Rules for Surviving Secondary School ~ Tips From (surprise) A Survivor


"I used to be very lazy and a master procrastinator. I survived Secondary One to Secondary Three doing the bare minimum. And then Secondary Four came along." Those are the ominous opening lines from our speaker.

Jing Jie is visiting a graduating Primary 6 class at Joyous Learning at Miss Ligaya's invitation. It's the final English lesson for the year, and Miss Ligaya had the idea of having one of her ex-students who recently completed National Service to talk to the students about life in Secondary School.

Each of the students has been tasked to pick out three important things they gleaned from the talk and to each pose a (thoughtful) question.

More than just an informative talk, the students will get to practise their formal interaction skills with a senior. It is a brilliant way to round up the Post-PSLE Bridging programme!

Rule #1 - Be disciplined

"In primary school, you had about 4 subjects. In secondary school, that number doubles. You have 8, 9 subjects. Not only does the number of subjects increase, the amount of homework for each subject also increases. So, the workload increases exponentially, not linearly.

On top of that, you have your CCAs and all sorts of after school activities. By the time you're done with all that and get home, it's time for dinner.

There's not really much time left after all this. To get anything done at all, discipline is key. Set targets or daily objectives and stick to them. If necessary, plan a timetable and follow it religiously. Try not to give yourself concessions. If you do it once, you'll do it twice. If you do it twice, you'll do it thrice and so on...

I had a hard time when I was in Secondary Four because I wasn't disciplined during Secondary One to Three. I didn't make that mistake anymore in JC. I put in hard work in JC1, so when I got to JC2, it was pretty much smooth sailing."

Rule #2 - Participate in non-academic activities

"It's the best time to really explore other areas of interest. We had so much going on every day after regular lessons - inter-class competitions, drama festivals, track and field meets, arts fests - it'd be a waste not to fully immerse yourself in them.

You'll grow in terms of developing specialised knowledge in a particular domain, and also in terms of how to interact, work with, and communicate with your peers, seniors and teachers. Secondary school, in many ways, is like the test bed and training ground for adolescents growing into young adults.

Don't be afraid to take on new responsibilities and challenges. That's the only way you'll grow. Too much work? This is where rule #1 comes in again: discipline."

Rule #3 - Friends & Teachers

"Most people make their best friends in their secondary school lives. Secondary school is no walk in the park, and going through tough times with friends forges strong bonds that last for life.

Surround yourself with wholesome friends who are similarly motivated to do well. I wasn't the best student, but I was lucky that my close friends bright people who were good at their studies. We'd encourage and help each other and, when exams came around, we'd get together for study sessions. Whenever I get stuck or had any doubts, all I had to do was ask my friends.

They were like my free tuition teachers.

Believe it or not, your teachers are your friends too. If you have questions or doubts (about schoolwork, CCAs, or anything else) and have no one to turn to, your teachers are always there for you. And trust me, they'll be more than happy to counsel and guide you.

Throughout, Miss Ligaya is smiling and asking ex-student Jing Jie questions on behalf of her current batch of students. You can tell she is proud of him. Jing Jie, eloquent and charismatic, seems a far cry from the lazy, disorganised boy he was supposed to have been in Secondary school.

What Jing Jie has shared is more than rules for surviving secondary school. Practical and inspirational, they are also rules for how the inductees to Secondary school should enjoy and make the best of their secondary school years.

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