Top 10 Tips To Get Your Secondary-Schooler A Starting Edge

Mobilising and motivating teens can be tough, so we turned to seasoned pro- Nick Arnsby, maths teacher at JBS for advice on getting your teen back to school with a starting edge...
Top 10 Tips To Get Your Secondary-Schooler A Starting Edge
By C Hoppe
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With so much advice now available around the web its tough to know what the best preparation is for getting back into the school routine. We asked Nick Arnsby, maths teacher at Jumeirah Baccalaureate School, with 13 years overseas teaching experience, his views on what he would REALLY like parents of secondary-schoolers to do in the lead up to the new academic year.

1. Resync Their Body Clock
A week before the new school term, re-programme your child’s body-clock and get back into 'sensible sleeping routines'. Secondary school children require a lot of sleep- between 8-10 hours.

Lots of students and teachers are like me, during holidays we indulge in a 'lie in' and before we know, our body clock is completely out of whack and we're happily hooked in a 'Big Bang Theory' marathon session at If you also throw into this mix- jet lag, the chances of a productive and sharp first week are really exceedingly low.

2. Help Them Feel Prepared
Students often feel apprehensive and stressed when contemplating a new school year. Many students feel that asserting some control over proceedings relieves stress.

  • Stationary: Highlighters, pencil cases, maths sets… Not only is it important to have the right tools for the job, but these can often be an extension of your personality.
  • Try on your uniform! If it was bought at the beginning of summer be wary of those growth spurts.

3. Facilitate Time Management
'Balance' is very important in education. Managing your time so there is a good balance between academics, relaxation and socialising is so important yet difficult to achieve.

Some students like to put a white board in their room to manage their work schedule. I personally advocate utilising IT. How about investing some time into mastering 'calendar software' on your laptop before the year begins?

4. Designate a homework area 
'Where do I do my homework?' And, is it the most conducive to work? Are there distractions? When I spend  one hour on homework how much of that time is productive? How much do I spend on social media during that time? If it is a problem what can I do about it?

5. Foster a Can do attitude
For me without a question, the single most important factor which determines how 'happy a student is' let alone academic success is a 'can do attitude.'

Parents tell their kids that school days are the best days of their lives and they're absolutely right. School is a place where more likely than not, you will make a number of lifelong friends who will always be there for you no matter what.

School is probably the only place (outside of your family) where you will find so many people dedicated to supporting your happiness and encouraging you to be the best possible version of you. Every school year is a completely fresh start where you will accumulate a plethora of WOW moments.

School provides so many opportunities for you to explore: trips, sports, ECA's, drama, music, art … the list goes on.

Make the most of ever opportunity and realise that this is an awesome experience but it will only be optimal if you have a 'can-do' attitude!

6. Set yourself some 'new school year resolutions' and stick to them
Conduct an internal audit vis a vis the student's targets in his/her last report . We invest a lot of time into reflecting and students should know what they need to do to improve academically.

For example, are your times tables an area for improvement... can you invest 10 minutes a day into that timetable website?

7. Talk: A Problem shared is a problem halved
Parents, even during grumpy teenage years, parental wisdom can work wonders.

Peers, Whats-app them, ask them how they're doing. You'll find out that most people are feeling just the same way as you.

8. Research Nutrition
Most schools will have a nutrition education programme in place. If this has not hit the mark, students should do some independent research. Jamie Oliver dedicated a whole TV series to this theme and showed the dramatic consequences of both a 'healthy' and 'unhealthy' diet on school life.

Make sure that a nutritious champion 'breakfast' is eaten in the morning, and at lunch avoid high sugar food, this is often hidden/energy drinks as this provides a temporary high and then crash during afternoon lessons.

9. Water
Keep hydrated (especially after having PE), dehydration has a marked effect not just on physical but also mental performance.

"Exercise performance is impaired when an individual is dehydrated by as little as 2% of body weight. Losses in excess of 5% of body weight can decrease the capacity for work by about 30% (Armstrong et al. 1985; Craig and Cummings 1966; Maughan 1991; Sawka and Pandolf 1990)."

10. Disturbed sleep?
You might have been in your bed for 10 hours but was it productive?

Do you sleep with your devices in your room?

Many people don't want to miss out on anything… they here that alert and can't help themselves. The irony is that exhausted students, miss out on so many real world experiences the next day.


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