Our Millburn district schools provide a stellar education with many different curricula, after school activities, and programs for the kids to enjoy. As amazing our curriculum is, sometimes Millburn Middle School students struggle to keep up with some of the curriculum in the school. I went behind the scenes to find out if the students were occasionally too stressed.
According to niche.com we are number 3 out of the 719 public schools in New Jersey. We are also ranked number 57 out of the 23,632 public middle schools in America. With these impressive statistics in mind, I talked to teachers and students to learn information that is not captured in the data, stress levels of students and emotional ranking. An experienced music teacher who has been here for over five years, believes that the schools are handling stress levels very well, “I can’t imagine being a student nowadays. […] I think that the wellness initiatives that are in place in the district and our school specifically are wonderful and I am optimistic […]”. The wellness activities she mentions are a great start to what the school hopes will reduce our stress. This not only shows that the school is aware of student struggles, but is helping us too. Some wellness activities are the break rooms on Tuesday and Thursday which children can sign up for in the guidance office. These break rooms have students participate in activities such as art and board games. I have personally tried the break rooms and I think they are a great idea that the school provides. Not only has the school created wellness activities, but they have hired a consultant, Challenge Success, to obtain advice on managing stress, changing the grading scale and trying out the rotate and drop schedule. Our school is also currently piloting PowerSchool Unplugged which began last December. This program prohibits all access to grades for a limited amount of time. The purpose of this initiative is to get kids and parents less focused on letter grades and more focused on learning something new. The school plans on doing so much more to help their students succeed. All of these initiatives are improving our conditions at school, so there are only a few issues the students struggle with. For example, sleep and fast moving curriculums are some remaining problems the student body feels strongly about.
Early school start times cause tension. Many students are up late doing work and must wake up early the next morning. This does not allow for the suggested time an adolescent needs to sleep each night. According to www.hopkinsmedicine.org, “teens need 9 to 9½ hours of sleep per night”. Hoping that most students get this amount of sleep, I asked my peers when they went to bed. The answers were not what I expected at all, “I sometimes stay up until midnight doing homework,” meaning it cannot be possible for him or her to get the required amount of sleep because school starts at around 7:40 am. Not getting enough sleep can cause fatigue, forgetfulness, and inability to focus. All of these things are essential for school participation and if a student does not have these, they will not be able to function properly in school or daily life. This is not just a problem myself and my classmates from eighth grade feel strongly about. A group of seventh-graders felt strongly about this topic and they did their own survey of 50 students and appeared in front of the Millburn Board of Education in November of 2019. They requested a later starting time for students in Millburn Middle School and created a powerpoint presentation to show in front of the Board. Though implementing a later start time does pose challenges such as drop off times for parents, bus schedules and pick up times for extracurricular activities; this group had the courage to express their opinions.
The curriculum also moves swiftly and can occasionally be overwhelming. Some students felt that they were overwhelmed when the curriculum overlapped, leaving them with multiple subjects to study for at the same time. It can be hard to keep up with homework due in all classes because people also do sports, after school activities, and other clubs. Our wonderful students are achievers who are always busy doing activities and if the school could help by slowing down the pace of the curriculum, we could learn in a new depth.
The faculty running Millburn Middle School does an amazing job helping us get the education we need to succeed. So many students are thriving in this environment. If some simple changes could take place like later starting times and slower paced curriculums, perhaps the students can thrive even more than they are right now.