Author: Jennifer Van Buren
With so much emphasis on STARR tests (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness), it’s no wonder students and teachers want to check out when the tests are over. Parents may also become lax on the academic habits and routines families set up in the fall. Face it, by the time bluebonnets and poppies bloom and spring allergies kick-in, everyone is itching for summer vacation.
As adults, we set the tone for our students. Do you tend to hit the snooze an extra time? Forget to sign the take-home folder? Back off on the encouragement of reading time? Do teachers stop giving homework? Pop in a video? Do schools schedule a slew of field trips, field days, end of the year parties, dances and other special events? These are important and certainly fun, but we have to remember that we have a direct impact on children checking out early.
What parents can do
✿ Set an example. If we expect children to stay focused and continue to place importance on school, we need to do the same. If you have slacked off on your standards, now is the time to snap them back in place. When your child comes home from school, has computer time replaced the mandatory 20 minutes of homework? It is never too late to reinstate the system you had in place earlier in the year. Has bedtime creeped later and later? Move it back up so your kids are well-rested.
✿ You might have to pick up your game and check their work again. Often times, parents ease off on checking homework, allowing children to reach new levels of independence. However, as springtime rolls in, your child may need a little extra guidance and encouragement in order for him to stay on track.
✿ Clean out that backpack! Sure it is almost the end of the year, but there is still time to take a deep breath and dive in. With your child, pull out the folders, papers, thank you notes from birthday parties, stray Valentine lollipops and the jacket she wore last Tuesday morning. Help her divide the contents into piles of what to keep, what to throw away and what to keep at home. This will give her a sense of a fresh start instead of carrying around old baggage.
✿ Restock supplies. Have your child’s pencils worn down to nubs? Are his markers dry, crusted remnants of what they used to be? Does your middle school student’s folder have so many doodles that you cannot even see its original color? Spend a few bucks to get the message across: we still have work to do.
✿ Celebrate progress. Take out papers or projects from the beginning of the school year, look at them together to see how far she has come. Remind her that a week in May is just as important as a week in September.
✿ Go outside. No one wants to be writing (or grading) a term paper during a beautiful Texas spring day. It would simply not be normal or healthy for us to not feel a strong draw to be outdoors, especially after being stuck indoors all day and knowing that our world is about to be scorched. Encourage outdoor activities as much as possible.
If your kiddo needs a break, encourage him to take it outside instead of to a screen; that way when it is time to buckle down and write term papers or complete end-of-the-year science projects, the daily dose of sunshine will have been met.
✿ Make a plan. End-of-year projects, final exams and term papers will challenge the most serious student. Help her organize her time by setting up a calendar and a schedule. The less nagging parents have to do, the better, as spring fever can cause irritability. It is much easier to point to the calendar than a series of verbal reminders.
The dreaded “senioritis”
The most serious strain of spring fever is “senioritis.” Miriam-Webster defines senioritis as an ebbing of motivation and effort by school seniors as evidenced by tardiness, absences and lower grades. The Ivy Coach is a private college consulting practice committed to providing college admissions assistance and college counseling. They remind seniors that college admissions can be revoked. As a matter of fact, universities have been accepting a lot more students than they can actually enroll, with the assumption that many will not have the financial ability to pay for tuition or will change their mind about attending their college. In these cases, the admissions officers are more likely to rescind a student’s acceptance than in the past. If your daughter’s grade in physics has dropped from an A to a B, that is not a big deal, however, if she starts failing or bombs the AP exam, they will likely call and ask for an explanation.
Seniors may also be inclined to make poor decisions that can affect not only their college admission but also their health and safety. The feeling of immortality can be magnified by the grandiosity associated with being the big man on campus. End-of-the-year parties, prom and graduation are prime time for young adults to make life-altering decisions. According to the Institute of Medicine, one in five teens binge drink. Only one in 100 parents believes his or her teen binge drinks. Talk to your child about drug and alcohol use, your expectations and the inherent dangers in driving while impaired, even if he insists that he does not drink. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens and one out of three of those is alcohol-related (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) offers some tips:
❶ Volunteer to help organize a fun, alcohol-free post-prom or graduation party at your high school.
❷ Make an agreement that your child will call you anytime she needs a ride home. In exchange, you will not ask any questions until a later, calmer time. Children will take a risk of driving drunk or getting in a car with an intoxicated friend instead of the certainty of being lectured the entire ride home. Talk to them calmly the next day.
❸ Studies have shown that teens whose parents talk to them about alcohol use are far less likely to use than those whose parents do not discuss the issue with them.
In one way or another, all students, parents and teachers will suffer spring fever and want to check out early; it’s only normal. As adults, it is our job to recognize the symptoms and provide remedies and encouragement.
(Note: bedrest and popsicles never hurt.)
Jennifer VanBuren is a mother of three boys, all of whom are thoroughly enjoying the beautiful spring weather in Georgetown.