The high school transition is one of the most challenging periods in a student’s academic career and socioemotional growth cycle. Both her class schedule and her teachers’ expectations change.
t High school courses are typically more difficult, and independent learning is increasingly important. To further complicate matters, social pressures are all too present. Studies suggest that students are more likely to repeat ninth grade than they are any other grade in high school, and students who fail as freshmen may also risk failing to graduate from high school. But there are several steps you can take to avoid such a fate and successfully prepare your student for this important transition.
Clarify school expectations
t Ensure your student understands all the expectations he or she will face. Certain high schools offer summer orientations that explain the bell schedule, locations within the building (e.g. his or her locker) and general policies. Such orientations are extremely beneficial, as they equip your student with the basics of his or her transition well before the school year begins in August or September.
Encourage your student to use her voice
t Elementary and middle school teachers often standardize their behavior and grading policies, but each of your student’s high school instructors is likely to have his or her own expectations. One teacher may allow his or her students to volunteer answers without raising their hands, while another instructor may expect absolute silence until a student is called upon. Certain teachers may grade more liberally than others. Thus, the first step toward success is recognizing what must occur in order to succeed. If your student does not know what is expected of her, it is perfectly fine to ask. Emphasize this with your student; encourage her to request clarification whenever she believes it is necessary.
Foster strong study habits
t Begin to improve your student’s study skills. Encourage him or her to take clear and comprehensive notes; build strong review habits before he or she needs them. If your student struggles to study on his or her own, consider enlisting the services of a tutor, encourage your student to join a review group (that truly studies), or ask his or her instructors for advice. Teach your student the importance of asking for help, and ensure that he or she understands that there is no shame in seeking assistance. Speak with your child about any difficulties, and be clear about your expectations, as well as why he or she should want to excel.
Share avenues of support
t Finally, educate your student about the support systems available to her, and make sure she has easy access to these systems. While you may believe that your student would feel comfortable coming to you if she was being bullied or experiencing pressure to skip classes, she may feel otherwise. Coaches, friends, guidance counselors, school security officers and teachers exist to help. Clearly explain these avenues to her, and reassure her that she will not be judged.
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