High School Teacher Hacks

High school students can tend to be both cynical and apathetic, but they are also more mature, relatable, well-rounded, and confident than their middle school counterparts. You’ll have fewer of the disciplinary issues centering around a lack of self-control, and you’ll have much richer, deeper, meaningful class discussions. Much like middle school teachers, you have to be very mindful of the words that come out of your mouth, and you probably should brush up on the Urban Dictionary once in a while to know what the kids are saying these days.


So as you ride out the highs and lows of a typical high school classroom, here are some tips to help things go smoothly:

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In high school, students should really be handling the missed work from absences on their own. You can help guide them to that point by laying out clear guidelines for absences. Should they come to you for notes or get them from a friend? Are you able to easily upload notes to your learning management system? Set a place in the classroom for missed handouts, and point them to that place if they come to you. Set clear rules about timelines for getting work turned in. Another idea: at the beginning of the school year, have them exchange phone numbers with a classmate to be “absent buddies” to help each other out with notes, etc. All of this will help prepare them for college.

Bonus: This will help in the future with standardized testing as they learn what 15, 30, or 55 minutes really “feels” like. Check out this website, which has tons of fun (and FREE!) options to use in a classroom setting. An old-fashioned (or funky-themed) egg timer works well too, but may not be as visual around the entire room.

Check out this teacher's idea on Instagram!

We all know that it’s often easier to go to school sick than to take the time to write out detailed substitute plans. But sometimes–like when the 2am stomach bug invades your home–you just don’t have a choice. Plan ahead by creating an “Emergency Sub” folder. Include class rosters, schedules, a list of reliable students, and one-off lesson plans that are related to your content but can be done at any time as an enrichment activity. Pro tip: Use our Grab-and-Go lesson plan finder for all kinds of ideas! And bonus tip: Leave something that can be easily graded by the sub OR counted as an effort grade for your students. You do NOT want to come back to a large stack of difficult assignments to grade! 

As students grow and mature, they will become more confident in their academic strengths and weaknesses. They appreciate choices in the classroom, whether it be choosing a topic for a project, choosing an outside reading book, choosing to work individually or with a partner or group on an assignment, etc. While you obviously can’t let them choose their way through everything you do, they will appreciate it when they get to have a say-so in their learning experiences when it’s possible. It helps them feel a little more grown-up and just might make them take more ownership in their work.


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Classroom Safety

The closer your students get to graduation, the stronger their opinions will be, and they’ll dig their heels in when challenged on an ideology they hold strongly onto. Make sure all viewpoints are acceptable parts of classroom dialogue, and give equal space to students who want to share their voices. Establish clear ground rules for opposing ideas, though: rules such as speaking with kindness and truth and using reliable evidence back oneself up. No mean-spirited attacks allowed. Periodt. This will also help them develop desperately-needed conversational skills as they leave the safety of your classroom and move on to the “real world.”


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Parent Communication

Throughout high school, contact with parents starts to thin out. For the most part, high school parents should recognize that their kids need to advocate for themselves and put out their own fires. However, don’t leave your parents completely out of the loop. They will still appreciate a note from you regarding what’s going on in the classroom or a shout out for something their child did well in class. 

Get to know your students

High schoolers pride themselves on being individuals. They’re more confident in who they are at this age, so find fun and creative ways to learn about them. Let them incorporate their interests and unique skills in the classroom when possible. Try to get to a game, choir concert, or art show if it’s possible to do so. Ask them about how the big things are going in their lives; they’ll love you for it! 


Navigating a high school classroom can be tricky, but it can be equally rewarding–and you might have a little bit of fun along the way!

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