Starting in September, each St. Louis U. High freshman and his parents are invited to meet with his counselor to talk about the transition to high school. The agenda for this conference includes:
- establishing the role of the school counselor as a resource in the life of a SLUH student, that we are not simply here for problems, but are resources for exploring and dreaming for the future.
- a review of the student’s life, namely, his relationships with friends and family, his commitments to hobbies and to organized activities, his areas of curiosity and interest.
- a review of academic skills and first quarter performance.
- a discussion of reasonable expectations for this student at SLUH.
Summer brings an opportunity to live differently from the regular school routine. While it can be a time for rest or for physical activity, it is also a time to explore possibilities outside of a classroom that could introduce or take a student to a deeper level of an area of interest. Possibilities could involve independent reading or writing, the arts, research, employment, career shadowing, travel, and service. Student Support Services receives literature on many opportunities and posts them on the website.
We are also eager to discuss these programs with students, including courses, workshops and career-exploration seminars. The summer programs vary in length from one week to full six to eight-week college credit courses. Costs also vary a great deal.
Many students take summer classes at SLUH to make the school year schedule work better for them; many are also involved in athletic camps. It is hoped that the historically restorative nature of summer is not lost in the continuous flow of activity. Young people flourish on a breadth of activity and on the time to rest and to reflect on their experiences.
Freshmen experience great physical, emotional, and social adjustment; it's exhausting and requires rest. Already feeling "put upon" with little room for dissent at school, freshmen are more likely to increase messages of irritation, frustration, and resistance, when hearing admonitions about home responsibilities.
Try to anticipate their low energy and desire for self-direction by asking when you might speak with them and what would be reasonable deadlines for the completion of particular tasks. Parents would do better not to expect a positive attitude about compliance in these matters, but to be satisfied with the job done. "I don't expect you to like it, but I know you can get it done.... How can I help you to get started?" is the kind of approach that a tired and/or anxious teen is more likely to find refreshing.
SLUH is a particularly selective, yet diverse population; your son may be intimidated by the wealth of talent around him or may fail to recognize a need to shift his own expectations, in all facets of SLUH.
Parents would be well-advised to check with the school counselor, to see where this son seems to fit academically, according to placement tests. For many students, a "C+", or even a "C" average could represent a reasonable, best effort at this school. Emphasis should be placed on how your son is working, not simply on the grade. Do not punish for low grades/performance; work with your son to build in a more reliable and workable structure. The emphasis should be on establishing a context where achievement and satisfaction can occur. Such a structure will certainly be more restricting than a student would like to believe is necessary, but should include regular perks and rest points. A blanket withdrawal of privileges (e.g., grounding for a month) puts a person in a situation where he is expected to perform at his best without major rewards or points of respite. Restrict technology access, for example, but do not remove all access. You could be throwing out one of your best motivators!
The best external motivators are built into his regular day. The promise of something "big" at the end of a grading period is too distant to be more than added pressure. More than likely, the best motivation will be the sense of calm or eagerness which comes with being adequately prepared, not only coming to class able to talk about the content, but ready to bring up one's own questions and comments on the material. You shouldn't need to dream up bigger and better "carrots."
The amount of content material in courses requires regular review beyond the assigned work, on a nightly basis. Many people hate to review or repeat experiences. You, yourself, may never reread a book or watch a "repeat" on TV. Most freshmen don't know what to do, once the work has been done, particularly if it takes a long time to get through the work.
They could rewrite/reduce their initial notes as a review, make note cards, and/or could have a half-hour, nightly session with a parent, when they try to summarize what they learned in one or two areas that day. Being with someone for this time, when they are most likely to "call it quits," would help to reduce their anxiety, if you don't "grill" them. Have a snack while you review.
Your behavior should reflect confidence in your son's ability, but should also acknowledge that the skills/habits needed to succeed may not exist yet. "Pacing" your son, by working with, or even near him, not for him, may help him acquire needed skills and rhythm. If your son seems off-task, he may very well be anxious, not lazy. Irritation and nagging from you will only heighten anxiety and the ensuing struggle may only serve to distract further from the real issue, namely, how to get past the present obstacle in dealing with this task.
While getting involved in organized activities outside the classroom (e.g., sports or clubs) at SLUH is so helpful in making social connections, it is also helpful for students just to come back for events of all kinds, to “hang out” in the Rec Room or The Commons. Parents should be patient and understanding with their son’s caution in jumping into experiences. The choice of commitments outside of the classroom makes for significant conversation. If there is a strong concern about a student not connecting socially at SLUH, please contact your School Counselor.
This being said, we are still strong proponents of individual pursuits, both within or outside of SLUH. Some students are working on a piece of writing or musical composition, on an independent reading list, on some sort of collection or on developing a unique skill. Many of these pursuits are not only life-enriching, but actually make a student easily distinguishable from his peers. We are always eager to learn of these activities or to brainstorm new possibilities.