SL 703

Only 44% of currently enrolled students would attend their same college again if they had to do it all over again.

Another story about stress on teenagers. Another pathetic adjunct story.

I’m on the fence about attending the Women’s March in NYC on Saturday. The march doesn’t have any clear policy agenda, and everyone is coming armed with signs advertising their own pet issues. I haven’t decided, if I like that feature of the march or hate it.

“Many gifted kids have A.D.D. or O.C.D. or Asperger’s. When the parents are confronted with two sides of a kid, they’re so quick to acknowledge the positive, the talented, the exceptional; they are often in denial over everything else.” Or sometimes the schools only see the disability and put really smart kids in disabled classrooms meant for kids with intellectual disabilities.

21 thoughts on “SL 703

  1. That is a sad adjunct story, but I have to say, at some point, it becomes clear that God, or the world, or whoever, doesn’t want you to be a teacher, no matter how central it is to your identity. Time to find another job, and teach Sunday School or a night class somewhere in your spare time. Then you will have a new identity, which will still be you.

    Oddly, I would much rather get an brief email explaining that I was being cut due to budget issues, than a long appreciation of my work and my unique contributions to the enterprise, followed by a regretful statement that budget cuts were forcing the organization to let me go. This might be a boy/girl thing.


    1. I hate, hate, rejections that come with glowing appreciation unless there is some concrete possibility to come out of the recommendation. For example, “we have no money to hire anyone but you are amazing, and I am forwarding this concrete recommendation letter to everyone I know”.


  2. The stress on teenagers piece? That’s highly dependent upon the school district, and the parent. Studies have not shown that homework expectations have increased:

    There is a problem for some teenagers. But the students should be encouraged to seek balance, such as to realize that athletics are extracurriculars, and that there are a finite number of hours in the day.


  3. Have extracurriculars systematically changed? My sixteen-year-old is fairly happy-go-lucky generally, but he’s gotten into a couple of things, Robotics and Model UN, that are both giant time sinks. When I think back to my high school years, nothing people did after school seemed to eat that much time.


    1. elizardbreath said,

      “Have extracurriculars systematically changed? My sixteen-year-old is fairly happy-go-lucky generally, but he’s gotten into a couple of things, Robotics and Model UN, that are both giant time sinks. When I think back to my high school years, nothing people did after school seemed to eat that much time.”

      Debate and mock trial and plays are probably the same, right?

      I think extracurriculars are different in time commitment. When we’ve had mandatory school plays, it has been a huge time suck, but the 10th’grader’s activities are pretty moderate (she does Latin club and some music stuff and some tutoring). Things get really busy before Christmas (we seemed to have about 2-3 weeks with an event almost every night), but spring has been pretty quiet so far.

      I’ve actually been delighted by how manageable the 10th grader’s activities are. She also usually doesn’t have a lot of homework. She seems to mostly knock it out during study halls.


      1. elizardbreath said,

        “Yeah, that’s when mine gets his done, generally. The time pressure is all the extracurriculars.”

        Oddly, we had a lot more homework/extracurricular pressure back in earlier grades–I want to say that the worst was probably 4-6 grades for the 10th grader. We had a lot of super late homework and project nights then, with lots of grinding away until 10 and 11 PM. And it wasn’t because of extracurricular stuff that we were imposing–it was mandatory school plays and mandatory school sports. Now that we’ve aged out of the mandatory school plays and mandatory school sports and C has her study halls, I barely see any homework. Her grades are fine.

        We’re in a pretty golden age for me, where I don’t have to deal with the big kids’ homework, and the 5-year-old doesn’t have homework yet, and my husband does science fair and projects.


  4. Interesting study, Cranberry. It doesn’t relate to my experience at all. Maybe it has something to do with the kind of homework? I went to an elite suburban high school in the eighties, and my kids do now. Not the same one–different state. I did more long papers–in AP English and European History, I had 20-30 page research papers, longer than many college students write nowadays. Most of my “homework” consisted of studying for tests. How much I studied was up to me–nobody checked on my studying, ever. My kids all have NOTES due that are checked. They can’t just take the test, even if they would get an A on it. Reader response journals. Reflections after the test, after the paper. Inane questions are asked at every step. What did you learn from your presentation on the Battle of the Bulge (in addition to what you presented–what? My daughter was working on this just last night. She couldn’t say what she’d covered in the presentation–it had to be something else). They may be almost adults, but they are treated like children–they can’t just take a test, they have have their studying for the test assessed, as well as the test itself. I would have DIED if that had been expected of me. Mostly I didn’t study, because I could do okay without it. That meant a lot less homework for me. Most of what I had to do could be done in the morning before class or during lunch.

    I also think part of it has to do with the young people’s expectations for themselves–and the stress of their perfectionism. I wasn’t a perfectionist. I didn’t care if I got all As. My activities were motivated by personal choice, and only personal choice. I did what I wanted, what I liked. I still went to a SLAC. People are so FOCUSED on their children and their success now–there’s good in that–I was in plays in elementary/middle school that my parents didn’t even attend, unthinkable nowadays–but it can be taken too far.


  5. Lisa SG, I would have hated the busywork of reflective essays on learning. There’s likely a rubric for that…is it possible to ace the presentation, but fail the reflection because you’re too honest? I would have also hated the self-descriptive memoirs our local elementary and middle school loved to inflict on the kids.

    Extracurriculars have been made much more competitive and stressful through parental pressure and involvement. It’s great if kids like what they’re doing, and want to do more of it. Robotics is often an example of that. Then again, robotics competitions are team activities, which can discourage stage parenting.

    I love the idea of noodling around, discovering what you’re good at, and doing things because you want to do them. Kids also need the time to read. I’m reading too many anecdotes online about kids using Spark Notes (or the equivalent) to get through classes. Sadly, teachers too.


    1. Cranberry said:

      “Kids also need the time to read. I’m reading too many anecdotes online about kids using Spark Notes (or the equivalent) to get through classes.”

      You know how people complain about how everything is compared to Harry Potter?

      That’s probably why.


  6. I’m sure you can do poorly on the reflective essay, if you don’t answer ALL the questions. It had to be two pages. Certain things that seemed reasonable to me wouldn’t do. For instance, she had to think of further questions she might ask or controversies about her topic, but the further questions couldn’t be about the aftermath of the war because that would be after the war and her topic was focused on this battle–so the questions had to be only about the battle, I guess, but not things that she’d already learned about it. It made no sense to me. And it was so controlled. Why can’t they let them think a little bit for themselves? She kept saying she hated doing it, and I didn’t hear one complaint from her about the actual presentation.

    It occurred to me also that when I wrote my 20-page AP English paper on Adrienne Rich’s poetry back in 1984–yes, much if it at the last minute, I think I had to pull an all-nighter–I did it without any feedback beforehand. No outlines that were approved, source lists that had to be checked by the teacher before I could proceed, no drafts, NOTHING. No requirements that there be TWO and ONLY TWO quotes per paragraph, no requirements that I use a transition word at the beginning of each paragraph, no requirement that the introductory section be only one paragraph and the topic sentence only one sentence. I did it all on my own. I made all my own choices. Maybe that wasn’t good teaching, I don’t know, but I learned a lot. And I still like Adrienne Rich.


    1. Transition words? Do you mean words like “nonetheless,” “moreoever,” and “accordingly”? In my high school, we were were severely criticized for using words like these. It should be clear from the structure and content of each sentence how it modifies, amplifies, or qualifies what went before. Adverbs are no substitute for clear thought and clear writing.


      1. Yep! It drives me absolutely crazy. My kids are being encouraged to use words like “firstly”! I tried to get my daughter to change it to first and was told her teacher wouldn’t allow it. They can’t not use transition words. And even worse the type of language they are allowed to use is driving the ideas they can express rather than vice versa. They have to have one sentence topic sentences, so any idea too difficult to express in one sentence is not allowed.


      2. OMG, the horror. The paragraph structure is supposed to flow from the essay structure, such that the essay forms a coherent structure because, first, each sentence is coherent, and, second, the paragraphing reflects the introduction of each idea. When done properly and organically, the reader can follow the argument from reading the first sentence of each paragraph. But the attempt to artificially produce this result by writing “topic sentences” produces a choppy, awkwardly broken text.

        Here’s a good exercise: write the whole essay without paragraphing. Then go through the text and introduce paragraphing. Then see if reading the first sentence of each paragraph produces a coherent argument. If not, figure out what’s wrong, but it is forbidden to solve the problem by adding any new, “topic” sentences. You can break up a transitional sentence, if that improves the flow.

        Here’s a possibly better way: just read George Orwell’s essays. All of them. Then read them again.


  7. Not sure if it’s a Canadian thing or not, but my daughter (grade 11) isn’t allowed spares or study hall in her schedule. So unless she gets her work done in class, it’s homework.

    re: stress. Yes our kids are stressed — but they’re also privileged. They’re not working weekends and nights to help feed, clothe or house their family.


  8. “I also think part of it has to do with the young people’s expectations for themselves–and the stress of their perfectionism. I wasn’t a perfectionist. I didn’t care if I got all As. My activities were motivated by personal choice, and only personal choice. I did what I wanted, what I liked. I still went to a SLAC.”

    I do think a lot has to do with children’s expectations for themselves, which, because of the communication of our times, is set using a larger pool of kids — I, for example, only had about 50 kids to compare myself to.

    But, I also think we are reaching a stage of access to resources that gives serious talent development to everyone (or at least, everyone in my fairly privileged venue). When I was a kid, I had access to some things my parents knew about — labs, for example — but there was much they knew nothing about (ballet and basketball come to mind). I was a kid whose talent could be developed in a lab and not on a dance floor (though I was fascinated by ballet). So that match worked perfectly for me. But, if I had been a dancer, I just wouldn’t have had a chance to develop my talent. Now, though, I have access to the knowledge to develop practically any talent. I found club basketball teams for them and my kid plays hockey (both of which still flabbergast me). So the possibility of perfectibility adds to the stress. It’s not just that playing hockey is impossible — you have to actively decide not to do it.

    And, it is terribly dangerous to say “I did . . . ” and I went to a SLAC (or a top ten school, or an ivy, or . . . .) and assume that our children will have similar choices. The world is a different and more competitive place.

    But, when I start thinking along the lines, I remember Laura’s line about how insisting on [perfection, but it was something more specific] would break J’s essential personality, and remind myself that not breaking the child is a bottom-line requirement, and that requires making sure they don’t require perfection from themselves, either. Although I do not know what the outcomes might be, I am not willing my kids to not choose what they want to do, only because they choose it.


    1. And, it’s not a social ill that the world is a more competitive place, because part of the reason is that other children, not just the ones whose parents are doctors or professors or own the business in town, have access to the talent development.


      1. The problems seem to arise in the towns where all the parents are doctors or professors or highly paid executives. I suspect it probably aligns really well with the areas Charles Murray dubbed “super zips.”

        And, “talent development.” My concern is a lack of flexibility in allowing that talent to change. The world does not need millions of violinists. It can use quite a few sound and video editors. It can use many artists, the internet being a visual medium.

        The world does not need millions of lacrosse players. I wonder if all the sports parents would be happy knowing that their child’s best job after college would be gym teacher? And that lots of coaches and gym teachers are not working full time?

        Moderation, flexibility and resilience are necessary skills. I worry when I see the teen suicide rate in the hyper-competitive towns around us. This is not, “OMG, how hard these kids work.” This is, “why is the suicide rate so much higher in the same towns than it was 20 years ago?”


  9. OK, I have two blog posts done the road – one on extracurricular activities and another on writing essay… But right now, you are just going to get another “link-fest” blog post.


  10. “Parents must hold children accountable and help them thrive, which is easier said than done; but if they try to re-engineer the fundamentals of their offspring, they will fail spectacularly, sooner or later.” From the link to the Hulbert Prodigy book.

    Repeated here, because it is the same sentiment that I credit to Laura and remind myself of, frequently.


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