Tag: school

UIO Back to School Mini Series Launches

A September child, I have always felt grounded in the Autumn. Always  waiting for a breath a fresh air, a new beginning.  This one has been no different in that sense, me reflecting on the past and preparing for the future–my New Year of sorts.  But this year, I, along with everybody else,  am facing perhaps one the most challenging Septembers of all times.

The Covid 19 global pandemic has presented challenges for all of us to one degree or another. It rather feels like the storm has ripped through our lives and left a lot of rebuilding to do whether personally or professionally.

To this end. I am excited to announce UIO’s first podcast in our Back to School Mini Series. Staying Safe At School During the Covid Era features five panellist who engage in thought provoking conversation about the return to school in both the US and the UK.

Whether returning physically or virtually, educationalist and students alike are putting safety first to ensure that they can learn in an uncertain space.  Panellists Carmen Li and Sue Atkins both point out the importance of having our basic needs met first.  And Nikki Gordon offers suggestions to students and teachers on how to transition from the physical classroom to the virtual for the best possible outcome.  Students Zaqiya Cajee and Olivia Clark-Dixon bring their youthful enthusiasm to the discussion and look at how to move forward from a student’s perspective.

Though longer than our normal podcast, Staying Safe at School…  is worth the listen for students, teachers and parents alike.  As we return to our daily living,  the podcast not only brings inspirational discussion on a shared topic, it also offers tips on staying balanced, on how to find opportunities, if you will, during a crisis.

Listen on Itunes, YouTube or where ever you listen to podcasts.  Watch this space for next week’s podcast with inspirational speaker and author Suzie Lavington on how to navigate the new space we are in.  See you then!

I Am a Sufferer of the Tired Teen Epidemic

This week I’m please to have Shannon Amos, The Untamed Optimist, share her blog on Students Overworking. It’s such a fitting subject for todays’s teens with exams galore and high participation in sports and all the rest and goes hand in hand with sleep deprivation, subject of one of our latest podcast.  Check out what Shannon has to say to students and parents alike about how to manage the overload.  And get more tips from UIO: On Sleep.

High school is the perfect time to get ahead in education before college and get an early start for your career; but it’s also proving to be a great time for students to overwork themselves to the point of exhaustion.

Students nationwide are being pressured by family, the school system, and themselves to do the best in school that they possibly can, yet many of them take this too far and overwork themselves, causing disruptions in sleep schedules leading to daytime sleepiness. This “tired teen epidemic” as I like to call it, is a way of acknowledging this unhealthy relationship with the idea of perfection and its association with high achievements in both the educational system and society. I myself have fallen victim to this a lot as of lately and completely understand the unhealthy situation these students have put themselves into to get ahead in school.

Colleges are seeming to get pickier and pickier with accepting their applicants and the pressure put on students to be the “best” in their grade or school is increasing as time goes on. Many students involve themselves in after school clubs, sports, and involve themselves in groups that not only engage them in their community more; but absorb most of their free time, making it difficult to relax and rest their bodies and minds while growing.

Lately, I have found myself coming straight home from school and eating before planting myself in the recliner or my bed and napping for what should only take 20 minutes but ends up being closer to an hour.

As an extrovert, I find socialising with people to be energising unlike many of my introverted friends that find school exhausting simply for all the social interactions they must make throughout the day. I find these interactions to be energising and often find myself feeling sluggish on days where I socialise less—which is strange because after a long day of conversing with friends I still find myself falling asleep as soon as I sit down!

Being expected to maintain good grades (whatever the standard may be) vs. actually following through with it are two separate battles that both take their tolls on me and a surprising amount of my peers, so I have no doubt that kids nationwide are struggling just as much.

The truth is, we live in a world where kids can relate to each other’s mental breakdowns more than they relate to their political views. Ask any kid their opinion on the amount of homework they are given and the expectations teachers and parents alike set for them and why they feel a certain way about the topic. Nearly every student my age has voiced a negative opinion on the expectations set for them and the affect it has had on their mental health, me included.

“The truth is, we live in a world where kids can relate to each other’s mental breakdowns more than they relate to their political views.”

The thing is, schoolwork is becoming more and more of a chore for kids like me, and it really starts to take its toll early on in the school year. Even just a few months in, I personally find the workload to be overwhelming and the stress caused by it amounts to much more mental fatigue.

Worrying about getting good grades, keeping them up, staying involved in clubs and sports, maintaining an active status in your community, and pulling all-nighters to finish that English paper that’s due tomorrow are all reasons why students today are losing sleep. But losing sleep is just half of the problem. The act of losing sleep leads to less energy to put toward learning which often leads to less excitement about involvement in the first place.

Sadly, this tiredness tends to come out as just that—falling asleep in class, sleeping in late, and my guilty pleasure: napping immediately after getting home. This is often seen as laziness by adults that—while dealing with their own stressful responsibilities—don’t have to deal with this school related stress.

“Acknowledge that when you are trying so hard to do your best that you push yourself beyond your limits, you are no longer doing your best.”

One thing I have done lately is acknowledged that while I am perfectly capable of getting straight As and maintaining them, it is not necessary for me to get them to be considered a “good” student. Many high school students feel this immense pressure to be “perfect” academically and feel like failures when unable to keep up this excessive expectation.

To any students who are finding themselves beyond stressed out with school, work, and other responsibilities, know that it is completely valid for you to take a break. It is unreasonable to expect “perfect” grades or an extensive list of community involvements and it is 100% okay for you to take a step back to relax, even if it means putting off some of that extra work to do so.

Many students fail to acknowledge their past achievements, constantly feeling as though they have not done enough to deserve a break, leading to being overworked and burnt out. Acknowledge that when you are trying so hard to do your best that you push yourself beyond your limits, you are no longer doing your best.

To any parents of teenagers or students in general, give your kid a break. Students tend to overwork themselves trying to be the “best” they can be and fail to see how it is actually doing them more harm than good. Don’t create an avoidable barrier between you and your child because you don’t acknowledge their past achievements and make it clear to them that their best should be enough—even if it’s not “perfect”.

Three Reasons To Celebrate

A weekend of celebrating my godson’s graduation from university this past weekend got me thinking about life after college, university.

More than thirty years ago my classmates and I left the world of academia for the real world. Like my godson’s graduation, the moment was marked with celebrations, amongst them the graduation ceremony.

What sort of advice did the commencement speakers offer? Who were they? What were their achievements and so on? Was something said or done that would serve as a guidepost for my career choice, a life decision? Honestly, I can’t say I can remember the specific answers to any of the questions, though Chas’s graduating class is at least likely to remember some of the notable speakers over the weekend including former National Security Advisor Susan Rice and celebrated author Chimamanda Adichie but will they remember any of the words of wisdom told to them?

I hope so but even if they don’t I feel certain that they will remember celebrating – the extravagant cap and gown they wore, the long walk to the podium to receive the degree, the sweet sound of hearing their name said with clarity and certainty, the roar of applause from friends and family and flashes of the moments after the ceremony, the liberating feeling of achievement.

Not quite as clear as yesterday for me, but the hallmarks of celebrating achievement – passing exams, leaving school, getting into college, graduating from university, getting a job, a promotion and so on – has in many ways provided some of the inspiration, the fuel, if you will, for growth and development over the years.

As a teen girl, I likely thought celebration was all about partying and having a bit of fun and so it is on some level, though I didn’t hail from a big party family. Thus our celebrations were short and sweet but in time I have learned that celebrations have long term benefits, too.

First, celebrating life, any success (surviving GCSEs) reiterates the importance of rewarding achievements. It can be as euphoric as completing a marathon and having a medal draped around your neck. The finishing time becomes irrelevant as you cross the line, feeling great about finishing. I should know. Only later, when the feeling wears off does time become relevant, which is a good segue to another reason to celebrate.

You will always have special memories of the celebration. Memories are in the making from the day that we are born to the day that we close are eyes. And when all is said and done, the memories are always with us, even if they become illusive over the years. When I graduated from graduate school, I, for reasons I can’t remember, decided not to participate in the ceremony, not to celebrate with my fellow classmates. A good friend counselled against my decision but I promised her that I knew what I was doing. Years later, though I have my master’s degree, I have no memories of the commencement, no selfies or the shared experiences or photos of what was surely a wonderful day. But I do cherish memories of high school and undergraduate school celebrations.

However, I do remember celebrating with family and friends, another good reason to celebrate. It’s an opportunity to be social, to bond with family and friends, perhaps see people that you haven’t seen in a very long time, have a good conversation with a relative that you otherwise might not have had. Best of all is the feel good factor of being at centre of a fete.

It is in these moments, even if it is a simple meal, a short talk with Auntie Sonja, the displays of encouragement, the offers of hope, the words of inspiration, the expressions of love that you realise that there is something about celebrating that is communal.

And it dawns on you that in all of is complexity, the world is a big community and as and when it doesn’t seem so, all you need to do is remember the benefits of celebrating. Congrats to each and every one of you teen girls for all of your achievements in academics, in sports, in life. Let’s celebrate.