A new term is upon us, and although that does mean that there are a lot of exciting new adventures floating on our academic horizon, it also marks the beginning of the inevitable first-week doldrums. These are the days of grueling awful stab-yourself-in-the-eye-with-a-pencil tedium. Syllabi are flung at you as if fed through a pitching machine with no “off” switch – fast and predictable – but you still need to be prepared with an effective strategy or else suffer serious paper cuts and the “forgot to get that signed by my parents (even though I am eighteen or my parents couldn’t care less about my Physics syllabus) so now I am forced to begin the term with negative homework credit.”
The syllabi do not quit their torture at the homework stage, but manage to linger in the most monotonous of ways through every running minute of our classes over that first week. We hunch in agony: our spines ache, eyes water, minds fog, stomachs rumble… We fall asleep on our cold desks… We drool… We feel dully agitated all the time. Our potential is being wasted! So this tedium characteristic of public high school is unbearable for many reasons, we can all agree. But for now, all we can do is comply… We need to set a good impression, and we need to begin classes with non-negative homework credit.
STUDENTS. I know I make our situation sound bad, but I assure you, there are ways to maintain your sanity during this boring first week. What follows are some tips on how to stay creative and entertained in class… Under the radar…
- Doodling. We all know this one. Doodles are a subtle enough way to occupy yourself without disturbing anyone, and innocent enough to avoid any sort of punishment if you are found out. Doodle your neighbors. Write fake names under each portrait. Bring in a coloring book, but make sure to hide any vibrant cover art it may bear. Draw a maze. Draw a face, write “add to this person” at the top of the page, then quietly pass the paper to your neighbor to begin making people. Draw the same shape over and over again. Draw the body of a person/creature missing a head right where the top of the paper is; hold it up against your teacher to give it a head. If you are a nerd, try illustrating what your teacher is talking about.
- Journaling. Like doodling, journaling is subtle in a classroom setting. To a teacher, it may appear that you are taking copious notes, but in reality, you are free to pour your heart out onto paper. Write about you day, your loves, your hates… Make to do lists, make best friend lists of all the people in your class as if you were in third grade, re-design the seating chart to cater to friends or to provoke enemies. Write haiku. Fill an entire page with words that lack the letter “a.” Play word scramble. Make up stories about your teacher’s hidden life.
- Learn Origami. Have a smartphone? Anyone near you have a smartphone? Google instructions for that origami star you’ve always wanted to figure out. Have sticky notes? They are perfect squares, perfect for origami.
- Become ambidextrous. Try to spend the class doing everything with your non-dominate hand. It makes you smarter. Working with your left hand increases activity in your right-brain, the less analytical, more creative, and rhythm-keeping side of your brain. On the other hand (literally), your left-brain is better with memorization and language. To give your brain a workout, the important thing is to try to change up its routine. It is the communication in the Corpus Callosum, connecting the two halves of the brain, which increases overall brain function efficiency and multi-tasking ability.
- Set out a scavenger hunt for the anonymous student who uses your seat next period. Start with tiny clues, all centered around that desk… See if you get a response… Mystery communication is fun.
- Become another person. Choose a character, and quietly commit. Answer all questions as the character would. Look around the class as your character would. Pretend you are Harry Potter and your scar twinges. Chances are, nobody will notice what you are doing, but it is still really entertaining for yourself.
- Meow. It is possible to meow or make other animal noises without moving your mouth. Try to convince the class that there is an animal trapped in the classroom.
- Like Sherlock Holmes, try to anticipate every single move someone is going to make. Take notes. Concentrate. Test you brainpower.
- Memorize things. Memorize facts that are more unique than actually useful to know. Great for parties.