Here’s a warning based on hard evidence: 9th grade students who get “off track”, meaning they don’t make the necessary social and developmental adjustments; they don’t adjust to the structural and organizational change of high school; and they aren’t ready for the increased academic rigor (Building and Sustaining Student Engagement, 2017) are four times more likely NOT to graduate high school. This may mean your child has at least one F in a core subject, or they didn’t receive the minimum credits for their 9th grade year (theto&throughproject, 2017).

A 9th grade student who is “off-track” is a bigger indicator of failing to graduate high school than poverty, race, ethnicity, and gender, combined (theto&throughproject, 2017). So what do we do, since too many of our children are at risk of not graduating? Here’s what we do: we build relationships.

When my daughter was in the fourth grade, my family was smack dab in the middle of a crazy crisis. My only choice was to let people know the embarrassing truth, and ask, no beg for help. By that time, I’d taught for about 9 years-well aware of how crucial a caring relationship with a trusted teacher would be to her survival. At this point in our lives, my only goal was to survive. Like I said, it was a crazy time.

After sharing with my daughter’s teacher, our struggles and needs, Jane was more than willing to help ensure my daughter’s success. Here’s what Jane did: She made sure to check in with my daughter, every morning. She offered an ear and a shoulder to cry on, when it was needed. She encouraged her, looked for her strengths and built them up with interesting, relevant classroom activities, and on occasion, invited my daughter for a Saturday lunch date. She kept me informed, too. If it weren’t for Jane, my daughter could have ended up using drugs, or flunking out of school. Who knows? My daughter’s success her 4th grade year struck me so profoundly, because I realized that all it took was an important person in my daughter’s life, her teacher, to take interest and be willing to go that extra mile. When my daughter transitioned to the intermediate school, where I taught, I made the same request of her 7th and 8th grade teachers. They did the same thing. When my daughter transitioned to 9th grade, I did the same thing. None of her teachers said no. They didn’t need to over-extend themselves or sacrifice their own lives, they just showed genuine care while she was with them.

My daughter is graduating and she is fine! Her life is in a positive, upward trajectory. Thanks to her teachers who cared, were willing to help me, and did their best to care about her, she’s independent, strong-willed, and determined. She still keeps in touch with her 4th, 7th and 8th grade teachers. She loves and appreciates them, and I believe that’ll last forever. I like to think her teachers received something from that relationship as well. Because they chose to care for someone else, and give of themselves, someone’s life is better. Imagine how many more people will be impacted, when my daughter goes on to impact others’ lives because of what her teachers did for her!

So Moms, here’s what you do and don’t do: Identify the important people in your child’s life. Let them know your child’s strengths and struggles, and be specific with the kind of help you need. Don’t be ashamed of your struggles–everyone has them. When you are honest, people want to help. Take all the help you can get, be appreciative, and when you don’t get the help you’re looking for, keep looking. Let your child know how important it is to thrive in 9th grade. Prepare them in 6th grade, 7th grade, and 8th grade by having them anticipate and expect change. Make sure they know they’ll need to make adjustments. Look for resources–counselors, advocates, educational assistants, tutors, and community members who can offer different skillsets, experiences, opinions, and connect your child with them. Make sure your child knows these four things: 1. perseverance and resilience in the face of struggles will yield success, always, no doubt! 2. The only difference between people who aren’t successful and people who are, is that the people who are, NEVER GAVE UP! 3. The only person who can limit themselves, is them! And 4. New things are hard, before they become easy!

I hope these tips help you! I try to write about things that are important to all women because I believe the more we share with each other our struggles, the more we can celebrate our triumphs. If you’d like to read about my journey in my raw and candid story, check out my books, Candy Canes and Coke, and Rescued By A God I Didn’t Know. If you’re reading this article on my website, then you can click on books, but if you’re not, you can go to God Bless!

Me Ke Aloha,