WHAT I KNOW NOW: Work smarter, not harder


BP Graphic by Ezra Helfand, BP Photo by Sam Elyaszadeh

Senior Anya Mendelson used to hate group projects. Now she likes them.

By Anya Mendelson, Staff Columnist

There are two types of students: There’s the student who is filled with relief, and excitement when a teacher announces that the next assignment will be group work. And there’s the student who believes an assignment becomes 10 times harder when they must work on it with someone other than themselves. If you’re like me, you’re the second student, and you probably trust only yourself when it comes to your schoolwork. 

But after a recent visit to the eye doctor, I have learned that the approach of the first student is the right one. 

Less than a year ago I took my first trip to the eye doctor, in search of a cure for the headaches I was having. After multiple tests, my doctor informed me that I would need to invest in a pair of reading glasses. As if receiving a pair of glasses was not one of the most unequivocally normal things in the entire world, I produced a thousand reasons as to why I did not, in fact, need any kind of prescription.

I said to him, “When I go in for my annual checkups with the pediatrician, she always says I have 20/20 vision.” This small fact was true, but the doctor was looking at me as if it was the most unimportant piece of information he had heard all day. I continued arguing my case by telling the doctor that when asked to put a spoon over one eye and read the teeny tiny letters at the bottom of the chart, I had no trouble at all. 

When I was done, he pulled up a chair and said, “Let me explain. You can see perfectly, you can read the entire chart, and your doctor tells you that you have 20/20 vision –but only because your eyes are working double time.”

My rebuttal came fast: “Well who cares if my eyes are working double time?  I can still see, can’t I?”

At this moment, my doctor laughed. He genuinely laughed as if everything coming out of my mouth was ludicrous. He said, “Have you ever heard the expression, ‘Work smarter, not harder?’  Well right now, your eyes are working harder. If you accept the help of the glasses, you will get the same result as everyone else in terms of what you see, and your headaches will be gone. The glasses will enable your eyes to work smarter.”

My eyes had been using the same backward work method as I was using for school and group projects.

The following week I had in hand both a new pair of glasses and a very valuable lesson. My eyes had been using the same backward work method as I was using for school and group projects. I had always had this idea that I was the only one to be trusted when it came to my assignments. Group projects became my biggest fear, because I would take all the responsibility, which was too heavy for one person to carry alone. I would work double-time for the same result I could have gotten if I had just accepted the help of the rest of my group. 

As the school year begins, I would like to offer you all the same advice that my doctor gave me: work smarter,  not harder. Accept any help that a person is willing to give you, whether from a teacher or a peer, because nothing is graded on the resources you used to help you reach your goals. 

We often think, the longer I spend on this project, the later I stay up, the more I ditch my relaxing activities for homework, the better it’ll be. I’m here, as a person who is now entering her fourth year of high school, to oppose this notion, and to tell you this secret: You’re graded on your end product, and you can be proud of that product even if the process to get there wasn’t the most stressful time of your life. 

This year, I encourage you all to do as I did, and finally put on the glasses.