While our students have made great progress transitioning back to in-person instruction, we’ve noticed a few things that—with some coaching from home—can increase your student’s success this semester.

Students will get the best of class if they dress and act like they are here to actively engage in the work of learning. A more formal approach will help teens focus on this important process and participate in class. In short, we know that students learn better when they treat school like a job—their job-in-life at this age.

All our students can use a reminder of these things, even if your student already appears to be approaching learning with discipline.


Dress the part

Comfortable clothing works well, but students should dress in casual clothes, not pajamas. Clothing impacts how we feel. Pajamas signal rest and relaxation. Ask  your student to prepare to be an active learner in class.


Be there.

Lessons start promptly. If you’ve granted permission for your student to leave campus at lunch or stop for coffee in the morning, it’s their responsibility to leave enough time to arrive in class at the bell.

With traffic and construction in our area, that means far earlier and allowing more time than is their habit. Many are missing valuable instruction when they regularly arrive late—even just a few minutes.

Relying on others to get what they missed doesn’t work. Students need that introduction to put what follows I context. Another student can’t provide that later—the moment is gone.

We all need a few moments to settle in, open laptops or notebooks, and take a deep breath so that we hear the introduction to the day’s activity.

Please remind your student that 1st period starts at 8:00am.  We need students in the building no later than 7:55am—walking towards the classroom at that first bell. 8:00am is the second bell and signifies the start of the lesson.

Click the image for a 3-minute video to help your student with notetaking and memory.


Talk to your student about focus.

Our minds wander, they are wired that way. It takes practice to focus and engage in class. Our lessons are designed for participation, not passive attendance. Here’s a three-minute video that may serve as a conversation starter for you and your student about taking notes.



Notes play a critical role in remembering what we learn, and they help keep our minds from wandering away from the topic of the day.

All our students have received instruction in note taking. If they need a refresher, you will find a few quick refreshers here.

To improve, students should share their notes with teachers and ask for suggestions.

Good notetaking and review take time and work, but they pay off in memory and saved time when exams come around. 


Most importantly, put away the phone.

Phones distract our minds and seriously impact learning. They should be off during class—powered off so all notifications stop (both sounds and vibration). The science is clear. There’s no argument that makes phone use during class a good practice for students who value learning. Learn more from research noted below.

Use the bathroom for physical needs, not phone breaks

Students should make necessary bathroom breaks as quick as possible. They should not check their phones. Even a quick check takes them away from learning.

We also find that students get immersed in their phones and do not return to class for longer than necessary. Use one of these short videos to start a conversation about phone use.

Heed warning signs

If your student finds it difficult to keep their phone off, they should not have one at school. This struggle is your warning that they already have slipped into compulsive behavior and may need your help or professional help to manage their phone use.

We have phones for any emergency need in every class.  Students have personal phone access before school, after school, and during lunch.

Do not let your student tell you that “everyone has a phone and checks it all the time.” Yes, many students have phones, but successful students tell us that they leave them off during class and don’t let their phone-use make them late to class.

Use this research to help inform your student:

  • College students who were not using their cell phones wrote down 62% more information in their notes and scored a letter grade and a half higher on a multiple choice test than those students who were actively using their phones. Learn more.
  • While college students watched a videotaped lecture, they were randomly interrupted by text messages. Based on the number of texts sent and received, three “texting interruption” groups were defined as Low, Moderate and High. A recall test measured the impact of texting on memory. The high texting group scored significantly worse (10.6% lower about one letter grade) than the low texting interruption group. Learn more.
  • Another study compared correct answers on a lecture quiz between students who were randomly assigned to text message during a lecture and those who were not. Those who text messaged throughout the lecture scored significantly lower on the quiz. Participants believe text messaging is distracting to other users, but not them. Learn more.


To impact phone use, families must work together

  • “But everyone else does!”
  • “I can use my phone without missing anything.”
  • “I need to answer my messages, or my friends will be mad.”

Do these statements sound familiar?

It’s no secret that crowd mentality and group norms impact our behavior. Students more than adults. While that fact can be seen as a barrier to stopping inappropriate phone use, I see it as an advantage.

If—as a community—we decide together to ensure that our students leave high school with healthy command of phone use, we can use the crowd and norms to our advantage.

Will you join me and your neighbors in standing up to teen demands for constant phone access?

Use this guide from The Child Mind Institute to help plan and discuss phone limits with your student.


The Bellevue School District acknowledges that we learn, work, live and gather on the Indigenous Land of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the Duwamish and Snoqualmie Tribes. We thank these caretakers of this land, who have lived and continue to live here, since time immemorial.