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Help Your 9th grader Succeed Next Fall: Advice from a School Psychologist

Wasatch Family Therapy FamiliesSummer is finally here ! Hopefully you and your student(s) are enjoying the break from homework, studying, and worries about school. And isn’t that exactly what summer is for? However, as we psychologists and counselors wrap things up for this year and discuss preparations for the fall, some of our discussions involve how to better support our incoming 8th grade students. This particular jump, 8th grade into high school, has been considered particularly difficult for most adolescents given the age at which it occurs and the importance that the 14 -15 year old mind places on peers and acceptance. In the world today, however, many would argue it’s become even more difficult. Shifting academic demands placed on students contribute to this situation. The shadow of common core and the expectations on our students appears to be ever increasing. How can we, as parents, help our 8th grade students make a transition into 9th grade that is reasonable?

The following three suggestions are offered for consideration after spending a year working in a fantastic, brand new high school. It is not necessarily based on hard data, but on my experience based on feedback from students stressed by the demands and expectations of daily academic life. It’s suggested to you as something to think about over the summer as an easy, reasonable step to take to help relieve some of your 9th graders’ anxiety as well as your own. And again, based on a years experience at a brand new high school, this is my (THANK YOU TO THE CORNER CANYON HIGH SCHOOL COUNSELING TEAM!! YOU ARE PHENOMENAL!) best advice to help your 9th grader do their best academically.

1. Find a homework app

Take time this summer to find a homework app that he/she likes and will use, and practice using it! Once the school year is underway, if your student is having difficulty with organizing or tracking assignments, start working with them and asking for help from teachers, your school counselor and possibly your school psychologist. Being on top of assignments is probably one of the number one things that separates successful students from students who struggle. There can be a hundred different reasons why a student is having trouble staying on top of their assignments; some are of a concern, many are not. Also, find out what system your school uses (i.e. Power School, Skyward, Canvas) and BOTH you and your student need to learn to use this! It will take time but it is a necessity. It will also improve your relationships with teachers in long run.

2. Create a routine of study time

While your student will need to learn the skill of tracking, organizing and completing his/her own assignments (and it is a skill that many 8th-9th or even 10th or beyond students  may or may not have),  both you and your child will need to shift your thinking away from ‘homework time.’ Instead, simply set up ‘study time’ on a daily basis, whether your student has actual assignments or not. At our high school, we found that the most successful students took time everyday and studied, regardless of assigned work. For some parents, this will also eliminate any power struggle around whether or not your student does or doesn’t have actual homework. With this model, the actual assignment becomes secondary to the process of learning the material. If this sounds unusual, your counselor or teacher in a specific content area could certainly give you and your child guidance regarding how to proceed in this manner. Just understand that your child will be sitting down on daily basis and studying his/her coursework, whether the teacher has given an assignment or not. And if they complain, remind them, this is GREAT preparation for college!

3. Encourage students to ask teachers for support

Lastly, we noticed that students who took advantage of what we called ‘Charger Time’, time when teachers were available in the mornings for extra help or to talk to students,  tended to demonstrate more improvement than students who did not. Again, while this is not a research study and I have no data to prove anything, common sense would tell us that students who make the effort to go in and connect with teachers will likely make more improvement academically then others who either don’t or can’t. Sounds obvious, right? Yet it’s amazing to me, as the school psychologist, at how under used this resource is. Teachers want to help kids learn – it’s their chosen profession. If your child is having difficulty, encourage them to go and speak with the instructor. If they are shy or have difficulty being assertive, support them in that discussion, or help them to seek out school support (counselor, psychologist) who can then help them develop the skills they need to approach the teacher appropriately.  Student’s who can connect with their teachers typically start improving their grades. If, with working closely with that teacher, grades do not improve, you, your student, and the teacher can begin to discuss other possibilities regarding ways to improve your child’s learning.

Going into 9th grade IS a big step,  but keeping things in perspective and talking with some people who have gone through it can help. And now it’s time for summer – enjoy !

Schedule a free initial consultation for therapy or testing with Amy for your child or adolescent

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