How to Make School a Conscious Effort

by Darrin Lythgoe

Have you ever struggled to stay awake in class? It’s not a pleasant feeling, especially if you suddenly realize you missed something important. If it seems to happen a lot, the answer may include making school a higher priority. In any case, the following strategy will certainly lead to long-lasting results. Start today! Your education—and your future—may depend on it.

Prepare Physically

  • Get plenty of sleep. No matter how many times you’ve heard it, it’s still true. It’s even scriptural (see D&C 88:124).

  • Follow a regular sleep pattern. Getting ten hours one night and three the next may leave your body confused as well as tired, so work out a steady schedule and stick to it.

  • Eat healthy meals, especially before and during school. It’s hard for your mind to pay attention if your body is weak, hungry, or both.

  • If you need glasses, wear them. It’s easier to focus mentally when you can focus visually.

Know Your Stuff

  • Do your homework on time. Teachers give homework to help you learn the subject matter and prepare for the next class, so don’t take it lightly. Going to class unprepared is a little like trying to eat an apple without any teeth.

  • Go beyond the assignment. If you have time, a little extra reading or studying on the topic may help you get a lot more comfortable with it.

  • Teach it to someone else. If you can explain math to a friend or Shakespeare to your dad, you should be able to understand well enough to follow your own teachers.

  • Study in groups. Talking it over with a few classmates after school will give you access to their insights as well as your own.

  • If you’re still lost, get additional help. Talk to the teacher or ask a friend who seems to understand. If labs or teaching assistants are available, make use of them.

Get Involved

  • If possible, sit in front where you can see and hear clearly. Like concerts and sporting events, school is more interesting close up.

  • Sit up straight. You will pay better attention, and your body won’t be so prone to thinking it’s nap time. And hey, good posture can’t be bad for you, right?

  • Concentrate on what’s being taught. If the teacher uses a textbook, bring it to class and follow along. Don’t let your mind wander.

  • Form your own opinions. Do you agree with the facts as they are being presented? How would you debate or defend them?

  • Ask questions, make comments, and express your opinions. By interacting with teachers and other students, you will gain a lot more than mere consciousness.

  • Take thorough notes. Write constantly, organizing as you go. With your hands and mind active, your eyes will find it easier to stay open.

Last Resorts

  • Hold your feet six inches off the floor.

  • Take your shoes off for a while.

  • Glance around the room occasionally (but keep your mind on the subject).

  • Ask a friend to poke you if you start to drift off.


Some methods for staying awake in class aren’t such hot ideas. Here are a few you should definitely avoid.

  • Don’t take drugs of any kind to stay awake. They can be addicting, and they’re not in harmony with the Word of Wisdom. Habits like this can be dangerous—and expensive.

  • Don’t eat junk food for energy. Sugar can give you a short boost, but when it fades you may be even more drowsy. And then there’s tooth decay …

  • No all-nighters. The knowledge you gain by staying up all night cramming may be eclipsed by your inability to do anything the next day. If you start your studying a few days earlier, the night before won’t seem so frightening.

Big As All Outdoors

How’d you like to hold your seminary class in the open air? That’s the way Brother Kevin Jim and his students in the Kila Kila Branch, Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby Mission, do it. The only thing protected from rain is the chalkboard! But the spirit of seminary here is as big as all outdoors.

Here are some additional comments from students in the Konedobu Branch, of the same mission:

“I like going to seminary because I learn more about the scriptures and about Jesus Christ who came to earth many years ago.”

—Robert Kawapuro

“Though I am a first-year student, I enjoy attending seminary classes. I want to bear my testimony that this is the only true church on earth today.”

—William Griffin

“This is my second year in seminary class and I really enjoy it. The Lord has helped me in many ways, and I will not give up attending this class.”

—Mea Morea

“Even though I don’t know how to read and write, I still learn in seminary. I know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will help me when I am in doubt.”

—Raka Morea

Goal Getter

Josh Rohatinsky, a deacon in the Provo Fourth Ward, Provo Utah North Stake, realized a year-long goal when he became the Junior Olympics National Champion in the 3,000-meter run for the 11–12 age group. The games were held in Gainesville, Florida. Josh outperformed the second-place winner by 19 seconds.

Josh is coached by his dad and would like to run in the 2000 summer Olympics. For now, though, he’s just glad the race is over.

“It was hard,” says Josh, “but I’m glad I did it.”

Dream Team

Football players at Klein High School in Spring, Texas, are known for many things—their winning record, their team spirit, and their ability to work well under pressure. Klein High School football is also known for its “Mormon Squad.”

The LDS boys on the team are not only determined to win, but also to share their beliefs with teammates and are respectful of others—even in the locker room. Through their actions, the boys challenge the other team members to follow a higher standard. Boys teaming up to help each other maintain high standards and work hard—now that’s a winning combination!

Giving the Gift of Music

Richard Moore, an eighth-grader from Memphis, Tennessee, took first place in his state’s PTA music competition, which was open to students from all of Tennessee’s 96 counties. The theme of the contest was “If I Could Give the World a Gift …” Richard, who has been composing music since he was 11 years old, wanted his gift of music to be a way to bridge the gap between classical and modern music.

Richard uses his musical talents as the priesthood music chairman in the Memphis Second Ward, Memphis Tennessee Stake, where he is a teacher and is planning to receive his Eagle Scout Award soon.

Fine Family

Melanie, Wendy, Tony, and Matthew Hardman are working hard to follow in the footsteps of older siblings Andrew, Daniel, and Katrina. This family from the Eight Mile Plains Ward, Brisbane Australia Stake, isn’t shy about sharing the gospel, or the high standards it embraces, with others.

Both older brothers have served missions, and older sister Katrina recently led an effort to have an offensive advertising campaign removed from her university campus.

“I collected signatures to have offensive posters removed,” says Katrina, 19. “I met many good people during this process, and one of them came to church with me.”

Melanie, who is the next in line for university study, will join Katrina, Daniel, and Andrew at the Queensland University of Technology. She is 17 years old, and is looking forward to participating in institute.

Radio Free Europe

When Elders Ricks, Seeley, Ogden, and Zanetti were called to the Italy Rome Mission, they had no idea they would become broadcasters. But it’s all in a day’s work for these missionaries now. These elders, who are serving in the city of Ascoli Piceno, transmit a weekly program in which they discuss basic gospel principles and the Book of Mormon. The Church has not been in Ascoli Piceno for long, and these elders have a lot of ground to cover to get the gospel message out. By using the airwaves, their work goes a little faster, and is a lot of fun as well.

Service Supreme

Youth in Roy, Utah, found an interesting way to cool off last summer. With rakes, shovels, and paintbrushes in hand and wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “The Rule Is Cool”—referring to the Golden Rule—this group spent two days helping out at a local community center for disadvantaged families. They played games with the children at the center, cleaned up the yard, painted playground equipment, and washed windows.

“My favorite part was doing the games with the kids at the community center. It was great to see their reaction, but it was also great to see how much fun we were all having,” says Sara Medill, a Mia Maid.

After the youth completed 750 hours of service, workers at the community center and recipients of the service all agreed—the youth of the Roy 16th Ward are as good as gold.

Setting Their Standards High

Toinette and Couris Bates, shown here with seminary scripture-mastery awards, know that maintaining Church standards is always important, no matter where you live. For them, it is extra important because members of the Church in their area (Bundaberg Branch, Brisbane Australia Mission) are few and far between, so they are often the only members of the Church people will know.

“Good friends respect what I believe, especially concerning the Word of Wisdom,” says Toinette. “Individuality is important. I like to be different.”

Couris says people are often curious about the standards she keeps. “All you have to do is share your thoughts with them! It can make a difference in their lives.

Photography by John Luke