Are our best students too busy?

Most adolescents today are busy. For many, the older they get the busier they get. School contributes to this high activity life by making available a wide range of opportunities: sports teams, class trips, school camps, music tuition, overseas trips, drama, leadership courses, fundraising events, leadership roles, social events, music groups, etc.  All of this is in addition to the ‘normal’ work of school such as classwork, homework, assignments and assessments. And all of this is in addition to the sports, socialising and other activities students do that are not associated with school. And for many senior students all of this is in addition to doing a part-time job to raise funds to do all of these activities and save for future study.

These things that students are busy with can be of great value. They enable them to learn a range of important skills, have worthwhile experiences and are hopefully enjoyable too. However trying to ‘do it all’ can come at a personal cost. This cost may just be the opportunity cost of not being able to do something else. It is difficult to do everything in your life to the best of your ability and inevitably compromises have to be made. Sometimes this means not doing academic study as well as it could be.

For most students who do not achieve their academic goals at school it is their choices about where to commit their time that is most critical. The short term benefit of doing a particular alternative activity today can come at a long term cost of greater academic success. It can seem easier to say ‘yes’ to an extra task to help someone out now than put in the time needed to get to an excellent level assignment. It can feel easier to spend an extra hour at work to please the boss than doing an extra hour of study. Study done before assessments is invisible as the results are only seen once the assessment is marked. Then it is easy to blame lack of success on the difficult test or the subject or the teacher.

Our most successful students can be the ones who feel the pressure to perform the most. It is not surprising that students can get stressed; feel guilty about letting somebody down, miss assignments, or get unwell. Parents and the school have a shared role in working with students to help guide them through making sensible decisions about time management. Helping them be able to say ‘no’. Helping them to recognise when they are not coping. Helping them to plan and prioritise their day, and week, and term, and year.

Our children want to please their teachers and their parents (even though some are good at hiding this). We want them to learn the value of hard work and make the most of their opportunities. However we need to make sure that this pressure to succeed is balanced with the need we all have for quiet time, family time and down time.