Originally posted on August 18, 2014
With the first day of school fast approaching, this is the perfect time to ensure your student is prepared to be successful right out of the gate. In the educational world, the letter F has a very negative connotation, but I hope to redeem the sixth letter of the English alphabet as we discuss how Food, Folders and Faith can be key to starting off the school year well.
It seems elementary to suggest eating a good meal is vital to being a good student, but I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t see this principle flouted every day. Students regularly stroll into my classroom with a large, sugar-laced, blended coffee concoction and perhaps a doughnut or fast-food breakfast sandwich. They may not be allowed to eat or drink them in my classroom, but I know these items will not magically turn into a glass of water and piece of fruit when they carry them out the door. For the students who don’t wake up in time to eat, setting an alarm 15-30 minutes earlier than normal can address this issue. Even those who have lower incomes can qualify for our free and reduced-lunch programs, which some students do not take advantage of this because they are embarrassed about how they will be perceived by their classmates. No matter what excuse they give us, we need to be united in the proposition that a healthy diet will result in a fit physique and robust academic performance.
The next most important element in student success is organization. For every three or four reasonably well-organized backpacks I see students lug from class to class, there is one teen who is just carrying a poorly organized folder or a pack so messy he or she could hide a small land mammal inside and no one would be the wiser. While students often will balk at the nod to conformity, if they don’t have an exact place for their papers, I can pretty much guarantee their work will mysteriously disappear mere seconds before it’s due. Time and again I have observed a direct correlation between a messy folder and lower grade in my class. Again, for those who cannot afford backpacks, PTA groups or individual teachers or staff members have been known to purchase them for those in need. Even I, who spent my high school years arguing that a clean desk was a sure sign of a sick mind, know the more organized I am the better I can do my job.
The final part of this puzzle is for students to have faith in themselves and their future. Whether beginning their high school careers or just coming back from a summer away from the hustle and bustle of projects, exams, homework and dating drama, it is always good to have a fresh start. I always tell my students I care about their future much more than their past. We all have high expectations for these young people, but if we can encourage them to do well and remind them they can, and should, learn from their failure then they will have the internal faith needed to handle the challenges they will face in and out of the classroom.
So, while it may not be applicable on their report cards, getting down these three F's might be a surefire way to earn the As and Bs you and they both desire.
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.