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As the new calendar dates go beyond January 5th, it becomes official the new year has begun, and the holiday is over. For students worldwide, one thing is clear, the second semester is here, and their very first homework is getting over the holiday high. For older students, the challenge is to fight the alluring call to stay in bed all day – especially if they are reminded of all the upcoming assignments and projects due in several weeks.  

Kicking motivation and focus back into gear can be a struggle, but plenty of students (and teachers) everywhere have gone through the same phase. Check out some of their advice on how to survive and thrive in the second semester of high school!

Small attainable goals 

With the new year often comes new resolutions. 5 AM run every morning, lose 7 kgs this year, learn a new language, all this goal setting, and resolution making is exciting and motivating – until we miss a day, and it all goes downhill from then. Especially for teenagers, too big of a goal can be overwhelming down the line. Hence we want to encourage them by setting small yet completely achievable goals. This can be as simple as 5 pushups a day or completing a Duolingo daily round.  

Learn to prioritize

To set our priorities in order requires intentionality and commitment. The easiest thing students can do is the old-school manual way of making lists, where they get to write down the various things competing for their time and attention, which they can then rank in order of importance. Setting our priorities straight includes putting our mental and emotional health first. Students won’t be able to succeed academically if they can’t find joy in their pursuit, and this is where hobbies come in. A study done on Harvard students showed they value their hobbies and they make the time to enjoy them. How could Harvard students have time for hobbies, you ask? The secret is in self-management. They divide their workload into manageable amounts and complete it in advance, making time and space to spend time doing what they enjoy.  

Let HIM Work through Us

One of our Middle Years Programme (MYP) teachers, Mr. Shin Kim, shared his take on how to go into the second semester strong. These tips can prepare you for what’s to come and surely help you survive the rest of your high school year!

Psalm 127:1-2 is a great encouragement as high school students begin to plan for their future in the real world, “Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good. It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.”

From college to eventual employment, students will face pressure in many different forms, and when life seems exhausting, Mr. Shin reminds students to remember this verse. Everything we do means nothing if God does not work through us. This may seem discouraging at first, but if we read the verse carefully, God tells us that if He is at work, He will make things work in His way even when we are resting. We are invited to learn how to lean on Him, how to depend on Him, and how to trust Him. When we do, He will work for us in what will be the best for Him and us. 

Motivation, Support, and Accountability

Mr. Levi Bolinger, our IB Diploma Programme (DP) coordinator, and teacher, also shared three simple tips to stay motivated throughout the remaining semester, which will be especially useful for you, final-year DP students. His tips are staying motivated, parental support, and personal accountability.

“I shared Hebrews 10:24-25 with the students during a retreat, which says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Applying this to students and their work, I say keep being plugged into group activities. Try not to stand up under the burdens alone, instead join in with friends and family to lift each other and encourage one another,” Mr. Levi advised.

He reminded students that sometimes feeling motivated goes hand in hand with gratitude, where we would feel less motivated when we find ourselves complaining and grumpy. In addition, parents can support their teenagers by approaching the issue at the right times and in the right ways for instructions (if any) to be meaningful. As different individuals need different things, parents can learn to speak their children’s love language and meet them accordingly. “Some need encouragement, and some need discipline. Some need a push, and some need to relax. Many of us need to laugh. I think a good starting place is to spend quality time within the family, actively listening to one another,” encouraged Mr. Levi. 

At the end of the day, we can find comfort by committing all our plans and desires to God, asking Him to guide and enable us to finish the academic year faithfully and excellently. As we enter the last semester, find a sweet spot in school that can energize you for the rest of the year. Spend time with friends, seek help if you need it, and make the most while enjoying your extracurricular activities.