I teach high school, and I see many of my students in a constant state of turmoil about their impending college careers. For instance, my newspaper editor frequently drags into 6th period class after a full day of school following an “all-nighter.” Because she desperately wants to get an academic scholarship to a good college, she studies to the point of exhaustion. This behavior is alarmingly common among contemporary adolescents.
How do students arrive in such a state of stress? Teachers are notorious for telling students “Pay attention; you’ll need to know this in college.” In some instances, this statement is certainly true. However, in many cases, students will have little need for discrete pieces of trivial knowledge that many teachers find absolutely necessary for their courses. Take, for instance, the new television game show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” This show entertains the audience by making educated adults look intellectually inferior to 10 year olds. How, you may ask, do they accomplish this task? The answer is simple: the trivia on this show is based on minute facts from fifth-grade textbooks. This trivia is know actual knowledge that adults use/need in the “real world.” Often teachers (and I’m guilty, too) forget that students’ interests may differ from their own, and in fact, the students will not need every detail from their class to succeed in college.
College is expensive, without a doubt. Therefore, many parents constantly urge their students to perform, perform, perform. Inferior grades are unacceptable, because they will eliminate hopes of an academic scholarship. However, putting constant pressure on students to perform academically only makes it more difficult for them to rest and to focus. Further, it robs them of the enjoyable parts of adolescence, such as club activities and friendships.
So, to sum it up in 3 pieces of advice:
1) Students- One day you will look back fondly upon your high school years. Make them count. Study, but enjoy yourself, too. You will get to be an adult soon enough.
2) Parents- Yes, your children certainly need to study to get into college. But they also need to be teenagers. Do not add to their stress by constantly nagging. Is college expensive? Absolutely. But students will be more apt to perform at a higher level and thus compete for scholarships if they are not continuously stressed.
3) Teachers- While we have all of those standards that we must meet during the course of a school year, we must consider HOW we meet those objectives. Make information pertinent to students, rather than trying to force them to memorize trivia by threatening them with the difficulty of college.