A Washington Post article dated September 25, 2019 presents some recent research studies that highlight the impact of “excessive pressure to excel” on adolescent wellness. The pressure on students to excel is everywhere...
and the research tells us that this pressure is particularly evident in “high-achieving” public and private schools, and these students are now “at-risk.” The pressure to excel can come from many directions - parents, teachers, schools, sport teams, performance arts, etc. As students get older, they face even more pressure as they compete for entry into post-secondary learning environments. I notice that articles of a similar nature are being published more and more, and it seems this new epidemic of hyper-emphasized achievement is affecting even young children whose time for spontaneous and imaginary play is on the decline because of pressures to excel.
As parents and educators, we want our children and students to succeed. Southridge might be perceived as a high achieving school. Indeed, we have high hopes and aspirations for all our students as they journey towards reaching their potential. However, there is a fine line between hopes for long-term success and excessive pressure to excel. How then do we distinguish these so that our students are motivated while also feeling connected and cared for? How do we work together to ensure that our students are equipped to navigate these pressures in a healthy way that ultimately contributes to their long-term success and well-being?
The article goes on to cite additional research about how some adolescents are avoiding the stress of high pressure to excel. The pressure-proofing ingredient for those adolescents stemmed from a strong belief that their parents (and I would also assert their teachers, even though this wasn’t specifically mentioned) valued character traits “as much as or more than achievement.” These students “exhibited better outcomes at school, greater mental health, and less rule breaking behavior” than peers who believed their parents primarily emphasized only achievement. This research is quite validating when you consider that Southridge has always emphasized, as our Head of School, Mr. Stephens so eloquently puts it, “a balance of knowledge and goodness”, and most recently, strong minds and good hearts.
By Tanya de Hoog, Junior School Principal