A Nobles Parents' Guide to the End of the School Year by Ben Snyder, Head of Upper School
For most of my Parents' E-Newsletter articles I tend to focus on themes of education or issues that kids, parents and schools face. As we head down the home stretch of the school year, however, it is important to get really practical about what the final weeks entail. The combination of events leading up to graduation for seniors and exams for our remaining students can become overwhelming if not carefully tracked and planned for.
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. Final exams present real challenges for many students (for some it will be their first time taking cumulative exams), and while teachers do devote time to review, students who do not begin to at least organize their study time and materials now often pay a price at the end. As the weather gets better and the activity alternatives become more enticing, the temptations for losing focus can be overwhelming.
Here are a few suggestions:
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.
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 down to exams.
3. Find out if there are major 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 is a critical factor in learning. If your child is out or up late — especially on the weekends — it will hinder learning. Know where your child is at all times (keep calling fellow parents to ensure that your child is appropriately supervised) and encourage catching up on the weekends (and discourage sleepovers if possible — they are generally a recipe for sleep deprivation at best). Returning to school on a Monday exhausted from a weekend of activity is an incredible disadvantage in academic work. Especially on the days of exams, 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 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 making too many commitments. Spring is a time of numerous soccer, basketball and hockey tournaments, outside recitals and performances, family gatherings and other commitments that can require enormous amounts of time. It is important to try to gauge how much time these commitments will take.
For some students (especially juniors with AP exams, standardized test prep, afternoon program activities, etc.) 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 as we head down the stretch. We look forward to seeing you at as many events as you can attend as another successful school year draws to a close.