The Divine 9, for Those Entering Ninth Grade
Advice from a local expert for students starting their high school careers
By Sara Sanders
To the parents and family members reading this article on chambanamoms.com:
The following content is for your ninth grader, with a little something special for you at the end. So please share this article with your student, and then ask them to summarize what they read. (See what I did there? Nothing like mixing in some summer literacy strategies!)
So, you’re going into high school for the first time, huh? I’m sure you have a mix of emotions about this. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you are feeling! All of your sentiments are valid and understandable.
As an educator for 19 years — 15 of those as a school administrator and principal — I’ve proudly promoted thousands of students to ninth grade. There are “beauties and beasts” that come with every transition. Here are my Divine 9 — nine ways that you can ensure your success as you move to ninth grade.
Check out our entire Back to School Series, presented by Christie Clinic:
- Ask the Doctor: Adjusting to Back to School
- Back to School: 8 Things You Didn’t Know You Needed
- Back to School: 9 Tips for Ninth Graders
- Save Money on Back to School in Champaign-Urbana: Free Supplies, Backpacks, Haircuts and Health Screenings
- Champaign-Urbana Area School Registration Information for 2023-24
- Champaign-Urbana Area School Start Dates
- Back to School: Dental, Vision Exams Required for Illinois Students
- School Physicals: What’s Required for Illinois Students in 2023
- Back to School: Immunizations Required for Illinois Students
- Attend school. And be on time to class. Missing a day in high school is like missing a week. Yes, stay home if you are sick. Yes, feel free to use a mental health day when needed (you are awarded five of these excused absences per Illinois School Code). But focus on being at school — on time, every day.
- Understand what high school credits are. In high school, every class counts as a “credit” — but only when you pass the course. In Unit 4, you need 22 credits to graduate. When you don’t pass a class, you don’t get the credit. For example, you aren’t considered a sophomore just because it’s your second year in high school. The credits you earn determine your class distinction (sophomore, junior, etc.). Passing classes to get credits is critical in high school!
- Create and pay attention to your Four Year Plan. High school is your college and career pathway. Talk to your academic school counselor often about your goals, plans, course schedule, AP/dual credit classes, and educational/technical career opportunities. This will help you gain confidence when it’s your time to graduate.
- Get in the habit (if you aren’t already) of using an organizational system. Being organized is a life skill that is crucial to success. Now is the time to download Google calendar, use the reminder function, set alerts on your phone, etc. And don’t forget to schedule some time for yourself.
- Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask about things you don’t know. ALL ninth graders have at least one thing in common — none has done high school before. So, ask questions — believe me, it will save you time and stress.
- Build positive relationships with teachers, staff and peers. Life is all about the relationships you make along your journey. And, for this reason …
- Be kind to EVERYONE! In high school, you will be around a lot of peers you’ve never met or seen before. Everyone has their own journey and could be “battling” their own “stuff.” Celebrate the differences you all bring to the school and this world.
- Get involved and get connected to your school community. Yes, school is school. Academics will always be a main focus. However, high school is also a time to enjoy different experiences. Go to dances, attend events, join a club/team (there are tons) and cheer on the athletic programs.
- Be cognizant of your social circle. Put yourself around people who want to see you succeed and be healthy — those are your true friends. During high school you might be exposed to negative people and harmful experiences (drugs, alcohol, “drama,” toxic social media, etc.) Please understand that as you get older, the risks get heavier and the consequences — both legal and personal — get more serious. Stay true to YOU.
And … a bonus tip for parents/families:
Get — or stay — engaged. Now is not the time to let up just because your kid is getting older. This is a critical time for students to have their “village.” Family engagement is more than attending bi-annual parent/teacher conferences, but it’s not complicated. It is asking your student about their day, their friends, their mental health, their stress levels. It is checking their Home Access Center. It is attending school events (like Future Freshman Night and open houses), or volunteering for an activity if you can. Your high schooler still needs you, even if they say (or think) they don’t.
YOU ALL GOT THIS! Don’t hesitate to reach out to your school for support, help, or encouragement.
Sara Sanders is a chambanamom who is beginning her first year as principal of Champaign Centennial High School this fall. She previously served for 10 years as principal of Franklin STEAM Academy, from where she “proudly promoted thousands of students to ninth grade.”