The following is advice from my wife (a teacher at a public Middle School), with some elaboration from me (a youth pastor). Hopefully this will prove helpful for students and parents at the beginning of the school-year.
1. Be Organized
It’s the number one thing for success. Even more than being really smart! I’ve seen a lot of disorganized smart kids struggle because they didn’t keep track of projects and assignments. And I’ve seen a lot of organized kids get excellent grades because they were organized and kept on top of their work.
If there’s one piece of advice about school that I’ve learned through experience (high school, college, and grad school) it’s this… you won’t become a good student by accident.
2. Show grace to teachers who have bad reputations
You don’t want the teachers to hold your reputation against you. Don’t do the same to them. Give them a shot… you might find out that you really get along with him/her! C
The Christian life is one filled by grace. We need to receive it. We need to give it.
If you want to be Salt & Light (Matthew 5:13-16) in your school, then treat your teachers differently than everyone else. Show them respect and give them the grace you’d like to receive.
3. It’s ok to be “the Christian kid”
Be the Christian kid. It’s only awkward if you make it that way. But if you’re confident in who you are in Christ, then own it. Be different. Sure, some people might treat you differently or give you a tough time, but most people will just accept you for who you are if you’ve accepted you for who you are.
The Apostle Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for all who believe” (Romans 1:16). Honestly: are you ashamed, or are you proud of the gospel? Do you get embarrassed when people find out you go to church and youth group? Are you ashamed of Christ, or are you living on purpose to make Christ known?
4. Learn to say “No”
You can’t do everything you want to do. The sooner you learn that, the better. You don’t need to keep playing soccer because you always have. You don’t need to join that club because all your friends are. You don’t need to take that extra AP class. You don’t need to go out with your friends to that movie.
Remember this: every time you say “Yes” to something, you’re saying “No” to something else. You cannot go to the movies and spend all your time with your friends and still have time to get that project done. You’ve put it off long enough. You need to say “No, sorry. I have a project I need to work on.”
You can only spend time once. Learn to say “No” to things because you’ve said “Yes” to more important things. Take some time to figure out what your priorities are, and then choose how to spend your time and energy.
One of our youth leaders is also a teacher, and he added a sixth word of advice:
6. Be a Leader
You can be a leader, or you can be led. Choose to be an influencer. Don’t follow the crowd.
Think about your friend groups and look around, asking, “Who’s leading who?” and “Do I want my friends leading me, or should I be leading them?”
Finally: Remember your worth comes through your identity in Christ, not by your grades or accomplishments. Work hard. Study hard. Be smart. But do those things because you’ve been accepted by God. So many teens do those things in order to prove their worth. You don’t need to do that. Live in the freedom of God’s grace, knowing that you don’t need to live under insane amounts of pressure to perform.