TEACHER’S TAKE: High school’s not as scary as you might think

Retired Delta teacher Patrick Truelove offers some advice for parents and students heading into high school this fall.

September is around the corner – a good time for some words of encouragement for our soon-to-be Grade 8s and their nervous parents.

Parents, put yourself in your thirteen-year-old’s place for a moment: It’s the first day of high school, that much-more-imposing version of the safe little place you’ve attended since you were five. You’ve walked past it. You’ve seen those adult-sized ‘kids.’ Some of them look like TV characters, and not in a good way. Now you have to actually walk through those big doors and make your way in this bigger world.

Definitely, things will feel different. The place will seem noisy and crowded.

But you’ll have your own very special personal space: your locker. Put your decorative skills to work!

Nearby will be many of your friends from Grade 7, and their familiar faces will help cushion the shock.New to the neighbourhood and don’t know anyone? Don’t worry; nobody can tell by looking. Just stand up straight and smile confidently. It actually helps.

The teachers know that you have a lot to get used to. You won’t get yelled at for losing your way and being late on the first day or two. You won’t get locked in a locker. You will be amazed how quickly it all becomes familiar. In fact, when you go back to visit your Grade 7 teacher (who will be delighted, by the way), your old school will suddenly look tiny and cute.

Want to get good marks? Apply the three key principles: organize, organize and organize. Use a three-ring binder for each subject. Don’t combine them, and don’t mix them up. Everything about Science goes in your Science binder and nothing else!

Also, make this your Year of the Agenda. Students are required to buy these books, but despite good intentions, many of them end up abandoned long before Christmas. That’s too bad, because this little book can make your life easier.

Don’t limit the entries to homework, either. Practice times, TV shows, sleep-overs, phone numbers – in fact, reminders about anything can be filed in this one place, never to be lost. OK, some kids might use a phone app, rather than a physical book. Either way, try consciously to maintain it through September. That can be enough to make it a permanent habit.

Want your teachers to like you? Be on time. They hate it when students stroll casually in just after the bell. Be willing to make eye contact, and you’ll seem more like a person to them. Don’t chat with your friend while the teacher is talking … ever!

Oh, and get your homework done.

It seems too obvious to even bother saying, but almost everyone who fails a course has at least a couple of missing assignments. Even one blank in your record is the same as a zero, and can bring you down by a letter grade.

A program called Student Connect gives you online access to all your marks. Check it for accuracy. Teachers are capable of mistakes, just like real people.

Parents, be excited with your kid about this big adventure. Sometimes as children move into their teens they can become disconnected from their parents. This doesn’t have to be.

Make a point of attending every single parent-teacher interview. Even if your kid is doing fine and there isn’t much to discuss, do it to keep up your connection with the school. Familiarity with your child’s daytime world will strengthen your relationship through the complicated years ahead.

Bon voyage!

Patrick Truelove is a retired elementary and secondary teacher who has lived and worked in North Delta for over 30 years. Patrick taught drama, English, social studies and law.

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