What Do We Really Learn in High School?

highschoolMy daughter started high school last week. OMG, I can’t believe I am really the parent of a high schooler! Helping her get ready to start high school has me nostalgically reminiscing about my own high school experiences – the teachers, the friendships and the lessons that carried me into college and career. The most important lessons I learned in high school have very little to do with Calculus theorems, essay writing, or what to serve your friends at an all-night cram session. No, they are all bigger than that.


Schedule passing periods into your day. Like many of you, I find my work days crammed with back-to-back calls and meetings. If one runs over, the rest start late. We cannot give out tardy slips to our colleagues, but we can schedule calls and meetings to end 10 minutes before the top or the bottom of the hour. This way, we all have time for a bio break or to pull our thoughts together before the next meeting or call. Having some good meeting efficiency tips helps too.

Spend lunch period with friends. High schoolers don’t eat lunch at their desks (sooo uncool). There is too much social life to catch up on. Lunch is an important time for teenagers to check in with their crowd while getting away from teachers, the classroom and the pressures and expectations of both. Adults need time away from the grind too. Eating at your desk may seem like the best way to get through a few emails, but you miss out on developing friendships and relationships with colleagues that will last much longer than your current project or even your job.

Use study hall time wisely. Wouldn’t it be great to have dedicated time for heads-down work in between all those meetings and conference calls? I often build time into my calendar to think, plan and create. After all, if it isn’t in my calendar, it probably won’t get done.

A good reputation goes a long way. I did some of my best work in high school: AP classes, writing awards, extracurricular activities, etc. I also pushed some limits and broke a few rules (but hey, they needed to be broken, says every teenager). I was able to get away with my (ahem) extravagant behavior because I had developed a reputation early on as a smart, responsible, hard-working kid who turned good work in on time. Making a good impression is important. Everyone wants to stand out from the crowd, just make sure it is for the right reasons.

You can fit 27 high school sophomores in a Chevrolet Suburban. At 28, the windshield breaks. (True story, included here to see whether anyone is still reading this far?).  This lesson is particularly important now that my daughter sees driving in her future.

OMG, I can’t really be the parent of a soon-to-be teenage driver? ODL.

Heather Nelson is a partner with PeopleResults. She will adamantly deny anything her high school friends write in the blog comments. You can reach her at hnelson@www.people-results.com or on Twitter at @HeatherGNelson1. Sign up to receive the PeopleResults blog at Current.