Casady is a college preparatory school, which means that it is supposed to challenge students with hard courses and difficult work in order to prepare them for higher education. However, is there a point at which the amount of work becomes too much? Most students at Casady are here to learn and work hard. We take honors classes, APs, and are involved in various extracurriculars and sports. Most students get home at 6:30 and then are expected to eat dinner with their families and begin their four to six hours of homework each night. For juniors and seniors, there is the added pressure of college. We are told, by teachers and parents alike, that if we do not have good grades, then we will not get into the college of our choice. All of this results in late nights, poor test and quiz results, and stressed students.
A recent study by the American Psychological Association revealed that teen stress levels are currently higher than that of adults. That being said, a little stress has actually been proven to make us perform better, and it prepares us well for the stress we will most certainly face in college. However, everything in moderation. We are still high school students, and ultimately, we need a healthy balance of school, sports, friends, and family. That begs the question: how can we, as an entire community, work together to improve the overall well-being and mental wellness at our school? To answer this, I took a look at how other schools across the country have done it.
Some schools are attempting to limit stress by pushing back their start time to 8:30. The idea is for students to get more sleep, and as a result, to perform better, mentally and physically. As many of us know from our own experiences this past week, starting school even 30 minutes later makes a difference.
Other schools have instituted a block schedule, with fewer classes each day for longer periods of time. This limits the amount of work students have every day, and it allows students to go home earlier. It also allows more time for each class per day.
Still other schools are implementing optional nap times, with quiet rooms specifically dedicated to napping. At several universities, they have begun to hold training for meditation and mindfulness, in order to help manage the ways in which students deal with stress. In Palo Alto, the teachers and the administration have committed to making some days and weekends “homework-free.”
These strategies to limit stress are being implemented across the country as the awareness about student workload and stress grows. While not all of these would work at Casady, perhaps it is time to start thinking about what would.
However, until we can have these conversations, what are some things we can do now to limit stress and anxiety?
We have a program coming to Casady in response to the survey we took last year, run by one of the teachers here in the Upper Division: Mrs. Stone. In an interview with Mrs. Stone, she explained that this new program will be dedicated to helping students balance their workload and limit anxiety, and bring general social and mental wellness to our students. One of the important things she encourages us to remember is that “your teachers actually do care.”
She explains that there is a perception that teachers will think that “because you’re struggling, you don’t belong in the class, or that you’re a whiner, but that is not the case.” The teachers are on our side, and they are always willing to help and work with us if we are willing to ask. If you feel like you are drowning in the work, or you just don’t have time to study for the math test, the chem quiz, and read for history, explain that, and most teachers will understand and help you. Also, she points out that positive thinking plays a huge role on our stress levels and anxiety. Instead of complaining and dwelling on the negatives, start thinking about what would help fix the problem.
Another way we can limit stress is to lower our expectations of ourselves. Students at Casady, I have observed, hold themselves to almost impossible standards of perfection. Because of this, many of us are unwilling to make mistakes, and when we receive grades lower than we expected or wanted to, many of us respond with negativity and self-criticism. Perfect scores are great, but not when they come at the expense of our well-being. Mostly though, just remember that you have people on your side, and that the faculty and administration are aware of the problems you face, and want to work with you to fix them.
Ultimately, this won’t change in a day – or even a year – but it’s certainly something to think about.