The Student School Grind
(a.k.a. – We Have Enough Pressure!)
A former colleague once compared a school year to an expectant mother. She described the joy, the possibilities – even the delusions of grandeur a mother-to-be can feel. A new school year parallels this excitement. Teachers and students daydream about the year to come with hopeful expectations. By mid-year, the newness wears off. At the ¾ mark, daily tasks become a grind. By the end of a pregnancy or school year, everyone is exhausted and looking forward to the arrival of something new. My students in Taiwan reach the exhausted state rather quickly. In truth, they have very little time away from school or academic activities.
An average school day can be remarkably long. Beginning at 7:15 am, students complete a morning homeroom period and eight standard 50 minute class periods. They also share daily campus clean-up responsibilities which include: sweeping walk ways and drive ways, cleaning bathrooms, removing trash and recycling from the classrooms, sweeping and mopping floors, cleaning chalkboards, and washing windows and desks. Over 2000 students maintain the majority of the school campus. At 5 pm dismissal, many students also attend supplemental cram schools to improve or strengthen English, math, science, music, art, or sports. Some students will attend two of these schools after a regular school day, arriving home at 9 or 10 pm to complete several hours of homework. The culture at large heavily endorses the Confucian principle of education. Effort and persistence are considered more valuable than ability; therefore, every student is expected to be an overachiever.
What does this mean for school-aged learners? They’re exhausted and stressed in ways adults find difficult to manage. As a result, students are speaking up quietly, yet profoundly. This fall, a class fashioned t-shirts with the following message: “Anti Homework Pressure.” Recently, I found this statement inside a classroom desk: “We have enough pressure!! No more!!” Students don’t feel they are good enough; they will never meet all of the expectations. Thankfully, I have a comforting message to share. We are not good enough on our own, but thanks be to God! We are made new and perfect because of Jesus. He has taken away all of the sin and shortcomings that weigh us down and gives us new life in Him. This message is all the more important for the students at Concordia Middle School, one that I’m blessed to share.