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Dear Dr. Fournier: I start ninth grade this year. I make good grades, but study a lot, too. I'm afraid of ninth grade because I'm afraid I won't have enough time to study. I know it will be harder. But ninth grade is when all the grades count. I study every night, but then I get afraid I'll forget it so I study everything again. I want the good grades, but I don't want to miss all the fun in high school. I feel sick all the time now that school is getting closer. I don't want my parents to know.The assessment: Doing what it takes to get good grades is a great ambition, but you have to know when you are overdoing and then do what it takes to stop destroying yourself.

School is not about "studying." In fact, I call that a curse word because many students get so caught up in studying that they forget that school is for learning. Studying and learning are two very different things.Studying is boring. Learning is fun. Boring tasks eat up time. Fun tasks help you get through in less time.

As you change your words and outlook from "studying" to "learning," you will also have to change your actions. Never again use the word "studying."

What to do: Get a monthly calendar to help you learn to develop the skill of speculation. Remember to always write in pencil on your calendar because your speculations may change.

Whenever you begin a new chapter or topic in school, go beyond the first assignment. Look over the chapter or ask your teacher what will be covered. Then you can speculate (guess) when you need to complete learning the information. Mark that day on your calendar.

Once you have set this target date, ask yourself what you must learn each day in order to be "fearless" on the day of your test. Strike the phrase "What I'll Do" and replace it with the idea "What I'll Accomplish." Studying usually results in only trying to remember the material; thinking for accomplishment means you must take ownership of the material.

When you have determined what must be accomplished, set dates for each step in your learning process and record those dates on the calendar.

Here's an example of how this step-by-step system works:

STEP 1, ASSIGN: On Sept. 14, your science teacher begins Chapter 1 and tells the class that each chapter should take about two weeks to cover. All chapter tests will be given on Fridays. From that information, you speculate that the test on Chapter 1 will be given on Sept. 25, so you write "Ch. 1 Science Test" on that date on your calendar.

STEP 2, ANALYZE: Chapter 1 is 20 pages long but is divided into four main sections. You decide to read one section each day and check yourself by listening to "notes" you recorded on a tape recorder. On Sept. 14, you write on your calendar "Read Science Section/Write and Record Key Words." On Sept. 15, 16, 17 write "Recall previous key words, highlight those yet to be learned/Read next section/Write and Record Key words." That still leaves Sept. 18 as a "catch up" day in case you cannot complete all four sections in four days.

STEP 3, ACCOMPLISH: After reading all four sections, you will spend two days (Sept. 21-22) writing your own practice test, which you will take and correct on Sept. 23. On the day before the classroom test (Sept. 24), you can go over any information you "missed" in order to reach the top step of "learning accomplished!"

While other students are trying to "study" everything at once, you have a complete, two-week plan to accomplish the learning in time for the chapter test. Even if the teacher changes the date you have "speculated," it doesn't matter. You are in charge. Now that you have taken ownership of learning, the date of the test is no longer important. Slowly you will be developing the habit of thinking "process for learning" instead of fear of studying and test-taking.

Let go of the word "study" and pave your way with steps that will allow you to let go of fear and not miss out on the fun of learning and high school.