Teachers explain secrets to a strong semester

With the end of first semester quickly approaching, many students are finding that their grades need a little help.

But soon after this realization, students become stuck. They do not know how to improve their grades or even where to find the motivation to do so.

On-Time Graduation Specialist, Annette Burnett, explains that motivation is found by making connections.

“I think [motivation is about] making the connection between what those grades represent,” Burnett said. “Depending on whether your goal is college and needing to get your GPA up or a diploma to be able to go into a field that you are interested in; just connecting the goal with the [idea that] ‘to get there I need to earn credit in my classes and that means getting my grades up to passing’ [should provide the student with motivation].”

If students are not in a spot where they are strong, they should definitely talk with their teachers about what can be made up and what they can do.”

— AP United States History and Psychology teacher Jamie Smith

After a student finally finds their motivation, the next step to ending the semester strong is knowing how to improve their grades.

Career Specialist Shelley Jellison reveals that the secret behind getting good grades is to constantly know what one’s grades are.

“[Students] need to be the most knowledgeable person about their grades. If they are not checking HAC (Home Access Center) consistently they are not going to know if they missed an assignment. They are not going to know how that test has impacted their overall grade,” Jellison said. “It is just truly making sure that they are on top of their grades, knowing what their overall grade is based on their assignments and tests and having conversations with teachers about reassessment. Talking to them about additional things they can do to show that they understand the concepts that are being taught.”

With motivation and a game plan to improve their grades, a student next needs to find the time to complete their plan.

AP United States History and Psychology teacher Jamie Smith explains how students can find time to be successful in school.

“Each student has a different schedule so [finding time for school work] will depend on their schedule but the best way to do that is to make a chart and fill in when they are at school, when they are at sports and when they have free time,” Smith said. “[Students also need to] make sure that school work is the priority, when it is done they can use that [leftover time] for whatever else they want. But if they do not [complete their homework] first, what will often happen is they just will not do it because they will put it off until it is too late and it never gets done.”

However, if these strategies fail, Jellison says students can retrieve the missed credits through Odyssey classes in which students take an online course or retaking the class the following year.

“We do have some safety nets in place and depending on what class [a student fails], if it is an elective class that the student does not necessarily need for a graduation requirement, there is no need to redo that class. But if it is an English or math or social studies they are going to need to redo that class,” Jellison said. “We have Odyssey classes some students do or the next year takes that class over so there are a couple different options [to make up the lost credit]. Typically the student meets with their counselor and goes over those options. But the number one thing is to make sure they pass those classes.”

Smith additionally shares advice on how a student can finish the semester strong.

“If students are not in a spot where they are strong, they should definitely talk with their teachers about what can be made up and what they can do,” Smith said. “I also suggest working with someone in the class who is doing well. Often they might have study skills or be able to help them out in ways they did not know or be able to explain things better because teachers are not always able to explain it on a level that students understand.”

Jellison reiterates that students should start fixing their grades as soon as possible.

“I think [finishing the semester strong is about] knowing that the end is in sight and cleaning up the messes that they have from earlier in the semester. If they have some missing assignments that they can still turn in, they should do it now. Do not wait until the last minute,” Jellison said. “Students need to understand that the importance they place on their academics is evident in the grades that they receive.”