Are you a procrastinator who habitually struggles to get started? Or do you start out enthusiastically only to find yourself fading before the finish? Appallingly, both a slow start and a fading finish describe a growing number of modern day students who find themselves distracted and drifting without any clear purpose.
I ran the 800 in high school track. (Actually, it was the 880 yard run which shows you how long ago that was.) I always shot out fast from the starting blocks. And, on my best days, I managed to finish strong as well. To this day, I fondly remember one particular race when I qualified for state as a sophomore, much to the surprise of my coach. I ran hard from start to finish. I also regretfully remember my next race (the state meet). I let the fear of not meeting expectations get to me, and I still remember the spot on the track when I decided to fade. I also remember how exhausted I felt – far more so than in races when I never gave up. I finished dead last at state, with my slowest time of the season. That momentary decision, on the third curve of the second lap, reduced my courage… not just for that particular race but for many races to come. I began to fear running. My confidence plummeted as I worried about giving up again. The joy I had previously found in running greatly diminished and so did my self-esteem.
Without a doubt, the more effort I gave to a race, the more invigorating and rewarding the experience was. Isn’t that true about everything in life? And school is no different. Students who finish strong wind up feeling decidedly better about themselves and are more enthusiastic about school, while those who let “spring fever” have its way end up with regrets and lowered confidence.
Starting and finishing with zeal are both essential for doing well in anything we set out to accomplish. Starting with initiative and drive and finishing with committed diligence are necessary bookends to secure the entire process. Without a burst at the start and a strong reach for the finish line at the end, obstacles along the way will sideline and discourage even those with the best of intentions.
Starting and finishing strong are needed for:
Making a commitment and following through.
Tackling the first math problem and staying the course through to the very last solution.
Creating the beginning paragraph of an essay to crafting the concluding statement.
Designing a long-term project and getting it done.
Picking up a book and digesting the text through to the last word.
Selecting a degree plan and accomplishing it.
Designing a business and getting it up and running smoothly.
Responding to the call of Christ and persevering to the end.
If students learn to start a school year with enthusiasm and commit to finishing strong, the rest of the school year is more likely to fill in well. Encourage your kids to finish strong. Encourage them to tackle remaining assignments enthusiastically and finish them. How they perform in the remaining few weeks will not only color the year in retrospect but also set up the beginning of the next school year.
All’s Well That Begins AND Ends Well!
- The closer to summer vacation it gets, the more distracted students may become. If your student’s grades tend to drop in the spring, forewarn them beforehand that this annual down turn is not an option. Call this habitual mistake what it is and be prepared to block the drift. If your student is drifting, review with them what is going well and what needs to change. Jointly commit to a “finish strong” plan.
- Link summer privileges to end-of-school successes, and link summer responsibilities to end-of-school outcomes. If your student’s math grade suffered in the spring, expect him to do review work to increase mastery over the summer. Make a clear message that if your student does not focus throughout the entire school year, they will lose recreational privileges and need to study instead over the summer.
- Eliminate what is not essential in their lives during the final weeks of the school year.
- Control internet and cell phone use. Texting and facebooking can be the source of hourly distractions, diminishing focus and outcomes considerably. (If your child owns a cell phone with texting capabilities, make sure you can access text history and commit to checking it regularly for accountability)
- Commit to maintaining vitality. In her book, I Dare You, Joyce Meyer says “No matter how enthusiastic you once were, you can become stagnant if you don’t do your part to keep yourself stirred up.” She defines stagnant as showing little or no sign of advancement, lacking vitality or briskness.
- Set a good example. Model taking responsibility for tasks and finishing what you start. Don’t let kids see you putting things off or neglecting jobs to pursue something more enjoyable. That will just give them an excuse to do the same.
- Help break down tasks. Preparing for a final when spring fever has already set in can seem like a daunting task. Help students manage big jobs by assisting them in chunking the task into manageable pieces (“eating the elephant one bite at a time”).This is an important skill they will need for the future and it builds in frequent beginning and ending points!