How many AP classes should you take? You want to get into a “good” college, right? So you look for advice on how many AP classes you should take. You find the same advice everywhere. Take as many AP classes as you can handle! But how many AP classes is that, really? Let’s take that advice and analyze what they’re saying. Let’s do the math! (And it’s not AP Calculus. It’s basic arithmetic.)…
High school parents, does this sound familiar to you?
Does your kid “do homework almost every day on Saturday and Sunday, working until late at night every day?”
Do your kids stay up late doing homework every (or almost every) school night? Do they spend several hours on homework on the weekends?
Do you have trouble going out of town on school holidays because your students are assigned homework over school breaks?
Well, the quote above isn’t exactly about homework. The quote is actually what some parent’s said about their daughter’s work situation.
[She would] “work almost every day on Saturday and Sunday, working until late at night every day…”
Going to school and doing homework are the “work” of our kids. (And some have outside jobs which is also work.)
Now, what if I also told you that the young woman the parents were talking about was a Japanese woman who died of congestive heart failure at age 31? A government investigation found her cause of death to be her “work life.”
This is not the first time I have read articles about death from over-work in Japan. In fact, death from work stress is so common that the Japanese have a name for it, “karoshi,” or “death from overwork.”
You might look at the title of the article, Young Worker Clocked 159 Hours of Overtime in a Month. Then She Died, and think it is so extreme that it doesn’t apply to you and your child. But I think they took the most extreme week this poor girl worked and used it for the headline. There were several quotes that felt chillingly familiar to me.
She rarely took weekends off.
My high school kids have homework every. Single. Weekend. Even though we have tried to moderate their schedules and they don’t have as many AP classes as their friends.
She worked until midnight nearly every night.
This was happening to our kids until we moderated their classes by parental restrictions on how many AP classes they could take. (Yes, we told our teenagers they couldn’t take every class they wanted to. We see it as our job to protect their health, even when it makes them unhappy with us.) Staying up until midnight or later still happens more than we would like it to.
… a country where exhaustion is often seen as a sign of diligence.
This was a quote about Japan. But it could just as well be a quote about the United States. Even more amazing and admired? If you can manage to hide your exhaustion.
[she was] “in a state of accumulated fatigue and chronic sleep deprivation” at the time of her death.
My kids have friends who fall asleep in class. So far, my kids haven’t done that. (Not that I’ve found out about!) But there are still too many school weeks where I know they are sleep deprived. I fear that the teenage love of Starbucks is fueled by more than the love for the taste of coffee.
Japan first recognized their problem with karoshi in the 80s. They are still struggling to do anything to correct it.
Think about it, when do kids learn their work ethic? How many times have you told them that doing their homework is important for that reason?
But we have lost sight of the fact that school is when kids also learn their sense of life-work balance.
Add up the number of hours your child is in school. (37.5) Add mandatory hours for their chosen extracurricular activity. Add homework. Are you past 40 work hours per week yet? How far past? Now remember that the 40 hour rule is a guideline for adults, not children.
Are our kids learning life-work balance? Judging from the skyrocketing cases of anxiety and depression on colleges campuses, the scale is about to tip.
How long until “karoshi” becomes the American word for “death from overwork?”
Read more about karoshi, over-work, and the effects of sleep deprivation
A recent article in the New York Times highlights a school in the Boston area that has high levels of academic achievement. The school has lots of awards, high test scores, high rates of acceptance to Ivy League universities, and unfortunately the all too common occurrence of high rates of student anxiety. And a high student suicide rate. Another parent from our high school sent me this article and resonated with me for several reasons.
Truth test – matching up with my own experiences
It passes the truth test of fitting with some of my own observations.
It shares many similarities with our own academically competitive high school, although not quite to the same extreme. (Or maybe that is hopeful denial.)
But I also have the added insight of having relatives whose children recently finished high school in the Greater Boston area (but a different school.) …
Are your sweet kids starting to act like teenagers?
Does this sound familiar to you?
One winter I suddenly realized that the kids in our house were moody and broody. Every little request was a huge imposition on their time and space.
“Could you clear the table after supper?”
“But I have so much HOMEWORK to do.” <whine>
Everything was “impossible.”
Everything else was a crisis. (Yes, I realized you can’t have more than “everything,” but we’re talking about teenagers here.)…
Finland’s education system ranks at the top of the world by almost every measure, in all sorts of rankings. How do they do it? How is the US education system compared to Finland? To get more information, I watched The Finland Phenomenon:Inside the World’s Most Surprising School System, from the Robert Compton Documentary series on Global Education, directed by Sean T. Faust. In my first post, I looked at the differences between Finland’s school system and our school system and then at how the Finnish educational system structured.
How else do Finnish schools differ?
US education system compared to Finland
In Finland, they actively try not to punish students for mistakes and there’s very little testing….
Finland is the highest ranked country in education by many measures. To further understand and compare U.S. education vs. Finland, I watched The Finland Phenomenon:Inside the World’s Most Surprising School System, from the Robert Compton Documentary series on Global Education, directed by Sean T. Faust. At first, I was thinking that I wasn’t really learning anything new or surprising. I’m not sure where I’d already heard most of the information. It may have been The Smartest Kids in the World or World Class Learners.
In any case, if you don’t have time to read two complete books, the documentary is a quick way to get a good overview of the Finland school system if you can get your hands on a copy. It isn’t readily available.
U.S. schools vs. Finland schools
So why is the Finland school system so important? Several quick facts at the start of the film summarize it well….
The response at our school district’s showing of Most Likely to Succeed was overwhelmingly positive. The film did a good job of pointing out all the weaknesses of our current system, but left you with an uplifting feeling. This was a welcome change from all of the other research I’ve done that has confirmed my fears that something is drastically wrong with our current educational system, but with little to offer in the way of change other than patching over some real problems.
I think the positive response was also in part to a growing concern I have seen in our district about the amount of homework and anxiety in our kids. Parents did bring up some valid concerns, some of which were answered by other parents present who work for testing agencies, state education agencies, and universities. The concerns were mainly centered on project based learning.
As I said, the documentary gave the impression that project based learning was the only option. Even though it was acknowledged early on in the discussion in our district that it was just one option, the discussion stayed pretty much on project based learning. The long and the short of it is…
In How Children Succeed, Paul Tough found that good grades and lots of homework aren’t future predictors of success. Students need to learn how to set and approach goals with mental contrasting, grit, the ability to take on challenges and face failures, and the ability to persuade other people to give them what they need.
Providing challenges is often given as a reason for AP classes (Advanced Placement courses, or IB courses, college courses designed to be taught in high school and success measured by a standardized exam.) But in our personal experience, that isn’t happening for several reasons. In How Children Succeed, there was evidence that agreed with this view….
In my last post about How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough, I covered how a student’s GPA is more a measure of self-discipline than IQ. The education system is set up to reward students with self-discipline and high GPAs with admission into college. In How Children Succeed, success of disadvantaged students was measured by whether or not they went on to graduate from college. In spite of this, Tough, surprisingly, concludes that the ability to perform well in the ways that school measures aren’t a good predictor of success, even though here success is measured by going on to college.
Specifically, good grades and lots of homework aren’t good predictors of success, and in fact can lead to stress that actually inhibits success….
A couple months ago I slipped on some water. I could tell you that I managed to catch all my weight with my right hand, so that I didn’t even get a bruise on any other part of my body.
Or I could tell you — that the over-achievement of my right arm and hand led to breaking my wrist.
Which has turned out to be more of a pain, in every possible definition of the word, than I thought it would be. Of course, I’m right handed. So this post, typed with one hand, will be short.
Related to the subject of this blog, I’ve been gathering information about education, job prospects, and entrepreneurship. This episode of the podcast Start Up, by Gimlet Media, shows an interesting connection between them. In this episode, the ADULT employees talk about the effects of their late hours and stress are having on their health and personal lives.
Their schedule sounds remarkably like high-achieving high school TEENS I know….