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High School. It can bring back all kinds of memories – both good and bad. Regardless of when you attended high school, I can assure you the drama is still there but lots of other things have changed. Kids are now turning their English papers in online and using Moodle or other open-source sites to communicate with their teachers. Getting into college is exponentially harder than 25 years ago when I first applied to the University of Georgia.
So, what can you do to help your student navigate these four years?
I asked my seniors to share their advice for making the high school years easier. I combined their responses with my 17 years of teaching experience and created ourtop five tips for making high school easier:
1. Get to know your student’s guidance counselor early on
2. Keep in contact with your student’s teachers (but don’t hover)
3. Help your student start to build a resume
4. Remind your student - their transcript starts in 9th grade
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
1. Get to know your student’s guidance counselor early on.
Many kids can go through all of high school without needing to meet with their school guidance counselor. Get to know him or her; these folks are your secret weapon! Meet with the counselor early and make a long range plan. Guidance counselors know all about college admissions, scholarship information, your state’s graduation requirements, and diploma options. They also can recommend summer programs that meet your student’s interests and are a great help if your student needs someone to talk to concerning that drama I referred to earlier.
2. Keep in contact with your student’s teachers (but don’t hover).
Email is an invaluable tool when it comes to parent-teacher communication! I love being able to send a quick note to either an entire class or to individual parents and most teachers welcome messages from parents. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about your child about homework assignments – especially if details aren’t listed online. Also, be sure you know your student’s schedule and teacher’s names. A friend of mine made a photocopy of her kid’s schedule and kept it in her wallet – great idea!
3. Help your student start to build a resume.
Many college applications require an essay concerning leadership or a life-changing event. Help your student look for some kind of volunteer work that they are really interested in and then help them get involved. Boy Scouts and church youth groups offer great activities but keep looking if that is not something they like. If they think they want to go into medicine, volunteer at the hospital. The animal shelter, a food bank, Meals On Wheels are all good choices. Or look at things already offered at school like Service Clubs. At our school we have Special Needs students in a program called the Progressive Education Program. Students can use a class slot to be a peer helper with PEP. Many students say their connections here and through activities like Special Olympics are life-changing.
4. Remind your student – their transcript starts in 9th grade.
So, we used to joke about the Permanent Record File that teachers would hold over our head. “Beware – this goes in your permanent record!” Never saw that thing… Whatwill follow your student though is their transcript. This is a record of all their final class grades and official test scores – state exit tests, SAT, ACT. Colleges make a big deal about looking at the Junior year grades but all class grades go into the final Grade Point Average. Course selections and grades from freshman year can affect options later in high school. Be sure your student helps make that four year plan (see #1) so they can understand the consequences of their choices.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Though – in general - high school teachers are not as warm and fuzzy as our elementary counterparts, we love to help. Teachers, those counselors mentioned above, media specialists, and administrators all are there for one reason only – to help kids succeed! Jump in if your student is struggling in a class. Teachers and counselors can come up with creative solutions to problems; but, never forget you are your child’s best advocate. Most schools have student tutors that will help in exchange for service hour credit.
Parenting is not for the faint of heart and the normal high school student will challenge the bravest of us. Reach out and be involved. Help your kids find a direction and a passion. Though they often have a strange way of expressing it, your kids will appreciate your help and involvement. Good luck to you!
Cindy Hallman-Morris is a High School math teacher in Asheville, NC. She is a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT), has a Masters in Education (MEd), and is a mother to a High School and Middle School student. When she’s not teaching math, she’s driving her kids to soccer and gymnastics, cooking up a storm, and blogging all about it at www.midlymanicmom.com. Follow her on Twitter@MildlyManicMom