What to Expect When Your Teen Starts High School

What to Expect When Your Teen Starts High School

My first day of teaching was also my students’ first day of high school. (Yay for teaching all 9th graders!)  I’m not sure who was more scared. As I nervously sweated through my clothes (TMI?), I realized my students were all terrified. Huge eyes, nervous laughs, and perfect posture.

Starting high school is no joke. “Where is my next class? How do I open my locker? Why are all these kids so big? Who will I eat lunch with?” These questions all went through my head and I suspect my students’ as well!

For teens, starting high school is exciting; it’s a new world, full of more independence, new friends, and harder classes. For parents, high school can be scary – so many things can go wrong! But so many things can go right, as well.

As your child enters this brave new world, let’s talk about some of the differences between middle and high school!

What to Expect When Your Teen is Starting High School

starting high school

Larger Workload

In high school, your child will have more work – period. In my last few school districts, middle schools were phasing out homework. But not the high schools. Your child will have homework almost every night. If they claim to not have homework, I would contact the teachers.

Many middle schools are teamed, so teachers try to work around each other when it comes to big assignments and tests. That goes out the window in high school. Teachers set due dates when it works for them. Don’t be surprised when tests and projects clump together.

More difficult content

Not only has the workload increased, so has the rigor. Students are expected to read more difficult texts, write longer essays, and master more complex content. The kid who has skated through up until now may start to struggle.

You may not be able to help with homework as much as you could in the past. (My math limit is Algebra 1; after that, my kids will be on their own!) If you’re worried about your child’s progress, contact the teacher, counselor, and/ or possibly a private tutor. (Like me!)

More Independence

The biggest change my students usually remarked on was the level of independence they had. While middle schools tend to have a LOT of rules about student behavior, high schools have fewer. High schools are usually bigger as well, allowing for more kids to kind of “hide” in plain sight.

Try to nurture that independence. Let your teen handle some of the minutiae of school on her own for a while and see how it goes. If she can keep up her grades and seems to be doing well, give yourself a pat on the back. If she’s floundering and/ or grades fall, step back in to provide more structure and support.

Less communication (from the school and maybe your kid)

Photo by Oli Dale on Unsplash

Do not expect to hear from your child’s teachers that much. Please try to attend Back-to-School Night and parent-teacher conferences – these are probably the only times you will get to talk to these teachers. If you have concerns, though, do not hesitate to e-mail the teacher. (Please don’t call! In my last 3 schools, I didn’t even know how to retrieve my voicemail and I wasn’t alone.)

Many schools require teachers to set up a website or post on Google Classroom or the district’s Learning Management System. However, it varies widely from school to school and teacher to teacher. I posted EVERYTHING on my website, but I know teachers who posted the course syllabus and nothing else.

Additionally, you will not necessarily have access to these sites. Google Classroom and the district LMS are password-controlled and parents often do not get their own usernames. My advice – get your child’s username and password and check them out yourself.

Extra Extracurriculars

This was one of my favorite parts of high school. Compared to middle schools, most high schools have so many more clubs and sports for kids to participate in. This is a fun way for kids to express themselves, further an interest, and make friends. Though it can make family scheduling feel like Tetris.

Encourage your teen to join a club or team. Many schools hold an activity fair in the fall to introduce students to all the possibilities.

Ways to Help Your Teen Starting High School

Teach Time Management

High school is all about time management. If your child hasn’t used a planner before, it’s time! The school will probably give one out, but you could also buy one your kiddo likes.  (Psst – this is my favorite!) Then help them set it up and show them how to use it.

Build relationships with teachers

Attend Back-to-School Night and parent conferences, if at all possible. If you really want teachers to remember you, donate a box of tissues or dry erase markers! If something goes wrong during the school year, that connection makes communication so much easier.

If your baby is starting high school this fall, these tips will hopefully make the transition a bit easier for you. Though they proably won’t keep you from crying a little on the first day of school 😂

Let me know how it goes in the comments below!

Related Posts: Preparing for Back-to-School, Back-to-School Shopping for Teens, How to Make Your Teen’s Back-to-School Awesome, Homework Battles: How to End Them for Good

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