Originally posted on June 8, 2015
The arrival of June ushers in thoughts of celebrating flags, fathers and the final days of school. Students often eagerly count down the days, finalizing plans for summer school, or if they are graduating, fun and work/college down the road.
The biggest challenge seems to come with those students who are more focused on the fun on the other side of the proverbial white tape than completing their studies with skill and proficiency. Now, part of this problem is systemic. Arts programs have year-end performances and sports teams are competing in playoff or championship games. But, some schools also seemed to have responded to this “tuning out” by encouraging teachers to not make the last few days too rigorous.
No matter the cause, this lackadaisical attitude can lead to a whole host of poor choices that can have long-term consequences. Despite how closely we monitor students, especially those set to graduate, the pressure that comes with the end of May and beginning of June, plus an unfortunate institutional trend to allow student to mitigate the consequences of any bad action, prompts the unprepared student to believe he or she can do almost anything and make up for it later.
Students will do things like not complete finals or cheat on said end-of-term assignments, violate campus regulations regarding fighting or drug use, or even fail a class that is a graduation requirement and expect to argue their way out of it. We have behavior contracts, student meetings, calls and certified letters home to parents that address these issues, but you see this behavior to a greater or lesser degree every year.
If we were leaving one job for another, the vast majority of us would not expect to get off scot free if we violated the company's rules on our way out the door. If we help our students to understand this concept they will be better off. In essence, they need to think like the college students or working professionals they are becoming rather than the teenagers they are today.
Rather than counting down the days, they should number the remaining tasks and plan how and when they will finish them. Checking things off a list and blocking out days for projects, homework or studying will help keep them on track.
As part of this planning process, building in time for fun or relaxation from stress is mandatory. There is nothing wrong with an afternoon off with friends or family to help recharge the batteries, so long as the work is getting done.
The final piece of advice may be the hardest: choosing friends wisely and drawing appropriate boundaries. Hopefully you have helped your student in this regard already, but pressure can impact normally good students in very bad ways. Now, you want your student to be a friend to others in times of need, but each student earns his or her own grades and sometimes needs to focus first on doing well in English or Physics or AP U.S. History and friends second.
In the end, the goal is the same: completing the school year well, or walking across a stage and receiving a diploma. Anything that gets in the way of that should not be taken lightly.
Implementing some or all of these steps hopefully will help your student not only finish the race of high school, but do so well.
I have been a public high school teacher in Southern California since 2005 and writing since junior high. I have an affinity for chocolate, photography, sarcasm and well-written TV shows that refuse to talk down to their audiences.