The Excellent Student: Junior High and High School

As discussed in the previous installment, “The Excellent Student- Grade School”, I would like to reiterate the fact that excellent students are created through hard work and dedication, not genes. Having Mensa DNA in your family tree certainly wouldn’t hurt, but commitment and consistent effort from your student and yourself will prevail. That’s right… You!

Face it, raising primates isn’t easy. Even if there was a good playbook, it wouldn’t be a lot of help because the rules of the game keep changing. Although they take more direct care, in many ways your grade school student is easier since you are able to form good habits early. By the time they are a teenager, poor habits may have already formed or they may have developed a pre-conceived notion of their own academic ability.

As professional educators and parents, it is extremely important to radiate happiness and joy in what we do. When opportunities arise, we should always let our teenage children know that we are extremely interested in them as persons. The self-esteem you help them build will be one of your child’s greatest assets as a student and as an adult.

It’s your job to help your teenager over all the hurdles and win out in the end. Here’s a few tips that may help you along the way.

1.Communication! Have a serious behavioral discussion… This is a must! Parents must always encourage their teenagers to maintain proper conduct and courteous behavior. Take the time to have a heart to heart discussion on the importance of obeying rules, respecting others and the significance of education in life. Try to avoid anger, criticism and frustration when discussing this. (Sometimes it’s not easy!)

2.Develop a positive environment. Remember that an environment should maximize a teenager’s growth potential educationally, emotionally and socially. It needs to contribute to excellent development on all levels. This special environment is as important at home as well as at any school or institution of learning.

3.Know your school and its staff. As parents, you want a school that is dedicated to enhancing your teenager’s learning. All students should be educated in such a way that they are provided with the necessary learning skills and self-esteem needed to succeed in any academic environment. Schools need to access their students full potential by providing leading edge education, research and even community outreach. They should offer opportunities for their students to experience interests and natural talents which will develop self-reliance and respect for others. If students acquire strategies for learning and organizing information, this will generally enable them to become independent students.

4.Praise effort, not grades. It’s easy to heap praise on your child when they bring home a stellar progress report, but don’t forget the importance of that grade that went from a C- to a C+. Acknowledging and rewarding progress at ALL levels builds self-esteem and keeps the motivation level high.

5.Know their friends. This may sound more like parenting advice than teaching advice, but it’s important. Not only does peer pressure have a great deal of impact on your child’s behavior, but also on their academic success. Insist on meeting their friends and develop a rapport with them. Ask about their academic progress so they also know your family’s dedication to education. Perhaps one of your child’s friends can help with a difficult subject or maybe your child can help a friend. This helps to solidify your commitment and extend it to their peer group.

6.Eliminate distractions. This probably goes without saying, but contrary to what your teenagers may tell you, having their iPod plugged into their head does NOT help them to concentrate. Likewise, Facebook is not an educational tool. Have a place for them to work preferably with some degree of supervision. The internet provides good reference material, but can be a deep pool of distraction as well.

7.Encourage involvement. Extra curricular activities like sports and clubs help your student on so many levels. Enthusiasm for their environment, school spirit, teamwork, friendship and just keeping them busy in a healthy environment. My parents used to call it “keeping me out of trouble”. It’s usually not easy on parents since many times these activities will involve additional expense and time from you, but the payoff is worth it.

8.Take a deep breath. Teenagers are challenging at best. They are strong willed, single minded individuals that know everything and are constantly beset by external forces that are not necessarily in their best interest. Remember, you really do know what’s best and must take charge while remaining empathetic and patient. Good luck.

9.Off season programs. While the rest of the world is on Summer Vacation, this is a great time to push ahead… Think of it as continuing the race while others are making a pit stop. That doesn’t mean your child has to work all summer, but this is a great time to get them help on a problem subject or take part in some fun educational programs. If you’re lucky enough to be lining up some family vacation time, don’t overlook the learning potential here!

10.Extra educational assistance (tutoring), this is so critical and necessary! It’s important to assess whatever tutorial service you are considering. You need to check out the program available. Take your teenagers with you, check to see that they are comfortable in that particular environment. Meet the teacher in charge and other staff members. Ask about their qualifications. All of these factors will help you decide the best solution for your teenage students.

Please remember that education is for life and you, as a parent, want the very best for your child.

Happy Learning!