“So much to do, so little time.”
If ever there was a motto for today's average student, the above might be it. Let's face it: most high school students are overcommitted when it comes to classes, extracurricular activities, after-school employment, and…oh yes, schoolwork. We can place the blame on multiple parties, but the fact remains that students are spending most of their days attempting to juggle multiple responsibilities. In doing so, they fail to realize that something has to lose – and that “something” might be their sense of direction and purpose.
Ask the typical student what he or she seeks to accomplish, and you'll probably get a laundry list of goals and achievements. Academically speaking, students desire to take as many advanced classes as they can fit into their schedule. Or do they? I recently overheard one of my students complaining about her AP Biology class, to which I inquired, “Why are you taking it in the first place?” She responded that she did not know but that she was recommended for it, so she took it. Did she seek a career in the life sciences? Not a chance. In essence, she added hours of studying to her weekly workload because she qualified for the course. Sadly, she is not alone, as many students continue to enroll in upper-level courses not because they want the challenge, but because they feel obligated to take on extra responsibility. They feel pressure from parents, guidance counselors, and their own peers in selecting courses that may not interest them but look good on a transcript. One has to wonder if they regret their decisions once they arrive at college and are forced to make choices.
Heavy course loads (yet another future blog post) can have detrimental effects on student wellness, especially when combined with a rigorous activity schedule and lack of sleep. I remember one year when a student of mine declared that she only slept for two hours the previous evening. Of course, she was taking five AP courses and participated in several high-demand extracurricular activities, so naturally her schedule left her little time to sleep. She did work very hard and ended up attending a great college (and law school), but I still wonder (and would love to ask her) – did you take on that schedule because you enjoyed sleeping two hours? Or because you felt obligated to overcommit yourself? More importantly, did you manage to find YOUR path? I hope yes, but I believe no.
Students need to challenge themselves – I firmly believe that. However, they also need to discover their true passions in learning, whether it be studying classical languages or pursuing a career in engineering. They cannot do that if they spent every waking hour…awake. In short, educators at every level must ensure that students love what they do and do what they love.