Reflecting upon my childhood, I vividly recall select times during my educational experience (specifically 6th - 8th grade) that I was stressed (worried, scared, anxious, etc). My days as a middle schooler were brutal. After 5th grade, I transitioned to a private school, and quickly realized the expectation level was about 10 times higher and there was not much flexibility or concern about my feelings or learning style...just get the work done.
It was definitely one of the most difficult times in my life (academically), but it was excellent preparation for what I would encounter as I moved along the educational track. There was a lot of pressure to do well during these times. Pressure from myself, parents, and teachers. That kind of pressure led to a significant amount of stress thrust upon me. I did not fully realize it at the time, but I am sure it negatively influenced my physical and emotional well being. The last thing an 11/12/13 year old needs during one of the most challenging developmental stages of life is stress. It was difficult, but I endured because despite pressures I had a good support system.
Thirty some odd years later I see that school related things I was stressed about really were not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. During my 20 years of full-time classroom teaching (currently in my 5th year of subbing), I realized that in many situations kids are under a substantial amount of pressure regarding school (standardized test scores, grades, GPA, etc) That pressure often leads to stress and is detrimental to student productivity and their overall attitude toward school and learning.
When I was growing up, I wish I knew that it is okay to struggle/fail from time to time. Thinking one must excel all of the time can lead to self-doubt when encountering challenges. So here is my advice for parents and teachers (and students as well)...it is OK to sometimes struggle in school. Avoid direct and indirect pressure to succeed by realizing the following:
I recall some of my 3rd and 4th grade students experiencing academic challenges from time to time with their classwork. Some even continued to struggle the next year and the following year, but they eventually figured out a formula for success. These are some of the colleges and universities those students ended up attending and graduating from:
The bottom line...allow students to develop and provide them with adequate support during this process. Think about the number of times you failed a test or didn’t do as well as you would have liked to in a class. Now think about whether a D on math test in 5th grade determined your future as a productive member of society.