10 Tips for Managing the End of the School Year by Ben Snyder, Head of Upper School
This year in my various parents’ newsletter pieces, I have focused on aspects of Nobles that I’ve been a part of or learned more about—and how they all fit with our broader mission. As we get ready to close the school year, however, it is important to get really practical about what the final weeks entail.
I get particularly concerned in the spring that students get "over-stretched" in their commitments just as we enter arguably the most important academic phase of the year—including preparation for final exams (which some of our students will never have seen before). So here are my "Top 10 Tips" to helping your son or daughter manage the last six weeks of school.
1. Please try to help your child take some time each weekend to organize notes, tests, quizzes, old review sheets, and syllabi so that when exam preparation time comes these materials will be readily available. As of this writing there are only six weekends before final exams and while it might feel unrealistic to create study sheets before the last few weekends, some students may have the time to start nibbling away at it. Creating a "finals folder" for each subject will help; this provides a repository for all of these papers that will be useful for studying.
2. If your child is "done" with homework early in the evening and is tempted to flick on the TV or get on the phone or online, encourage a quick half hour to review one or two subjects. Quick but regular review of material from earlier in the year can make a huge difference when it comes to exam time. Just writing over study guides helps cement information; writing over is studying.
3. Find out if there are big papers or projects coming up (there almost always are – Class III Novel Project etc.) - and help your child plan his or her time. Teachers have often already done this - but being 'on schedule' can make an enormous difference.
4. If your child is having difficulty in a particular course, NOW is the time to see that teacher for extra help (if this has not already been set up), with special attention paid to exam preparation.
5. Sleep and good food are critical factors in learning. If your child is out or up late—especially on the weekends—this will hinder learning. Discourage sleepovers if possible (I often say that the best thing that happens at sleepovers is that no-one gets any sleep). Returning to school on a Monday exhausted from a weekend of lost sleep is an incredible disadvantage in academic work. Especially on exam days, sufficient sleep and healthy food (a good breakfast is critical!) will ensure focus and keep your child healthy.
6. Work with your child's advisor or with individual teachers if he/she needs additional advice on preparation and organization for the end of year. Students feel "pressured" in different ways and communication with an advisor or trusted teacher can often prevent the "brush off" from kids around these issues—or the advisor can get the same message across.
7. Be careful of too many commitments. Spring is a time of many athletic tournaments, outside recitals and performances, family gatherings and other commitments that can take enormous amounts of time. It is important to gauge how much time these commitments will take. As these commitments build, it is helpful to literally plan out on an hourly basis a few weeks in advance what the commitments are and when the academic work will get done. Make sure you’ve blocked out enough time for homework and studying to get done!
8. Know where your child is at all times; keep calling fellow parents to ensure that your child is appropriately supervised. Our children live in mortal fear of being "horribly embarrassed" by us if we call. Know your children will still love you after you pick up the phone and call—they may just not show it in that moment.
9. Give them an assist on summer. Each year I write about (and get tons of positive feedback on) the importance of kids getting summer jobs. But remember that many of our children have never looked for a job—so this is an area where you can be really helpful in terms of brainstorming, generating contacts, etc.
10. Try to make sure you find time to talk with your kid(s) about something other than school. So often young people feel that parents are only relating to them (and evaluating them) around school—and that their success (or lack of it) in school is the only barometer of how they will be judged. The topics don’t matter (movies, plays, friends, extended family, etc), but we should try not to forget that our kids are much more than their grades and activities.
For some students it may seem unrealistic to expect much work to be done ahead of the final week in preparation for exams. However, the basic principles of using the weekends to catch up, communicating openly and honestly with teachers at crunch times, and asking for help from the advisor when things feel overwhelming apply even more so as we head down the stretch. We look forward to seeing you at as many events as you can make as another successful school year draws to a close.