Where did the time go? Your little Johnny or Jenny, once so easily engaged with toys or television cartoons, is no longer little anymore. They’ve entered that special rite of passage-the teens. They’re finally out of middle school and are ready for the excitement of high school.
Parents have always grappled with the emotional drama of sending their child off to a new school. At 13-years-old, however, the challenges are quite different. For some, it’s more frightening than the first days of kindergarten. For others, the vast campus of a high school offers a wonderland of adventure.
Regardless of how you or your child feels, it’s always wise to be prepared. This lessens the anxiety level for both of you. When I was a high school administrator, I used to make the following suggestions to parents, which made the transition into high school go smoother:
1. Dress Code. Make sure you know what the dress code requirements are of the new school. We realize that teens today mimic the latest fad of their favorite celebrity, and that’s fine. But be careful. High schools want to focus on academics, and anything that’s considered a distraction of that won’t be tolerated. School administrators (principal, assistant principals, and deans) are always on the lookout for short skirts, plunging necklines, and revealing blouses on girls. Boys should wear plain shirts that do not have graphics messages on them, and, yes, they should be tucked in the pants that are held snug by a proper belt.
Most schools issue their dress codes on their own website or a handout that can be picked up in the guidance office. Compliance is crucial. You don’t want John or Jen to receive a detention on that first week, do you?
2. Gadgets. Please have them leave the IPods, CD players, and other electronic items at home. Once again, check with the school policy on this, but most will not allow them on campus. Kids are supposed to pay attention in class. How can they do this if they’ve got headphones on and are tuned in to Lady Gaga or Ludacris?
Then there are those cell phones—the bane of every administrator! Trust me; school officials do not like having to confiscate these pesky sources of classroom disruption. The trouble can be more that it’s worth. But with the digital cameras and Internet accessing found on most of cell phones, schools typically have a zero tolerance here. If your child needs to reach you by phone, the school usually has one in the reception or guidance offices…or there is a payphone right on campus.
On another note, just about every day, items such as these go missing. They’re either lost or stolen. School security personnel will tell you-a major part of their day is spent processing the paperwork on these missing items. More reason to keep these items home.
3. Getting to School on Time. Most teens tend to stay up late at night, which means it’s a struggle to wake up so early in the morning. They then drag themselves to school, half-dazed in a sleep state. The bell rings, and before you know it, they’re tardy.
Teachers hate it when students are tardy. It’s a major classroom disturbance, because directions have been given or important announcements have been made once class starts—and your kid has either missed it or interrupted the focus of the class. This means the teacher has to repeat for the third time, which means valuable time is lost. Now, imagine this happening in multiple numbers, as different teens arrive to class late at different times.
4. Open House. Make sure you’ve had a chance to visit the campus. It’s best if you can reach a guidance counselor, assistant principal, or department head who would be able to give both you and your child a quick tour of the campus to see the cafeteria, media center, and the classrooms your child has been scheduled to attend. Remember, however, that private tour may not always be possible because of the number of ninth graders or new students being enrolled at the high school. So, the next best thing is to attend the Open House. Just about every school has them.
5. Transportation. Unless your child has somewhere to rush to after school, have him/her take the bus. It’s safer and cheaper. If you plan to drop your child off, check before you do. For safety reasons (and insurance requirements), some schools have strict passenger loading and unloading provisions. There are certain locations on the campus grounds which are reserved for heavy traffic of dropping off and picking up.
If your child needs to drive, they must check on what the student parking lot regulations are. Will they need a permit? Find out. Also note that some schools use student parking as a privilege that can be taken away for disciplinary reasons or if the student’s grade point average sinks below passing.
6. Supplies. At the high school level, it’s always best to check with the individual teachers first before going out and spending lots of dollars on school supplies. Some classes require special composition or journal paper. There are elective classes that have specific needs, too. Don’t forget to buy a book bag with comfortable straps to put all of these items in.
7. Calendar Planner. It is so important to help our teens get organized. With the varied course schedules, homework assignments, and multiple events occurring, we cannot expect them to simply remember it all in their heads. Some schools provide a day planner or an organizer for students. Check first. Otherwise, please get him/her one. With classroom changes and announcements occurring everyday or every week, students need a guide. This is especially important during the first couple of weeks.
8. Names. Make sure your child gets the names of his/her teachers. Talk to them about the teachers; get the email addresses and communicate with these teachers. Also, find out who your child’s guidance counselor is and which administrator you should contact if there are any questions or issues that come up. Don’t forget to find out the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of the other students your child befriends.
9. Rules. Get your hands on the school’s student rules and regulations. Go over these with your child. Some teachers also give students their own classroom procedures. If anything, this is what parents miss most of the times. Do not expect your child to give this handout to you. They’ll forget, trust me on this one. So, ask for it. Some schools actually require parents to sign a form indicating that they’ve read and understood the rules and regulations.
It usually takes two weeks to one month for a ninth grader or new student to acclimate to the new surroundings of a high school. Hang in there! Before you know it, your child will be a senior, attending graduation rehearsals.
10. Join the School Advisory Council. For some reason, parent involvement in School Advisory Councils (SACS) or PTAs diminishes at the high school level. This is unfortunate, because there is so much taking place of which parents should be made aware. School policies, FCAT objectives, school improvement procedures-these are all issues that require input from parents. A teen’s years in high school is enriched by parental involvement.
Ask the administrators when the SACS meets, and show up. You will be pleasantly surprised.