We know that the final years of secondary schooling can be very stressful for students. Many are striving for the grades they require to get into college / university, some students are struggling just to pass and others are trying to find a reason to stay in school and complete their education.
The stress level for teenagers during this time is immense and they look towards their teachers for guidance and inspiration. One of the key issues in high schools is that teachers can be too focused on just teaching their subject that they do not see life in high school through the eyes of the student. Without this perspective, teachers can underserve students and, as a result, create more problems for students rather than solutions that help them succeed at school.
There are three simple things that all high school teachers can do to support their students:
Assist students with basic study skills – Time and time again students struggle with tasks, such a taking notes and revising content. Students do not need key study skills taught by a specialist provider, they need their teachers to have a collective approach to supporting them in developing good study habits. The explicit teaching of these habits must be done in a timely fashion, so that they become relevant and significant to the student. In the same way teachers want professional learning and development that supports them for where they are currently at, students need the same when it comes to study skills. A study skills course taught to all students at the beginning of Grade 11, for example, will have little impact compared to their class teachers assisting them with common approaches to tackling note-taking when they are required to undertake such tasks.
Develop good time management habits in students – It is incredible how there are so many students with a high intellect do not reach their potential at school. Oftentimes, it is the lack of time management skills and procrastination that is the undoing of a student being successful in high school. Teachers often leave the explicit teaching of these crucial time management skills to someone else; they want to focus on teaching their subject. What often happens at the pointy end of the school year is that the same teachers raise poor time management by students as a reason to explain under-performance. It is acknowledged that we cannot have success with every student, however, all teachers supporting students in managing their workload and completing their tasks in a timely manner would go a long way to reducing student stress.
Ensure that students have confidence in you – There is nothing worse than students having a teacher in front of them that they do not believe in. Whether we like it or not, he final years of school are high stakes for students; they need to feel confident that their teachers are going to be able to support them in getting where they need or want to go. For the student it goes beyond the teacher just teaching them their subject. It is about the teacher understanding what the student is going through and showing genuine care and concern. This should not be confused with being a friend to students. Be friendly, by all means, but the familiarity of being a friend to students is not what they need. Students want to be led, inspired and supported. They need tough love at times with understanding and sympathy at other times. Students want their teachers to assist them in developing the strategies that will help them cope with the stresses of school; when they are in a tough spot they are looking to their teachers to help them out but it goes a lot deeper than just extending a deadline, going easy on the homework or saying, “you’re a good student, you will get through it.”
Students need their teachers to work together for them and not in isolation, if they are truly going to be supported in reaching their potential. This means high schools collaborating more on the things that matter most to students. As high school teachers, we can be pretty sure that what matters most to our students is not just the content of our subjects.