8 tips for junior high success from a retired teacher

8 tips for junior high success from a retired teacher
Blank chalkboard image by Grant Cochrane for FreeDigitalImages.net

Parents of tweens often wonder what they can do to help their kids be successful middle school or junior high students. To provide insight, I've called in a pro, today's guest blogger, Kathy Mathews. After 35 years of teaching Spanish and French at the junior high and high school levels, she has decades of insight into adolescents and their parents and I'm so grateful that she's sharing it.


I just saw my first saw back to school ad.  Back when I was a full time teacher my reaction to the first back to school commercial was different than it is now.  Then, I thought more about myself and what I needed to do to get myself ready for a new school year.  Today, I thought about parents out there whose children are in or starting middle school.  As a former teacher I would love to offer my advice on how to help your child get ready for and succeed in those Junior High years.  Here are 8 tips to make your child more successful in middle school.

1. School supplies – There probably will be a list suggested by the school.  If you decide not to follow it, do your child a favor and don’t denigrate the items or the creators of the list.  If you choose not to send in the Kleenex or the paper towel just don’t send it in.  If you make snarky remarks about why you are not, your child will probably repeat those to the teacher. The teacher will feel sorry for your child and wish you hadn’t provided that example.

2. Back to school clothes – I used to be in charge of dress code compliance on my teaching team.  I would say to the students, “Think to yourself would I want to see Ms. Mathews in this outfit? If the answer is no, then I don’t want to see you in it either.”  In other words, Mom and Dad, don’t choose something inappropriate for school, keep those clothes for when they visit your parents.

3. Talking about teachers – Anything you say about your child’s teacher will probably be reported by your child in school.  I know you are thinking, "Not my child."  Yep, your child.  Make your comments reflect your best self. We are all in this together, we all want your child to learn.

4. Open House and Conference attendance – I have seen impaired parents at both Open House and Conferences.  I have received emails and heard voice mails left by impaired parents.  At the very least, please refrain from attending when you are under the influence of anything.   Turn off your cell phone and go with an open mind.

5. Contacting your child’s teacher - Treat that teacher with the very same respect you expect to receive.  Ask yourself, "What is my goal?"  If it is to tell off the teacher go listen to “Harper Valley PTA” and leave the teacher alone.  If your goal is to help your child, please let the teacher know because that is also what he/she wants.

6. Homework, quizzes and grades – Encourage your junior high student to put forth the best effort.  Help your child.  And let your child fail from time to time.  This is the practice for high school.  If you bail your student out and never let her face consequences, he/she will never learn how to problem solve.  When your children can be their own advocates, solve their own problems and figure out solutions, they gain self-esteem and wonderful life skills.

7. Your child’s social life – I am begging you, do not be the cool parent.  Be the parent that sets limits and boundaries.  If you need the approval of adolescents to feel good about yourself then you have some issues you need to solve. It’s OK to say "no," to question and to disapprove.  Set boundaries now or be even sorrier when your child hits high school.

8. Enjoy your child – It will be a crazy and fun ride.  Tears and hugs, slammed door and raucous laughter plus hormones and moves toward independence are all waiting for you.  Love your child and know that sometimes she may reject you so that she can eventually come back to you.

You can find Kathy at Quilting! Sewing! Creating!  where she blogs about her passion for sewing and creating and a whole lot else. Check out her post Only a Teacher, which is very appropriate for this time of year.

This is the second installment in our Back to School Series. You can find all the other posts here.

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Filed under: Education

Tags: advice, back to school, teacher

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