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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Doing something about stress

Be sure to read Anand Vaishnav’s article, headlined “Suburban high schools try to ease up on teen stress,” in today’s Globe. My favorite paragraph quotes former Lincoln-Sudbury colleague Charlie Ruopp, now principal of Wayland High School:
Wayland High School tried to hold yoga sessions after school, but it didn’t work. “The kids told us they didn’t have enough time to take yoga because they were too stressed.”
According to the article, Wellesley, Needham, and Wayland High Schools are all making serious efforts to reduce student stess.

There’s another side to this issue:
Not all schools with high college-bound rates and great test scores have taken steps to ease students' workloads. At Brookline High School, headmaster Robert J. Weintraub said he wants his teachers to demand more, not less. The school would not eliminate midyear final exams, for instance, because they prepare students for the sort of studying they will face in college, he said.

“If we’re not going to be rigorous, if we’re not going to be demanding, if we’re not going to apply stress, I’m not sure we’re doing kids a good service,” Weintraub said. “There are so many distractions with computers, cellphones, text messages, TV, music, popular culture, and electronic culture. I’d rather have kids working on math and history and science than text-messaging each other all night long or talking on the phone all night long.”
Both sides are correct. We do need high standards, fewer distractions, and even some stress. But not too much stress, such as I see in many of my students. I can’t write about Wellesley or Brookline — not knowing enough about either — but at Weston we seem to have a bimodal distribution among our students: most of the highly motivating, high-achieving kids are clearly too stressed out, whereas a clear majority of the “average” kids are too relaxed and need a bit more stress.

So what is Weston going to do to about these two groups?

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