitely not to be used as a bar to set as an expectation for your school year.
So what about us mere mortals? Can we settle for just a “real-life school year?” Is high school really worth attending if there isn’t any of the flashy TV-worthy drama involved? The answer is of course, YES, silly! We just need to reframe some of our expectations and realize that fiction is just that: not true. Actual school is designed to be a location you are given information, time to process it, and the opportunities to prove your understanding of it. Well, there is more to it, but we haven’t even gotten this year’s supply list yet, so let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.
Rather than go into the school year with a blanket hope for the “best year ever” we should instead think about reasonable, attainable goals that you can be checked in with quarterly. I recommend thinking about PEAS:
A Physical Goal will focus your physical health; flexibility, mobility, and activity (but not losing large amounts of weight without discussing with a parent, doctor, trainer)
An Emotional Goal is going to help keep you centered when life gets stressful. Think about introducing a meditation practice, journaling, or finding a friend to talk to when you feel like venting on Facebook.
We can’t forget an Academic Goal, which would be great to bring your teachers, parents or counselor in to help set.
And finally, try setting a Social Goal. This is not to see how many ‘likes’ you can get on your recent selfie post, but instead, look for new ways to become involved with your school, community, or club.
Remember to pick goals that are easy to track and measure so you know when you achieve them, and don’t forget to pick a reward that you can present yourself when you reach each of the goals. (Make them fun and related to the goal! A new pair workout pants, a pampering manicure, “pay” yourself for good grades earned, or maybe spending an evening with friends at a school event.)
Setting a few goals, working toward them, and then celebrating accomplishments can help you have one of your most fulfilling, rewarding, and exciting school years of your academic career. You may not have someone serenading you in your second story bedroom window, you may not win the school decathlon by miraculously understanding the study of evolutionary developmental biology, and there may be nothing “going viral” other than the back-to-school epidemic of the common cold. You will, however, go confidently into the school year, have new experiences, meet new people and form connections, and quite possibly, end up having the best year ever without even trying.