We could ask any one of the 300 educators, parents and community members who, this past Tuesday, attended the first of six sessions in the 2011-2012 Summit School Inspiring Learning Series: the film Race to Nowhere. The film has been described as a “call to action for parents, families, educators and policy makers to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens.” The film finds its roots in the voice and vision of one woman who reaches out to all who will listen—and who invites us to collaborate: to rethink who we are and what we value as families, as schools and as a society.
Like the film, Summit’s Inspiring Learning Series offers an invitation: to learn, to ask questions, to have meaningful conversations. This series is about bringing parents and educators together to explore how we can be better parents, better educators and better advocates for our children.
This film and our Inspiring Learning Series call us to engage each other—not just about the challenges and demands of culture, society and institutions but about the conscious choices and decisions we make within and for our families.
In the final few minutes of the film, producer and co-director Vicki Abeles provides a call to action, listing what students, parents, teachers, administrators and medical professionals can do in the face of this race to nowhere. That list appears below. I invite you to read it and post your thoughts and questions.
This is the value of living in dialogue with one another.
· Speak to the adults in your life about how you are feeling.
· Get plenty of sleep
· Unplug, slow down and make time for things you enjoy.
· Limit extra-curriculars and AP classes.
· Learn about the impact of caffeine and performance-enhancing medications.
· Discuss what success means to your family.
· Reduce performance pressure.
· Avoid over-scheduling.
· Allow time for play, family, downtime and sleep.
· Focus on the “right fit” for college rather than the “best” college.
· Attend school board meetings where education policies are established.
· Become knowledgeable about the research on homework and the importance of play and downtime.
· See what happens when you assign less homework.
· Empower students with more voice and choice in the classroom.
· Develop methods to evaluate children without tests.
· Share your voice on policies impacting education.
· Create a culture that supports the “whole child.”
· Address sources of stress for children, educators and families.
· Support “multiple pathways” in school integrating academics with career and technical education.
· Institute homework-free weekends, holiday breaks and summers.
· Consider a later start time for the school day.
· Schedule time for recess, physical activity, study halls and breaks.
· Create calendars to reduce conflicting demands on students.
· Support open communication between teachers, parents and students.
· Recognize the signs of youth stress – headaches, stomachaches, dizziness, chest pain, change in appetite and sleep patterns.
· Educate parents on the signs of depression in adolescents.
· Create awareness on the impact of the use of caffeine and prescription medications.
· Add your voice on the connection between health and education.