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How to become a happier high school student

Good afternoon everyone, I am Eric Choi, currently a high school math teacher with York Region District School Board. Thank you Vision Youth for giving me the opportunity to stand in front of you to share some of my experiences with teenagers and youths like you.

First of all, congratulations, you made it to another summer! I wish you all an amazing summer break filled with exciting plans. Hopefully you’ll be re-charged and ready for further challenges in the next school year.

How many of you are going to Grade 9 or are currently high school students?

How many have just graduated from high school and will be going to College or University or college or u students?

I believe majority of you would agree that Elementary school, from JK to Grade 8, this decade of your life, these 10 years, were fun, happy and stress free.

However, when students enter high school, when they are taught by teachers who are specialized in their subjects (hopefully); when they face actual final exams, all of a sudden, life becomes more complicated.

Plus your body starts to change, your emotions, your social circles, your duties, responsibilities and expectations increase, all of these will start to impact your life.

I was talking to my Grade 12 graduates two weeks ago and most of them found that these 4 years of high school seemed short and went by fast.

From the first day students walk into their high school as the Niners, they will find a big change from their elementary school experience. There are a lot more people, more assignments and projects, a wider social circle with new friends, and engage in a lot more activities inside and outside of school.

You are more independent. Some people will start to work their first job, to volunteer, to coach and even accumulate accomplishments from (academic? music? arts? Sports? Maybe all of the above.)

So, how do we make use of high school and make the experience memorable?

I am lucky to grow up in Canada. I immigrated here when I was 14, half way through grade 8. A new environment, a beautiful place, everything is big, and very multi-cultural

I graduated from U of T.I was inspired by my father to become an Ontario Certified Teacher, specializing in teaching Math since year 2000. At the same time, I help to manage Success Tutorial School, “STS”, a learning center for grades 1 – 12 students.
I like soccer and cycling. I’ve also been practicing Taekwondo for over 20 years. And recently just gain my 5th degree black belt.
And I have 3 children, they are 14, 11 and 4 years old.

My work, my hobbies and my role as a father gives me opportunities to meet a lot of teenagers and youths like you and I am lucky to be surrounded by many of them. I learned a lot from them. Throughout the years, I witnessed their growths, changes and even their stress.

From my many years of experience, meeting thousands of youths and teenagers, this is what I want to share with you today.
One very popular topic that always comes up is: “How to become a happier student”.

Everyone has their own priorities, and thus everyone will have different expectations on what they want. Set your priorities, and focus on those only! You can definitely change your priorities as your life changes. Simultaneously, look up to those who inspire you for motivation. If you have maintained your commitment to your priorities, even the outcome is not perfect, you’re already a winner.

Don’t get jealous of others!!! If someone is doing cool stuff, get to know them!

Smile. It feels weird at first, but the action of just smiling makes you much more approachable, and generally makes you have a happier state.

Don’t close yourself in – even if you’re an introvert, reach out to others -> get other people to like you! Join extracurricular activities, meet people. Also, keep a close group of friends, just hanging out with them does a lot for just feeling good.

Don’t be pretentious – appreciate the situation that you’re in and be humble

To summarize: “Do not compare,embrace your talent, and appreciate yourself and who you are.”

Look into the exciting things that’s happening around you and in the world -> AI, Genetics, VR/AR, Nanotechnology, Quantum Computing, and other exponential tech. Find out what you like to do in the near and far future -> don’t rely on university to define who you are.

Find a mentor and reach out to the industry experts if you want to know more about a specific topic-> Visit company websites, listen to Podcasts, and visit the company’s social media.

Attend meetings and social events where you can meet new friends and acquaintances to exchange information and advice. Make connections!

Explore and be adventurous! Leave your comfort zone. Try something new! Be someone who makes things happen, not watch things happen.

Do not underestimate your talent and potential

Be a creator, not just a follower. Prove your worth! Try something new.

You will be surprised what you can actually create!

High school student created car seat to save lives during hot and cold weather.
High school student created water purifier, and power, a warning device, and more and more

If you like playing video games, why not learn how to make a simple one yourself? How about making animations or videos

Think about what inspired Darren Sugg to create the game?
Huh…? Who is Darren Sugg? Anyone? How about FORTNITE? He created and designed the game in 2017. He was inspired by playing a lot of first person shooting games and then modified and created his own version. So can this be you one day?

Do you know library actually has a lot a lot of resources to use and there are people who works at the library actually want to teach you something cool for an unbelievable price? Eg) $2 to make lazer cuts… To convert analog to digital for free …. To make animations with green screen simply by signing up…. Those are cool stuff to learn.

Enjoy the learning process. There might be teachers or coaches that you don’t like very much, but without having these “least favorite” ones, you will not appreciate how good the “good ones” are.

Talk to people from a diverse background; talk to people of different social status; talk to people older and younger than you! I learned a lot from my students and youths like you throughout the years.

Look for the wonder in the class. Because there are always something you don’t know and they might not be related to the course you are taking.

Accept new routines and challenges, welcome all new learning opportunities. There are many in-school and off-school activities, clubs for sports, music, arts, to stimulate your undeveloped talents. You will be surprised how by joining a club that you’ve never imagined you would join could be the door that lead to another door and end up makes an impact on your life.

To summarize, “Knowledge is yours, your own assets, go get them … “

Too many teenagers and youths I know said they are busy, have lots to do, and then find excuses that house chores shouldn’t be something they have to worry about or not their priorities(are you busy). They expect someone at home will take care of those chores.

Hey: That “someone” most likely are your parents, grandparents whom you love and who do the chores for you out of love.

How did you value your time with your family?

Are you one of those who spend more time on electronics talking to strangers or friends in the cyber world than talking to your parents or grandparents who are supposed to be very close to you?

One day they won’t be around anymore and you should appreciate your time with them while you still can.

Phone and technology are this generation gift and also problems, which is another topic to talk about, a different presentation in different occasions.

Do you know one of the top 3 things that adults regret the most at all times is not spending enough time with their parents or their grandparents when they have a chance?

I know lots of things in the cyber world are fun, cool and very interesting. We all feel we can multitasked. But out of your busy life, have you actually set a ROUTINE to spend some quality time with your family?

When I say spend some time with your family, I don’t mean going to a restaurant with them and then ignore them by playing with your phone.

Make it a behavior to spend some quality time with your mom, dad, grands and siblings. Put down your phone, share your jokes, put some efforts to create those moments that I am sure you will not regret in the future.

A family is a gift that lasts forever, take ownership of the home duties as a family member, take some family chores, learn to see from their side. Try to do something to enjoy the moment while you are doing your chores. Make your parents proud.

In conclusion, I am here to share my thoughts on how making little changes in your daily routine can make you a happier person.

Be positive, don’t compare, smile, keep updated with current affairs, enjoy all learning moments, spend quality time with your family,and be adventurous!

Thank you very much

July 23, 2019
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