Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Stressed Out Students

I don't often disagree with Michelle Malkin, but I am in this case.

DS#2 and DD#2 go to one of the top public high schools in the state. Hubs and I went through the appropriate channels to get an interdistrict transfer because of this high school's reputation. The counselor told DS#2 that in this school it's cool to be a good student. Even the jocks are scholars.

(Music to a parents' ears.)

These students are under tremendous pressure to be the best. It's not enough to get into a university--it has to be a top tier university: Cal, Stanford, Harvard, Brown. Mom and Dad are high-achievers themselves, with Dad often a partner in a law firm or a top executive or an entrepreneur. Mom might stay at home, but she's a volunteer fundraiser or a gourmet cook or she organizes all the paperwork for registration.

These students go to summer school not to make up classes but to get a jump on the next year so they can take yet another class. They join clubs and teams, looking for ways to improve their resume for their college applications, take classes after school to improve their SAT and ACT scores.

And some of these kids can't handle the stress, so they turn to drugs and alcohol, both readily available in the affluent suburb.

Some of these kids wait until they get into Harvard or Stanford to have their meltdowns.

To help prevent that, the school has started the "Stressed Out Students" program. Yoga isn't a part of it, but alerting parents to the problem is a start. Most of the program is common sense: eat right, exercise, get enough sleep. Encouraging students to talk to an adult if they feel overwhelmed. And emphasizing to the parents that it's more important that their child take a few AP classes and do well than take a lot and do poorly. That it's better if the student participates in one or to clubs or activities than list a raft of them where they're only nominally active.

The counselors encourage the students to use high school to find their passion--and encourage the parents to let them.

I don't think this is a bad thing.

In high school, there is no "recess." At my kids' high school, they get a 20 minute break mid-morning and a 50-minute lunch break. Classes start at 8:00 a.m. and end at 3:10 p.m., when it's time to do homework. (We're very fortunate that both the school library stays open until 6:00 p.m., providing a place for kids on sports teams a chance to do their homework before practice.)

Hubs and I try to keep our expectations realistic. And we remind our kids that life needs balance: academics are important, but so is friendship and fun, service to the community, and--most importantly--God. Stressed Out Students help those families who have forgotten this.