4 Critical Pointers for Parents of New High Schoolers

And the beat goes on

And the beat goes on (Photo credit: RW PhotoBug)

Uh oh, your “baby” isn’t a baby anymore!  Nothing makes this truth more real than your teen starting the last leg of her or his K-12 journey; high school.  Although starting high school can be overwhelming for many kids; it’s usually more daunting for mom and dad.  To help you and your teen transition well from middle to high school, I’ve listed what I think are 4 critical truths for every new high school parent to embrace as we approach the new school year.

What’s a Parent to Do?

1. No Potty Mouths Allowed

Inevitably, between now and the next four years, someone or some policy at your kid’s high school is going to upset you or your teen.  No matter what, keep a positive attitude about the school’s teachers, administration, and policies.  When you find yourself having to work through a problem at the school, take a positive approach.  Here’s why: Your kid will easily take on your negative perspective of the teachers, admin, and  or policies; and sadly, they are the ones who will have to live in that negative perspective that mom or dad has created for the duration of their high school years.  While mom and dad will wake up and head to their happy job; the kid wakes up to attend that “horrible school” as mom may have called it.  I’ve seen some of my best students become detached and withdrawn in school because mom and dad are ‘fighting’ with the school.  This is not fair to any child.  They deserve to know that no place is perfect and as adults and young adults we look on the bright side and seek to resolve issues with civility and without hostility, even the tough issues.

2. Help Your Kid Manage His Time

High schools are busy places.  It’s impossible for your kid to consistently remember with pinpoint accuracy which of his seven teachers during which day gave which assignments, due on which dates, in which format.  He needs a planner.  This way he never has to remember, it’s written down.  If the paper pencil planner doesn’t work, a reminder app, or the calendar in his smart phone will work just a well.  Your teen should note upcoming tests, and block off time in the planner to study for tests.  He should block off time over a few days to complete large project.  Time management and self-management are paramount to high school success.  If your kid has the time-management down to a science that’s great!  Be sure he doesn’t over-schedule himself as  high school activities and clubs almost always require a greater time commitment than middle school activities.

3. Don’t Expect Your Kid’s Education to be Served on a Silver Platter

Teacher cuts over the past few years means more students with fewer teachers.  This translates to less time the teacher has to help your kid.  When I started teaching in 1998, my largest class was 24 students (and that was considered massive!)  These days I’ve seen classes upwards of 41 students!  There are about 45 minutes in a high school class period.  By doubling a class size, the number of questions a teacher must answer is doubled, the number of times she must stop teaching to refocus a talking student is doubled, the time she can spend with a kid after school is cut in half.  This is not a complaint about teacher and faculty cuts; it’s just a statement of reality.  Parents must be more vigilant because most schools are running with minimal staff.  Be proactive, check your daughter’s grades online, ask her what’s happening in her classes, email her teacher from time to time just to check in.  Unfortunately, gone are the days when teachers could call home promptly about every little thing.  Parents can mitigate the effects of these cuts by being involved with their kid’s learning on a daily basis- yes I meant to say daily.  Nothing beats parental involvement.

4. Get to Know Your Kid’s School Counselor

Teachers spend eight hours a day teaching, grading, preparing the next days lessons, and re-teaching info after school.  Principals are managing the day-to-day activities of the school – evaluating teachers, handling logistics for scheduling, lunches, buses, finances, and a host of other admin duties.  The school counselor’s role is to support your kid through high school.  That support comes in the form of academic support (we do some teaching) , social / emotional support (we are involved anytime there is a violation of student’s rights or if a student is hurting), and college / career support (we make sure the right classes are selected according to your kid’s future plans).  A school counselors job would be simple if they had caseloads of about 20 to 40 kids.  Typically a school counselor has about 400 students on her or his caseload.  Call your teen’s counselor and make an appointment to meet.  Students, parents, teacher, and principals, route an enormous amount of information through school counselors.  It’s certainly worth the time to meet with your kid’s school counselor to get an in-depth picture of the services offered by the school.  When you do meet; ask these questions:

I. These are my kid’s talents, abilities, skills, and deficits: ____________  ___________  ______________  _______  (you fill in the blanks); based on what you know about this school’s course offerings, can my kid’s current schedule be improved to better help him with his talents, abilities, skills, and deficits?

II.  My child struggles with ______________________________ (you fill in the blank).  How can the school help support us as we struggle with this?

III. How can you help me support my kid as she / he  prepares for college (or a particular career ) over the next four years?

Stay positive, time-management, be proactive, seek help from the school counselor.  These four things will yield an enormity of educational benefit for your teen as she or he embarks on the high school journey.  I wish you guys the very best as your kiddo begins the journey of high school!

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5 thoughts on “4 Critical Pointers for Parents of New High Schoolers

  1. Having just seen our youngest of three through his high school graduation, I know these are great tips, and I hope lots of parents read them. I would add one more: Become involved in a parent group that supports your child’s chosen extracurricular activities. There are so many benefits to doing so: gettting to know the teachers/sponsors of the club, group, team, etc; getting the inside scoop on events so you’re never out of the loop; showing your child that you care enough to support his/her interests while at the same time showing him/her the importance of volunteering; getting to know other parents whose children your child is likely to be spending time with; getting to know school administrators (they can be a valuable resource, if you work to build a relationship). Our years as boosters for our high school orchestra, choir, and theater department created treasured memories of time spent alongside and in support of our kids. -Amy

    • Amy, great additional words of advice; becoming involved in a parent-group; very important. Thanks for the insightful words!

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