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Anxious no more


I don’t have time to do anything else! I don’t have time to craft, or to do things for me. I have too much homework to do.

These are the words of my daughter. She has just turned 15. She is in Year 11 doing NCEA level 1. She is intelligent. She already has a couple of excellences under her belt. But she is stressed. She is anxious.

This post is a few days late for the March #EdBlogNZ challenge. The challenge is to write about your dream school. I had done a bit of thinking and thought it was going to be about all the amazing things I would like to see in a school, but as a parent, watching my children go through school, I’m seeing their stress levels increase. It’s not good.

So in my dream school, right at this point in time, while I would like all sorts of technology and opportunities for the students within it, I would first and foremost like to see a school that truly values the health and wellbeing of their students. I’m not saying these schools are not out there, or even that any school doesn’t value this, but sometimes it appears school work, teacher expectations or qualifications take precedent.

Both of my eldest children are feeling exceptional pressure from school at the moment. Miss 15, as described above, and Mr 10 who is in Year 7. Miss 15 has actually recently blogged about Anxiety in the classroom. It’s worth a read.

Yes, education is important, but as a parent I have to put the wellbeing of my children first – and that means before school, before qualifications, and yes, even before teacher expectations.

I don’t have any amazing ideas for how to reduce anxiety of students at school, but I do believe that raising awareness about this issue is important. I do believe that some educators (myself included) just have not really considered it, or if we have, we still have to get through all this work with our classes before the end of the year, and therefore do not know how to manage it.

Perhaps this is something we can all consider for now. After all,

He aha te mea nui o te ao
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

What is the most important thing in the world?
It is people, it is people, it is people.

4 thoughts on “Anxious no more

  1. Kia Kaha Nathaniel and family
    i have daughters too who are similarly afflicted – my 16 year old spend her entire life away from school working on NCEA Assignments – all easter was consumed with Health – which is oxymoronic because living in a dark cave with the glow of a laptop and tapping furiously about ora and good health is not bringing it to her. This weekend its History and she gives her all to it – but her health, friendships and social and cultural life suffers for those NCEA credits – she can take only 20 from level 1 – 2 but got endorsed merit in 120, we had kids doing 250 credits in a year and needing only 60 – almost all at excellent. This is the flea of NCEA on the tail of the dog (assessment) causing it to scratch itself to death while drawing blood to be free of the parasite. These lice we have breed for our kids over generations are now sucking the blood from them and the dog is being danced round by the biting of these assessments. I think we as teachers, parents and society need to stop, take stock and endorse the efforts of a few lone prophets like HPSS where they have freed up the curriculum to learning and education rather than the itch and constant scratching of NCEA

    NCEA and NatStd too have had far reaching unintended consequences, pitting child against child, class against class, and school against school in a ace to the bottom of health happiness and life as we all madly scramble up the caterpillar pillar of Assessment. We have abandoned teaching and learning to credit crunching and endorsement chasing. School from years 10 – 13 is now just prep for ass, ass and more prep for ass. It’s a mad race from AS to AS with no time even to reassess, resit or revisit Assessments. We just slog week on week term on term year on year and the incentives to succeed and the pressure to pass all increases incrementally till the joy fun and pleasure of learning is replaced by this death march of the soul – one assessment after another till Level 1, 2 ad 3 then uni, postgrad and more.

    We need to STOP, take STOCK and TRANSFORM teaching and learning to be fun, work AND PLAY not just work work work. My kids are burning out by year 12, despairing in Year 13 and stressing out before they even leave school.

    I agree with what you write Kia kaha and here’s to the hope of more creative, humane and less Assessment in the future for we are as a nation over assessing, over stressing and over NCEA.

    1. Hi Tony
      Thanks for your comments.

      I don’t think this is an issue with the system, or even with NCEA. I know the amount of stress and pressure on our students doesn’t need to happen as I am currently seeing it (and I’m sure it’s not happening everywhere). I agree with you – learning should be enjoyable. No, it may not all be fun all of the time, but we need ways to help students manage stress/manage their workload. This might include reducing it at times.

      – Nathaniel

      1. The way we have implemented NCEA has created an environment in which assessment is king. It is one in which students merely move from assessment to assessment, rather than understanding the bigger learning picture and one in which workloads bottleneck at certain times.

        To be clear though, it is not NCEA itself that has caused this – it is the way teachers and schools have implemented NCEA. There is no need for students to be accumulating credits as they do, and there is no need to assess NCEA as we have been. HPSS have it right – NCEA sits in the background, as a means to assess when necessary, not the driving force behind all we do.

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