School pushes for balanced lifestyles

Schoolwide push for mindful wellness choices causes panel

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School pushes for balanced lifestyles

Illustration by Risa Cohen

Illustration by Risa Cohen

Illustration by Risa Cohen

Abigail Slimmon, Editor-in-Chief

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At a highly-competitive high school like U-High, some students opt to compromise their overall wellness by pushing themselves too hard in pursuit of good grades. But what really is wellness? Many will say it’s taking care of yourself by doing things like taking time to relax and exercise. Others will say it’s finding a greater connection to your work and a deeper internal motivation drive to do it. At the end of the day, how should high schoolers find the time to get a good night sleep and put themselves first with the constant pressures of homework, standardized testing, grades and college?

These are all questions that U-High has beenis trying to answer through wellness surveys, panels, systematic change, forums and wellness councils to advise the administration and teachers.in many ways.

Along with the wellness survey taken by student’s the past two years, the Lab Schools have created an All-School Wellness Council along with a U-High council consisting of students, faculty members, administrators and parents. The Wellness Council’s overall goal  is to  improve the overall emotional health of Lab students.

There is no silver bullet. This is going to require a lot of silver bullets….We need to do something that is really simple, but is not easy at all, which is to truly, truly commit to this. We need to not just say we care about health and well-being in evenings like this.”

— Noah Rachlin, Dean of Teaching and Learning

Student council hosted student forums addressing the topics of homework load, classroom environment and competitiveness Oct. 22 and 24. Although student turnout was low, the goal to give students the opportunity to discuss their views on these topics was achieved.

“Having discussions is the best way to start coming up with ideas on what we can change and how student council can support the student body” Ben Cifu, All-School President, said.

A wellness panel titled “Promoting Wellness for Academic Success and a Fulfilling Life: Exploring Challenges Facing our Community,” was held in Gordon Parks Arts Hall Oct. 29. The panel featured Dr. Elizabeth Kieff, psychiatrist and parent; Melina Hale, member of the University of Chicago admissions community and parent; and Noah Rachlin, Dean of Teaching and Learning at U-High.

More than 100 parents, administrators, faculty members and students attended the wellness panel and approximately 70 viewers watched on the live-stream.

During her presentation, Dr. Kieff put a wellness-themed spin on an old proverb: success can’t always bring happiness. According to her, adults need to do a much better job at explaining this idea to teens. She rattled off a list of achievements, everything from being “the smartest kid in kindergarten” to getting into a top med school — then she reminded listeners that none of these successes will necessarily lead to a happy and fulfilling life.

“The ‘gold stars’ don’t measure up to ultimate happiness,” Dr Kieff said. “In fact, they don’t matter at all.”

Dr. Hale’s presentation focused specifically on college, and how excessive pressure to attend top universities is harmful toharms students. Higher education, she said, should be about finding a school that fits the student, not necessarily the oneone that’s the most famous or prestigious.

“There are lots of options and paths that can be terrific but also a bit different,” Dr. Hale said.

Mr. Rachlin highlighted an upward trend in mental health issues among teens, especially those attending high-achieving schools such as Lab. During the Q&A session, he emphasized the importance of continuing the conversation about wellness.

He said, “There is no silver bullet. This is going to require a lot of silver bullets….We need to do something that is really simple, but is not easy at all, which is to truly, truly commit to this. We need to not just say we care about health and well-being in evenings like this.”