Time management is a critical aspect of a student’s academic success. Yet, it can be challenging for some to balance the demands of school, extracurricular activities, and home life, especially in a fast-paced world that constantly demands our attention. Luckily, Santa Fe Christian Schools, a private Christian school in San Diego, provides fresh programs and solutions that foster independence and responsibility in students.
The Santa Fe Difference
At Santa Fe Christian, Middle and Upper School students have specific schedules and close teacher relationships designed to encourage time and workload management. Upper School Assistant Principal Pamela Oden is committed to providing students with the tools they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond. With 20 years of administration experience at SFC, Pamela offers practical advice and solutions for families who want to help their students manage their time effectively.
Block Schedule: Preparing for College and Beyond
One of the unique features of SFC’s high school program is the block schedule, which mimics the structure of a college schedule. Rather than having every class every day, SFC students have only a few classes, Tuesday through Friday, for a longer time. On Mondays, students attend their full courseload for shorter blocks to meet with their teachers and receive updates on assignments. This system encourages students to plan ahead and make the most of their downtime. In addition, it helps them develop dynamic time management skills they will need when they advance through stages in life.
After piloting this program a few years ago, Pamela reflects on the positive outcome, “We surveyed parents and students, and we learned that kids were getting a lot more sleep, and their homework time was more effective because they’d sought the help earlier through planning ahead.” While the block schedule is a part of Middle and Upper School at SFC, freshmen teachers Megan Ziegler and Sara Hoffman conduct a series of seminars to support incoming freshmen to succeed within the increased pace of Upper School.
These seminars teach freshmen about efficient planner use, effectively writing emails, and planning out more significant assignments, and scheduling study time. With this training, students can take ownership of their grades, schedules, and academic needs, a crucial step in their journey to independence.
Power Hour: Making the Most of Downtime
Another valuable tool at SFC is Power Hour, a block of free time on Wednesdays and Thursdays where students can meet with teachers, study, complete homework, or participate in other activities. This structure allows students to make the most of their downtime, and it has been incredibly successful, leading to improved grades and reduced stress levels.
As Pamela notes, “It’s about giving students agency and responsibility in deciding how to best use their time. In college, they will have downtime and will be better equipped to use it wisely.” By providing students with choice and agency, SFC is helping them develop the skills they need to succeed on their own. Sometimes revisiting a concept or starting a homework assignment with teacher guidance is all a student may need to develop confidence and agency in that subject.
Teachers have seen great success with Power Hour, and alumni have returned to mention that through Power Hour, they learned to confidently approach their teacher for help, which has helped them to excel in their college endeavors. SFC graduates are eager to ask their professors for assistance or clarity. In turn, they continue to thrive academically, well beyond Santa Fe Christian.
Extracurriculars: Balanced and Structured Lifestyle
SFC students are encouraged to participate in various activities, whether robotics, debate, clubs, plays, or sports. Not only does this help students develop new skills, but it also positively impacts their academics. “We have found that students participating in sports maintain better GPAs during the season vs. out of season.” Pamela indicates that students who maintain a structured schedule are less likely to procrastinate and more likely to manage their time wisely.
Alumnus Luke Vandertie, class of 2015, reflects on the structured scheduling habits that SFC so expertly encouraged during his high school experience. As a committed student, varsity baseball player, and Advanced Math Club leader, Luke quickly learned to manage his schedule and workload. He shares that this practiced habit, amidst a full agenda of extracurriculars, equipped him with workload habits from which he continued to benefit in college and professionally.
Often, a parent’s first instinct is to take away extracurriculars when their child is underperforming. However, Pamela advises that drama, debate, and sports are the “hook that makes them want to do well academically. So I don’t usually encourage pulling kids out because they will do better in the long run.”
Teacher Mentorships: Intentional Support
Middle schoolers begin their school day with a twenty-minute, single-gender advisory class. There, students build close relationships with their advisory teacher and peers in a class size of under 15. Matt Robinson, Middle School social studies teacher and leader of the Middle School Advisory Program, shares that advisory is “a great place for students to have deeper conversations about their faith and spend time in the community.” Change is so prevalent in the life of a sixth through eighth grader. Being part of a community where each child is individually known and prayed for can significantly contribute to a joyful school day and a student’s self-confidence and emotional stability.
Similarly, students in Upper School have close relationships with their academic advisors and teachers as class sizes remain under 20 throughout the SFC experience. Santa Fe Christian’s incredibly dedicated teachers, coupled with the school’s commitment to mentorship, grant trusting relationships that last beyond graduation. The community at SFC positively affects a child’s willingness to actively participate, ask questions, and take appropriate risks in class. This ultimately leads them toward academic success – not to mention each student has a collection of trusted adults on campus who really know and support them through their future endeavors.
Parent Partnerships at SFC
For families looking to support their teen’s academic journey, there are many steps they can take. Encouraging your child to get involved in everything SFC offers is a great place to start. Rather than taking away extracurriculars when a student is struggling, a structured schedule can help them effectively manage their time.
Parents can provide their children with appropriate incentives. For example, Pamela Oden advises parents to allow children more choices when completing their assignments which can be a powerful motivator as adolescence tend to grow toward social motivation. It’s also essential to approach homework management as a learning opportunity.
Upper School Principal Matt Hannan describes his philosophy on releasing the responsibility of grades to your teen so they develop ownership over their workload (Your New Role as Parent of a Teenager). Mr. Hannan recommends that rather than micromanaging your child’s grades, give them the expectation to share their low grades or missteps with you and help them develop a plan to improve. A relationship and trust component is imperative to sustain in allowing your child to be the officer of his or her own grades. Successful families in this strategy have pre-established consequences if low grades are not shared and are readily available to offer help, patience, and grace when a child admits their shortcomings.
Assistant Principal Pamela Oden encourages parents to trust in God, to be prayerful in the parenting journey, and focus on the process of learning rather than ultimate perfection. She believes that it’s important to cultivate a growth mindset and help students understand that it’s not about being perfect but rather about learning and growing through the journey of adolescence. By focusing on the process and not just the end result, students can build resilience, gain confidence, and find fulfillment in their academic pursuits.
Pamela understands that grades are important but stresses that a 4.5 GPA is not the only marker of success. College admissions officers not only look at a student’s overall grades but also consider the upward trajectory of grades, demonstrating growth and improvement over time. In fact, colleges are also interested in student success stories about overcoming struggles and how they grew and matured in their academics.
Ultimately, the key to success is to prepare your child for the path, not the path for the child. At SFC, with its small class sizes, commitment to parent partnerships, and teacher mentorship, families can play an active but passenger role in their child’s academic journey. Students then can build the skills they need to succeed beyond the classroom.