The weight of the curriculum on students can be incredibly heavy. However, striking a balance is important.
The weight of the curriculum on students can be incredibly heavy. However, striking a balance is important.
Sarabeth Wester

Schools should prioritize wellness over curriculum

Education has long put tests and curricular achievement over joy and happiness. That should change.

The relentless pressure to succeed academically often takes precedence over a student’s emotional and mental health. While the pursuit of academic excellence is essential, it shouldn’t come at the cost of children’s overall well being.

Put plainly, schools are, and have always been, more focused more on what they’re teaching than the students themselves. 

However, in the current education landscape, a prominent conversation is happening about the need for a more holistic approach to student development. This trend acknowledges that traditional academic achievement, while important, should not be the number one priority of schools. In its place should be student well-being .

In Jennifer Gonzalez’s podcast (Gonzalez is a very popular education blogger), she supports this claim.

“If we commit to an ethic of care, building relationships and caring for our students aren’t strategies in the name of increasing academic achievement but the actual goal itself.”

Schools and educators are increasingly recognizing the importance of fostering well-rounded individuals who are not only academically successful, but also emotionally and mentally healthy.

This shift in focus is not only necessary, but also beneficial for the long-term success and happiness of students. This issue in the education system emphasizes that the true goal should be to educate students, not just in the subjects they study, but in life as a whole. 

Students are constantly pressured to excel in their academic studies. The burden of expectations from schools, parents, and society can be overwhelmingly stressful.

In Joshua Eyler’s article, “Grades Are at the Center of the Student Mental Health Crisis,” he argues that the emphasis on grades and standardized tests often leads to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. This pressure, while well-intentioned, can significantly damage a student’s wellbeing.

Personal experiences hold valuable insights. Many individuals have stories to share about how a school’s emphasis on curriculum has affected their well-being. These stories can illustrate areas for positive change in our approach to education.

Junior Ashley Black shared her personal experience with this issue at her previous school.

During her eighth grade year, Ashley was going through an array of personal issues that resulted in her missing a lot of school. When meeting with her guidance counselor to discuss her absence, Ashley explained her situation to her counselor, who responded with nothing but her list of assignments.

“I hoped that her knowing my situation would help my school better understand my issue; I hoped it would help them help me. Instead, she told me that regardless of what was happening, I needed to get a minimum of three lessons done per class per day.”

Black said she felt ignored and pushed to the side for her work. 

“I felt like she didn’t really care about what was happening to me, and she was only worried about my work.”

To address this issue, schools should implement a holistic approach to education. This means providing students with not only a strong curriculum, but also the tools, structures, and support manage stress and prioritize wellness over curriculum. Schools could offer counseling services for stress alleviation; structures for a culture of well being (think longer breaks and “play”); and even new initiatives, like mindfulness or yoga programs for personal growth. 

The debate over whether schools ought to prioritize curriculum over student wellbeing is not a simple one. While academic success is undoubtedly important, it should not come at the expense of kids not enjoying school.  Striking a balance between rigorous education and a focus on wellbeing is the way to go.

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