Fall 2020 is going to be a semester like no other.

Students are getting ready to return to school—in some cases, with very little idea of what school is actually going to look like.

Parents are concerned (with good reason) about student safety, but they’re also worried about their education. For many, the “school at home” situation last spring did not inspire much confidence as we prep for the new school year.

Whether your student is attending school in-person, remotely, or in some hybrid of the form, your goals are the same. You want to make the best of your situation, structure it effectively, and set your student up for success.

You may not be able to choose whether your student goes to school in person or online, nor can you necessarily control how well your student’s instructors are able to adapt to virtual education. The unique ways that your student learns best aren’t up to you either.

But what you CAN do is recognize one thing: the game has fundamentally changed, and playing by the old rules is no longer an option.

If your student thinks success in school will look the same way it always has—good grades, high test scores, a long list of extracurriculars that will look great on college applications—it’s time to help them reframe the conversation.

Checking the “academic boxes” carries only surface-level meaning in ordinary times, but this year, checking some of those boxes will be tougher than ever. As a result, students who go this route are likely to feel disappointed and disengaged.

The new game students need to play is based on internal motivation. It’s all about taking charge and determining what they want from this academic year. Instead of letting a set of unwritten rules define their success, they should reflect deeply on what success truly looks like for them.

Your student might consider what gives them meaning across some or all of these dimensions:

    • Intellectual: What subjects are particularly interesting to them? What do they gravitate toward? Which topics stimulate students and make them enjoy learning? If their academics aren’t inspiring this semester, where else can your student look for intellectual stimulation?
    • Professional: What piques a student's interest in terms of possible careers? This exploration happens through school, but also through jobs, clubs, and interactions with other adults, including teachers, mentors, and even friends’ parents.
    • Social: How do students relate to other people? Students at this age are exploring who they want to be in a social setting. That may be more complicated right now due to social distancing, but there are still avenues for creating connection with other students, family members, and teachers. Social interaction may also include conflict resolution and romantic relationships.
    • Emotional: Closely related to social identity, emotional identity is about how students process and deal with their own feelings, as well as how they relate to and deal with the feelings of others. Teenagers experience many new emotions—during the pandemic, your student may be disappointed or angry about being denied a “traditional” high school experience. A strong emotional support system within your family helps them learn compassion (for themselves and others) as they enter adulthood.
    • Physical: Along with those new emotions come a series of physical changes, as students go through puberty and their bodies transform from children to adults. Students need to learn how to express a different physicality in their new bodies, and how to take care of their bodies as well. Some students may also be exploring their sexuality and sexual nature during their teenage years.
    • Spiritual: This word scares a lot of people, especially those who haven’t raised their children with religion. In this context, spirituality is the part of oneself that yearns for connection, meaning, and transcendence. During high school, students are learning to access and nourish their spiritual side, whether through religion, nature, art, or some other pursuit.

Once your student has reflected on what matters to them most, it’s time to set some goals and put a plan in place to help them succeed. It will be crucial that your student:

    • Sets realistic expectations about what they can accomplish
    • Anticipates challenges and build in strategies for getting help when needed
    • Uses routines to anchor their day and help them make continuous progress
    • Adapts and updates their plans as needed based on what’s working and what isn’t
    • Has the right support system in place (a peer, a parent, a teacher, or a professional like one of our academic coaches)

This semester will have plenty of challenges, but it’s also a phenomenal opportunity for students to chart their own path. We don’t have a playbook to follow at this moment; instead, we each have a chance to write our own.

If your student needs support with creating a plan for success this school year, Signet can help. Call us at 617-714-5262 or email info@signeteducation.com to see how our academic experts can assist you.