Preparing Your Teenage Student for Success This School Year

Dear Parents,

It’s back to school time again. All the uniforms and school supplies have been purchased; now it is actually time for your child to go back to school and learn. 

teenage

I say child, but for this post, I mean teenager. I have taught teenagers for the past eight years. I love the challenges that teenagers bring; I love the perspectives they are able to offer; I even love [some of] their goofy jokes.

That said, there are a few things that I think parents of teenage students should know going into the school year that will help their children succeed this school year:

Your teenager still needs a bedtime!

As parents, we may tend to be very strict about bedtime for our elementary-aged children. As they get older, many students are allowed to stay up later. While this is fine to a point, we need to remember that our teenagers still need 8-10 hours of sleep per night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, only 15% of teenagers are receiving an adequate amount of sleep per night.

It is really difficult for your child to learn and focus at 7:35 in the morning when she hasn’t gotten enough sleep the night before. Please encourage your child to go to bed at an adequate time.

And while we are on the subject … some experts believe that your teenager will sleep better if you institute an “electronic curfew.” You may think your teen is in bed asleep, but he is really scrolling through social media in bed. Keep your teen’s devices charging out of their bedroom to encourage a full-night’s sleep. 

Please respect due dates and natural consequences for late work.

I include this just as a reminder that your teenager’s teacher is looking at long-term life lessons with due dates and consequences for late or forgotten work. When your child goes to college or gets a job, he will not be given deadline extensions on every project. In college, if a student misses a test or deadline for an essay, the consequence is a zero.

In my classroom, students lose points for every day a major assignment is late. I am trying to teach them long-term responsibility. Hopefully, they will learn the lesson after the first time and make adjustments for other assignments to turn them in on time.

This gets complicated when parents ask for deadline extensions for every assignment or ask me to take the assignment for full credit. While there are certainly extenuating circumstances that warrant an extension, not every assignment should receive this. Please allow your teenager to learn this lesson while in junior high or high school, instead of learning it with a job on the line. 

Please stop doing your child’s homework.

Parents, let’s be real. Teachers know when a student did not write his own essay, complete her own science project, or even write their own vocabulary sentences. Let’s think about what this is teaching your child:

  • It is okay to take shortcuts to get ahead, even if they’re wrong. I don’t know about you, but this is not a message that I want my children or students to accept. If the reason you are doing your child’s homework is because they are struggling, there are other ways to address this! Talk to the teacher, hire a tutor, *help* your child with homework. There is a difference between helping and doing – make sure your child is doing the bulk of the work. 
  • Your own work is not good enough. This message may be one that parents have not thought through. They may think that writing that essay will help to ensure an A, which will help the child earn good grades necessary for college. But the unspoken message to the child is that her work is not good enough on its own to merit a good grade. Again, help, offer tips for improvement, but please let your child turn in his own work. In fact, making errors the first time is a great way for students to learn how to improve. Allow them the opportunity for growth.

And lastly, on a lighter note…

Know what is (and isn’t) in your child’s book bag.

Please occasionally check your teen’s book bag. Some students have very organized book bags and binders and a pencil bag full of supplies. This would be every teachers’ ideal! Many students are reasonably organized and prepared. Some are prepared, but not for class! I understand the craving for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos is REAL, but hopefully your child also carries highlighters and loose-leaf, too. They may not tell you until the last minute that they are running low on paper or pencils, so find out. 

One time, I had a student pull a toaster out of his bag and put it on his desk without saying a word. Another time, I had a student pull a LIVE ANIMAL out of his book bag in class. Granted, it was a kitten, but still. I worry about a kitten who has to go through the day in a book bag. 

All that to say, know what is or is not in their bags! 

Sending your teenager to school is truly a balancing act. You still need to remember that they are a child but they also need to be accepting more responsibility for their own learning. It’s not a job I’m looking forward to on the parenting end! Remember that your teen’s teachers WANT to help your child succeed. I hope you and your teenager have a great school year!

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