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Back to School Advice

Most of the kids in our area are either back in the classroom or headed there shortly. As we all start to readjust to the school year routine, let’s talk about how we can get kids started in the best way possible.

It’s not easy being a middle school or high school student. There are so many responsibilities, and many students lack the life experience necessary to really know what works best for them in terms of studying, getting involved, or preparing for college admissions.

I put a request out asking for teachers to offer up their best advice for students and received some helpful tips.

My friend Amanda offered this, “Take ownership of your learning. It is your education and your future. Do the work. Pay attention to the instructions. Communicate, communicate, communicate — we aren’t mind readers. If you need help/clarification, ask. If you have other stumbling blocks/stressors, tell us. We can’t help if we don’t know!”

Amanda’s husband, Geoff, is also a teacher and has some additions to her, “To piggyback on Amanda, yes take ownership and learn responsibility. We can’t do the work for you; we’ve already put in that time. Always ask questions. Don’t be afraid to say no and at the same time be able to say yes. Be patient. No one learns everything in a day. Be respectful to your teachers, and to everyone you interact with.”

From the great interwebz, I found this piece from that I think is really beneficial, “While starting new classes, remember that your outlook about this school year can impact your performance all year long. It’s a lot easier to earn an A if you do your best from the start instead of falling behind during the first few weeks and having to play catch up the rest of the semester. Mentally prepare yourself to put your best foot forward in the first half of the semester. Try to stay ahead as long as you can. You may be surprised by how far you’ll go.”

Making the transition to middle school, or high school can be tough, previously, you may have been told where to go, what classes to take, and how to finish your homework, or maybe didn’t have homework at all. Now things are different — so many choices and things competing for your time. Stretch yourself too thin and you might feel stressed out.

Here are some ways to get control:

Plan ahead. Get a wall calendar or personal planner. Mark the dates of midterms, finals, and other tests. Note the due dates of term papers, essays, and other projects as they are assigned. List any other time commitments you have, like sports practice or play rehearsals. When your calendar starts to fill, learn to say no to other activities until things calm down.

Listen up. Paying attention in class can pay off in the long run. Sure, it’s often easier said than done, but actively listening and taking notes during classes can make recalling information easier when it comes time to study and remember things.

Take notes. If you take notes and review them before class begins (or while studying for an exam), you can ask a teacher to go over anything you don’t understand. It can also be helpful to go over notes with a friend after class — as long as you’re confident your friend really grasps the material! Learning good note-taking skills in high school also helps put you ahead of the curve in college, when good lecture notes are key to studying and doing well.

In addition to advice for students, Webb writer Joseph Smith also has some advice for the teachers at the front of the classroom, “Overprepare. Take an interest in their personal lives. Be flexible. Leave your ego at the door; you are not cool anymore, and that’s OK. Admit mistakes — apologize where needed. Spice up class with jokes, riddles, stories, movie clips, music, and an occasional snack. If one kid is ‘just doing it to get attention,’ then give him some! Remember that for many, school is the most structure, safety, and connection they have in their lives — and one time when you can get them OFF THEIR SCREENS for real interpersonal connection!”

I hope everyone has a great school year — kids and teachers alike. Work together, stay focused, and as always — be kind.