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 I’ve seen some of my best students become detached and withdrawn in school because mom and dad are ‘fighting’ with the school.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 kid. They deserve to know that conflict and disagreement in life is inevitable and individuals should look on the bright side to seek resolutions 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
Faculty cuts over the past several years mean 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 and staff 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 , 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 currently I’m at 441 students (the recommended caseload for a school counselor is 250 students). Students, parents, teachers, and principals, route an enormous amount of information about students through school counselors. On the flip side colleges and other organizations inundate us with information. Just like overloaded teachers, our time is limited and by default we work with the students that we know have the highest needs. Call your teen’s counselor and make an appointment to meet to get an in-depth picture of the school’s programs and services that best meet your kid’s needs. 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 ______________________________ or is gifted with _____________(you fill in the blank). How can the school help support us with in this area?
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 you and your teen the very best as you both begin the journey of high school!