By Kenneth Shu
Summer’s over, school’s started, and you’re back on the usual routine of waking up really early to catch the bus, and sleeping really late to finish all your work. I know, it’s very hard.
Like most sane people of our generation, we love our times cozied up in bed with a fluffy pillow on the side and a gentle blanket covering us. It’s part of human nature to want to relax, to want to sleep, but sadly our daily lives may not always permit such luxuries. Unless you’re willing to arrive at school late or give in to the temptation of sleeping really early, your ideal 10 hours long sleep schedule is probably not going to come to fruition anytime soon. I know, this sucks, but instead of giving up entirely and submit to the misery, there are some ways we can make the best out of this unfortunate situation.
For a start, do actually go to sleep eventually. Staying up really late to cram or work is not a justifiable excuse to sacrifice your sanity. According to the National Institute of Health, not getting enough sleep, or not getting any sleep at all for the matter, can have detrimental effects on the human mind on the long-term (Alhola et al, 2007). When you’re asleep, your brain removes excess toxins that have been accumulating throughout the day, your muscles relax and recuperate, and your nervous system restarts to ensure that you get a full start the next morning. Pulling an all-nighter would not only make you feel like a groggy mess the next day but also severely impede your brain function in the long-term. So, whatever you do, do not avoid the call of slumber.
Second, avoid all sources of caffeine and all bright lights beforehand. This should be a no-brainer. Unless you wanna tumble around and count sheep the whole entire evening, this is not recommended.
Third of all, try not to drink too much coffee in general. I know what you’re thinking, and I understand your feeling, we all need our cup of coffee in the morning, but try as hard as you can to just limit your coffee intake to just one cup. According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University, excess consumption of coffee increases melatonin receptors within the brain, which ends up making you drowsier unless an increased dose of caffeine is consumed (Ambrosino, 2014). In short, try limiting yourself to just one cup of coffee every morning, otherwise, you’ll feel even more miserable trying to get up early in the morning.
Lastly, try balancing your sleep schedule to your standard circadian rhythm and REM cycles. The human brain, when asleep, operates in consecutive REM cycles lasting 1.5 hours each. According to the National Sleep Foundation, achieving 4 or more consecutive REM cycles each night is an ideal situation for most individuals. This should theoretically allow your brain to get rested, while also preventing that awful morning laziness that haunts most night owls of our age. So, unless you want to feel miserable each morning, balance your sleep schedule in a sustainable and efficient manner.
Transitioning out of the “summertime slumber” mood is going to take a lot of time and effort. As senior Beverely Chung said, “I’m exhausted and overwhelmed by everything,” It’s gonna be painful, it’s gonna be tiring, and it’s certainly gonna feel like a headache for a long time. But trust me, you’ll eventually adapt to this schedule, and everything is going to be all right… for now."
Alhola, Paula, and Päivi Polo-Kantola. “Sleep Deprivation: Impact on Cognitive Performance.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2656292/.
Ambrosino, Brandon. “Caffeine Use Disorder: It's Real, and It Warrants More Attention.” The Hub, Johns Hopkins University, 7 Feb. 2014, hub.jhu.edu/2014/02/07/caffeine-really-is-a-drug/.
“Sleep Drive and Your Body Clock.” National Sleep Foundation, National Sleep Foundation, www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/sleep-drive-and-your-body-clock
By Colin Jun
All IB Diploma students must work on their CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service) experience and CAS projects. For some of you, CAS will seem like a huge burden to carry on for eighteen months. It is not an easy task for IB students to achieve while completing all their homework, internal assessments and preparing for their tests. However, it is also not impossible to succeed in CAS.
1. Finding the CAS activity or CAS project.
When I first heard about CAS, I had no idea what I had to do for eighteen months. Some of the school club activities fit well with CAS, but they were not enough for me to continue for eighteen months. I also had to start thinking about my CAS project so that I can complete it in my first year. The problem was that I did not know where to find the activities. I was not very fluent in Chinese nor did I have prior connections with any outside organizations in Shanghai. Interestingly, the solution to this struggle was not far away from me.
The first solution was the school itself. For my CAS project, I was able to get a great opportunity from our middle school. Through the announcement, I heard middle school is looking for students to decorate the MS Band Wall. Fortunately, I could obtain that opportunity and finish my CAS project in my first year. Similar to my experience, there are many opportunities for CAS projects and CAS activities in our school. Not only in our high school, reaching out to the middle school and the elementary school is also an important strategy to get an opportunity.
The second solution was to use the Internet. I was able to get in contact with the local volunteer group Hands on Shanghai through the internet search, my activities with Korean organizations could also be achieved through the internet/email advertisements about them. I visited the websites of many volunteer groups and non-governmental organizations and sent emails to people to ask for opportunities. I also looked for possibilities from my home country, Korea.
Overcoming hesitation is also essential. When I first joined Hands on Shanghai and informed to participate in the first volunteer activity, my halting Chinese made me worry about communication with Chinese people at the hospital. However, on my first day, I learned that my fear was groundless. My limited Chinese skills still allowed me to communicate with people and other volunteers also helped me to interact with people. People outside of school are also interested in our CAS experience and are kind enough to provide the opportunity to the students, help us in our activities and offer CAS supervisor review. Only when you break your shell, can you gain a great experience.
2. Writing the reflections and keeping up with reflections
There are various ways to write CAS reflections. The first method is to write both descriptions of the day (activity) and commentary about goals for every reflection. In many cases, this is reflected as the extended reflection – and takes longer time than usual – but it lessens your burden as you get closer to the end of the CAS experience, since most of the content is already included in each reflection. The second method is to write a description of your day of CAS experience in your reflections and write a lengthy commentary about the goals at the end. This method is good for people who struggle with time management. However, in this case, it is crucial for one to take the notes about their feelings/goals during the CAS experience.
Some people have difficulty with content, and some others have trouble on the path of uploading their reflection. For the former problem, I recommended to bringing a small notebook to their activity. I usually carry the small notebook or a piece of paper to the activity so that I can write what I have done today and how I feel about the activity today. These notes also assist you in writing a lively reflection. For the latter kind of people, it is essential to find a time in a week that you will only work with CAS. For IB students, checking Managebac every day may seem like writing the reflection every day may not be the best use of their time. If this is the case, find a time of the week you can concentrate only on CAS reflections. Since you have made a note about activities and your feelings, writing the reflection will not take a long time.
I prefer to write my CAS reflections in a structure of an essay. As my introduction and hook, I write a short reflection about my goals, what I’ve prepared to participate in the activity so far. As soon as I join in the experience, I write my body paragraphs based on PEE (Point, Evidence, Explanation) structure. As my point, I describe the work I’ve done that day, and for the explanation, I analyze how the activity is related to achieving my CAS experience goals and how I felt about this experience. The evidence, in this case, will not be included in the form of photos, documents, and websites. At the end of my experience, I provide the overall conclusion. It often comprises whether I achieved the personal CAS goals and answered the guiding questions on the CAS reflection page. Following the essay structure, it was easy to meet all the requirements for CAS reflection, and the narrative/logic in the reflections was naturally developed.
CAS experience and CAS project is a unique and yet complicated task for IB students to achieve. It took time for me to get used to it. However, CAS is not impossible. Use CAS as an opportunity to have a meaningful experience at your high school!