A Parent’s Guide to High School Success: Five Ideas to Start the Year With

High school students all across America are once again in those final days of summer. In a week or two, the heatwave will begin to moderate (finally…hopefully) and school days will begin, ready or not.

In my 35 years of teaching and administrative experience, I’ve seen all kinds of kids have all kinds of high school experiences, both successful and otherwise, but I can tell you one thing that’s more true in August than at any other time of year: they desperately want to do well, and they have a high degree of anxiety about it.

True, they won’t show or admit either one of these things, but trust me – we are at a Teachable Moment.

High School Success

What follows are a few simple things that I guarantee will bring success to any high school student starting this school year, no matter what grade or ability level. You’ll read them and think, “well, that’s obvious…” and you’ll be right. But that’s the point.

Too many times, we assume the obvious and assume that our kids know. That’s wrong. They need to hear and see the simple things that we expect, and that will help them.

They are core values. Make a shortlist of these things (put in the form of goals), discuss them with your teenager, then put them up on the refrigerator. Then follow through. Both of you. You’ll never regret it.

1. Go to school every day, and be on time – every day.

I’ve never, ever, in 35 years, seen a student fail if they had perfect attendance, or even close to it. It is an old-fashioned virtue, and one increasingly discounted and even (sometimes unintentionally) undermined by parents. Vacations during the school year are inappropriate.

Being there every day makes you stand out, believe me. Make this a goal for this year, and you’ll be ingraining a work ethic that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

2. Get involved in every class – whether you like the subject or not!

Do you want to make the class go fast? Put yourself on the line and participate. Answer a question. Ask one. Look at it this way kiddo; you’re going to be in there anyway.

If you want the hour to drag, watch the clock. The school is taking your time, make them teach you something about it.

3. Do your homework – even if “you don’t get it.

If a teacher sees evidence that you tried, it makes a difference. Nothing is more frustrating for them than when a student comes to class without their assignment.

It’s an insult, and it happens every day. If you really have no idea how to do an assignment, go to school early and go ask them for help. It’ll knock their socks off. (That means it’ll impress them.)

4. Make a list every night – then look at it in the morning.

Organization, organization, organization. Besides tardiness, it’s the biggest problem in high schools. Some students use planners, some use sticky notes, some e-mail themselves reminders, and many do none of the above.

A simple beginning to getting at least internally organized is to take a quiet minute before bed and write down everything you have to do tomorrow. It might read 1. Finish Algebra in study hall. 2. Turn in Shakespeare’s essay. 3. Pay Mr. C. back the dollar I borrowed, etc.

Simple, but effective. If you read it first thing in the morning when you wake up – all that stuff will get done.

5. Do something nice for somebody – every day.

Wait a minute, how in the world will that help me be successful? Because it teaches you something bigger than yourself, and it makes you a complete person.

You are at school to learn values, not just math and stuff. Stopping to help somebody who dropped their books, saying something nice to a cook or janitor, volunteering to do something that needs to be done, but that you really don’t want to do (at school or at home)- simple acts of kindness – will do more for you than you can imagine.

This is hard to do for adults, as well as high school students. I know that., but I also know it will make you successful. Trust me on this one.

These five simple things can help a lot of kids. They are easy to understand but harder to do. They must be, only a small percentage of our students do them all. The successful ones.

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