Get the most out of this school year with our 7-point checklist written by students for students

Teenagers Young Team Together Cheerful Concept

Figuring out the best way to approach the new school year might be something you’re trying to avoid right now because you’d prefer the summer holiday to never end, or it might be at the forefront of your mind because you want to succeed in the months ahead.

Either way we’re going to share something that inspired us and that we think you’ll find incredibly useful if you care about your grades. Since 1997 we’ve worked with more than 250 schools to empower pupils and help more students achieve their potential. One of the sessions we facilitate is to ask students to clarify their role in their own success and what they think they need to do in order to get the best out of their time in school.


Self-led improvement

Teenagers often prefer to implement their own ideas than those that are dictated to them by others. That’s why we ask lots of questions and encourage teenagers to take a leading role in improving their own lives. It’s not rocket science – It’s common sense and human nature. What follows is a summary of students’ suggestions at one of the schools we’ve been working with, Broad Oak Sports College in Bury, Lancashire. This is its students’ blueprint for succeeding in school. We think they nailed it, and that’s why we’re encouraging you to read on and see if any of their ideas apply to you.


What on earth are we doing in school anyway?

Firstly the students reflected on the three main reasons why schools exist. According to the UK government, we spend billions of taxpayers’ money on schools in order to help young people:

  • Prepare for future jobs and careers
  • Participate in our culture and community
  • Get ready for adult life

With these three aims in mind, every student in the school was asked to consider…


What do you need to do in order to succeed?

We wanted to know what students think are their responsibilities? What role do they need to play in their own achievement? What action can they take in order to stack the odds of success in their favour? As you can image, hundreds of different ideas were discussed and documented. But when we read through all their notes, we discovered seven fundamental themes that students stated time and time again. Here they are…


7 things students need to do if they want to be successful


  • 1. ‘I am constantly raising my personal expectations and aspiring to achieve more.’

Student made it clear they felt it was important they had hopes and aspirations for the future that inspired them. Examples of what students wrote include:

  • Having a ‘Growth Mindset’ and believing you can improve
  • Setting personal goals
  • Having a clear action plan for achieving your goals
  • Being prepared to do more than others expect
  • Using your initiative
  • Being dedicated and motivated
  • Being determined and driven
  • Having an attention to detail in all that you do
  • Regularly reflecting on your level of progress
  • Finding myself an appropriate mentor or role model
  • Being prepared to innovate
  • Trying new experiences
  • Finding new ways to make school and life more rewarding
  • Leading the way for others to follow

  • 2. ‘I am equipped and ready to learn.’

Time and time again students described how this was about more than bringing a pen to class; it was about bringing the right attitude too. Examples of what students wrote include:


  • Having 100% attendance and being on time to all activities
  • Always having the right equipment (including pens, pencils, eraser, ruler, calculator, protractor, note book, text books, etc.).
  • Having spare equipment in case your pen runs out of ink, etc.
  • Being open minded and willing to learn
  • Taking every opportunity to learn and grow
  • Maintaining high levels of focus and concentration
  • Actively observing teachers and role models
  • Proactively taking notes and keeping an up-to-date learning journal
  • Listening to instruction and feedback, then responding in a positive manner
  • Participating and completing tasks
  • Having effective study skills (e.g. speed reading, note-taking, critical thinking techniques, creative thinking skills, memory strategies)

  • 3. ‘I am respectful of myself and my community.’

Students expressed how important they felt it was to play a positive role in creating a learning environment where they felt comfortable to express themselves and try new things without fearing embarrassment or ridicule. Examples of what students wrote include:

  • Caring and looking out for each other
  • Respecting everyone else’s right to learn and improve
  • Having empathy and seeking to understand other people
  • Treating others the way you want to be treated, irrespective of your differences
  • Treating all school facilities, staff, other learners, and their property with respect
  • Avoiding any form of bullying, intimidation, harassment, abuse, aggression or violence
  • Complying with school rules and policies, even if you don’t agree with them
  • Wearing the school uniform, and being clean and presentable
  • Refraining from noisy behaviour, unruly behaviour, and disrupting lessons (such as chatting in class, deliberately asking silly questions, playing pranks, using your phone and throwing things)
  • Putting litter in bins and leaving classrooms clean and tidy
  • Abstaining from sexual activity and public displays of affection in school
  • Being honest and trustworthy
  • Being a positive example of the school’s values and implementing the Student Code of Conduct every day
  • Gaining permission rather than taking things for granted (e.g. borrowing equipment, entering a teacher’s office, etc.)
  • Helping and supporting others

  • 4. ‘I am a positive communicator.’

It’s no surprise that students identified the quality of their communication skills as a critical factor in their school success. Great achievement requires great relationships and teamwork. Examples of what students wrote include:

  • Always being polite and using good manners
  • Encouraging others and sharing positive ideas
  • Not talking over other people and actively listening when others are speaking
  • Choosing words and vocabulary carefully to avoid misunderstandings
  • Expressing appreciation
  • Being mindful and respectful with my tone of voice
  • Controlling body language
  • Regularly asking for feedback
  • Refraining from gossiping and spreading rumours
  • Contributing positively to teamwork
  • Asking questions and actively seeking answers if not sure about something
  • Not being abusive or anti-social (such as name calling, swearing or spitting) at any time
  • Getting to know your classmates, staff, volunteers and potential employers
  • Avoiding sexist/racist/homophobic/xenophobic and any other form of bigoted behaviour
  • Not using social media, blogs, e-mail, SMS or any other form of communication in ways that may be deemed inappropriate by other learners and members of staff.

  • 5. ‘I am responsible and taking control of my life.’

Students acknowledged that, ultimately, it’s their life and they need to play a leading role in making it the way they want it. Examples of what students wrote include:

  • Leading your own growth and development
  • Avoiding procrastination
  • Being proactive and working independently
  • Not waiting for others to do things to improve my life
  • Teaching yourself new and useful things
  • Being accountable for the consequences of all your emotions, decisions, actions and results
  • Not moaning, whining or blaming others
  • Wearing the school uniform, being smartly dressed and looking professional
  • Refraining from any conduct that constitutes a criminal offence (e.g. theft)
  • Learning from your mistakes
  • Bringing concerns that might affect your development promptly to a member of staff so that appropriate support can be arranged
  • Being flexible and willing to change your approach when what you are doing isn’t working

  • 6. ‘I am happy, healthy and well.’

It was pleasing to see that students were aware of the importance of their wellbeing and the impact it has on their progress in school. Examples of what students wrote include:

  • Valuing yourself
  • Taking responsibility for your own wellbeing
  • Maintaining my energy levels
  • Getting at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night
  • Consuming at least seven portions of fruits and vegetables every day
  • Keeping food and drinks that contain sugar to a minimum
  • Drinking at least two litres of water every day
  • Avoiding caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and drugs (including energy drinks, e-cigarettes and legal highs)
  • Exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes, three times every week
  • Having hobbies and participating in activities that I enjoy
  • Taking care of personal hygiene
  • Being emotionally intelligent
  • Using strategies to manage your emotions, self-confidence and stress levels
  • Using strategies to manage stress levels
  • Following the school’s health and safety rules
  • Staying safe online and offline at all times
  • Avoiding risky behaviours such as throwing things, carrying dangerous weapons, tampering with fire extinguishers, messing with chemicals, etc.
  • Having a positive support group

  • 7. ‘I am working hard and trying my best.’

We were delighted to see students regularly refer to the importance of their work ethic. Inevitably, results are directly related to the effort put in. Examples of what students wrote include:

  • Being passionate about something I value
  • Putting energy and enthusiasm into learning
  • Deliberately pursuing your goals every day
  • No matter what level you’re working at you try to do the best you can
  • Completing tasks and homework on time
  • Making things happen rather than waiting for things to happen
  • Constantly striving to be the best you can be
  • Being reliable and consistent in your approach to your work
  • Being courageous and willing to try things that are outside your comfort zone
  • Having grit and being resilient when the going gets tough
  • Being fully committed
  • Avoiding quitting and settling for second best
  • No excuses
  • Constantly looking for ways to accelerate your progress and move to the next level
  • Seeking expert help and advice
  • Looking for little gains you can implement to improve your performance
  • Expecting to achieve great results

We hope you find this checklist helpful and it gives you some ideas you can implement to take your own levels of success to the next level. You might want to implement it as your personal Code of Conduct if you want to achieve the best grades possible.


What’s missing? Please share your thoughts, ideas and suggestions below.
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Want to ask Kevin a question? Got an inspiring story you want to share?

Please email kevinmincher@unstoppableteen.com