5 (Really Unconventional) Secrets to School Success

Special Counsel Robert Mueller (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

I was an excellent student. No lie. I knew how a classroom worked, what kids to avoid and befriend, and how to respond to a teacher in order to get good grades and maintain an excellent reputation. This had very little to do with pens, paper and the latest graphing calculator (the iPad of my day) and much more to do with knowing how people and systems worked. Want to prepare your kids for back-to-school? Here are a few tips from a seasoned pro:

5. Never take homework home.

No study hall? No problem. Chances are your teacher only wants you to reiterate exactly what she already told you in class. So, listen and repeat. Write it down if necessary. Don’t bother typing, even if she does want your notes taken electronically. Statistics show you’re much more likely to remember something if you’ve written it down with a good old fashioned pen. You’ll have your homework done in five minutes or less.

4. Change the topic to suit the teacher’s personal interests.

I had an amazing high school physics teacher who played in a band on the side. What I didn’t know in physics I made up for with my knowledge of classic rock.

3. Know exactly how many sick days you’re allowed per semester and use them wisely.

If you haven’t yet shown your kid Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, now is the time. In middle school when my life was hell, my mom and I had a system. If I was having a really bad day I’d fake a headache and go to the nurse. She’d automatically call my mom. The rule was that I couldn’t go over my allotment of sick days for the year. After all, the goal was to get out of there, not repeat a grade.

2. Know what a parent’s note can get you out of.

Mom’s signature got me out of swimming in gym (swimsuits + puberty = no way) and sex ed in 10th grade. Instead of watching the gross “just out of college” gym teacher hit on the popular girls with his corny “you know what my favorite drink is? Sex on the Beach” line (not kidding), I got to spend half a semester in the library doing an “independent study” that did not conflict with my “personally held values.” You’d be amazed at the student rights detailed in the handbook that no one ever reads.

1. Remember, this is school, it isn’t life.

Most of all, don’t let your kid think school is the be-all and end-all of his or her existence. Half the stuff they’re expected to learn will soon be forgotten. The other half will become the stuff of casual cocktail party conversation. Rarely will she engage with a teacher who is wise enough to explain the practical application of a lesson. Therefore, the chances are that your kid’s social life will have a greater impact than anything else on her decision-making when it comes to life after graduation. If you’re really concerned about the big picture, pay as much, if not more attention to her moods, her friends and her habits as her academics.