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Back to School: Tips and Strategies for the High School Years
The final countdown to the college years begins at high school. These are the last formative years before the launch from the nest. Whether you're ready or not, it's time to realize that your teen is flying toward the opportunity to begin life on his or her own.
Every teen headed for high school wants to do well, fit in and have a good time. One of the best ways to help them succeed is to make sure they have enough information about the new world that's opening up to them.
Encourage your teen to create a "Top 10" list of things every freshman (or sophomore, or junior, or senior) should know. Suggest that they ask older siblings, friends and relatives for advice that they wish they had when they were your student's age.
Your teen may also find it helpful to ask these contacts about the worst thing that ever happened to them in high school. Students can learn from these experiences and prepare themselves to avoid a variety of scenarios before they find themselves in the midst of their very own "worst day ever."
Talk about all of this newly-gathered information with your daughter or son. You can provide some additional perspective that will be valuable in the days and months ahead.
In addition, check with school staff members to find out if there are any unique school rituals reserved for older students. This may help students new to a high school avoid accidental embarrassments. "Senior Steps", for example, may lead to a door that only seniors can use; a special courtyard may be reserved exclusively for the use of a specific grade level.
The Future and Now
This is an important time to point out to high school students that the decisions they make today can have a big effect on their future for many years to come. Encourage teens to see their high school experience as a springboard toward adult life; help them focus on finding positive ways to make the most of their school days.
Discuss with your teens what they'd like to accomplish in life and when they'd like to accomplish it. Keep in mind that they may talk as if they know how to do everything but, in reality, they don't have the experience and information to chart an accurate and direct path to their future plans. Listen to what they tell you and then help them find the best way to get the information they need to reach their goals.
Talk about personal choices including the things that may seem like fun now and the way those choices might lead to regrets in the future. Ask questions like "What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now?" "What can you do today to help yourself get to that goal?" "What do you see your friends doing 10 years from now?" "What do you think their lives will be like in the future?"
These days, a variety of tools are available to help teens explore career choices. Software programs, online quizzes, school-sponsored programs and more can help students make choices regarding their future studies and professional ambitions that take advantage of their personalities, skills, interests and abilities.
Many schools require the completion of a specific number of volunteer service hours in the community. As teens plan to meet these requirements, they can look for ways to work in areas related to their career interests. Students attending schools without community service requirements will also find that a volunteer stint can provide winning opportunities of many types for the volunteer and for the community.
An entry-level part-time job related to a student's intended career path is another excellent way to explore job options. The employment experience and the chance to learn to save money for the future are added bonuses.
Listen, Hear, Help
As you talk with your teen, make sure you're listening to what they're saying. Don't just hear what you'd like to hear. Remember that this is a stressful and sometimes confusing time for young adults. They want to grow up to be on their own, but they still want parental approval and they still very much want to be a part of their family.
-- Kathie Felix
Kathie Felix writes about education for a variety of national news media outlets.