In my recent post questioning whether "Social Emotional Learning" programs reduced stress, I noted how:
When it comes to college-level anxiety, one source that remains under-appreciated is the increasingly poor academic preparation kids get in high school.Of course, some high schools that do offer solid academic preparation for college--particularly selective high schools, or high schools with AP or IB classes. In those cases, stress begins earlier. The culprit here is the increasingly poor academic preparation kids get in middle school. Parents on lists for parents of high-achieving students frequently report on how their middle school kids are bored out of their minds, and then, if lucky enough to attend a rigorous program in high school, start out quite stressed out by all the hard work, even if, in the end, they ultimately get used to it, start liking school, develop good study habits, and end up less stressed out than they were back in middle school.
Middle school can also be stressful for parents. This comes largely from all the projects and busy work that dominate many of the otherwise more functional middle schools. The big one in this neck of the woods is the Science Fair Project--the source of many a weekend lost to sweat and tears--particularly since the project grade, a big part of the science grade, could be a determining factor in whether your kid gets into one of the few good high schools. Parents not only have to ferry their kids around to get supplies, but also, somehow, get their kids to stay organized and put all the necessary effort into this and other multi-step assignments. Failing that, some parents end up doing some of the busy work themselves.
Why not instead try to make middle school less stressful and more challenging? This opens up a whole new source of parental stress. I've blogged earlier about the extreme efforts that one parent had to make on behalf of her son. Here's another report from another parent:
It took our group of about 6-10 dedicated parents many meetings with many folks to make changes in instruction. The principal was really resistant to changing things and related it back to the "achievement gap." And the changes would "stick" so to speak only as long as we were persistent in pushing the school to maintain a certain level of rigor. If we went a few months thinking everything was fine and dandy, we'd be surprised by a string of "busy work" activities or books well below our kids' reading abilities being taught in English. And we'd reorganize, start over, push more. It's exhausting and stressful, but we all felt our kids' education was worth it and none of us had the resources to bag out and go to private schools.Somehow I don't think Social Emotional Learning classes are going to fix any of this.