Frame It

There was a time when I absolutely loved school. Each year, when summer break came to a close, I was genuinely excited to return. To learn.

However, as school got increasingly harder and the stress kicked in, I found myself wondering more often when, exactly, I would be using anything I learned.

“Why am I even doing this?” I’d ask as I stared at my unfinished math homework. “It’s not like I’m going to convert a point into polar form when I pay my taxes.”

And again. “How is the Canterbury Tales going to help me?”

Day after day, the same question in a million different forms. What am I doing here, for seven hours a day?

Asking didn’t make me feel better. Neither did complaining. I just felt useless. But finally, in the midst of an angry internal rant, I came to the answer. It’s all about reframing it.

I will never use the formulas learned in Math Analysis. I’ll be writing books, not calculating astronaut trips to Mars. But I will need to think through difficult situations, address all the factors in a problem and deal with failure. In math, these apply to problems I can’t solve or grades I don’t particularly like. In life, it’s a mistake. A big, ugly mistake that I need to take care of.

I probably won’t need to write an essay outside of my English class. Yet, if I want to be an author, it is essential for me to understand how a novel works. I can use the books I analyze as a way of determining what I want to see in my own writing. How did Shakespeare reveal Juliet’s character to the audience? Would I do it differently?

I discovered that I could use each bad grade as a way to address my perfectionism. I can think of my teachers’ comments on my essays as preparation for dealing with an editor’s critiques. I can analyze the students around me as potential characters in a novel.

There are many layers to a subject in school. There is the obvious, the course material that the teacher presents. The stuff we memorize, get tested on and forget. But below that layer, there are undercurrents. The skills we don’t realize we are using in order to complete the coursework. Skills like how to work in a group, how to deal with people we dislike and how to stretch our minds a little. How to deal with stress. How to manage our time.

This is what school teaches us. It’s not about the material we’re tested on; it’s about how we learn the material. That is what will stick with us, forever and ever, if we let it. If we realize what we can take out of it before it’s too late and we make sure we hone those skills.

I realized that night, at the ripe hour of 11 p.m., that my issue wasn’t the work itself. It was the way I was seeing the work. As cliché as it sounds, I realized that it’s all about perspective. I look at school differently now. I reframe it to fit my needs.

And I couldn’t be happier.

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