Earlier this month, we had a chance to attend a Q&A session for parents of incoming freshman. Current high school students and their principal were able to field many of the parents’ questions and concerns. Here are some top concerns:
What happens when my child ends up in a class too hard (or too easy)?
The principal said that his high school encourages the students to challenge themselves in high school. So they make it easy for the students to get into a more challenging level course, try it out for the first several weeks until they get their first set of grades, then decide whether they want to stay in the same level or go to a less challenging level. The students felt free to try out the more challenging courses because they were not penalized in their transcripts for having changed to different levels.
Parents, make sure to find out your high school’s policies on changing among the different levels of classes. Find out when the add/drop/change deadlines are before a “dropped” or “incomplete” mark shows up on a student’s transcript. Most importantly, if you want to encourage your student to take on a more challenging course, make sure to talk in advance about expected workloads, goals, and outcomes. Agree in advance what measures you will use to decide whether to stay in the challenging level, and make sure that the students don’t feel like a failure for not wanting to stay in the challenging course. It is important to find and build confidence so a student can thrive in a right-fit level course and show growth throughout one’s high school academic career.
What should we do in the summer to prepare for high school?
Students’ descriptions of their preparation in the summer before high school varied greatly. Many of the students took advantage of the summer school courses that were offered at the high school, which allowed them to get a requirement out of the way for an elective course. Some students took summer school to free up a period for “study hall” to allow time during the school day to finish homework or seek extra help. Others focused on athletics to get into a team they wanted.
While we wholeheartedly agree that such preparations will be beneficial for high school, we also wanted to point out some overlooked opportunities that pay continuous dividends throughout high school and beyond. Students should learn more about their learning strengths and weaknesses. In most careers, we are taught the skills and given the tools to be most effective and efficient in our jobs, but it is quite ironic that our students are not taught study & learning skills. In addition to gaining useful tools, because of the self-reflective nature of learning study & learning skills, students also grow in their executive functioning and critical thinking abilities.
We realize that this time of transition is both exciting and scary at the same time for your child as well as for you. Deliberate and well-planned preparations can help you reduce anxiety, stress, and conflict, so that you can enjoy these precious years together as a family before a new chapter in your child’s life: college.
Lastly, here are some resources for you and your entering freshman: