Excelling in academics is often a dream for many students. Ever since I entered grade school, I wanted to be a champion in academics. I know that I have the potential, but there were always students in my class who could perform better than I could. This situation led me to doubt my abilities considering that I came from a humble background. I always wonder; what could make these students score better grades than mine? Was it because of my humble background, or was it that I was just not good in academics as I thought I was? During this period, I met my older brother's best friend, who had graduated from our school in the previous year and had emerged at the top of his class. Dennis inspired me to make an effort to study hard, and I will surely achieve my goal of graduating at the top of my class.
I began studying from the basics and understanding rather than cramming the concepts taught in class. Slowly but surely, I continued diving deep into all subjects taught in the lower levels to get a better understanding of all the entire curriculum.My journey to excelling in my studies in grade school did not come easily as initially imagined. At first, I encouraged the setback of having to balance school and extra curriculum activities. Back then, I had a great passion for music and painting. Therefore, my concentration in studying meant spending less time on my hobbies. I genuinely loved playing the guitar and painting; hence, it was a tough choice to cut back on the amount spent on the activities. Besides, my hobbies had already begun making me famous in my school: a dream for many grade school students. I always strived to be popular so that I could have an easy and fun time in school. However, I knew I had to deal with the distractions that came with my hobbies. As a result, I had to ignore my hobbies and channel my energy to my studies.
Nonetheless, sabotaging my artistic side was not the only setback I encountered. Another considerable challenge I faced was being branded as a geek by friends and classmates. We all know that geeks are not the most fun students in school, mainly in grade school. After being refered to as a geek, it’s a lot more difficult to make friends. It is difficult to fit in among your peers and difficult to deal with such a scenario. Being a geek meant other students picking on me and making fun of me any chance they get (Stavredes, 2013). However, despite the fear of being labeled a geek, I wanted to achieve good grades and become an aeronautical engineer. I knew I had to excel in sciences subjects and mathematics and score a good grade overall to achieve this goal. Hence, graduating at the top of my class was a huge deal for me.
My journey to academic prosperity began gradually but solidly. Before I decided to top my class, I was an “above average” student. This meant that I used to perform averagely compared to other students. Though my performance used to vary, my overall position used to be between 18th and 22nd place out of 40 students. I recall in the fourth grade an instance where my position dropped to 25th place. That was the moment I told myself that I hard to work even harder to emerge at the top of my class. My mother’s comments on my performance were also another reason why excelling was essential for me. She used to say that there is no way another student could defeat her in academics provided there were in the same class being taught by the same teacher. Tense remarks often led me to think about what could probably cause other students to perform better than me. Thus, I vowed to attain my goal by the end of the fifth grade.
Besides, becoming the best performing student in my class was not an easier task. I knew that other students were also hardworking as I am, and hence I knew that taking the leading positions from them would require a tremendous effort. However, I did not know the exact amount of effort that was needed. How many hours a day did I need to study to become better in geography? How many problems did I need to solve to transform my C grade into an A in mathematics? Tense were my primary worries. Regardless, I just kept practicing and studying hard every night in my room.
Luckily, it did not take much time before I started noticing an improvement in my academic performance. Within one semester, I had already taken the seventh position in my class. This was a massive improvement for me. Getting the seventh position was something that I did think I could achieve, leave alone topping my class. However, my celebration was short-lived. I wanted more. The seventh position was not enough for me. Now more than ever, I wanted the first position. I knew that if I persisted with my efforts, I would soon top my class. Thus, I continued studying hard: solving as many problems as possible and studying whenever I got the time to do so. I remember finishing my meals quickly to squeeze some time to study during lunch breaks. I was also developed a studying timetable that I strictly adhered to. Within the following semester, I was position two overall in my class. I cannot emphasize how much my mother was proud of me. I thought to myself; I really could do this!
Nevertheless, over the next two semesters, I found myself in the same position. I could not get myself to defeat only one student in the entire class. No matter how hard I tried, I always came second. To some point, I began thinking that I had reached a dead-end, which I could not pass through. My insecurities began crippling back in again. Was it true that I could not be the best student in the classroom? I was worried that all my sacrifices and efforts turned out to be futile, even a long struggle to reach the position I was. At this point, I felt I was trying hard, but my effort seemed to stagnate. It felt much harder to top the class than to improve my class position to the second-best. James was brilliant, especially in mathematics and language subjects. I knew that to defeat him; I had to improve on the subject that he was good at. The challenge was that languages and mathematics were the most difficult subjects for me. This situation made me feel helpless and hopeless simultaneously.
Regardless of how smart James was, something in me always told me that I could outsmart him if I studied harder. For me, it was too late to give up. So much was at stake. I had sacrificed my music career and sabotaged my drawing and painting skills. All I had was performing well in my academics and fight to be the engineer I always dreamt of being. There was so much to lose that I could not give up. At least not to one person after defeating 38 others. Suddenly, a drive to improve in my weakest subjects, especially mathematics, was ignited in me. I went into the library to search for the best revision books that I could find. Afterward, I took my time to study and understand many of the mathematics problems that always seemed to challenge me in the exam room. Gradually but consistently, I kept on practicing hoping to improve my grades on the subjects that I scored poorly.
Furthermore, I reflected on the strategies that I had employed consciously and subconsciously to improve my grades and analyzed them to understand how I would defeat James and emerge the best student in my class. I realized that over the cause of my improvement period, I had adopted good reading and memorization techniques but still were not good enough to be the best student in the class. Therefore, I researched the best ways to read, understand, memorize, and apply concepts that I had studied. With time, I began grasping concepts that were confusing to me initially. Algebra and geometry formulas became more familiar as I began to understand my weakest subjects from a new perspective.
Moreover, I also learned new techniques based on the past weaknesses that helped to achieve higher grades. One of the critical problems that limited my performance ability was the aspect of time management. Like many students, I failed in some of the subjects, particularly mathematics, not because I did not know how to solve the problems, but because of my poor time management skills in the exam room (Levesque, 1990). Thus, I improved my speed on tackling questions so that I could attempt all the problems during the end of semester exams. Within no time, my time management skills improved significantly. I was able to solve complex mathematical problems for less than two minutes. The competencies helped me excel in one of my studies and finally topped my class by the beginning of the sixth grade. For me, it was a long-distance coming, but I finally arrive at my destination. Once I became the best in my class, I worked even harder to maintain the position. Reflecting back now, I realize that achieving my goal would have been impossible if I had given up along the way (Stavredes, 2013). It is now that I discover that persistence and hard work can help an individual achieve his/her regardless of how difficult they seem to be (Colan, 2013). I would not say that I am a genius, but through hard work, persistence, and keeping on even through the toughest moments, I was able to emerge the best student among the brilliant, sharp minds in my class.
Cohen, P. R., & Levesque, H. J. (1990). Persistence, intention, and commitment. Proceedings of the 1986 Workshop on Reasoning about Actions and Plans, 297–340.
Colan, L., & Davis-Colan, J. (2013). Persistence.
Stavredes, T. M., & Herder, T. M. (2013). Student persistence—And teaching strategies to support it. In Handbook of distance education (pp. 173–187). Routledge.
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