Top Ten Tips for Surviving the End of the School Year by Ben Snyder, Head of Upper School
Typically in my Parent E-Newsletter pieces, I focus on aspects of Nobles that connect to our mission and have an impact on parents and parenting. As we get ready to close the school year, however, I want to get really practical about what the final weeks entail.
I am particularly concerned in the spring that students get "over-stretched" in their commitments as we enter arguably the most important academic phase of the year. So here are my "Top 10 Tips" to helping your son or daughter manage the last month 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 five 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 (and some teachers set aside homework time for it—especially for Class IV). 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 re-writing study guides helps cement information; writing over is studying.
3. Find out if there are big papers or projects coming up—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. Your child's advisor or individual teachers can give 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.
5. Sleep and good food are critical. If your child is out or up late—especially on the weekends—this will hinder learning. Discourage sleepovers (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 vital) will ensure focus and keep your child healthy.
6. Focus on effort rather than results. Kids can control their effort and preparation. If they do that, the results will take care of themselves—and they need to know that is what parents value most.
7. Be careful of too many commitments. Spring is a time of athletic tournaments, outside recitals and performances, family gatherings and other commitments that can take big chunks of time. Gauge how much time these commitments will take—and then 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!
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 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. 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, friends, extended family, etc), but we should try not to forget that our kids are much more than their grades and activities.
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 the many year end events as another successful school year draws to a close.