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A Winter Workout

Some of you may have extra time on your hands this winter break. How about completing some of the suggested tasks given here (see the Tasks tab). 

To register, send an email message that says you wish to participate in Jim's Winter Workout.

Jim will send you back a code name. When you complete a task, just notify Jim and he will post your accomplishment on a google spreadsheet. You can keep track of your total points and everybody's else total points (using their code name).

The link to the spreadsheet is:  Winter Workout Scoresheet

The two participants with the highest point total will earn an Honors College sweatshirt.

It would be aces if you choose to read something "difficult" this winter break. It need not be lengthy. It should have a bit of bite to it. It should cause you to re-read it. Multiple times. It should force you to read slowly. With a pencil in your hand. With paper nearby. It should force you to doodle a picture or two. Make a timeline. Draw stick figures. Make a list of words you do not know. Break it down. Build it back up. Tell it to somebody else.

Something that causes you to sit still for a few hours - maybe longer.

This is the exact skill that you need to practice and strengthen. It would be even better if you thought you had no interest in the subject matter. Break through the wall you have in front of you. It was Harold C. Martin who said in the foreword of William H. Armstrong's immense book, entitled:

Study is Hard Work 

and I quote: "

"Schooling makes no sense at all unless it assumes that students have a basic obligation to study; and if they recognize that obligation, there need seldom be much worry about interest, for interest is the fruit quite as much as it is the stimulus of study."

There are so many essays and texts that you've yet to read. It need not always be a novel, essay, play, or non-fiction book. It could be your differential equations textbook or your physics textbook. Something new. Something that stretches you. Something that forces you to teach it to yourself -- and then if possible -- if you are lucky enough -- find somebody in your life who you can explain it to. Somebody willing to listen to you telling the story of what you've just conquered.

If you want to be a better student -- a great student -- my heartfelt advice is to practice sitting by yourself. Just you. All by your onesies. In a space that is well-lit. No visual clutter. A good size table with depth. Nothing on it. Straight backed chair. Nothing in your ears. Minimal noise. Minimal or no technology nearby. Paper and pencils. Perhaps colorful fine-point sharpies? A dictionary. Make a date with yourself to sit for as long as you can and figure it out. Pick one thing to study. Avoid getting mentally locked up by worrying about "the many things" you need to do. Just do one thing. And feel damn good about it when you conquer it. 

Be happy about conquering one thing. May it be Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (which would take 4 hours) or the first two chapters of John Locke's 2nd Treatise of Civil Government (can be easily done in one sitting). Or perhaps you will take up Toni Morrison's Sula or her Bluest Eye. Plow your way through. Maybe you could learn what Cooley and Tukey did in 1965 ? Or read the book entitled, 1066.   Need something bigger? Get lost for 60 hours reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo... or get focused for 1 hour and read Martin Luther King's I've Got a Dream speech.

You have been given an enormous gift. It is called winter break. Add to your inventory. Practice your study skills. Your study skills are the key. Sit. Read. Think. Doodle. And Do. Find out how great it can and will be if you get into your study zone and stay there for multiple consecutive hours -- by yourself. Just you.  Go to your community library. The library is like Dorothy's ruby slippers. It can take you home. Just learn to love it. Can you hear it calling you?

Study in a room filled with the great works of all the wonderful masters who have come before you. Now is your time to do this. In a few short years your lives will be filled with many wonderful things -- that will preclude you from going to the library for hours on end. 

Be selfish now. You have time to be selfish now.  I close with this quote taken from Death Be Not Proud:

"For year after year she encouraged him to read, to think for himself, and to admire wisdom, truth, and beauty"

As we are about to embark on a new year, I hope you will seek out wisdom, truth, and beauty. It is all around you.

There are 19 enrolled participants in Jim's Winter Workout. Might you consider becoming number 20?

Best, Jim