This Post: Sure, Grades Matter, But Here Are the REAL Lessons I Hope My Teen Learns in High School
Written by: Marybeth Bock
High school classes aren’t anything like they were when I was young. In fact, most teens I know are learning concepts that I was never introduced to until I went to college – or ever, for that matter. And, not only are they hard, kids today are feeling pressured to get stellar grades in those classes.
Let’s face it, grades matter… a lot. But with so much focus on grades and creating the perfect college resume, we might just be losing sight of the big picture during these crucial years in our kids’ lives.
After all, if our kids can do advanced math, speak multiple languages, and maintain a high GPA, but they can’t practice conflict resolution, show empathy or kindness toward others, manage their time effectively, or handle the stresses of life, none of that other stuff is really going to matter (~inspired by Professor Feynman)
Do we only want kids who can ace a standardized test OR do we want kids who possess the leadership skills to be captain of the soccer team?
Do we just care about the number of AP classes they have on their transcript OR should we be caring more about the number of kids they reached out to who needed a friend?
So sure, my teen’s grades matter, but there’s so much more I want him to learn in high school.
1. How to Communicate
Whether he has to approach a teacher about a poor test score he doesn’t feel he deserved, he’s resolving a disagreement with a friend or he has to write an email to his coach, knowing how to communicate (both written and verbal) will be the backbone of his future success.
Being an active listener, articulating his thoughts clearly, understanding and paying attention to non-verbal cues, and effectively presenting his point of view without being disrespectful are all key communication skills I hope my teen starts to master in high school.
Temptation is all around our kids. Skip studying for that big test and go out with friends instead. Cheat on the test – everyone else is. Try that drug – it seems pretty harmless. Have unprotected sex – what are the odds?
Knowing when to say “No.” Knowing when and how to put his hand up to peer pressure. Staying focused on his dreams and goals. Steering clear of risky activity. My teen isn’t perfect – he’s going to make more than a few mistakes in high school. (Truthfully, it’s how he’ll learn.) But I hope he starts to understand the power of self-discipline and how it can impact his life both now and in the future.
3. Time Management
For most teens, the start of high school means a lot more homework, a ramping-up of extracurricular activities, and maybe a part-time job to boot. Juggling it all isn’t easy! But little do our kids know the stakes become even higher in college and beyond so learning a few time management skills now, including getting and staying organized, prioritizing daily tasks, and planning ahead, will serve them well.
4. Empathy and Respect
Far more important than memorizing historical dates or famous poems is our teen’s ability to learn to respect and empathize with people from all walks of life. I hope my son’s experiences with fellow students, teachers, coaches, and co-workers raise his level of tolerance and inclusion, and help him grow into an adult who not only values strong relationships with others but also shows compassionate curiosity and acceptance of other’s differences.
5. How to Set Short and Long-Term Goals
Whether he wants to train to run a 5K, set a goal to make the basketball team, or learn new computer skills so he can add them to his college resume, I want my son to learn the importance (and power) of setting goals.
Above all, I want him to learn how to be self-motivated and feel proud of his efforts without stressing about being perfect.
6. The Importance of Prioritizing Health and Well-Being
Thankfully, most high school administrators understand the importance of their students’ holistic health. P.E. and health classes teach teens about physical and mental health, including nutrition, exercise, stress management, and seeking help when needed. I hope my teen gains wisdom from teachers, counselors, and coaches (and me, of course) who encourage him to prioritize his mental health and to know the signs when he might need help.
Being a teen has never been easy, but it seems so much harder today. With teens having to juggle so many balls, you know they’re going to drop a few along the way. Helping them to view failure as a necessary building block of learning (and success) and teaching them to brush themselves off and try again is a valuable skill they’ll carry with them forever.
8. Teamwork and Collaboration
Sports, clubs, and group projects in high school teach students the value of working together, compromising, and leveraging each other’s strengths.
I hope that being part of a sports team, getting involved in student government, or being a member of a community service project helps my son understand that there is power in numbers and to better appreciate cooperation and group harmony.
9. Digital Literacy
Our teens spend so much time online. And like anything else, there’s an upside and a downside. Through these next four years, they’ll be faced with artificial intelligence, scammers, and possibly a few internet safety scares which is why smart, responsible online behavior is vital.
I realize my teen might have to learn the hard way when he falls prey to misinformation or is the target of a scam. But I hope he learns valuable skills by doing research, staying vigilant, and learning from his own honest mistakes.
10. Finance and Money Management
Long before our kids leave high school, they should learn the basics of personal finance, including budgeting, saving, and managing debt. Some Econ/Business and Life Skills classes help teach these things, but so does the reality of having a job and buying things with money they earn themselves.
11. Bonus Lesson: How NOT To Take Themselves (or Life) Too Seriously
I hope my son learns that perfection is SO overrated. It’s okay to mess up, to figure things out as you go, and to not have all the answers. Life is a journey, not a destination and it will have many winding roads and detours along the way. I hope he keeps his sense of humor, takes life in stride, and always remembers to be grateful for every new day.
Mostly, I hope he learns a lot inside the classroom, and even more outside the classroom.
Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
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