Do you wish you could just boldly ask a high school teacher what you could do to help your teen? How involved should you be? What should you expect your student to do on their own? How can you prepare them for life after high school while still supporting them in high school? I don’t have teenage children, but I do have a sister who is a high school English teacher. I took some time and gathered the answers to some of those questions from her and her colleagues as they geared up for a new school year.
How to Support Your High School Student – Notes from the Teacher
Sending your child off to high school can be a little intimidating. Teachers understand. Get ready by taking a little time to reflect on your own experience high school. Times may be different now, but so many things are the same: choosing the right table in the lunchroom, school dances, managing homework, Friday night football games…and pressure. Your kids might have some of their greatest successes these four years. They are also going to struggle, and even fail at times. High school won’t define them. Their struggles won’t define them. High school is a time to discover how you can overcome obstacles. It’s about the process of growing as they transition from teens into adults. Here is the advice high school teachers have to offer.
Tip number one sounds a little obvious. You want to be there as a parent no matter what. That whole “process of growing” business mentioned earlier means you need to be there. Sure they need to become more independent, but you need to guide them into that. They’re going to need to know you’re there during all of the successes and the struggles too.
Communicate with the teacher.
Make contact. Send an email, make a phone call, or set up a meeting. Teachers simply don’t have the time these days to connect with the family of every single student. Keep in mind, high school teachers can have hundreds of students so your help in establishing dialogue is important. You can’t deny that there are some bad teachers out there, but for the most part, teachers are well-trained, talented professionals working hard to help students succeed. Keeping an open line of communication helps you know whats happening in the classroom and teachers know what’s happening at home.
It’s a great idea to keep the student in the loop too. While it’s not necessary, keeping the student involved is how you keep them aware of what’s happening and teach them the communication skills to carry this into the next stage of life. Thanks to your help and guidance (not necessarily doing it for them), they’ll see how to set up a meeting with a new college professor or establish a healthy professional relationship with supervisors in the workplace.
Help your student get involved.
Every student is different, but every student should really get involved. Help your student figure out the best extracurricular fit: athletics, academic clubs, special interest groups at school, etc. Don’t sign them up, but help them know who to contact. Follow up and make sure they actually got into something. So many students don’t take the time to think about “doing more.” They come to school, do the work, go home. There is a lot of research out there showing that students more involved in high school activities are more likely to be successful in their high school academics and attendance.
Ask them who’s their favorite.
Having a favorite teacher at school is okay, and even a great thing. Let’s be real, high school can be a scary place. Having an adult at school that is safe and trustworthy is important. Teachers can offer sound advice on social situations and have a more involved perspective since they are actually there. In elementary and middle school, students often go to the guidance counselors for help with day to day situations. Unfortunately, in high school, guidance counselors seem to have a much different role. Having a teacher your student can turn to is a plus.
Teach them how to organize.
One of the biggest challenges for many high school students is organization. Even in middle school, teachers sometimes tell students when to work on what projects and how to fix their notebooks. Once high school hits, students need to know how to organize their time, their notes, their backpacks, their lockers… but don’t just do it for them. In high school, students have the opportunity to figure out what works best for them. Sometimes, they just need a little help getting there.
It’s okay to not do all the things.
You aren’t perfect in your day to day and you shouldn’t expect them to either. So many parents get wrapped up in wanting their students to be the best. What’s the best for one person might not be the best for another though. AP classes aren’t right for everyone. Starting on the varsity team isn’t always what’s most important. It’s a tricky balance but one that you have to help them find. You want them to achieve but sometimes striving for too much success can create an even bigger failure. Open hearted conversations about the right level are important.
Remember, high school is a time of growth and dramatic change. If you want to know what will help your child the most, just talk to them. That’s it. Talk to your children. Know who they are and what’s going on in their lives. When it comes down to it, that’s the biggest piece.