After several conversations with current parents and alumnae over the last few days, I feel the need to challenge what I keep hearing: that there is tremendous pressure on students these days and that they must have a clear direction and solid answers as to where they are going whether it be in post-secondary, career or even in life.
I agree that as we are a university preparatory school for high-achieving girls and young women there are certain expectations assumed by the School, parents and the students themselves. I believe, in many ways, this is a good thing: we wish our girls to develop into outstanding women; that is, those who stand out in whatever it is they choose to do and be in life. However, I have become increasingly aware that these expectations can become unrealistic and even unhealthy when increasing pressure and pace is laid on top. I speak not of the pressure that can exist amongst high-achieving peers but beyond that to a frenzy that appears to have grown in society and appears to be pushing people to complete tasks, programs and events without ever pausing to consider, reflect, re-evaluate or even stop what they are doing.
I am hearing far more ‘shoulds’ and ‘coulds’ than ‘cans’ and ‘wills.’
St. Clement’s School is, and always will be, a school that provides a challenging and rigorous academic experience in a small, tight-knit and spirited community. Having attended the school myself, I know that there are times when I looked around me and was in awe of the achievements of my classmates and those students in grades above and below me. That feeling did occasionally cause me to question my own ability. I readily admit that my academic journey and confidence took time to fully develop. Alongside me were my parents who combined their expectations of me with support as I worked through mistakes and stumbles.
I fully acknowledge that life now is different than what it was when I was going through school. The future is unknown, but it has been for anyone at any time. Hindsight is 20/20 and, as adults, I think we need to use ours to help and support our girls and daughters. Yes, it is true that much has changed and that our young women are faced with an environment where they are flooded with a deluge of information and its accessibility 24/7, but that should not stop us from reminding them that they should not be in a rush to complete life. While time flies and life can appear to whiz by, life is, in truth, long. I, for one, don’t want to have our girls rushing to get through it.
As a School, we work to support our girls in learning how to learn. Together as School and home we must encourage our girls to slow down, allow them to reflect on what they are doing, allow them to challenge and change their paths if they wish, and encourage them to pause and try something different.