Setting Ourselves Up for Success in Second Semester

I’m so excited to be getting advice from the founder of Rainbow EDU Consulting, Cindy Chanin. Rainbow EDU Consulting & Tutoring, founded in 2005, approaches education holistically by finding students passions to cultivate a thirst for learning. Unlike the standardized, one-size-fits-all school system, Rainbow’s approach to socialization, learning style, personal interests, and formal education processes work to reinforce one another. This organic approach not only helps students achieve higher levels of academic success but also increases their sense of purpose in life and strengthens their self-esteem. Cindy is a fantastic mentor for students and focuses on creating an appreciation for education by connecting what a student is learning to their passions and future aspirations. She has a stellar record in helping students reach their goals and always gives an encouraging and insightful point of view. She has helped students gain admission to top colleges and has served as an admissions officer for Yale and USC where she earned her degrees. I am fortunate to have attended her Rainbow EDU panels over the summer where I got to hear from her and other important figures in the world of education and college admissions. Her guidance has helped set me up for success and I am thrilled to be able to share her advice with my audience.

For students whose grades are struggling in a remote setting…

Cindy eased my worries when she expressed that colleges know that grades in this setting are no longer a clear representation of a student. With some schools in person and others online, everyone is receiving a very different learning experience. Schools that pride themselves on their rigor and won’t loosen their curriculum and schools that have been more accommodating during the pandemic are not comparable. Colleges will be more focused on narratives rather than extracurriculars or grades, looking for how you helped your family, community and yourself during the pandemic, a more universal experience.

What students should do with all their time at home…

As someone who has had a lot of trouble seeking out projects that feel important in a pandemic setting, I was inspired by Cindy’s encouragement to delve into my narrative, doing something that excites me and sets me apart. In using this unusual time to learn more about ourselves in a meaningful way, we can develop new skill sets or create amazing things to be passionate about – like making an Etsy, starting an initiative, or learning code.

For overwhelmed students to deal with the stressors of school at home all day…

1. Acknowledge the stress – Cindy is an education expert who works with all different kinds of kids and sees the overwhelming feeling brought onto students with the pandemic. Recognizing and validating that the stress we are experiencing is normal and reasonable – as nothing going on in our lives is normal – is the first step to relieving it.

2. Avoid monotony – In a normal school day, we get up in between classes and move around giving our brain a change of scenery and time to relax. Try to simulate the school day at home, either switching from room to room in your house or getting a family workspace rotation going so everyone gets the benefits of variety. What is most important is separating your areas of relaxation from your areas of work and learning. Cindy’s message – Don’t do school from bed. You deserve your relaxation space to be just that, and your brain is already acclimated to that being a place to relax. If working in your bedroom is your best option, sit up at a desk or create a partition in your room to separate work from play.

3. Take time to make time – I often find myself wondering where all the time in my day went and feel overwhelmed and stuck to my screen. When this happens, I push off my workouts, reading time, or relaxing plan for that day to get my work done. Cindy has helped me look at it from a better perspective. By taking away the things that clear my mind and help me relax, I’m not helping my productivity but rather hurting it. Even if I make the time to stretch for 10 minutes or step outside for a bit, I am clearing my brain in a way that allows for productivity and release of stress.

For students who feel a loss of connection with their teachers…

It can seem daunting to reach out to teachers that you’ve only seen on screen. Cindy recommends that you pick a teacher who seems cool and interesting to you, reach out via email and ask to meet during office hours, or ask them how they are doing in this time, share an epiphany you’ve had in their class or during the pandemic. Teachers are adjusting to these changes as well and showing that you care and want to create a teacher-student connection by frequently reaching out, asking questions, and valuing their advice helps them get to know you.

Recently, a teacher let me out of class early on an especially busy day. Because of this, I was able to fit a 20-minute yoga class into my day which surely saved me from a mid-day crying fit or TikTok binge. To show my gratitude, I emailed the teacher to thank her for letting us out and the impact it had on my day. She was incredibly appreciative of my reaching out to thank her and I could tell that I had made her day better by reassuring her that her caring nature was coming through the screen.

For students to get more out of their education and learning…

Make your learning interesting to you. Call a friend and talk about something you found fun in class, engage and teach your parents what you are learning at the dinner table, or connect your curriculum to your everyday life and things happening on the news. School is about learning and growing your brain and identity no matter how menial a subject may seem. Your grades are important but not as important as learning the information to set you up for a bright future. By making your learning relevant to you, you become more interested and inclined to learn further or delve into smaller facets with independent research.

For students struggling to create a balanced class schedule…

Picking your classes should not be determined by what you think others would like to see but rather finding the schedule that best fits you. When deciding on a class, ask yourself why are you taking it? How is it valuable to you? How does it fit into your narrative? Does it play into your strengths? Are you interested in it? A brutal workload doesn’t serve anyone, but in navigating your choices class by class you can decide if the time you might gain from taking a baseline class rather than an honors or AP course would be productive and meaningful to you. Also, you need to shape your schedule based on your school, if the AP politics teacher is known to be horrendous, you can look at other options like taking it at a community college or advocating for an independent study. At the end of the day, colleges do want to see that you can handle the rigor and work hard in school, but you need to weigh the possibility of a lower overall GPA of baseline classes with potentially having the extra time to start new endeavors that diversify you and powerfully shape your narrative.

For students who want to perform better in the second semester…

Cindy reminded me that at this point in the year, we know our teachers and can anticipate their patterns and act accordingly. Setting yourself up for success begins with reflecting on what worked in the first semester and what did not. Even just creating a list of little things that you can adjust will make a big difference. Be proactive this semester. Don’t wait for things to happen to you or for things to change. Seek out shifts and be the change you want to see in your education. Shift your mindset to make virtual learning and COVID into something that’s happening for you not happening to you – so that you can accept it and work through it. Make time to celebrate the little wins in your life, whatever that looks like to you: getting balloons, having a dance party, or sharing your accomplishment with friends and family. Most importantly, be grateful for what you have now – as it will attract more things to be grateful for in this uncertain and challenging time. Treat this as an adventure… the first semester has given you the tools and a sense of familiarity to now work towards a positive change in your education.

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