Teen Mentors, parents and anyone else who works with teenagers: Right now is a crucial time in the lives of teenagers regarding their grades. The vast majority of teens are starting a brand new semester; therefore, they are starting new grades from scratch. None of their grades from Fall Semester ‘fold over’ into Spring Semester. One of the biggest differences between the Fall Semester and the Spring Semester is this: The beginning of the Fall Semester is also the beginning of the school year. Teens are fresh from their Summer Break. The school year is exciting with new classes, new teachers, and perhaps even a new school. Teens are motivated to perform at their best at the beginning of the school year.
Now, let us ‘fast forward’ to the beginning of the second semester. Semester grades start fresh and brand new, but our kids are not so motivated or excited. Sure, they have experienced Winter Break, but that often comes with much stress regarding travels, intense family issues, trying to take care of all of the different family members’ needs and dealing with the everyday stresses of being a teenager. A few days after ringing in the New Year, teenagers must drag themselves back to school, early in the morning usually under grey skies and frigid weather. Not exactly the perfect setting for students to be excited about learning.
Another factor that sometimes creates difficulty for teens beginning the second semester of a school year is if they struggled during the first semester. Even if a student changes teachers at semester, realistically, most of the time a student’s ‘reputation’ follows him or her regardless of a complete schedule change. This unhelpful reality creates a difficult environment for any student to feel accepted and ready to learn.
Next, the weather during January and February is just a downer. Especially for any student who has after-school activities, it is depressing to show up to school in the dark and leave school in the dark. Maintaining warmth takes extra energy. Most adults do not factor in these concepts as affecting the ability for teenagers to work and perform. We (adults) have to counter these circumstances by creating warm, well-lit environments where our teenagers can study, eat, sleep and play. They need to experience all of those activities to maintain physical and mental health.
Ultimately, the BEST action we can take as Teen Mentors is to immediately communicate with our teen’s teachers and find out what is going to be on the agenda in the next few weeks. We must follow up with our teens every day to make sure assignments are completed and follow up with teachers to make sure assignments have been turned in to them.
The ultimate folly is this: Waiting until Parent/Teacher Conferences (at the beginning of March) to find out that your teen has succumbed to the “Third-Quarter Slump”. Be pro-active to prevent it.