Freshmen have fears coming into high school: lockers, dances, peer pressure, getting lost, grades, work load, lunch seating, social status, and others. Parents have these concerns and more. Spring is a good time to plan how to welcome incoming freshmen families so they can ease their teens' mounting anxiety.
"We realize that when new freshmen enter high school there are so many concerns. We want to make these worries either disappear or not seem so overwhelming," says Julie O'Brien, Partnership Coordinator at North High School in Eau Claire, WI. The school's Action Team, staff, and Ms. O'Brien developed a yearlong transition program to help incoming freshmen and their families start the high school years on the right foot.
To start, North High holds a "Preview Night" for eighth graders and their families to see the school, learn about course offerings, and receive a heartfelt welcome from the administration and staff. In addition to the open house, incoming freshmen families receive the high school newsletter so they can learn about the exciting opportunities at North High. In July, incoming freshmen receive a letter from the principal, an English teacher, and the Partnership Coordinator welcoming them to North High and explaining additional programs that might help ninth graders successfully transition into their high school years.
At the beginning of the school year, North High hosts the Freshmen Family Picnic. The picnic allows the school to share information and answer parent concerns and questions. Parents have the opportunity to network with one another, tour the building, meet staff, and receive assistance in registering online for EdLine. EdLine allows parents to access their students' grades, homework, and other important information. The Partnership Coordinator has asked some employers to make computers available for parents to check their students' progress. Families that do not register for EdLine at the picnic have another opportunity at Back to School Night.
Also to start the year, each incoming freshmen family receives a three-ring binder that helps families organize important information during their students' high school years. Dividers indicate places for the Family Handbook, newsletters, report cards, acknowledgements, and other important information. Previously, only students had a copy of school procedures, rules, and regulations. The Family Handbook gives parents access to this information.
Two weeks after school starts, North High hosts Back to School Night. Parents follow their students' schedules, meet the instructors and parents of fellow classmates, hear the expectations of each class, and learn other valuable information. In the commons area, all clubs, organizations, and sports teams set up information booths to promote their activities and to encourage students and parent volunteers to sign up.
Parent-Student-Teacher Conferences are also conducted as part of North High's yearlong transition program. In addition to meeting with teachers, parents visit tables set up by community members displaying information about their services. The Partnership Coordinator chats with parents, answers questions, and reassures them with ideas for supporting their teens in high school.
All of these activities assist incoming ninth-grade students and their families. What does your Action Team for Partnerships have planned to welcome incoming freshmen families? Partnership efforts should help students and their families start high school in a positive way, setting the foundation for a successful high school experience.