Advice from a High School Teacher

Having been a high school teacher for nearly 20 years, I can tell you from experience that high school can be a make or break time in a child’s life. Navigating adolescence isn’t easy, for both parent and child. It’s a time of self-exploration, boundary-testing, and personal growth. 

In my role as a teacher, I have personally witnessed struggling youth blossom into the most focused, mature, and self-assured young adults. I have, unfortunately, also seen sweet, innocent youth become the most belligerent, disinterested, and disengaged young adults during this short, pivotal time.

While there are obviously many outside-of-school factors that can contribute to these seemingly sudden changes in adolescent behaviour, there are some sure-fire ways to set your high schooler up for success as they venture into this new, often intimidating world. 

Being a teacher, I have the privilege of speaking with parents on a daily basis to inform them of their child’s progress. Without a doubt, during the majority of these conversations, the most common question I am asked is, “What can I do to help my child be successful?”.  

Through observing thousands of parent/adolescent relationships over the years, there are a few key components that contribute to the overall success of a child as they venture into young adulthood. Here are a few of the most important things you can do to help your child develop into a well-rounded, successful high schooler, from the perspective of a high school teacher:

#1: Take an interest in what your teenager is doing

This doesn’t mean taking a seat on the parent counsel or going to every P/T interview. Have daily check-ins to see what is going on in school. What are they doing in their classes? What subjects are they most interested in? Are there any extra-curricular opportunities that they’re particularly excited about? Is there any homework that they are struggling with? 

When you take an interest in what your child is doing in school, you show them that you too have a vested interest in their education. Believe it or not, taking an interest helps hold your child accountable for their learning and helps to guide them in the process of becoming a better, more well-aware student. 

#2: Encourage your teenager to get involved in extracurricular activities

Nothing keeps a teenager out of trouble more than being involved in productive things outside of school time. Recognize that there is so much more to high school than just getting good grades. In fact, I would argue that high school should be a place where students learn to be well-rounded, contributing members of society.

This not only helps to build a strong school and global community, but it also allows students to meet with like-minded individuals and build life-long friendships.

#3: Allow your teenager to explore and expand upon their interests outside of school

Is there anything that your teen has a particular passion for that cannot be fulfilled in their school? (e.g. private music lessons, guiding/pathfinders, cadets, dance, martial arts, etc.)

The more activities your child is involved in outside of school, the more well-rounded they will become. This also teaches time management skills, allows them to connect with other kids outside of their school circle, so they are not reliant upon their school friends for validation. Plus, it gives them an opportunity to build leadership and teamwork skills that can then be transferred into their school life, and ideally their future professional life as well.

#4: Get to know your teenager’s friends

Who your teen associates with is a very good indication of who your teen is themselves. You can gain valuable insight into who your teen is by getting to know their friends.

While you might not want to spend your free time entertaining your teenager’s friends, encourage them to invite their friends over. It’s important your teen knows that they have a safe space they can go to outside of school where they are able to socialize. This also gives you a great handle on the types of friends your teenager is keeping.

#5: Be open to discussing difficult topics with your teenager

While discussing things like sex, drugs, and puberty with your teenager might not be at the top of your “fun parenting” moments, it’s in these difficult discussions where you are able to build trust, model healthy boundaries, and instill honest and open communication skills. It also allows you to get a sense of what types of things they are being faced with at school, opening the door to offering support and guidance.

#6: Encourage your teenager to become a global citizen

Get your child to save for that $3000 trip to Europe. This gives them focus and something to work towards.

While you’re at it, discuss global issues at home – but not from a position of trying to dictate values. Rather, help them explore the issues with a critical and open mind, and let them share their findings. Doing so teaches them to believe in and fight for something larger than themselves.

If you have the means, allow them to accompany you on your travels. World travel not only shows kids how other people live, it gives them a greater appreciation for what they have. It also encourages global empathy and connection. When we feel connected to something greater than ourselves, we are more determined to make a positive contribution to the world at large.  

Navigating high school can be as difficult for a parent as it is for an adolescent. But with a few key strategies to start from, it can be a rewarding time of guidance, support, growth, and mentorship that will give them the confidence to enter the world as an adult, and you the reassurance that you’ve done what you can to prepare them for a successful future.



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