Academic Stress and the Course Selection Process

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Academic Stress: My Shoes Are Burning!

academic stress

Academic Dean Bob Wiegand introduces the Electives Showcase.

I just finished reading a number of short essays from the junior class submitted in English III, and discovered a reoccurring theme in nearly one out of every two submissions. Some of them took on homework, some focused on academic stress, and one or two lamented the lack of “free” or “down” time. All of these bore a common thread of academic stressors, and I hear them loud and clear. However, I can put the schedule of the authors of these pieces side by side with their essays and show you six and sometimes seven solid core academic Dual Credit, AP, and Honors courses. These same students are chasing multiple endorsement tracks in pursuit of the highest GPA humanly possible. Can anyone else see the contradiction here? It is like saying, “I’m going to walk through hot coals, oh wait my shoes are burning!”

I want to encourage every family to consider the benefits of students indulging their inner passions in an elective. Why would you try out for a play without taking theatre? How can you expect to perform to your highest capability in athletics without training your body in the athletic/conditioning period? You want to pursue an ROTC scholarship for college, but you did not avail yourself the opportunity to participate in JROTC? The list goes on and on.

Academic Stress: SMA’s Non-Ranking Policy

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Art teacher Ruth Schwartz tells students about the opportunities in visual art.

By taking the time to enjoy the enrichment and full scope of the high school experience, a student gains a well-rounded transcript, participation/leadership opportunities, and a deeper resume. These elements comprise a good portion of the admissions considerations for universities. In addition, schools have scholarship opportunities available in a number of departments that are not strictly core academic coursework.

Our new class ranking policy makes SMA a non-ranking school. You will not see a GPA until the junior year, and the class valedictorian and salutatorian will be the only ranking seniors announced or published. This policy makes sense for our student composition because the second, third, and even fourth quarters of our senior classes can be competitive in the college admissions processes of many schools. In conversations with students about their schedules and academic stress, some say, “It’s just that way at SMA.” “Our parents expect us to take that course load.” “I’m driven to take these course because I want to get into a good school.”

Academic Stress: Relax and Breathe!

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Hoo-ah! LTC Cianciotto uses a video of his cadets to promote the JROTC program.

I want to encourage all stake holders to relax and breathe deeply. Seek wise counsel, and have some inner peace. Challenge yourself with course selections that develop the path to your dreams, but leave yourself time to dream. Find something that stimulates more than just the cognitive capabilities. Everyone needs stimulation that brings out their creative side. Finally, teenagers, disconnect from media for a while when you are not involved in studies. You may find some of that down time you are missing.

The 2019-2020 course selection process begins in January. Resources for this process are available on the SMA website. This week, we held an Elective Showcase to expose all eighth through eleventh graders to the elective choices for the next school year. It is my sincere hope they heard something that sparked their interest. Take the time to go through the online course catalog with your student and consider all of the choices.

–By Bob Wiegand, SMA Academic Dean

Editor’s Note: Course selection sheets will be distributed to students in grades 8-11 Jan. 14-18. The following week, students will have an opportunity to work on their selections during advisory time. Sheets will be due at the end of advisory on Jan. 25. For any questions about the course selection process, please contact Dean Wiegand or our Guidance Counselor, Mrs. Teri Nash.

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