At every level of Preschool-12th grade education, the parent/school partnership is vital, but perhaps never more so than in high school, as it’s the time when teenagers’ independence is increasing and their parents’ influence is decreasing. This is as it should be, since it’s a necessary developmental step in becoming truly self-sufficient and moving toward successful college/adult life — but that doesn’t make it any easier or more pleasant for parents! As a School, we understand this challenge and we put a great deal of thought into how to both encourage students to take full responsibility for their own education and behavior and to work with parents on these last few years before at least a partial launch into adulthood.
Our faculty and staff are as available to parents as they are to students, not only through scheduled check-ins like grade reports, parent-teacher conferences, and events hosted by our School Counselor and College Counselor, but also through emails, calls, and meetings whenever needed. While we believe it’s important for students to take responsibility for their work at school, we also want parents to be fully informed, because we know that students are best served when all the adults in their lives are working in partnership.
Getting your teenager through these four years isn’t always smooth sailing. We get that. We’ve worked with hundreds of teenagers and their parents to help navigate adolescence. One important benefit — for parents! — of a St. Francis education is the wrap-around experience our faculty and staff provide, and the deep knowledge of what’s going on with each student. With a student:teacher ratio of 7:1, a full-time School Counselor (who is also an LCSW), and a full-time College Counselor, as well as both of us, there is a lot of attention focused on students’ individual social-emotional well-being, as well as their academic progress. While we cannot guarantee there won’t be bumps in your child’s adolescence — in fact, we can pretty much guarantee there will be bumps — we will help guide you and your child through it. Whether an issue is something minor that is managed in the classroom, something interpersonal that our School Counselor works on with a small group of students, or something significant necessitating a referral to a professional, we have been through it before, and we are here to help you and your child navigate this bumpy time. But again, the benefit of being a high school parent at St. Francis is that you can pick up the phone any time and know that you will get an adult who knows and understands your child, has a deep understanding of adolescents, and who can help guide you through any challenges.
Another way we work with parents is to provide education and access to experts on topics related to raising teenagers. We have long held regular parent discussion groups with our School Counselor, recently dubbed the Thoughtful Series, to which all High School parents are invited. Topics have ranged from digital literacy to distracted driving to drug/alcohol use. These provide a time to converse with other parents and local professionals and to gain new information on topics crucial to student health and well-being.
It can be difficult to be involved in school life with your high schooler — gone are the days of volunteering for class parties and serving lunch. However, there are myriad other ways to be involved at the School. Our wonderful Parent Association hosts the 2020-21 Kick-Off! in August, coordinates the annual used book collection and sale, and supports several other events throughout the year. Athletic teams always need parents to volunteer to fill various needs; the Athletic Committee is filled by parents; other extracurriculars such as drama or academic teams often need parent support; and even our wonderful Receptionist/Office Manager, Laura Devlin, needs to be away at times and we ask for parent volunteers to sit at the front desk in her absence. These are all fantastic ways to connect more closely with the School and student life.
In short, we take seriously our partnership with parents, because we believe that home and school working together is truly essential to student well-being and success.