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Decreasing High-School Stress

October 30, 2007

by Paulina Mis

Stress-free high school, does that sound like an oxymoron to you? Unfortunately it does to many high school students. Teachers are noticing it too, and one has made it a point to publicize his efforts to initiate change. Principal Paul Richards of Needham High School has created a Stress Reduction Committee to do something about these caffeine-wired, sleep-deprived, on-edge teens. 

He has been hard at work teaching students how to relax. He has even invited stress-relief experts to the school—it’s just that students couldn’t fit them into their schedules. That’s why yoga classes are now required for seniors (and hopefully not graded).

But for some unfathomable reason, Mr. Richards has received countless criticism. (For the record, I support you Mr.Richards.) According to an article, the principal received hate mail from across the country after taking the honor roll list out of his school newspaper. That sounds uncomfortably reminiscent of the honor roll list published in my grade school newspaper. We even got to strut bright yellow student-of-the-month pins.

Those who know that Mr. Richards is now working on his doctorate at Boston College may be compelled to say that he’s not exactly leading by example. But he sees things in a different light. Based on the New York Times article, his intent was to assist students in  managing stress and in finding the college that fits them best, whether it be prestigious or not. He encouraged students to be ambitious but reasonable when signing up for A.P. classes. “It’s very important to protect the part of the culture that leads to all the achievement,” he stated. “It’s more about bringing the culture to a healthier place.”

A stress-free high school environment is a start, but changes at the top are imperative for this to really work. If schools continue to be rated and employers continue to value them, it won’t be too easy to change things. A sort of trickle down relaxonomics is in order. And I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but sleep and finals are not much easier to manage in college (assuming that you plan to graduate). Take tips from Mr. Richards now, and the future may look brighter.


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