by Jennifer Lazare

They are scared to death of college. Some will overcompensate with attitude at first, but they are all concerned with the unknown. Reinforcing that they can do this will immediately set the tone that you are there to help them achieve their goals, not crush their dreams.

They will need help with technical writing even though they have A’s in English class. High school classes have not changed since I was in high school. If you expect a data analysis explanation, you will need to provide a model answer and be very specific of what you want. Rubrics help eliminate confusion and they are very comfortable using them.

They have no idea how to use Blackboard or any LMS system. Technology is used mostly by the teacher, and students are lucky if a teacher can keep an updated website. You will need to walk them through the system, all of its parts and post tutorials in how to post assignments.

A short lesson on communication etiquette with a professor would be helpful. Remember, HS students have the same teachers all year and often see them outside of school at events and extracurricular activities. Online communication will be important.

They have never used a ‘”real” syllabus and office hours are known as tutoring times to them. They will ask the same question often: When is it due? Keep a laminated copy of the syllabus in front of the classroom for quick student reference.

They are used to having busy work in high school. Not doing homework is common when a student believes it has no purpose. Make every assignment important: give personal feedback, use them for test questions, and make them the topic of class discussion.

They like options. They will conform to the “box” if that is what you ask them to do, but if you give them some freedom in choosing they will exceed your expectations. And it makes class more enjoyable when everyone is happy to be there. Here’s an example: Post multiple ways to review topics (power point, lecture, reading) or assessments (case study, MC, web quest, podcast).

They are extremely social with lots of hormones. Remember these students have 8 classes a day plus extracurricular activities. They are not your typical “focused college student”. It is also VERY likely they have all known each other in the class for many years. Take a minute to ask them how the football game went. They are more likely to make your class a priority simply because they don’t want to disappoint you. And a seating chart is appropriate with social groups.

In the end, you will also learn a lot from them. Whether it’s the new “NeNe” dance, their struggles of adolescence or how they use technology to learn, it is all important and part of their learning process. I am never bored, always challenged and surrounded by minds that are open to change, knowledge and ideas that were never possible when I was their age.