Upper School | Gr. 9-12

Transitioning to High School

Severn Education Series (summer 2016); written by Upper School Head Ms. Bea Fuller
Students who are most satisfied with their time in high school, who are most successful during the high school years, who grow the most during their four years, are the students who ask questions of themselves and others, engage in answering and solving those queries, and therefore are the most engaged in the daily and long term life of the school. Students who engage and act are the ones who gain the most from high school.

Participate rather than Spectate

In asking upperclassmen to offer advice to new to high school students, they all agree that involvement in the life of the school and attending myriad events are the keys to enjoying this phase of life.

Of course this notion of trying new things, meeting new people, getting to know fellow students who have different interests and backgrounds, and taking academic risks is completely counter-intuitive to the stage of development of late middle school to early high school years where most students are trying their best to fit in, to dress alike, to look alike, to feel comfort in conforming. New high schoolers often fear looking awkward and out of place.

Parents and schools can work together to set expectations of students to participate rather than just to spectate.

Developing Self Identity

One of the most important developmental steps for all adolescents moving toward adulthood and away from their parents is self-identity. Expecting students to participate in school helps them learn more about their interests and values and develop a sense of self. By setting and reaching toward specific goals, students fully engage in the life of the school. They develop interests and identity. Examples of goals to set early on are:

  • play at least one sport or participate in one play
  • join one or two clubs
  • meet with at least one teacher a week after school
  • speak up in every class at least once a week

By being involved in a myriad of activities, students meet a wider range of people, consider more viewpoints, and increase their ability to see things from multiple perspectives. By engaging with an array of others, students will find their lives more interesting and more rewarding. By connecting with those with different interests and backgrounds, students learn to appreciate a larger world, and develop empathy. The habits of expansion will, in turn, expand their notions of self within and beyond the classroom as well.

"Take all the opportunities you can get. It's so much fun to get involved. Run for class officer, start new clubs, and try new things, trust me, it's worth it." Priya Lakhanpal '18

These students will be more successful in college as they will continue to be the students who are involved, who take on leadership roles in the classroom and beyond, and who look to engage the input of others. They will be the college students to speak up in class, to meet professors for office hours, who carefully consider classes and majors. They will be the leaders because they can see the value in community, and in belonging to a community as a contributing member.

Full Engagement is a Habit

Full engagement becomes a habit, a self-expectation that the student will take to college and beyond. The base for future success begins in high school, and begins with the wonder and joy of trying new things. Students who have taken full advantage of all that high school has to offer, in and out of the classroom, will have the most success navigating a new social and academic world and have the most success as they learn self-reliance and establish their new set of goals.

Read the Full Article Here

Learn more about educational philosophy at Severn

Visit our Education Series page for articles on:

  • Helping students find the right college 
  • What it means to be known and valued in Severn Middle School 
  • How the maker mindset drives our Lower School curriculum
  • The value of early childhood education

Lower School

Preschool-Grade 5
Chesapeake Campus
1185 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd
Arnold, MD 21012

Middle/Upper School

Grade 6-12
Teel Campus
Severna Park, MD 21146