5 Tips to Help High-Schoolers Get the Most from Their Schooling

BY Jaclyn Cunningham        May 5, 2016

“School’s a waste of time.”

“When am I going to use any of this?”

“I hate school. It’s so stressful.”

Have you ever heard these comments?

As a teacher, I’ve heard these myself and I have sometimes felt the same way. As the most stressful profession, most teachers are not thriving in their work, and 90% of graduates last less than five years.

There are exceptions to this of course, when teachers are totally dedicated to their jobs and are working sometimes from 5am to 8pm teaching, planning, marking, reflecting, contacting parents, going to meetings, writing reports, etc. They love it.

It’s not stress for them. It’s passion. It’s a lifestyle choice.

And the students are then lucky enough to be presented with engaging meaningful lessons, as well as firm and fair boundaries around behaviour.

If not, the class ends up with kids throwing things or running around the room. The lesson is uninspiring and they have no idea of what is expected of them.

The teacher ends up angry, possibly yells, blames the kids for being so unruly, goes home stressed, and then has no inspired energy to put into planning future lessons. The cycle continues.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a tough gig. My lesson planning and behaviour management were terrible when I began. It takes time, mentoring, persistence, and trial and error.

I’ve just spent four weeks teaching in a remote Aboriginal community in Northern Australia. The school has a reputation for being “pretty full-on.” I have been going into different classes and observing different teachers, and I can see a huge difference in behaviour and learning depending on the quality of the teaching.

So, if your teenager is not thriving at school, should you march on in and start blaming teachers? Of course not; it’s about responsibility.

The teachers have a responsibility to do the best they can, and I’m sure most of them are.

Obviously, as a parent you will have chosen your teenager’s high school with care, and you have every right to contact teachers, get feedback on your student’s learning and behaviour, and give feedback to teachers.

As a teacher, I’ve had parents ring to blame me for the fact that their son was failing math. I was devastated. Here’s a kid who comes in late, takes fifteen minutes to get his book out, chats all lesson, and then tells his parents it’s someone else’s fault.

Could I have been stricter on his behaviour and separated him from his friends? Absolutely and I probably should have done so earlier. I certainly did after I had spoken to Mum!

It’s about responsibility. On the phone to Mum the conversation went something like, “What’s his home schedule like? What are his other commitments? How much time do you see him spending on homework and assignments?”

On another occasion, I emailed a parent about a student’s poor behaviour and the response was “my son has told me that the other boys were distracting him and so-and-so actually started it.” Ha!! Talk about enabling!

So, who’s to blame here? The teachers? The other kids that distract? No. It’s about responsibility. I can take responsibility for my teaching, and I can teach students to take responsibility for their own learning and behaviour.

These tips are about empowerment. Learning to control what we can control and to accept the rest.

So here it is…

5 tips to help high-schoolers get the most from their schooling:

  1. Encourage them to take responsibility for their own learning and behaviour. Resist the temptation to blame.

  2. Encourage them to do their best. If they can honestly say they have put in their best effort, the results don’t matter. Reassure them they are loved and worthy no matter what.

  3. Focus on what they’re doing right. Praise and encouragement works a whole lot better than criticism.

  4. Use AND instead of BUT. For example, “I’m so happy with the effort you’re putting into these subjects AND I’d like to talk to you about how you can improve in these other subjects.”

  5. Encourage them to embrace the opportunity. If they can go to school everyday with a smile on their face, doors will open to better things.

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Jaclyn Cunningham

Jaclyn Cunningham is a writer and youth mentor at jcinspireyouth.com. She is passionate about guiding youth to realise their unique potential, and inspiring them to live a full and happy life. To receive her weekly blog and her free ebook “5 Simple Strategies to Inspire Youth,” sign up here.

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