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De Parte del Maestro
By Josh Flores

It is almost that time for…
Yes jovenes believe it when I tell you I share your pain when I begin to see and hear the ‘back to school’ talk.  I do love my job, but I love my summers.  There are a number of reasons that I chose the profession of an educator and I must admit the vacation time is one of them. 

That being said, the inevitable is quickly approaching and like everyone else I will soon be back to the grind and you will be back in school.  It has become a ritual for me to begin to slowly refocus my energy and mindset back into ‘school mode.’  I want to help you do the same to make it as painless a process as possible.

Be positive
There are many things that I look forward to in returning to the classroom: the students both new and old, seeing my classroom the cleanest it will be all year, catching up with colleagues, and football.  Whatever it is that you look forward to make sure you find something. 

If you can’t find some good things about returning to school then you are ultimately setting yourself up to be miserable.  Think of it this way, you have to do it, it may not seem like it now but it will pay off so just make the best of it.

I remember getting my schedule and then calling my boys to see what classes we had together and what teachers were cool or not.  To this day when I get my roster of students for the year I still get those butterflies in my stomach and during the first day I am full of nervous anticipation.

This will be my tenth year of teaching and those butterflies are my reassurance that I am still in the right place and doing what I am supposed to be doing.  The day I feel like I am simply going through the motions is the day that I will find a new career.

High school freshmen beware
No, I am not trying scare you but, it is important that you hear what I am about to tell you.  This is when everything counts.  I do mean everything.  If a college is looking at your schooling records they are concerned with what you accomplished in high school.  Here it is plain and simple; you don’t earn credits, you don’t graduate. 

This is not junior high where you will potentially get promoted to the next grade despite performance.  That means that you have to pass your core classes and then some.  Trust me a ‘D’ is passing and you will get credit, but you are better than that and if you want to earn scholarships, then ‘Ds’ are not on your team.

To be successful you must utilize the two most important tools of any classroom: your brain and me (the teacher).  Contrary to popular belief, most teachers want you to succeed in their classroom and in life.  I know at times you may feel like there is a conspiracy against you to make sure you fail but that just means you have a good imagination; trust me, I have been there myself. 

Be sure to listen on the first few days of class to get a feel for the type of teacher Mr. or Ms. X will be.  You are smart and have made it this far so you can get an idea for what you need to do to be successful in the class.  It is also important to ask questions (I don’t read minds nor do most teachers).  It is not a good feeling for me when I realize you didn’t understand something until I grade your quiz or test, so if you are having problems speak up.

The last thing you really want to keep a close eye on is your attendance.  If you aren’t there then you can’t learn.  Also, many schools have mandatory failure for excessive absences, and they are often far fewer than are allowed in junior high.  Make sure that you and your parents are aware of the school’s policy on attendance and know that there are very few exceptions to these rules.

College here you come.
College was one of the greatest times of my life—I grew and learned so much, and that’s what it is all about.  If you are beginning your college career let me be the first to congratulate you.  It is a remarkable accomplishment and you have bested the odds.  Now here is your reality check: the dropout rate for Latinos in college is higher than it is at the high school level.  In order for you to beat those odds here are a few pieces of advice.

Responsibility 101
Whether you are going away to school or staying close to home, it is almost certain that you will experience far greater freedom than you did while in high school.  Be warned that while this freedom can provide you with many opportunities, it can pose an equal amount of pitfalls.  If you have freedom you need to become the ‘r’ word: responsible.  This may seem easy enough but, trust me, when I say that it is easier said than done.  In order to enjoy and sustain your college experience you have to do some very important things: go to class, study first, get involved, utilize your professors, and master moderation. 

The first is a no brainer, but so many students don’t attend classes.  This is just silly; you are paying somebody for nothing if you do not attend class.  True, colleges will kick you out or pull your financial aid if you have poor grades, so two words you really want to avoid are academic probation.  In college it is okay to have a good time, there is a time for everything and the time for fun is after study time.  Make this a way of life for yourself and you will reap the rewards; also notice what happens to those around you who do not. 

Getting involved in organizations and activities can be great for your résumé and a great way to reinvent yourself and meet new people.  My involvement in college truly was one of the greatest things that I ever did.  Professors work for you, so make them earn their pay. 

I had a strategy of always sitting towards the front of the class and introducing myself to my professors.  I would also say “I want know what I have to do to get an ‘A’ in this class.”  You may think this seems like I was kissing up or whatever, but what it told the professor about me was: a) I am not a slacker, b) I am motivated, and c) I will be an active part of the class.  Trust me on this one though; don’t talk the talk unless you plan to fulfill what you say.

I have written an entire article on the importance of moderation; college is a great proving ground for my advice.  Too much partying will equal poor grades.  Too much studying will equal a restricted college experience.  Find your balance and you will have a great experience and, most importantly, graduate. 

One last thing…the student’s greatest enemy is procrastination.  The longer you wait to get something done the harder it will be, and it isn’t going to go away so utilize the student’s greatest ally to defeat it…the syllabus¡Hasta la próxima vez!

I would love to hear from you about my column please send me feedback or let me know if there is something you would like me to write about.  You can e-mail me at [email protected]. ¡Gracias por tu apoyo!





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