The Principle of Self-Investment: Study Habits Produce More Than Grades


For some students, the act of studying is almost non-existent.

“Study….. nah man… Who is going to study?”

The perception is that studying is a great waste of time. Yet, the effects of studying i.e. good grades, passing tests, having a high GPA, are as coveted as the Heisman Trophy. I recently polled a group of students ranging from fourth grade to twelfth grade and asked how often they study, not do homework. The answer was an astounding, “I study the night before a test.” or the ever present “I never study. I just get what I get.”

It baffled me that the act of studying was not understood as the process of acquiring knowledge but as an inconvenience. This pervasive thought began to spark dialogue that included various opportunities for the group to restate their argument and a few thought provoking question that were the catalyst for this blog post.

These questions were:

  1. “How do you expect to connect what you learned last week to what you will learn in the future if you do not put the knowledge into your long term memory so you can use it again?”

  2. “How can you expect to make the grades you want if you do not study before the day before the test?”

These two questions, though simple, both stumped and intrigued this audience of varied aged students because they hadn’t been pushed to think about these types of questions. Literally, the thought that receiving good grades without investing their time did not register as a misnomer. It was then that I realized that our kids lacked more than effective study habits they lacked the foundational Principle of Investment.

What is the Principle of Self-Investment?

If you research Investment, you will get a series of articles about investing money in the stock market. However, this post is not focused on the money making aspect of investment but about the strategic principle that gives people the ability to achieve wealth. Underneath the science of investing money is a farming principle that says, you cannot not expect to harvest (a product) from a place that you have not invested the time to prepare. In other words, you cannot get something for nothing. This concept of investing your time and energy in the process of getting what you want in life is a principle that seems to have become further away from societal normalcy. We live in times where receiving instant, adaptable, and ready made products are common place. Yet, without learning the principle of investment, we create a group of people who struggle to put together a life picture that is more than 120 characters and reinforced by an altered picture.

So where does this leave educators?

We could blame the problem on the prevalence of technology or the absence of effective parenting. However, as educators, we must begin to analyze our role in producing a generation of thinkers. This notion of producing thinkers may seem disheartening when we are talking about people whose life plan is encompassed in a SNAP Chat story, the perfect Instagram filter, and the next catchy #hashtag. I can hear every over worked under paid educator say, “Why does the educator have to the one to dig for implications?” The answer is simple. If we don’t, who will? Our kids spend more time with us than they spend with their parents. In retrospect, we take on a secondary and sometimes primary role but the question is, how do we see our roles in the lives of our kids? Is your role passive or massive?

Educators are trained to do many things. We lesson plan, deliver effective versions of these lesson plans, and disaggregate the data that these lessons produce but we are not taught how to instill the principle of self-investment in our kids. We are taught how to get kids to comply. Then get kids to invest and trust us. I am not crazy. I teach fifth grade. I know that an out of control classroom is one where very little learning is taking place. However, by seeing investment as compliance and an assertion of authority, educators miss the teachable moments that come from organic conversations.

Organic conversations go beyond content. They do not have standardized testing value. They are life lessons that help kids learn how to trust themselves and make better decisions for their futures. This trust will eventually give way to the self-investment, the willingness to prepare for their own harvest, that will produce, responsibility, discipline, and a broader worldview. Often times, we do not have time for conversations. We are pulled from meeting to meeting, looking for next engagement strategy, the next interactive game to play, or the next technology enhanced tool. This are great but our kids are in need the authenticity and breeds transparency. They are in search of that one or several conversations that will yield a change in mindset about all of the things that life has to offer.

How many organic moments have you missed?

Honestly, it was the possibility to impact a life beyond the subject matter that pulled you into the profession. Fall back in love with the relational nature of teaching. It is true that we can only do so much. Yet, if we see every kid as a part of our principle of self-investment then we won’t miss the opportunity to share the coveted secret….study habits are not about passing tests but about developing the discipline and character that will impact their futures.

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