By Angi Evans, Head of School
Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create.
~ Jana Kingsford
Welcome to 2024! I hope that this year brings good things to Harbor Day and all HDS students and their families.
When my children were in high school, they and I learned a good deal about balance. A high school student must focus on looking forward to their life beyond graduation. They know that having the most and best options for college depends on success in high school. While that sounds straightforward and obvious, the recipe for success includes many factors. Some colleges look at the rigor of the classes taken by a student. Others seem to care most about class rank or unweighted GPA. Of course, they also want students to contribute to their community through school leadership, athletics, the arts, or all of the above. Finding balance becomes crucial and the result of a good deal of trial and error.
A New York Times article
by Lisa Damour called ‘Why Girls Beat Boys at School and Lose to Them at the Office’ includes a line that rings true, and reminded me of a painful lesson that my daughter and I learned when she was at Corona del Mar High School: “in classes where any score above 90 counts as an A, the difference between a 91 and a 99 is a life.” That difference can also be the time that a student can spend preparing for another class. In my daughter’s case, a 91 in two classes would have yielded better results on her GPA than the 97 she received in one class and the 87 in the other class. Together we learned that putting too much effort into one class can yield a great grade in that class, but negatively impact the other class and the overall GPA. Don’t tell the math teachers, but sometimes the average is not as straightforward as it seems.
Students need to learn to balance many demands on their time and on their physical and mental energy. As adults, we need to help them understand the limits of time and to take measures that allow them to balance that time. The article by Damour suggests helping students recognize when they have exceeded the requirements of an assignment or have over-prepared for a test. A few years ago, I had a parent mention in carpool that her daughter stayed up until after midnight completing a science assignment. I went into the science lab and asked the teacher if I could see the reports the students submitted that morning. When I looked at the child’s report, it was impressive but obviously stood out from most of the other reports. I asked the teacher about it, and she replied, “she passed an A hours before she finished the report.” A glaring example was the layered paper and glitter on the cover. An acceptable cover was simply a name and title on a white piece of paper.
We occasionally hear parents say that a 91 is not an acceptable grade for their child. If their child was also studying for another test and also had a volleyball game the night before, a 91 might be a great grade. If the 91 allowed the student to get 8 hours of sleep and enjoy a family dinner, it is outstanding. As adults, we should help the children see that a 91 and a life is a success.
Elementary and middle school offers a safe place to experiment with balancing commitments to academics, family, health, athletics, arts, faith, and recreation. Help your child try strategies to efficiently tackle their homework and studying. Experiment with allowing 15 minutes to review for a test. If the results prove that was insufficient, increase the time for the next test. Encourage them to look at an assignment and avoid “gilding the lily” in completing that assignment. Of course, help your child recognize that a key element of efficiency is staying away from their phone or other distractions. Another exception is to allow your child to dive in deeper if they become passionate about the topic at hand, and they have the time to do it. Sometimes a perfect score reflects a love of learning.
May we all create a bit more balance in 2024.