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Parental involvementI am an advocate for my kids, in the truest sense of the word. I made it my responsibility to inform all of their high school teachers, counselors, and principals that our family goal was for them to attend college. I would ask, "How can you help us get there, and what do we need to provide for you, and what do we need to do to help ourselves?" Understand that teachers who have any love for their profession want to be a part of their students' successes. When you, the parent, inform a teacher that the family has high expectations for their student, then that teacher takes on a whole different attitude with the student. The teacher begins to nurture, encourage, challenge, and motivate that student toward success.
But the teacher is only one part of the equation. The student and the parent have to stay just as motivated. When Chris started high school, I started my habit of keeping track of his absences and tardies on my calendar at home. If he was absent from school, I made a note. If he missed the opening bell because of a dentist appointment, I made a note. When his report card came home, I checked the number of days he was reported out or tardy, and I verified it against my records. The days tallied, and I knew Chris wasn't skipping school or showing up late without a good reason. This was a pretty easy way to keep tabs on him, and he knew I was doing it and I don't think it bothered him. In a way, it pleased him that I cared so much.
One semester in his junior year, he came home with a report card that showed three times as many days absent from school as I had on my calendar. When I asked him about it, he looked at the report card and his eyes got very wide.
"That must be a mistake, Mom," he said. "Maybe there was an error in the computer." He assured me that he had not been skipping school.
While I was prepared to believe him, I also needed to check with the school to make sure. The next morning, I went with Chris before school to the vice principal's office and showed him the report card with the excessive number of absences. He spoke up immediately.
"Oh, Ms. Chandler, I'm so sorry. We are planning to notify all the parents that there was a glitch in the reporting of the days absent for all the kids. I don't think any of them went out correct. Chris was here when he says he was here."
I was relieved that everything was all right, and as I left his office the vice principal said to me, "Hundreds of report cards went out with the wrong number of absences, but you're the only parent who has called or stopped in to check up on it."
I reminded him that I have the highest expectations for my children and that they are supposed to attend class every day. Chris smiled and said, "Yeah, my mom's on it. We don't even try stuff because we know we can't put anything over on her."
I had to laugh at how well my son understood me!
I also had to inform the vice principal that I would be in his office anytime something came up during Chris's four years at that school, because my children and I were college bound. Anything that threatened to derail that goal needed my immediate attention. One of my first high school visits, even before that day in the vice principal's office, was to the counselor's offices.
Good Counseling Counts
I stress this in every workshop and class I teach: You have to get to know the school's counselors. Make sure they know what your expectations are for your student, and enlist their help in keeping your student on a college path. You and your student should become your high school counselor's best friends. Make appointments, and I mean several, throughout the four years, to discuss all of the possibilities and then visit, together, the college resource center. You should learn how to do the research along with your student, and book time to surf the Internet, look at catalogs, and sample applications.
You have to keep track of what your student needs to graduate from high school. It's great to be college bound, but you have to achieve high school first. State requirements vary, and even within states requirements change, so talk to your student's school for the current graduation minimums. Here is your checklist of all the basic things you need to keep in mind in high school. Don't be afraid to add things to my list--this is just a starting place for you.
- Meet with teachers and counselors every year.
- Discuss your higher-education goals with teachers and administrators every year, and in between as needed.
- Encourage the teachers at your school to contact you to voice any concerns they have about how your student is performing in their class or in school in general.
- Know the course requirements your student needs to graduate and refer to them often.