A Message for Students was written by my niece, Gwendolyn. She is currently a grade 10 student at the Jubilee Christian Academy. – ROBERT LEE

The Bible tells the story of two men. The wise man built his house on rock while the foolish man built his on sand.  When the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew, it was the house with the solid foundation that survived. Likewise, we need to live our lives with a purpose that is built on rock, one that will keep us motivated even when the going gets tough.

Why do you do what you do? Whether you are a student, entrepreneur or parent, it is important to have a clear answer to this question. Knowing what your purpose is gives you an idea what direction to take in life, what goals to set and what choices to make. It motivates you so that you keep going even in the face of many challenges.

As a student, ask yourself, “Why do I study hard, do my best to perform excellently and endure all the stress that comes with being in school?” Growing up, I too tried answering this question many times. Back when I was still in elementary, my purpose was to get good grades. I’m sure many of you would say the same thing. Is there anything wrong with that? Well, it depends.

Now that I am in high school, my response has changed. I now do what I do for a very simple reason: to learn, and I encourage all of you to have the same purpose too.

What is the difference between aiming to get good grades and to learn?  Is one better than the other?

The Unstable Foundation

There are good reasons why most schools give students grades. Here are some of them:

  • To identify areas of improvement
  • To measure progress
  • To reward hard work
  • To give a sense of achievement

However, they become harmful rather than helpful when:

  • We rely solely on grades to please ourselves and others
  • We use our grades to prove our worth
  • We consider grades as the sole measure of our intelligence

The reality is that our grades will not always be as good as we want them to. They are shaky, unstable foundations that will ultimately fail us if we build our self-worth and happiness on it. Why?

First, we’re not perfect and we won’t always be able to perform at our maximum. There will be times when we struggle to understand a lesson no matter how hard we try. There will be times when we fail to do well on a test.

Second, unforeseen circumstances may happen that we have little to no control over. Maybe you get grouped with people who are mediocre or maybe your printer stopped working just as you were about to print an important assignment.

During these times, putting too much emphasis on grades will take a toll on you. 

The Solid Foundation

Meanwhile, if you aim just to learn, you can save yourself from unnecessary stress and disappointment. Learning, you see, isn’t measured by how good your marks are. It is measured by how much you improve. In school, you fail a test when you do poorly on it. When it comes to learning, failure only happens when you fail to learn from your experiences. Moreover, unlike grades, learning will not disappoint you. It is not affected by what we do or what others say but our willingness to become better people. We can learn something every day, in any circumstance, whether good or bad, as long as we make the decision to.

I understand that for some of you, grades are more than numbers on your report card. They can mean the difference between having a scholarship or leaving school and passing that one last class or graduating a year late. But remember that failing in school is not the end of the world and certainly does not equate to failing in life.

Be Like the Wise Man

Here are some steps you can take to make learning a part of your lifestyle.

Embrace Your Inner Child

As young kids, we were curious and inquisitive, always asking the why’s and how’s, and finding answers to those questions. The next time something sparks your interest, go ahead and learn it! Make a simple Google search, or visit the library. Whether it is a global issue you see in the news, or a sport you’ve always wanted to try, you have so many resources in front of you to utilize.

Handle Failure Positively

Life is how we make of it. You may do your best in school but situations will still arise that set you back. During these times, you have a choice on whether to use the experience to your advantage or disadvantage. In times of difficulty, see the good and make sure not to leave empty-handed. Tell yourself, “I didn’t get the grade that I want but at least I picked up a few life lessons. I may have made some mistakes, but at least I know better and won’t commit them again in the future.”

Aim for the Greater Reward

Grades will not always reflect how much you have learned. Only you can measure that. So, focus on learning and think of grades only as a bonus. The life lessons you pick up, knowledge you gain, values you develop and skills you obtain are greater and more important rewards. They can only be obtained through actual practice, not cheating, and stay with you long after you graduate. So, consider yourself satisfied with these greater rewards, whether you get the grades you deserve or not.

Maximize Your Time at School

While there may be reasons why you don’t like school, try to make the most of your time there. Think about it, isn’t it better to sit through countless lectures and do long assignments, and get something out of them, than endure them and learn nothing? Try imagining school as a training ground for the real world. Here, you develop discipline and time management skills, and learn how to handle difficult situations, for instance. So while you may feel that school is entirely useless, at least allow it to shape you to be a better person.

Learn Beyond the Classroom

Let’s face it. School isn’t going to teach you everything you need to know or want to learn. The good news is that you can do something to shape your education. Don’t simple rely on your teachers. Instead, make opportunities for you to learn, even if you are not in school. Do you want to attend a coding class but lack funds and transportation? Watch videos on YouTube and use websites that give free tutorials. Do you want to stay fit but don’t have time to go to the gym? Use a workout app for 30 minutes each day. Do you want to become a good speaker? Watch powerful speeches and practice in front of a mirror every day. Remember, schooling is only a small part of your education and you have the resources and power to shape it.

Know When to Stop

There’s nothing wrong with studying hard but make sure not to compromise your health. As a student, there will be times when you are tempted to pull off an all-nighter or skip a meal to get schoolwork done. Don’t do it! It’s counter-productive and will hinder you from learning. Not only will your body perform less efficiently, you are also risking different diseases for short-term benefits (a.k.a grades). It simply isn’t worth it in the long run. Make simple lifestyle changes today. Sleep early, eat healthy brain-boosting snacks, drink water and exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.

A Message for Students

Dear student, what are you building your self-worth and happiness on? Are you founding it on learning or getting good grades? Be like the wise man and choose the stable foundation.