Striving for Success

An Inside Look on What Drives Determination


Illustration by Anna Tzou.

Dongjin Kim, Alyssa Chang, and Mikey Pierog

My disorganization began in junior year. I noticed myself failing abysmally to stay on task, or delegate my time to the necessary duties. I began spending most of my time in front of my computer, and ended up sleeping like clockwork… at 4:00 AM. Needless to say, I was far from being a model student, even though I was gaining a lot more experience at school. I thought older always meant wiser, but oddly enough, I seemed to have been a better student when I was younger. To gain perspective on how the youth stayed centered, I went around DIS to find out what elementary and middle school students thought were the makings of academic success.

There were an array of different answers on what made the ideal student, but a common theme that most seemed to agree on was respect. Jennifer from the fifth grade commented: “Being kind to others and respecting others’ ideas, while still listening well to our teachers” were the most important traits for being a well-reputed student. She also added that “we need to be respectful to both the teachers, school staff and every person on Earth.” She’s right; respect is what’s at the core of the listening skills necessary to absorb information in class, not to mention that self-respect for your academic achievement is what allows you to stay on track. Fifth grader Jules was in agreement with this idea, explaining that one needs to “respect the teachers, friends, and the laws and the environment that surrounds us” to become a well-reputed student. The ideal student is well-liked, well-rounded, and maybe not even the most “academic” one around.

Surprisingly, only a few of the students surveyed thought that interest in academics is the most important aspect of being an exemplary student. Eighth grader Andy disputed the idea that academics came second to other factors, answering that “[being] academically successful is what matters, since our primary duty is to study. Other things, like organization, don’t really matter. No-one really looks at them or cares anyways.” Jennifer had a unique take on the subject: “I don’t think studies are very important. Even if you manage to become successful in school, if you fail to become respectful to others, I don’t think you really can be a good student.” 

But what motivates a good student? What really drives an engaged, respectful student is passion. Robert Cho from the eighth grade opined that “we need to be passionate about what we do… Even if you end up failing and frustrating your teachers, being passionate about what you do is most important.”

Even though I’m much older than most of the kids I talked to, their perspectives proved extremely insightful. I never would have thought that younger kids could help me out academically… but when I took some of their advice and started focusing more on my academic studies while staying respectful, I can confidently say that I’ve become a better person and student in the process. The next time you find yourself stuck in a cycle of destructive behavior, try taking on a younger point of view. Youthful perspective can yield a refreshing new vantage point– a great opportunity to reappraise bad habits.