Photo by Mikhail Pavstyuk on Unsplash

Academic balancing act

By 
  • August 31, 2022

I found it quite enlightening to read in this edition of The Catholic Register about the exceptional students honoured by the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) as top scholars for the 2021-22 academic year.

Over 20 students achieved an astonishing grade average of at least 97.5 per cent, of which nine attained the coveted 100 per cent plateau.

Hearing such gaudy figures makes it easy and natural to conjure a stereotypical mental image of these students. When outside the rigorous classroom environment, one could assume these intellects spend every waking moment of their free time mastering the periodic table, solving advanced calculus equations or memorizing the exact timeline of the Industrial Revolution.

So, it was revelatory to me to learn that so many of these students are not devoured by  a zealous academic obsession 24 hours a day and seven days a week. These students exercised excellent intuition by understanding that a fulfilling social life, healthy lifestyle and engagement in school activities unlock the keys to long-term life success just as much as scholastic mastery.

Upon reflection, I wish I possessed this wisdom during my Grade 12 year over a dozen years ago. My grade average did not breach the 97.50 realm, but I was pleased to earn honours with distinction. But I made the mistake of devoting too many hours in my bedroom to reading and reciting key terms and concepts repetitively until I committed them to subconscious memory.

I could have shaved off a few of these hours and said ‘yes’ to some of the opportunities I passed by to hang out with friends or attend school functions while managing a comparable level of success in the schoolroom. God wisely advises us to exist peacefully in the now and not become anxious prisoners of past regrets. But I’m only human. .

My wish for elementary, junior high and senior high students is for all of them to enjoy a 2022-23 year full of intriguing possibilities. Hopefully each of them will find enrichment in their studies, and supplement this rigour by competing on a school sports team, performing in a drama club musical or joining the school model UN delegation.

And now that the social-experience-sapping COVID-19 restrictions are in the rear-view mirror – knock on wood – hopefully each student can take a bold step to meet a new friend at lunch and exhibit the confidence to show off his or her smooth moves at the school dance instead of being a comfortable wallflower.

Stating the pandemic stifled the social and emotional development of many students of all ages is not eye-opening at this juncture, but it is a key point worth repeating.

I had the opportunity to recently speak with the executive directors of the Manitoba High School Athletic Association and the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations.

Both Chad Falk of Manitoba and Shamus Bourdon of Ontario informed me that roster sizes for the various spring sports in 2022 eclipsed the participation rates of previous years. My takeaway from this information is that students who perhaps never devoted time to athletics in the past jumped at an opportunity to nurture their mental and physical health along with their social skills.

I truly hope that is the case. Students, and society as a whole, need to adopt a holistic, carpe diem – seize the day –spirit in a post-COVID world.

(Amundson is the editor of Youth Speak News)

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