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10 Things Students Say They Need to Succeed

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I’m a high school teacher, and because of COVID-related budget cuts, I recently got reassigned to a different school. Before I said goodbye to my 80 or so students, I asked what they thought were the habits for success for high school students. The funny thing is that they knew exactly what to do—even if they weren’t doing it!

So, straight from the horses’ mouths, here are 10 things kids think are necessary for them to do in order to succeed in school. You might be surprised by how right they are! Show this list to your kids and see if they agree.

1. Go to school.

It’s pretty basic. You get points for just showing up! When your teachers and administration see you at school, they know you’re at least trying. And if you don’t set foot on campus, you have a zero percent chance of going to class. And if you don’t go to class… see point number two.

2. Go to class.

Some kids go to school, but they skip certain classes. You might think your teacher isn’t noticing—but she is. If you skip, you’ll not only miss out, but you’ll get a bad rap with teachers. Then, when it comes time to hand out grades, teachers will be less likely to cut you slack if you haven’t made the effort to attend their classes.

3. Be on time.

Being consistently tardy will irritate your teacher and hurt your learning. If you do have to come in late, do it as quietly as possible. Don’t stop on the way to your seat to sharpen your pencil or to talk to a friend.

4. Listen in class.

If you don’t pay attention, you’ll have to teach yourself everything you missed. If you do pay attention, you’ll be that much further ahead when it comes time to study for quizzes and tests. This one is huge on the list of habits for success for high school students.

5. Get enough sleep.

How can you pay attention if you’re sleeping in class? Teenagers need eight to 10 hours of sleep a night. My students told me that their phones get most of the blame for keeping them up late.

6. Do your homework.

If it’s assigned, just do it. Even if you don’t do it perfectly, teachers appreciate the effort. If you forget an assignment or get behind, talk to your teacher. If she knows you’re trying, she’ll usually work with you.

7. Have phone control.

Don’t use your phone in class. “Boring” facts about figurative language or themes can’t compete with social media, Netflix, or that call (Yes! Students get calls in my class.) from your dad asking if you want him to pick you up some fries.

8. Assess your teacher.

Know what’s important to each of your teachers. What they’re expecting may seem unimportant to you, but if it’s important to them, do what they ask. If they ask you to turn your work in by 8 p.m. and you turn it in at 8:01, don’t whine if they deduct points.

9. Talk to your teacher.

If you need help, if you’re confused about an assignment, if you’ve fallen behind—talk to your teacher. If you’re under a lot of pressure because of sports or other activities, or if things at home are causing you stress, reach out to your teacher.

10. Stay out of trouble.

Avoid drama. Control your actions. Be kind. One day of in-school-suspension can cause you to fall behind in your work. If you do get off track, know that your teachers and administration are there to help you get back on track. They want you to succeed.

What are other habits for success for high school students?


What does a student need to do in order to get good grades at school?

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