Ambitious moms, stressed-out students“Don’t forget to do pages 56, 57 and 58 in your homework books tonight,” I told my students after the main lesson. In my class, once pupils record their homework assignment they get to enjoy a game for the last 10 or 15 minutes of class.
It’s also when students usually begin lobbying for less, or no homework. I can usually figure out which kids are trying to get off easy, but some requests are genuine.
During this particular homework spiel, one student became frustrated and looked angry. Then she walked toward me, teary-eyed, struggling for the right words: “Teacher,” she fumbled while counting on her fingers, “elementary school, uh, piano ... math, Chinese?”
“All those hagwon, in addition to English?” I thought. I became a bit sympathetic. She asked to start her homework right then, instead of playing games, so I let her.
The next week I also assigned homework. Again she countered, “Teacher, me this,” pointing up to page 64. She was definitely earnest; it was a genuine attempt to get as light a workload as she could. I gave in. Yet, although she was a good student, I knew she could do better ― if only this 8-year-old weren’t stressed out from so many extracurricular activities!
Undue stress has its side effects. Sometimes, this girl becomes grumpy and irritable, and is quick to lash out at other students. “Be quiet!” she commands her classmates if they disturb her while playing their games, for she uses play time to do her studies.
And hers is hardly an isolated incident. Because of overlapping schedules, kids walk into class late and complain of hunger and fatigue. “Why are you late?” I ask.
Consider the kid fresh out of martial arts who answers, “Taekwondo.” That discipline requires both physical and mental exertion. And immediately afterward, they hurry off to learn something else. Some of these overstretched kids can’t remember what we did last lesson.
Some students perform well under pressure, but by and large, these children are being spread too thin. Regardless of how smart a student may be, it’s difficult to stay focused when your stomach’s growling or your mind’s still reeling. Especially when it comes to ESL, students have to learn to speak. You can’t just crib a friend’s notes.
Parents should ask themselves if enrolling youngsters in four hagwon is worth it, or if they should consider cutting back to allow youngsters to seriously study one or two extra subjects.
by Jermaine Demetrius Lloyd