Sunday, August 5, 2012

Back to School: The High School Student Edition (from a teacher's perspective)

*UPDATE (08-06-12) - The Back to School series consists of the following posts:
Part 1: The Sanity Saver
Part 2: The Classroom Website For the Super Busy Teacher
Part 3: The Well-Oiled Classroom Machine
Special: The Student Edition (you are here)

Actual Title: How to Make Your Year Suck Less

Hey, visiting high school student readers. Welcome to my blog. You will likely not give a crap about the majority of my blog posts since they are mostly really nerdy posts about cool things teachers like, but this... this is a wealth of information about making your year in high school suck less. This should particularly hit home for the freshmen.


You are already wondering, I'm certain, what makes me qualified to talk about this, seeing as how I am not a high schooler and I am an English teacher - blech. Here is a list of my qualifications:

1. I spent four years in high school. My first two were really awful. Hindsight is 20/20 and I can clearly see a lot of things I should have done differently. Learn from my mistakes.

2. I'm starting my third year of teaching, and I'm only 24 years old as of this posting. Some of you have siblings older than I am. Hopefully you will find me more relatable than an older teacher. I still clearly remember high school. I still remember what it's like to be a student.

3. I teach high school, meaning I spend my days with young adults just like you. And I still like my students. That probably means that I like you and I have no intention of steering you in the wrong direction.

4. Last year I taught 170 freshmen, and the occasional sophomore, junior, or senior who was retaking English 9. This year, half of my students will be freshmen, and the other half will be sophomores. I see the mistakes that new high schoolers make. Life Lesson #1: Learn from other people's mistakes.

5. Confession: I am one of those high school teachers who is, in many ways, still a teenager at heart. I love the same books you love, I enjoy the same movies, and I play the same video games. This always amazes my students. I have yet to turn into an old fart. Just trust me on some things.

13 Tips for Heading Back to High School (in no particular order)
DISCLAIMER: Since I am a teacher, I will obviously emphasize the importance of academics. I'll talk about other advice too, but these are tips for the good student or the student who wants to get back on the right track. If you've come here looking for fashion tips or how to learn about the best high school parties, you're looking at the wrong blog.

1. Please, for the love of everything good and holy, bring your freaking school supplies to school within the first few days! Classroom life will be so much happier when you have your supplies. It really, truly is not hard to keep your supplies around. Ladies, throw your crap in your mega Mary Poppins purse you carry! Guys, stick a pencil and some folded up notebook paper in your pocket if you really think carrying a notebook will cramp your style. Do not wait until Christmas Break to finally bring in that binder for science class. Mr. or Ms. Science Teacher is seriously gonna be mad at you.

2. Keep a jacket/sweatshirt with you or in your locker. Classroom temperatures fluxuate and oftentimes the teacher has no control. Whining is not allowed, so suck it up and put on a sweater!

3. If the teacher gives you a handout, you should probably keep it. Unless they say, "Actually, this isn't important at all; I'm just a tree murderer" you should keep this kind of stuff.

4. Ask for directions. If you are new to a building, ask for help and don't ask older kids! They would love to send you in the wrong direction. Stop in a classroom, identify the teacher (that's the person curled up under their desk with a mug of unidentified liquid), and ask for directions. They won't bite.

5. Choose your first day of school clothing with care. I'm not talking the popularity factor or anything. Choose clothing that is school-appropriate, says positive things about you (and not "I'm positively gifted in the chest area" or "I positively tanned too much this summer"), and is comfortable for sitting! This is not the day to wear jeans that are too tight, shirts that ride up, or uncomfortable shoes. Be smart.

6. Take care of your materials, your desk, and your area in a classroom. Personally, I get really cranky with students who tear their textbooks, draw on their desks, and throw paper and gum on the floor around their desk. This is childish. Don't be childish.

7. Take your lunch the first week of school if you actually want to eat. Cafeteria lines are at their absolute worst during the first week of school. The cafeteria staff has to get all of the kinks worked out and new students like to investigate the school grub. You will wind up in line the entire lunch period. I royally messed this up my first year of school. I threw away a lot of uneaten food the first week of my freshmen year because I ran out of time. Do yourself a favor and investigate the school grub next week.

8. Buses wait for no man. Don't hang around too long after the last bell. Get to the bus or suffer the consequences! Once you figure out how long you have, then you can hang back and talk to your bffs.

9. Join something! Join anything! Your school likely has a huge variety of extracurricular activities you can enjoy. Some will require a lot of dedication, some require athletic ability, some require artistic ability, some just involve eating pizza and watching movies! Find one that fits you and your personality. Are you anti-social? I DON'T CARE. My brother kind of goofed up on this one. He didn't join anything in his four years of high school and he's paying for it now. There were a lot of scholarships for which he couldn't apply and he didn't do a whole lot of friend time. I didn't join anything until sophomore year and I regretted it. DO SOMETHING.

10. Get your potty breaks on a schedule. This is a legit tip. Train yourself to go potty before school, during lunch, and after school. You seriously won't have time during passing periods.

11. Set some goals for yourself. I don't mean huge goals. I mean little goals, like "I will always have my supplies in class" or "I want to learn about x this year." Believe it or not, there are a lot of opportunities for personal growth in school outside of the curriculum. Make it a priority! Speaking of priorities...

12. Keep your priorities straight. Making friends should definitiely be a priority, but where should it fall on that list? Should making friends matter more than the potty break schedule? Probably! Should it matter more than your grades? No. Take time to make a list of priorities. Example:
1. Stay happy.
2. Get grades that my parents and I are satisfied with.
3. Play basketball and do well.
4. Make new friends.
If you discover that an item on the list is hurting or endangering items above it on the list, you need to fix it. If you discover your new friends make you unhappy, or partially cause your falling grades, or take you away from basketball practice, then you need to make some adjustments.

13. If you want to be treated like an adult, then act like an adult. One of my wise co-workers says something to this effect to her students the first day of school each year. "I will not treat you all the same in this classroom. You are all individuals and you all deserve to be treated as such. That being said, if you act like an adult, I will respect you as an adult. If you act like a child, you will be treated like a child." It's really easy to get on a teacher's good side. You don't have to bring them peanut butter Rice Krispy treats (although that always helps), or volunteer to do stuff in the classroom (a nice gesture, but unnecessary), or just generally suck up. Instead, act like you halfway want to be there. Be polite. Ask questions. Be responsible. Do your job. That's what adults are supposed to do.

Have a wonderful year!

Any other tips I missed? Feel free to comment!