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6 Tips to Help You Handle Prom Season

High school students pose for their prom picture

It's prom season, so love—and chaos—is in the air. Angela wants to go with Jeyson, but he wants to go with Iris. Marcus really wants to go, but there's no way he can afford it. Everyone wants to know where the after-party is. And you're desperately trying to get through Hamlet. Prom season distractions are common. Here are a few tips to make sure you and your students make it through relatively unscathed.

 

Allow a Little Prom Chatter

It might seem a little counterintuitive, but I find it easier to let students get some prom chatter out of their systems at the beginning of class before getting down to business. Let your students show you pictures of their dresses. Allow some time to debrief on the latest prom news about who's going with whom. After a few minutes, students will know that it's time to get on task, and they'll be far less distracted.

Realize that Not Everyone Wants to Go to Prom

Just the other day, I noticed one of my favorite students, Dylan, was on social probation for not completing his community service on time. This wasn't like him at all. "What's going on, Dylan?" I asked him. "Why haven't you done your community service?" That's when he told me that he didn't want to go to prom, but all his friends were pressuring him to attend. "If I stay on social probation," he explained, "I've got an easy excuse." Teachers should be aware that some students just aren't interested in attending prom, and they shouldn't be pressured to do so.

 

Be Proactive with Behavioral Expectations

Prom is notorious for problem behavior that involves drinking and drug use. Students should be made aware of the expectations and consequences for inappropriate behavior. In most schools, being around drugs or alcohol means suspension or expulsion. Review the rules before the prom, and make sure parents are on board.

I often tell my students the story of some prom-goers who came to the dance under the influence a few years back. The police escorted each one of those students back to their home. That cautionary tale has worked well to prevent a repeat situation and the disciplinary action it would cause.

Attempt to Help the Students Who Can't Afford Prom

When I was a junior in high school, I asked a senior boy to my prom. We had been talking for a while, and I was sure he liked me. Yet when I asked him, he declined, and I was crushed. We never spoke again. Imagine my surprise when I saw his sister at our 35-year high school reunion and she told me how much her brother wanted to go to prom with me—he simply couldn't afford it. I wish I knew this back then because it would have saved me a lot of tissues and tear-stained pillowcases. But it's important to remember that some students simply don't have the money to attend prom.

My school deals with this by collecting donated prom dresses and making sure our local tux store reserves some free and discounted tuxes. Teachers, administrators, and parents also chip in to create a fund that provides free tickets for students who need them. In addition, the senior and junior classes do a great deal of fund-raising prior to prom to help offset costs. Teachers should pay attention to these kinds of issues so they can ensure that a student who needs help gets it.

Make Sure You Attend the Prom

Students love to see their teachers at prom, and attending helps build community at your school. Students enjoy taking photos with their teachers and administrators. Be a good chaperone by making sure you carry safety pins, a needle and thread, a stain remover pen, bandages, and breath mints. It's as simple as that.

Remember: Prom = Drama

For as long as I can remember, prom and drama have been synonymous. Someone always cries in the bathroom (both boys and girls). A couple always breaks up. Someone's dress will rip or pants will split. Arguments can escalate to fights. Someone's ride won't show up. Be ready to handle these situations when they occur.

Prom season is a busy one—and generally for reasons other than lots of homework. Hopefully these tips will help you cut through the fog of promposals, corsages, and limo rentals, and get your students to the other side with only smiles and fond memories.

   
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