Chris's Perfect Tips for Imperfect Human Beings Entering High School

In one of my final posts for Edcamp, I wanted to share some of my own personal writing. This comes from some tips I offered along with Philadelphia Notebook's High School Guide. It is addressed to rising 9th graders and tries to offer them decent advice about what differences to expect...while trying my best to be fun. - Chris

Coming soon. You, the emergent high school freshman, begins that first trek en route to this school that many tell you will determine your future. I don’t know if that’s true, but it is sure to leave a mark on your life. Truth be told, you are sure to leave your mark on it. These tips are meant to help you navigate this experience. 

1) You can’t fool yourself. Embrace who you are. Trust your experience. Learn from it. 

High school is as much about the messy social experience of becoming, as it is the classroom content you are expected to master. If you are like me, you’ve begun every new school experience with a bunch of jittery pre-first-day promises that you will not end up being that regrettable version of yourself that you left at the last school. Instead of running from the past, how about trying something different? Embrace those past experiences that have helped form you into the person you are today. Know that you are not who you once was. Furthermore, know that you have not become who you will be. However, don’t forget the past. Learn from it. Did you end up in a circle of friends that weren’t really your friends? Learn from the moments when you realized and share with the new people you will meet. Were you always beefing with your teacher who picked on you for no conceivable reason? I can’t say that this was not true. But learn that it could be powerful to share and reinforce early with teachers how you expect to be counseled, which leads me to the next point…

2) Build honest relationships with your teachers and classmates. 

It might be hard to see that your teachers are human, error all the time, and frequently on the verge of losing control of the oversized collection of personalities that make up a classroom. The truth is, we are in need of your help. We require it for a healthy classroom. The best way to help your teacher is to be honest and up-front with them. What are the conditions or behaviors that distract you from learning? What are some of the triggers (meaning the words or actions that cause you to get upset or angry) that you have experienced in the past? The earlier that you can share these with your peers and teachers, the better. Having teachers especially understand your priorities or obligations (such as to home or family) beyond whatever homework assignment is due helps teachers to find / design ways to best support your learning goals. We all live unique lives, and each student’s needs are different. A healthy, honest relationship with your teachers can open the door to more second-chance opportunities to put forth your best effort. But know, the mirror image of honesty is accountability. Be accountable with your word. 

3) Plan to work. Work the plan. 

You might be reading this thinking that this teacherly advice is light on actually dealing with the increased workload that accompanies your ascent into high school. Sister Corita Kent famously advanced “The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.” This is true. You must set aside time to work. You must become deeply enamored with practice. Yes, I am talking about practice. We are solely what we practice. Yet, for you to personally understand and be motivated to work, you must also know your WHY. No teacher can impose this on you. Why do you come to school? Some aim high and understand the power of education as a tool to overturn oppressive systems. Others reach equally high and understand that school presents an avenue to learn necessary skills to provide for themselves and their loved ones. Do the work. Care about it. Know your why. It will carry you through the boredom and/or the tough times.  

Christopher Rogers serves as Program Associate for the Edcamp Foundation. Recently, he was accepted into PennGSE's Reading, Writing, and Literacy Ph.D program where he looks to continue his passion for education.