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“They Don’t Do That for You in High School”

Eighth-grade teachers love to say, “Your high school teachers aren’t going to do that for you next year!” High school is an important transition, and teachers are trying to help you establish your academic independence. One of the key ways we’ve seen this refrain ring through is in the day-to-day management of your assignments.

Chasing You Down

Forget to turn in your homework? Missed a day of school when there was a test? All teachers keep track of who completed what assignments, but middle school teachers are much likelier to chase you down until you turn them in or complete the task that’s expected of you. They will provide you reminders, give you second chances, offer make-up tests, and perhaps be more apt to listen to excuses. Not so in high school.

In high school, if you forget to turn in your homework or miss out on a test, it’s much more likely that you won’t hear anything about it from your teacher. In their view, as a young adult, it’s your responsibility to track what you’re expected to do and to simply get it done. It doesn’t matter to them if you forgot or were absent that day. The onus is on you, not them. Period. Occasionally, you may run into a high school teacher who will accommodate you, especially under extenuating circumstances. But don’t assume they’ll take this approach. In fact, assume the opposite — that whether you have completed the work that’s due for a marking period is completely up to you and that no teacher is responsible for making sure you’re tracking your materials, making up missed assessments, and turning assignments in.

One issue that makes this challenge even more significant is that often the daily homework in high school has a more significant impact on your grade than it does in middle school. So while previously your teacher may have given you a worksheet in class primarily to guide your learning, now that same worksheet will be a grade calculated in to your class average. I have seen many students miss several weeks of turning in assignments that they did not realize were graded before they even knew what is going on.

Keeping Track

So, what can you do to ensure you’re owning this process and on top of everything? Keep a written record of your assignments on paper (in your planner), electronically, or both. Even if the teacher has the option to update your assignments for you via an online platform, keep track of this yourself in a separate place. It’s common for a teacher to get behind in updating the online homework board or to add another expectation for an assignment by announcing it in class but not necessarily posting it anywhere else. Use your record to double-check what your teacher makes available online or elsewhere and compare it against what your friends’ records or memories show. The more you do this, the more likely this will become a habit that will serve you well as you progress into more rigorous coursework with many more moving parts to manage. It’s unwise to rely on your memory and nothing else to keep track of assignments and due dates. You’ve got enough to keep in your brain already!

Jeff Knox contributed to an earlier version of this blog.

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