5 Steps to Make This School Year Your Best One Ever
This blog was written by online student Jett James P., 2022-23 11th Grade President of the Florida Virtual High School Student Government.
The 2023-2024 Florida Virtual School year has finally arrived! It’s an exciting and pivotal moment for both new and returning online students, and by investing a little more time at the start of the school year, the rest of your semester can run nearly stress-free.
First, a little about me. My name is Jett James P. This is my fifth and final year (go, Seniors!) as a Florida Virtual School online student. I am a Native American, Pulitzer Prize-nominated political author, journalist, and strategist. I am the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of the political news website, TheGenZPost.com, and have proudly served FLVS as President of the Class of 2024 for the past two years. I am also a member of the Cambridge AICE Diploma program, the National Honor Society, the Spanish National Honor Society, and proudly represent our school at Model United Nations competitions throughout Florida. On top of that, I am part of a Taino Arawak Indigenous language project to restore our ancient spoken language and preserve our tribe’s most sacred traditions.
There is no doubt that Florida Virtual School has afforded me the opportunity to pursue my passion for politics, history, international relations, and journalism in a way that would not be possible anywhere else. It’s given me the flexibility to write two political books while in high school (my first one reached Amazon’s Top 20 bestsellers in Politics and was nominated for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize, and my second one is scheduled for release in bookstores this coming March). I have also engaged in unique internship and volunteer opportunities such as serving as a U.S. “Gen Z” political consultant for the world’s largest financial newspaper, Nikkei Asia; a weekly producer for the Careology Radio Talk Show on WPSL 1590 AM; and the Government Affairs Liaison for the homeless charity, CareBag, Inc.
Despite my demanding extracurricular activities and projects, my academic classes have always been my top priority. Fortunately, my GPA reflects my hard work. In fact, I’ve already earned an AICE Diploma with Distinction a year before graduation, and will have completed 12 Advanced Placement® (AP®) and eight Cambridge AICE courses by the time I graduate in May 2024. But staying on top of classwork is challenging because it takes strategic planning, particularly at the start of every semester.
5 Steps to a Successful School Year
- Step 1: Organize Your Computer Files
- Step 2: Create Your Own “Personalized” Live Lesson Calendar
- Step 3: Clean Up Your Desk Area
- Step 4: Print Out Your Pace Charts
- Step 5: Make an Online Calendar Your Best Friend
Step 1: Organize Your Computer Files
The first thing I do at the start of a new school year is clean up my computer desktop. I create a folder for the previous school year (example: 11th Grade) and place all of my previous year’s class notes and schoolwork into that folder. After this, I create a NEW desktop folder for each class and name it accordingly (example: AP Art History). I also create a new folder called “General Information” and folders for each club I plan to join during the year. Therefore, whenever a school-wide email hits my inbox, I save all relevant documents in one place. Whenever I submit an assignment, I move the document to the appropriate class folder, keeping my computer desktop as clean and neat as possible throughout the year.
Step 2: Create Your Own “Personalized” Live Lesson Calendar
For the past four years, I’ve been fortunate to not have any conflicting live lessons on the same day and time. However, this year I have several classes scheduled for the same live lesson period. But hey, this is virtual school, so no problem! I reached out to my teachers in advance to let them know the situation, and created my own live lesson calendar in a document that works with my schedule. The key here is to be creative and design your own live lesson calendar using any colorful calendar template or table. Here’s an example:
Looking for other ways to express yourself and show your school pride? Download one of the Florida Virtual School back-to-school wallpapers for your desktop or phone:
Florida Virtual Elementary School
Florida Virtual Middle School
Florida Virtual High School
Step 3: Clean Up Your Desk Area
Unlike other writers known for messy desks, I am obsessed with keeping my work area clean. I only keep the books, paperwork, headphones, and water bottles on my desk that I am using for that day. I also keep food, snacks, and distractions away from my computer area at all times. Instead of eating while I work, I take frequent breaks to walk around my tree-lined neighborhood and prepare meals in my kitchen during lunch hours. I am a firm believer that clutter slows down the mind as it is human nature for the brain to repeatedly scan one’s environment. By keeping my work area minimalistic and simple, I am able to devote all of my mental energy to my live lessons and schoolwork.
Step 4: Print Out Your FLVS Pace Charts
Staying on pace is the number one thing you can do to reduce stress throughout the school year. Every FLVS class has a pace chart that is perfectly designed to align with the overall school and holiday calendar. The key to not getting behind is to dedicate at least one full day each week to catching up on schoolwork. For me, that day is Saturday. For you, it may be Tuesday. While I may be an outlier by taking the hardest classes available with 40-60 hours of independent coursework each week, it’s also extremely important to always leave at least one full day with zero schoolwork. For me, I try to leave Friday afternoons and evenings for fun, but staying on pace is always paramount. So, if I have a Model United Nations three-day competition or weeklong family vacation coming up, I work ahead of the pace chart to relieve stress upon my return. If I experience an unexpected loss of progress due to a family emergency or illness, then I immediately touch base with my teachers and create a plan of action to tackle a few extra assignments each day to catch up as soon as possible without sacrificing quality of work.
Step 5: Make an Online Calendar Your Best Friend
With all that I have on my plate, there is no way I could do it without the frequent use of an online calendar. I personally love free online calendars because they’re easy to access on my phone, laptop, and desktop computer. The key to success is viewing and updating it multiple times per day, and sharing calendar access with other family members to make sure that personal and school conflicts are at a minimum.
What’s even cooler is that I have linked my calendar with an inexpensive smart speaker that announces my reminders, appointments, and deadlines out loud a few minutes before they start. In addition, when important dates are released (like the official school calendar), I take the time to add those dates to my personal online calendar. As such, I sincerely appreciate being able to color code entries by priority status (deadlines are red, recurring live lessons are blue, DBAs are green, volunteer work is orange, and personal appointments are purple), and being able to automatically set recurring events (such as listing my AP English Literature live lessons every Monday and Wednesday at 11:00 AM). Moreover, sharing my calendar with the rest of my family ensures everyone is on the same page to avoid over-scheduling at critical times during the school year.
In sum, getting organized early in the year is your greatest asset. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” In a similar fashion, managing your external work environment will pay dividends in the future by allowing you to focus and maintain clarity so that you can get the most out of your classes and club involvement throughout the school year. Best of luck to you all!