No 1. Get organized!
Unlike primary school, at secondary school, you are going to have lots of different subjects and teachers in a day. This means you have to be really organized, to make sure you bring all the right stuff on the right day. Get a box, and a series of colored cardboard folders – one for each subject. Keep the folders in the box, and when you have done your homework for the night, take today’s folders out of your school bag and replace them with the ones you will need tomorrow. Keep the box of folders, your school bag and a copy of your weekly schedule by the door ready to go in the mornings.
No 2. Build a schedule
Most schools will have particular classes which will set you homework, which will be due on particular days. Using this information, you can plan which subjects homework you will do when (and trust me, doing it soon after it is set is much easier than the night before!). It can also be helpful to build a schedule that covers from when you get up, to when you go to bed – so you know exactly what is happening, and when stuff gets done.
No 3. Use support
A lot of schools have a homework club, or a lunchtime club. These are great for getting work done, but can also be a way to meet people and make friends, without the pressure of the playground. If you are lucky enough to get some teaching assistant support through school then use it. Even if it might feel a bit embarrassing you will probably do better with it and you can always reduce it if you can manage with less of it.
No 4. Join clubs
The playground can be a really tough place to make friends, because all people do is chat, play team games, or otherwise socialize. Lunchtime or after school clubs are often a much easier way to make friends. Here, socialization is often a byproduct of what you are doing, rather than the main goal. It also immediately gives you a common point of interest, and something to start talking about.
No 5. Give yourself a break
School is hard work for most people, and you have to work even harder, so it is important to make sure you give yourself time off. Give yourself time every night to switch off, and do something you enjoy that takes your mind off school. Even now, I don’t let myself work past 7:30 in the evening, because I know I need to give myself a break to be at my best the next day. This is usually best done after you have done your homework.
No 6. Beat Bullies
Bullying happens to some people, and if it happens to you, you should not just let it happen. This is not to say you should get physically violent or verbally abusive. It is much better (and as you don’t get in trouble, its also much more effective and rewarding) to report it to both school and parents, and see action taken. I advise keeping a note of each bullying incident – who it was (if you know), where and when it happened, and what they did. This give the school something more concrete to go on, and might help you avoid bullies in the future
No 7. Say “Yes”
Earlier, I talked about how to make friends. However, it is really important that you keep these friends, and learn how to get the most out of the friendship. Socializing with really good friends can be one of the best ways of switching off, coping with stress, and cheering yourself up. I’ve learned that part of doing this often means saying “Yes” to things you would usually not do, for example, trying out their hobbies, or going round to their house. It may be a bit scary, but this can be fun, and often helps make friendships stronger (of course, while saying yes to some things may make you feel nervous or a little uncomfortable, you should never feel you have to say yes, and you should certainly not agree to anything illegal, immoral, dangerous (including drugs) or that you believe is wrong).
No 8. Find a good teacher
I remember I was quite scared of a lot of my teachers, and I didn’t really feel I could talk to them about any problems. However, often teachers in learning support are much more approachable, and you can start to develop a good working relationship with them. You may find, however, that you get on well with other teachers, and you may start to develop a good working relationship with them instead. Either way, having that relationship with a teacher often means they are great to go to with problems, or for advice, which can make things a lot easier when you are stressed or anxious. They may also be more likely to help you than others.
No 9. Explain your needs
Often, secondary schools are big places, with lots of people. This can make it really hard for them to see you as a person, and think about what you might need. Therefore, you are going to have to tell them yourself. The best way to do this is sit down and talk to parents about the problems you are having, why they are a problem, and try and come up with a realistic solution the school could use. Then you and your parents can write to the school, explain why something is causing you problems, and how it could be solved.
No 10. Don’t stress about exams
Some people are academic, some aren’t. Regardless of whether you are “good at school” or not, school puts pressure on you to do well in exams, and to always get highest mark as you can. However, while exams are important, they are not nearly as important as your mental health.
What is important is that you spend your life doing something you will really enjoy doing. You probably haven’t found it yet, or you may find it then find a completely different one. It may be this passion is something you need exams for, in which case it helps if you have the right exams, but if not, you can always go back and get them later. Or, it may be that you don’t need exams to get that job, but you have to do some other sort of course. Either way, exams are just something that can help you along the way – they are not the be all and end all to life, and not worth stressing or crying over.
Joshua Muggleton is the author of Raising Martians – from Crash-landing to Leaving Home (2011) published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Part of our celebration of World Autism Awareness Month 2013- see more posts on Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and related conditions.
Thank you for this list Josh. I am currently working with year 6 pupils who will be going on to Secondary School in September. Knowing that you found a way to survive will be very encouraging for them, so I shall be showing them your blog.
All the best,