Even though many schools are in the middle (or even the beginning) of their summer break, in about two weeks my staff will welcome our students back for the 2017-18 school year.
The beginning of a school year can be a challenging time for students (as well as parents and teachers). The anticipation of something new is both exciting, and a bit overwhelming. Having been through junior high school more than my fair share of times (once as a student, once as a parent, and many times as a teacher and principal) I have a bit of unsolicited advice for students who will be making the transition to secondary school (middle, junior high, or high school) this year.
- Ask for help when you need it.
There will be many times in your experience as a student when you will need help. It might be an academic issue, a problem with a friend, or just a question about how the lunch line works. Please ask!
2. Don’t borrow trouble.
There are enough legitimate concerns and issues in a secondary student’s life — please don’t invent things to worry about. Use your imagination freely, but when it comes to problems, don’t let it run away with your mind.
3. Do your best, but don’t stress.
Your academic performance and behavior matter — even in junior high school (see number six). That being said, I have never received a phone call from a Harvard Dean — or any college for that matter — checking on a potential student’s grades or behavior during their time in junior high. You can make mistakes, experience failure, and still recover. Don’t go looking for trouble, but this isn’t a terrible time to experience a few set-backs. Parents: please make note of this.
4. Keep talking: to your parents, to your relatives, to an adult you trust.
You will never be too old to confide in a caring adult. If you are struggling, regardless of the magnitude of the issue, find someone you trust and talk it out. Even if you don’t have a care in the world, keep talking to adults you trust. Tell them about your day, talk about what you learned, share your passions — just keep communicating.
5. You will make mistakes. Learn from them.
At some point in your educational career you are going to make a mistake. It may be something minor, or it may be a major “crash and burn.” Own it. Learn from it. Move on. You will be okay.
6. Begin forming good habits.
Forming good habits is one of the most important skills you can develop in junior high and high school. Learn how to manage your time, how to problem solve, how to analyze issues, and how to advocate for yourself. You will carry your habits for years to come — be sure they are worth the effort.
7. Choose good friends.
Be sure your friends treat you, and others, with respect and dignity. If you are uncomfortable with their behaviors (or how you feel you must behave when they are around) choose new friends. Good friends can be the difference between a wonderful school experience and pure misery.
8. Recognize drama and run from it.
If you are in junior high or high school, there will be drama. Learn to distinguish between real issues (bullying, depression, true conflict, etc.) and behaviors that just stir up trouble. If it is drama, leave it alone. If you aren’t sure, refer to number four (talk to a trusted adult).
9. Only compare yourself to “yesterday’s” you.
You are one-of-a-kind and you have immeasurable value. Do yourself a favor and don’t compare yourself to anyone –except the person you were yesterday. Work hard to become a better person — not someone else.
10. Be kind. Always be kind.
In person. On social media. Over the phone. You will never regret being kind to everyone you meet. Just like you will have tough days, others will go through the same — or worse. Your words of encouragement, willingness to include, and empathy may mean the world to someone else. Be a difference maker. Always be kind!
I wrote this advice for students, but I believe the reason it is relevant is because it could just as easily apply to adults. I STILL struggle with a number of these points.
This isn’t just school advice — it is life advice. Always be willing to learn!