How I bounced back from grade D

“SHOOT for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars” – that was my vision for the year 2020.

I was determined to grab every opportunity that would build my resume and boost my future university applications.

I already had a plan for what I wanted to accomplish in the future – graduate secondary school, enrol in a well-established university and earn a medical degree.

Seemed simple enough, right?

Covid-19 completely threw a spanner in the works. Suddenly, I was thrust into a situation that drained away all my opportunities like water going down a ditch.

I spent the first few months drifting through online classes, not willing to accept that this would be my “new normal”.

I began to feel frustrated with my family, classmates, teachers, and even the birds chittering in my garden.

Why was everyone so happy and coping so well? Why couldn’t I be like them?

Receiving my Term One report card gave me the wake-up call I needed. My grades had dropped drastically – the worst of all was the big fat D I got for my Add Maths.

I vowed to make some changes to my lifestyle, to improve my mental health, as well as to get back to my usually stellar academic performance. I started keeping a small notebook in which I jotted down the due dates of my assignments, and broke them down into smaller tasks to complete.

This helped me make the most of every day. By completing two or three tasks a day, no matter how small, I felt like I had done something productive.

In addition, I used Quizlet, an online website, to make notes for my subjects.

I found it so much faster typing out my notes than writing them, and it made my notes look cleaner and sleeker.

Quizlet also gave me the option of printing my notes out, be it in a glossary or flashcard format.

Using this function, I printed out all my notes so I had access to the hard copies anytime I wanted to refer to them.

I also added my own diagrams and underlined key points in colourful markers. Then, I decided to clean up my desk space so that I would have a more conducive environment for my online classes.

To add a personal touch, I printed out motivational posters and cut out a painting from an old calendar to put on my desk.

I even had a poster of a dinosaur from Jurassic Park, one of my favourite movies.

Keeping notes and setting a study area aside, I started exercising regularly – by doing 30-minute workouts from fitness videos.

It was exhausting at first and sometimes, I was tempted to skip over a particularly tough exercise.

Thankfully, the endorphins my workouts released made my effort a lot easier and soon,

I found myself enjoying the sessions. I even lost some excess weight, too. Next, I focused on improving my experience with online classes.

I added Chrome extensions to my desktop – one a water reminder so that I stayed hydrated and thus refreshed throughout and another, a site blocker called Forest. This extension prevented me from visiting other websites when I had set aside time for studying.

I also changed my desktop wallpaper and moved the programme icons around a little.

It made me feel less bored of the “scenery”, on top of keeping things more organised.

Finally, I picked up cooking – a skill I’m sure most of my peers had tried out during the different phases of the movement control order.

Ever since I burnt an omelette, my family prohibited me from using a frying pan.

This time around though, they allowed me to give it another go.

The first item on my list? Blueberry pancakes. I enjoyed every single bite of it.

Being able to whip up a proper meal gave this amateur cook a sense of fulfilment that nearly brought tears to my eyes.

Then it came time for the unveiling of my Term Two report card. As I opened the PDF file attached to the email, I was filled with trepidation.

But when I saw the B I got for my Add Maths, my muscles relaxed.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. Working towards your goals takes small, simple steps.

There were days when I didn’t finish any of the tasks on my to-do list, and there were times when I would scroll through social media instead of paying attention to my online classes.

But when I look back on my journey, I can see how much I have improved.

Alicia Joy, 16, a student in Kuala Lumpur, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (NiE) team. To read more articles written by the BRATs participants, sign up for the Star-NiE pullout. Subscription is through schools only. For more information, call the toll free number 1-300-88-7827 (Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm), or go to