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How I went from failing to the top of the class in one year.

Many people know that I graduated validictorian of my high school graduating class. I was the top academic performer every year of high school. I was even the top performer every year of middle school.

But not many people know that I almost failed 5th grade!

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I struggled in school every year of elementary school. And each passing year, my grades and learning only got worse and worse. Any teacher that saw me, and my downward spiral of learning, could tell that I would never be a student that excelled in school.

My learning got to its utmost worst when I was in the fifth grade. My reading comprehension was at a second grade level, and my grades across the board were terrible. 

In fifth grade, I was even put into a separate class, to try to improve reading comprehension, with the other struggling kids. I was so embarrassed to be pulled out of class with the other "dumb" kids to work on reading.

Finally, my fifth grade teacher told my parents that he recommended that I be held back one year and repeat fifth grade over again.

He told them that since I was not accelerating at the rate I needed to be at, that I should not move forward to sixth grade, because I would be too far behind. 

But, my parents told him no. They stood firm with moving forward, knowing that I might still struggle again next year. And so, I moved on to sixth grade, even further behind than my fellow peers.

But sixth grade was the year that I began to flourish, and outperformed every one of my fellow students. And from 6th grade to my senior year, I was at the very top of my class every year.

So what changed? What could have been the difference from me failing and being held back to being the top of my class?

My mother taught me academic skills!

This was the year my mother taught me how to study and how to stay organized.

1. My mother taught me how to study

For me, this was the year that testing went "bye bye childhood", and "hello high school". I asked my mom to help me study for a test, and she showed me how to create a study guide.  

The study guide she created used written definitions with multiple colors. We colored code the different categories using color pencils, and underlined in the text book with the same color code. This was perfect for me because I learn by visual and read,write learning styles.

Once I finally passed that first test, I was hooked on that feeling of success! I created the same study guide for each test and similar study notes for each class. I learned to underline important facts, and which facts to were important to remember.

2. My mother taught me how to stay organized

My mother may not have been an A student in school, but not every parent is academically inclined. (Can you relate?) But one thing my mother is SO good at, is real organization. 

I wish I could be as organized as her now! She helped me learn to stay organized in school by creating an organization system for me. 

RELATED: Setting up an Organization System for your High School Student

She organized every important document, from study notes, to graded assignments, to text notes and lecture notes. Every items had its own place. This organization system saved my behind more than once! 

I learned this system, implemented it daily, and replicated it every year since then! 

3. My teacher taught me how to take notes.

Lastly, in sixth grade, I had a tough teacher that taught me how to take great notes! But it's always the teachers that are the hardest when you learn the most!

This teacher was used to teaching high school seniors, so he taught us with the same style. He taught me, and my entire class, how to take notes through trial by fire! He would give lectures, speaking a mile a minute, and if he said it ONE TIME, he expected you to know it for the test.

We, as a class, asked him how he expected us to write down everything he said when he spoke so fast, and never repeated himself. That is when he told us 2 important aspects of note taking.

  1. Use your own short hand, abbreviations, and symbols. Writing out each word takes far too long. By using abbreviations and symbols, you are able to write much faster and capture the important information.

  2. You must be able to determine, for yourself, which information is important, and likely to be tested, and which information is not. This part took a lot of trial and error, but eventually I learned what was important to write down, and what was really not that important.


These 3 academic skills were the foundation for my academic success through high school and through college. I went on to college, graduating Summa Cum Laude, and earning my undergraduate degree in 2 and a half years and earning my graduate degree by age 22.

I say this, not to brag on myself, but to EMPHASIZE to you just how important these academic skills are! Remember, I struggled throughout elementary school, and was almost held back in 5th grade!! So, clearly I was not a smart cookie, and school did not come easy for me! 

But learning these academic skills completely transformed my life!

That is why I am offering a free online course for parents whose teens are struggling in school. Enroll in the course below to discover the academic skills your child needs, and how to bring them from failing to thriving in school!!



My name is Rachael and I have been a private tutor for over 10 years. I earned my undergraduate degree in 2 and a half years and earned my graduate degree by age 22. I have tutored dozens of high school students, college students, and graduate students. I offer my resources and experience to help parents learn how to best help their teen or child that is struggling in school.