6 Ways to Set Your Teen up for Success in High School

High School Success

There are few things as daunting as signing your child up for high school. As a high school teacher, I can assure you many components go into a child’s success during his or her secondary education. Here are six tips to help them during their high school years.

Great Careers Start in the Classroom

Get the kids involved.

Start discussing opportunities with your son or daughter’s counselor freshman year. It is never too soon to start building a resume. Even as freshmen, students can get involved in leadership opportunities, volunteer experiences, athletics, and activities. An active student is an engaged student. We do not want them over-extending themselves, but if you, as a parent, can get them to attach themselves to their school, grades improve because their motivation to be in school is high.

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Ask about the ACT early and often.

A good question for a guidance counselor or homeroom teacher is how early teenagers can take the ACT. We do not want to over-test our young people. But the bottom line to testing is potential college debt can be tied to the score a student receives on the ACT. The more times a teen takes this test, the better he or she will score. Knowing that this is a gateway to a debt-free adult life may be a blessing disguised until your child is 22 and 100% in the real world. There are many practice sites out in the world. ACT.org has practice tests for every section. If kids get used to the strategies needed to achieve high scores, they will be more comfortable each time they attempt a test of this nature.

Find an advocate for your child. 

It will be very beneficial for your teen to have two or three adults in high school as point people for questions or concerns. This person could be a homeroom teacher, a coach, a science teacher, a counselor, a principal, or a security guard. Having a contact in the school will not only make your child feel more comfortable being in the building, but this person can also be a liaison of sorts for home. I believe in the adage that it takes a village to raise our kids. In Omaha, our village seems a bit large, but it is possible to navigate. With an advocate, your child’s high school years can be less daunting.

Remind them that respect means the most.

Ask any teacher what’s more important in the classroom: grades or respect? 99% of them will admit respect for teachers, fellow students, and the school comes first. If this is established, your child’s grades will soar. Remind them to keep their phones off or inside their bags. Tell them to raise their hands and ask questions. Explain to them that the hard work is done in the classroom, and their careers are the payoff. If kids aren’t distracted by devices, they are more engaged, asking questions, and making classroom life calm for all, which in turn helps raise understanding.

Keep track of their grades.

Most schools in Omaha have students’ grades online or an app for parents and students. Keeping a recurring alert on your phone or calendar to check your child’s scores will benefit everyone. Not only can you teach him or her to monitor the grade book, but you can still be in the background making sure nothing gets missed. Not completing the work can take a toll on grades early. It’s so hard to rebound after a few missing assignments. If you stay current on your son or daughter’s grades, he or she will thank you for it.

Ensure their sleep is unplugged.

Having taught high school for 16 years, I’ve witnessed the quickest way to facilitate classroom concentration is by allowing children to be well-rested. If my students are lethargic, stressed, or grumpy, it is usually because this child was on a device way into the early hours of the morning. The teens will explain, “Sammy so-and-so sent a Snapchat at 3 am and woke me up.” If I ask the kids what is creating the lethargy, I almost always get the answer that the phones kept them up all night. Kids will Snapchat, text, IM, DM at all hours. Those whose parents make them keep the phones in a separate room altogether at night rarely miss class notes. They are almost always healthier, more attentive, and higher achieving. Those devices can pollute our kids in so many ways, so give them a rest while your kids sleep.

Take it from me, as a teacher and a parent, I see the desire teens have to do well. If you give them the tools, restrictions, awareness, and support to do so, they will have the advantages of health and knowledge to help them on their paths.

*This post was originally written in 2018.

Tessa A. Adams is a graduate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a Masters in reading. She is a language arts and creative writing teacher and is the co-author of the blog www.familyfootnote.com. She has three children and when she is not mothering or teaching, she is writing. Her work can be found in Fine Lines Literary Journal, Huff Post Parents, Empty Sink Publishing, Route 7 Review, Sammiches and Psychmeds, THAT Literary Review, The Sunlight Press, xoJane, and Parent.co.