Navigating High School: A Teacher’s Advice

Mastering time management is key to finding your A game in grades 9-12, says W-L math teacher Leonda Archer.
Sam Balye W1fwdvirezu Unsplash

Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash

This is the first in a series of Q&As with teachers about how to get ready to return to school.

High school is a steppingstone to adulthood, which means it’s full of possibilities but also anxieties. Students are gaining independence at home and school, but they also need to learn to be mindful of their time and start charting a path to their post-school future.

For tips on how students and their parents or caregivers can navigate grades nine through 12, we spoke with Leonda Archer, a secondary math specialist for Arlington Public Schools. She has 20 years of teaching experience, most recently as a math teacher and math coach at Washington-Liberty High School.

Archer School Pic 1

W-L math teacher Leonda Archer (courtesy photo)

How does high school differ from middle school?

Students will quickly notice a significant change in both their workload and how teachers communicate with them. In high school, we heavily utilize the Canvas Learning Management system, ParentVUE and email for student communication. High school offers more flexibility in shaping your academic path. Students become more mindful of their class choices based on their future college aspirations. In high school, there’s a wealth of chances to join clubs, sports and academic initiatives. Students will experience a fresh sense of independence that is grounded in support from parents and staff in high school.

Sounds like students need to be more responsible for themselves.

Absolutely! In high school, it is crucial to step up your responsibility game and master time management. It is easy for students to feel a bit overwhelmed with all the activities and new social aspects. At times, participation in multiple activities may divert students from their academics. Additionally, students need to keep their parents informed about their workload and other commitments. The tendency for truancy and tardiness tends to increase if there is not a routine in place to balance the juggling of family life, extracurricular activities and academics.

How can parents or caregivers help students balance all of that?

Engage in discussions about what the upcoming school year will be like. These conversations can revolve around how to handle your workload and establish a solid evening routine. Consider setting limits on device usage, healthy eating plans and ensuring ample time for sleep. Another strategy is having a separate, designated, distraction-free zone or time they can set for academic work. This enhances productivity and lessens anxiety, ultimately leading to a more confident and well-rested start to high school.

You mentioned social challenges. What are common ones you’ve seen?

Flip through our newspapers and magazines, and you may come across stories about fentanyl and students getting involved in unlawful actions or drug-related situations. Additionally, being punctual and managing time may pose a bigger challenge because of the allure of social media. Social media also contributes to potential bullying. It is critical that we monitor and support our students as they transition to high school. Being mindful of mental health and noticing any changes in mood or behavior will help identify any new social challenges that may present themselves. Managing social challenges will help with teacher-to-student and student-to-student interaction and make for a more joyful transition.

How can students deal with all of that?

Remember that there is no need to stretch yourself thin by engaging in activities that don’t align with your true self. What is truly wonderful about the high school setting is the array of after-school opportunities to participate in. If you can’t find a club or activity that resonates with your passions, you can start your own. The opportunities to feel connected and engaged are truly abundant. However, it’s important to find a balance that does not overwhelm you. Students should remember that if there are moments when they need support, they may seek guidance from their parents, teachers and counselors.

At what point in their high school career should students and their parents start to plan for what they will do after graduation?

Considering your future from your freshman year isn’t a bad notion. The impact of your GPA might not be clear to every student right away. Some may find themselves caught up in the excitement and social whirlwind of high school. This could lead to challenging freshman and sophomore years, with attempts at recovery during junior and senior years. However, it is best not to wait that long. I would recommend sitting down with your child early on and discussing their course choices and future aspirations. Arlington is proactive in guiding students through course progression, allowing them to chart a clear path toward their goals.

What’s your main goal for students this year?

Ensure that they sense a strong support network, allowing them to explore their creative side through various clubs and events at school. Encourage them to challenge themselves academically while also emphasizing the importance of cultivating genuine, in-person relationships beyond the realms of social media. Encourage active involvement in school activities, volunteering and wholeheartedly embracing the high school experience. Let them enjoy their adolescent years and avoid hurrying into adulthood. Make the most of this time, create joyful memories, be kind, lead with love, be mindful of mental health and the importance of taking breaks, and create positive, fond memories that they can reflect on in the future.

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Categories: Education, Parents & Kids