How to navigate the high school system

One thing I love about my job as a guidance counselor is the ability in my position to see and understand the school district as a whole. Working closely with every sector of the education system (parents, students, administrators, teachers, special services, the other schools and services in the system, the services in the community, and the community groups) leaves me with a very interesting and I think valuable position of understanding. I’ve been able to appreciate this more and more as I’ve realized how this information can serve me when I have children in school.

Here are some of the major ‘notes to self’:

1. Get invovled in the school. For so many different reasons. But one that people don’t always think about it that it’s no secret that the visible parents in the community, whether a PTA President, a member of an advisory board, a teacher, or even just a paraprofessional working in the district can expect their child’s schedule and selection of teachers to be hand picked and extra effort to be taken on their child’s behalf.

2. Having a good trusting relationship with the counselor is key. I know most parent are scared to ‘bother’ their kid’s’ counselor, but treating them with respect, kindness, and appreciation is so important. It helps the counselor too because their concerns can be appropriately voiced to the community through the parent in a trusting relationship. Step outside of your own agenda for a minute. Remember that counselors often see parents only at their worse hysteria. Stop in and say hi, take them out to lunch, build a friendship of trust and respect. You’ll get an invaluable perspective.

3. Special Education. I have so much to say on this but the bottom line is do your research. There are so many legal issues involved that that department can’t always be as straight forward as you might expect. Special Education departments are consistently in court battles because of minor details in a students’ accommodations that weren’t implemented correctly. This is where you need to be insistent and pushy and smart about educating your child. Understanding different levels of accommodations and what it will mean for your child’s future is so important. The difference between a regular education class with an additional special education teacher in the room vs. a small class of just special education students is huge. Huge educationally, emotionally, and for the child’s future education and career. Identify early, be realistic, get good testing done, and don’t hide things from your high schooler. Empower them to be a self advocate, to be well versed in their disability/disorder and the services they need. They need to learn compensation. Overaccomodation throughout their k-12 doesn’t prepare them at all for the real world where you don’t get ‘extra time’ or ‘teacher notes’ to complete a business report.

4. Empowering your kid. As easy as it may be to call the teacher when you have a problem and call the counselor for every question, it’s much more important for a high school student to be an advocate for themselves and learn from their mistakes. They need to learn how to communicate effectively face to face, how to work with authority figures, and how to pick themselves up when they fall. Helicopter parenting for a high school student is detrimental to that needed growth. So back off!

5. Don’t be scared to get your kid psychological help. There are so many outstanding therapists out there that work well with teenagers and understand their needs and issues more than you do, more than I do. It’s okay to admit you can’t always give you child the emotional help they need. Don’t let pride get in the way. Use your school’s counselor to help you find someone fantastic. They hear all the feedback and know who the best therapists in the community are.

There are so many other things but these are the big ones I think about a lot. I don’t see myself as an expert but in my position I do see the whole picture in a very lucid way.


Comments are closed.