Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Grade 12 - A Year of Changes for Both Parents and Teens

As September quickly approaches, it is important to get your teenagers ready for their final year at high school. But getting them ready isn't simply about purchasing school supplies or setting up study schedules. It is about creating a mindset for success, preparing for university, living in the moment and dealing with a highly emotional growth period.
From an educational point of view, this year, getting into university may be easier than ever. Many colleges, including Douglas College, Kwantlen College and many others in the Province of British Columbia, will actually become credited universities this year. It is an exciting time for education. Students are no longer slaves to the concept of university, and have some fantastic options to get the degrees they are looking for. Community colleges in the lower mainland are particularly fantastic and offer incredible programs at a fraction of the cost of SFU or UBC. BCIT has been touted one of the best trade schools in the country and with good reason. The flexibiity of alternative schools, and the credibility of these institutions, can tailor career specific programs to suit almost any need. Students can earn any number of scholarships or incentive programs to help make their education both cost effective and suitable to their specific career goals.
Parents, you are not alone. Just so you know, within the first few days of school your sons and daughters will be given a package which will outline the many tasks that they will need to do over the year. This package includes scholarship information, photo dates, pre-grad programs and deadlines for university or college applications. A list of scholarships they can apply to will also be included. This is not an exhaustive list and it is to your advantage to research scholarships that are available through your employment, clubs and association memberships or even, the Internet. There are many scholarships available through financial institutions, insurance companies such as London Life, the IOF etc., social groups like Kinsmen, Lions Clubs, and the Shriner's Club, to name a few. Other offerings could include church affiliations, theatre clubs or memorial scholarships. Information about any of the Provincial scholarships or your son or daughter's standing are easily obtained by contacting your school principal or counsellor. There are an abundance of sources and with a little research, your post grad education could be paid for, at least in part.
Each school has their own package; however, they are fundamentally the same. I encourage parents to get involved with their teenagers plans and to review the packages carefully. I recommend placing important dates on a family calender in your home, and touching base with your teenagers regularly to ensure that these deadlines are being met. I would also recommend a trip to the counsellors office to ensure that your son or daughter has completed all of the necessary academic requirements for graduation long before the time comes. It has been my experience (more than once), that a student who has failed an important exam and has not retaken it, (or - thought the mark would disappear), has found themselves having to retake an entire course and not graduated due to neglect of a preventable situation.
Grade 12 students are under considerable pressure during their final year. Provincial exams are worth 40% of their letter grades in most academic classes. English, Math, History, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, are all highly challenging programs and many of the students are taking between four and six of these courses in order to get into the post secondary institutions of their choice. Many of the students that I have worked with over the years, are sleep deprived because they are burning the candle at both ends. I encourage parents to give their teenagers a little slack, and offer them opportunities to alleviate much of their stress wherever possible. This year is a tough one - both for them and for us as parents.
The relationships these young people have built during the years leading up to this important time will also come to an end. At no other time in our lives do we say goodbye to so many important people. Years of immature love, dreams, crushes, laughter, bullying, giggles and tears, will be replaced with grown up ambitions. I remember my final year as a blur, and frankly, I see very few of the people who helped to form the character I would become. For most of us, high school is a mixture of pleasure and utter madness. After witnessing 50 or more grad ceremonies over the years, the pleasure and pain haven't changed since I graduated from high school in 1981. Promises are made to be friends forever, valedictorian speeches are made, pictures are taken and grad hats are thrown...............
Parents will be growing in new directions as well. Many will have empty nests by this time next year. This is an emotional time, as their children are no longer children - instead young men and women. As parents, we want to hold on to our kids as closely as we can. But this is also the time for us to begin the "letting go" process for ourselves. Don't get me wrong, we will always be our kid's mommy's and daddy's, but as they develop, so too shall we. Some of us will adjust easily. Others may face incredible withdrawal and a deep sense of loss mixed with enormous pride at shared successes. Go easy on your spirit, as this is a time of rejoicing and celebrating. I assure you - we will get in the groove.
This year, my son Dakota will graduate from high school. I am mixed with excitement and trepidation. Did I do it right? Did I raise him well? Is he capable of going on his own next year? Can I handle the changes easily, or will I become a teenager myself and be somewhat defiant that my sweet child will not need me the way he does today. And although, I suspect he will continue asking for money, or the car, and for some years to come be fairly close by, I recognize that right along with you folks, I will be tearing up because for the first time - this graduation will be my sons, and the traditional graduation roses I give to my students - will be for him. I am tearing up now at the thought.
Questions? Comments? I invite you to have a look at my website for support materials, test prep samples, or services that may make your transition a little easier. I wish you well,

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