Room For Debate: Health and Wellness at Latin

Philip Hinkes, Reis Herman, Nathan Wiggin Finals week is around the corner and that means Latin students will be stressed out about their exams.   Good.   The Latin Wellness movement aims to alleviate the stress of the student body and they are accomplishing their goal. Whether it’s the breathing exercises before gatherings, limits on the number of tests in one day, or the “no homework weekends,” stress is noticeably lower at Latin. While this trend may appear to be positive, it’s not. Stress is important, and its removal might have severe unintended consequences. Regrettably, the world is stressful. When we leave Latin and attend a university, the workforce, or even an extended family there is no guarantee that people will care about our stress levels or mental health. The world is not like Latin; it is not always warm and fuzzy. There will be bosses who make us feel worthless, situations of inescapable stress, and times where you just don’t feel too well. And that is not to mention the anxiety that stems from even the most common obligations: paying bills, meeting a deadline at work, making career decisions, or deciding how many scoops of ice-cream you want in your sundae. While it would be great if we lived on a planet that lacked apprehension and adopted the ideas of “self compassion,” “mindfulness,” and “wellness,” we don’t. For the foreseeable future, Earth is going to stay the same rough and tumble place it is today. Obviously, stress management skills are incumbent on one’s success, and sadly, the only way to obtain these stress management skills is through exposure to stress. It might sound crazy at first, but we implore you to think about it. If Latin never exposes its students to real stress, how will its students know how to tolerate stress down the road? Stress will become a completely foreign entity.   Not good.   Conversely, if high schoolers are exposed to high levels of stress, they can begin to develop the lifelong stress management skills that will help them navigate our world.   The crux of the wellness issue is wellness now versus wellness in the future. Removing stress might make high school a great four years, it might allow students to get nine hours of sleep every night, but will it make the students well down the road? We would contend that a stressful high school experience is a form of delayed gratification. It is unpleasant at first, but in the long run, students will be more efficient and experienced, allowing the total stress in their lives to be significantly less.   The obligation of a high school is to prepare students to function and thrive in the real world. At Latin, we take pre-calc without a textbook so we can develop the ability to figure problems out on our own. We put great emphasis on project-based learning so that we can acquire key collaboration skills. We create an environment with small classes and dedicated teachers so that students can learn how to build positive relationships with their superiors. All these skills are crucial for success in the real world, however, unlike stress, Latin teaches these skills through practice, not avoidance. We don’t expect students to be innately good at working in a team, so that’s why we do group projects. To learn. We don’t suspect students are naturally good at receiving critical feedback, so that’s why we have parent teacher conferences, to learn. Shouldn’t, by this logic, we be exposed to stress…so that we can learn?     Granted, too much stress would be catastrophic and could result in many kids getting “burned out.” Stress literally takes years off your life, so one has to be careful when applying it. Yet there exists a line between a moderate amount of stress (which will help students down the road) and low levels of stress, that could leave us unprepared for the real world. Currently, we are moving dangerously close to that line. We are going to have to put up with stress all our lives, so why not learn how to manage it now?   Grace Coberly With first semester coming to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on what this year’s focus on health and wellness has done for our community. Sure, we make fun of it whenever we see the opportunity, but has it really changed anything? Physical wellness at Latin seems to be the same as always, with a few improvements: the vast majority of the student body participates in at least one sport. (This includes squash, which I didn’t realize was an actual thing until recently.) With rumors of a badminton team forming in the winter, even the sports-hating theater community was ready to get into the world of athletics. But at a private school with such a rigorous academic program, physical health is not the most important thing to worry about. Mental health among students is barely considered. We work hard to get the grades we think we deserve, but we often forget to take care of ourselves. To be honest, stress levels at our school are ridiculously high. Our grades control our emotions. We’re always studying, always working, and when you add that to all the extracurriculars that well-rounded Latin students participate in, you’re left with no time for anything else, including relaxing and sleeping. I’ve seen the effects firsthand: students napping in the dean’s office, students sleeping in rather than going to their long blocks, a few of my classmates drifting in and out of consciousness during AP Calc. It’s unhealthy, and frankly, it needs to stop. Let’s take a minute to analyze this past week. Our “consolidation” week. That title wasn’t official, but it should’ve been. The few school days before exams should be review days, with light homework to allow for studying. Somehow, I was up until midnight every night, and believe me, I love my sleep. I spent my last easy week learning new topics, getting five or six hours of sleep, and getting sick because of it. And I didn’t have any essays due, or art projects, or that HUSHH test I’ve heard so much about. I can only imagine what that week must’ve been like for the people who did. Look at the state of your students. I know some classes have required curriculums. I know some assignments simply have to be squished into inconveniently short periods of time. But please, teachers, do your best to keep us sane. You can assign that essay two days earlier. You can shorten textbook readings. You don’t need the administration to arrange no-homework weekends—you can do that yourself. We have lives to live and sleep to catch up on. When stress begins to take a toll on the health and livelihood of an entire student body, something’s not right. But it’s not up to us to fix it; that’s on our teachers. And finally, students, hang in there. Finals week can be a nightmare, but the maximum of three classes in a day is a blessing. Use the free time to relax, not to stress yourself out by cramming. Go to sleep early. You have so much time. And don’t worry about next semester, either. With such a concentrated focus on wealth and hellness, we are destined to succeed.   What do you guys think? Tell us in the comment sections below!]]>