Wednesday, 22 June 2011

School Days

North Toronto Collegiate Institute

  My old high school was in the Toronto Star newspaper today. In an article by Louise Brown:
“They come to the guidance counsellor with headaches and tears and insomnia and nerves and grades dragged down by the expectations that weigh on their teenaged shoulders. In one of the most academically high-octane schools in Canada, the epidemic of student stress reported by one in three Ontario students has reached a point staff no longer can ignore.

Concerned at the growing number of students diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety disorders — and more who seem headed that way, especially in Grade 9 — North Toronto Collegiate has launched an unusual program to teach teens how to handle the stress thrust on them by parents, the school system, and themselves.”

  It was the same when I was a student at the school and of my 140 peers in Grade 9, only one hundred were in next year’s Grade 10 class. In those days, nobody talked about stress. If you couldn’t hack the education then you transferred to Northern Secondary down the road where the “losers” got job training.  The Principal expected the school to be the top in academics, music, football and everything else. He was a hard assed ex-Latin teacher who drove the teachers as much as the students and woe to anyone who crossed his path. 98% of the graduates went to university.

  I think that part of the problem was the intake area included both blue collar areas and very wealthy neighbourhoods.  I came from a working class family who had lived in the catchment area for four generations but there was no expectation that your future prospects were proscribed by family background. If you were interested in academics then you went to NTCI and that was it. Of course my social life was not too hot. It’s hard to compete with guys who drive Dad’s jaguar sports car when you have a bicycle for transportation but I didn’t have to deal with parental expectations like some of the others. According to the Fraser Institute high school comparison study, the average family income of students at the school was $170,000 in 2009, there were zero English as Second language students and it was one of the top twenty schools in the country.

  How does the school plan to deal with student stress? From the article:

North Toronto plans to fundraise next year to be able to bring in stress-busting experts like the Youth Wellness Network year-round and may even make a day of stress-busting workshops compulsory next year. Network founder Michael Eisen speaks to students about how to avoid exam stress by taking a break every hour and focus on the joy of learning, not the pressure of the end result.

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