Here is a piece of advice I wish I had followed: go see your teachers.
Each new school year brings the promise of change and growth. We make promises to ourselves, like, “I will be better this fall with finishing my homework,” “I will get straight A’s,” or “I will do all my reading and talk more in class.” Unfortunately, after the excitement of the new school year wears off around, say, October, we usually slip back into our old habits. We get busy with all the craziness of high school life, and we struggle to find balance. We do poorly on assignments and tests, and we end up having to fight to save a grade or two. How can we avoid this feeling? With a little extra effort right now.
In your first few weeks back at school, I suggest that all you high school students (and college-bound graduates) schedule a time to meet with every one of your teachers. Introduce yourself and tell them how excited you are to be in their classes. Get to know them. Show them you care, and express any concerns you might have about the course or about your own areas of weakness. Be direct and be honest. If you know you struggle with essays, make a point to tell your English and history teachers. If you’re scared of math, tell your pre-calc teacher you might need to come see her on a weekly basis to get some extra help. Tell each of them what your specific goals are and how important they are to you.
Here are some examples of goals to share:
“I want to get a 5 on the APUSH exam!”
“I want to get an A in your course; English has always been a challenge for me, and this year I want to hone my writing skills.”
“I want to learn as much as I can about Econ because I have a feeling that’s what I want to study in college.”
“I want to finally feel comfortable speaking in Spanish class after years of struggling and feeling down about myself.”
“I want to pursue acting as a career, and I want to learn all I can from you.”
It can be intimidating to approach teachers with these concerns, but it’s most certainly worth it. Teachers are interesting people with their own lives and perspectives, and they want to see their students succeed. However, they are also busy and likely bogged down by the daily frustrations that come with temperamental administrators and difficult students. It doesn’t matter how smart or prepared you feel—if you make the effort to show your teachers you genuinely care about your own learning, they will do all they can to help you succeed. By scheduling a time to check in, your teachers will be impressed by your initiative, and you will immediately stand out. This will keep you accountable and more engaged, and you will want to work that much harder to reach the goals you have set. It will also help you determine which teachers will be best suited to write your college recommendations. Forging these relationships now is excellent practice for a future in any career, where who you know is often just as important as what you know.
So don’t make any excuses about being busy, and definitely don’t wait until you dig yourself into a hole. Creating healthy habits of communication now will relieve stress and anxiety all semester long. Do yourself a favor: take the time to invest in a positive relationship with your teachers.