Finishing Well by Head of Upper School Ben Snyder
In the most recent issue of The Nobleman, Jonathan Bloch ’14 wrote a very thoughtful piece about the importance of finishing well – of leaving Nobles feeling proud of the effort he had expended, grateful for the new experiences he had, and appreciative of the relationships he had built with peers and adults. While his message may have been intended to remind his classmates to take stock of all that has happened during their time together, I think there are important lessons here for all students (and good reminders for adults).
As we get ready to close the school year, I want to be both practical about what the final weeks entail and also encourage us to step back and take stock of the year. I get concerned in the spring that students are 'over-stretched' in their commitments as we enter arguably the most important academic phase of the year – including preparation for final exams.
So here are my 8 tips to helping your son or daughter manage the last six weeks of school.
1. For exams: Your child should try to 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. 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. Even a quick 20 or 30 minutes on a light homework night will make a difference.
2. If your child is having difficulty in a particular course, NOW is the time to see that teacher for extra help – with special attention paid to exam preparation. Work with your child’s advisor if there are ways he/she can support you and your son or daughter down the stretch. Often a quick “head’s up” call or note to the advisor can be very helpful.
3. 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 (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 will ensure focus and keep your child healthy.
4. Be wary 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 and energy. It is important to gauge how much time these commitments will take. As these commitments build, it is helpful to 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 – and it may be appropriate to step away from a commitment or two in order ensure proper time for study and rest.
5. Know where your child is at all times - keep calling fellow parents to insure 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.
6. 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.
7. 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 academic success (or lack of it) 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.
8. Encourage your children to thank their teachers, coaches and mentors as the year concludes. In the excitement of wrapping up the year, we often forget the amount of time, care, energy, and commitment that Nobles faculty put into making the entire Nobles experience a positive one for our students. A quick note from a student or a moment after class to pass along a sincere thank you to a Nobles adult carries such meaning for our faculty – and leaves that lasting impression of gratitude that re-charges the batteries of those who put so much of themselves into our children.
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 and finish well. We look forward to seeing you at as many events as you can make as another successful school year draws to a close.