I was walking down the hall the other day and a couple of fifth grade boys were walking the opposite way. I did my normal, “How’s it goin’, boys?” and from one of them in return I received, “Mrs. Froehlich, I have so much on my plate right now. I’m just so busy.” At first, it made me giggle a little to think that this fifth grade boy thought he was so busy as my scrolling list of adult to-dos was ticking through my own head, but later, in telling the story to a fellow tech integrator, we started discussing how sad it actually was that the boy felt like he was so overwhelmed with everything he had going on in school, and that’s not including anything he has going on at home.
Recently, my son suffered a concussion during a basketball game. He missed two weeks of school during the worst possible time…right at the end of the trimester. After those two weeks, he was back for half days for a week. In trying to stay on top of what he would need to do, I emailed his teachers from last trimester and this one to get his list of assignments that he would need to do. Fortunately, the school district has an actual concussion protocol that they follow, so each teacher was willing to be lenient on what he finished and what he didn’t. Still, each teacher gave me about four to five assignments that needed to be done. That was out of seven teachers. In three weeks, two full-time and one half time, with more than half of his work forgiven, he had a minimum of 28 assignments and tests to make up along with keeping up with his current daily work. If he did one a day, it would take him almost a month to catch up.
I don’t get overwhelmed often by what I have going on, but when I do, it is a terrible feeling of helplessness. As an adult, I feel barely equipped to handle these feelings at times, let alone being a fifth grader or a freshman in high school. Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in the politics of school and the standards that we need to teach that we forget to be empathetic towards out students. We discuss the importance in teaching our students empathy for others, but forget to practice it ourselves. In an article called Busy teens lack time for fun, or even lunch Chris Churchill describes how students are working through lunch or skipping it all together in order to maintain their studies and how insane that seems. One of his recommendations for a remedy? Giving less homework. I’d vote for no homework unless it is an authentic activity with true value, but that’s just me (oh wait, and a bundle of researchers, but I digress…).
We are adults with adult responsibilities for far longer than we are kids. Students shouldn’t be so overwhelmed with what is going on in school where it causes stress and, Heaven forbid, a true nervous breakdown. If our teaching is causing this type of stress in our kids, it’s time to reevaluate what we are doing in the classroom to cause it.