Ninth Grade Is Not For Practice

By Lisa Sohmer

Over the years, I have heard students and families say, “It’s only the ninth grade” more times than I can count. They say the transition to high school is a big change, that the teachers are different, that the work is more demanding and that extra-curricular commitments take more time. All of these things are true. But so is this: the ninth grade is not for practice.

Want proof? Think grade point average, or GPA. It’s a true average; the grade equivalents (B = 3.0, etc.) in the main academic subjects for grades 9-11are tallied and averaged. That means that a grade in English in grade 9 and and one in grade 11 have the same weight in determining the GPA. In addition, at some schools an honors class in 9th grade (especially in math) can determine a student’s ability to take future honors classes or to be able to reach the most advanced classes available, including some AP classes. Ninth grade matters. 

While ninth grade isn’t for practice, it is for learning and exploring. This time, think about extra-curricular activities and think about the offerings like items on a restaurant buffet. Ninth grade is the student’s first trip to the buffet, the one where they take small amounts of a variety of dishes. In 10th grade, they go back again, skipping what they didn’t enjoy and taking larger portions of the dishes they liked. By 11th grade (and more so in 12th) the students’ plates should be filled with large servings of the tastiest morsels. In terms of activities, that means that 9th grade is the time to participate in a broad variety of clubs and teams. As 10th graders, students can drop the activities they didn’t like and concentrate their time and effort to a smaller, more interesting collection of activities. By 11th grade, students are on track to spend their time outside of class only on the activities — and potential leadership positions — that are most satisfying.

High school is different and students need to prepare for that transition. Developing good study habits, understanding time management and learning how to balance school life and home life will all help students have a high school experience that is both happy and successful. 

And it starts with ninth grade.

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