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5 Things to Expect Your Freshman Year of High School

Atlanta Black Star has launched a weeklong Back to School series to help parents and students prepare for the milestones in their educational journey. Join the conversation and share your own tips on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. See here our previous tips on middle school here and elementary tips here.

The first day of high school can be overwhelming. Going from being the big fish to a small fry in a new setting means incoming freshmen need to make major adjustments as they set foot into the brave new world of their final years in secondary school. Below, North Atlanta High School teacher Elliott Reid informs Atlanta Black Star about five ways students and parents can be ready to tackle high school head-on from day one.

Set the Foundation

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Reid said the main thing he sees students lacking on the first day of school is “an appropriate sense of urgency.” Often times, he said the pupils don’t fully grasp “how important and how critical” freshman year is. Lacking that means there isn’t a good method for getting a solid foundation for high grades.

But there are ways students and their parents can get around that and the social studies department chair has a few to share.

“I would first sit down with their schedule and have a good understanding of the class that they’re taking,” the IB History instructor said. “I would make sure I attend the open house to make sure you meet all of the teachers, get an understanding of what they’re expecting. Read the syllabus, really have a good idea of the scheduling, what’s going on.”

Four high school students — Akhanaton, Jaylen, Nicholas, and Cristian — share their takes on what freshmen need to know for their inaugural year.

Get on Board with Time Management

A higher grade level means an increased workload. That along with extracurricular activities means, ninth graders knowing how to manage their time is imperative.

“I know that’s kind of cliché, but the executive thinking skills, that’s what’s lacking,” Reid said. “The importance of how to structure a binder, how to use dividers, how to use Post-It notes, how to write things down, how to keep a calendar. These are all things that to an adult, seems simple, but to a freshman, they don’t use those skills. They have the ability, they just don’t use those skills.”

In order to make time for themselves and their schedules, Reid suggests parents look at how their students typically fill their day and have them set a daily schedule that prioritizes tasks like summer reading and fill it out with wants like playing video games.

“Every amount of time has to be properly utilized,” he said. “If you do things within a structured schedule, you’ll have plenty of time to do whatever it is you want to do.”

Friends Forever?

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While you may enter into freshman year remaining pals with the bestie you’ve had since elementary school, Reid cautions that in high school, friendships can evolve — or even end.

“My approach to this is totally different,” he said. “My whole thing is I don’t place value in those — especially when I was a kid.”

He explained that his father ingrained in him the “harsh reality” that friends “are very temporary at this age.” Reid also said parents should help their students know where they should put their values.

“Get them to understand how much value to place in people, how, more importantly, to place value in themselves,” he said. “That’s the first thing I would do. Encourage kids to learn how to place value in themselves. … If you never have another friend, if you never have another valuable relationship, you value yourself.”

Scheduling Adjustment

Many schools begin using block schedules in high school, and it can be a stark change from middle school. Rather than having as many as seven classes at about one-hour each per day, block schedules have students take fewer classes each day with a longer period of instruction.

Reid says that he believes NAHS does a good job of aiding in the transition to block scheduling, but the onus for that is placed too heavily on schools in general.

“We can’t get a kid ready for a block schedule because we are on a block schedule,” he says. “The one thing that parents have to do [is] parents need to be more aware.”

The instructor suggests parents set the groundwork in eighth grade so they can structure their homework schedules in such a way that allows them to be used to working for up to 90 minutes on one subject instead of the typical 50-minute period.

“It might be hard for your child to understand at first,” he said. “But children are very resilient.”

Trappings of Social Media

Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram are some of the main ways youth communicate with one another, but using them in high school can present a whole host of issues.

“Parents have to have a strong sense of what their students are doing on social media,” he said. “These kids have three and four accounts where they present themselves in different ways on different platforms.”

There are tons of examples online of students’ offline behavior being documented online and spelling trouble for them academically. Reid says parents should share such stories with their students to make the warnings more real.

“There’s no such thing as deletion — everything is permanent. A kid, they don’t have that understanding,” he said. Noting his school has people who monitor social media accounts, he added, parents should show students “examples of how these things happen. Explain to them how the hiring process is directly connected to social media.”

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