Today teenagers are riddled with anxiety. About one in three teens will have an anxiety disorder before young adulthood. In a 25-student classroom, that’s eight kids. And this isn’t just everyday stress that can be tucked under the rug or powered through. Anxiety disorders impair people from functioning in everyday life. That includes family, work, and school.
How is this happening?
The System is Broken
Let’s talk about school. Standardized testing has become the gold standard, and it’s a broken standard. Meeting the metrics of standardized testing has contributed to a toxic achievement culture. This high-stakes mentality around testing has taken its toll on students’ mental health. Research reveals that even elementary school students’ experience of high-stakes testing is negative, anxiety-provoking, and damaging to their self-esteem. Test anxiety’s negative effects on mental health pervade through adolescence. In 2016, 40% of first-time college freshmen reported “yes” to “feeling overwhelmed by all I have to do.” In 2000, that number was 28%.
In most schools, both in-person and online, students’ mental and emotional well-being holds no bearing on their success metrics. When students receive a graded number below 65%, the test indicates that they have failed. But perhaps the number of suffering teens indicates that our students aren’t actually failing the test, but the test is failing our students.
A Better Way
At Sora, we have created a new way of education that is designed to be smarter, healthier, and more sustainable. Rather than squeezing students of all shapes and dispositions through a tiny square hole called standardized testing, we empower students to mold their own learning journeys according to their own interests and goals. As one student put it,
“Sora’s energy is doing a project on something you know nothing about
and then getting really into it.”
We prioritize mastery over metrics and projects over tests. Students engage in real-world issues, like applying coastal engineering in finding creative solutions to rising sea levels. Without the constraints of standardized testing, students are free to pursue topics that are actually meaningful to them. When people feel that their work is meaningful, they tend to feel happier and more satisfied with life.
The Need for Socialization
Socialization is another key component of mental health. Close, supportive relationships can make people more resilient. When you’re resilient, you tend to bounce back and recover better when life hurls hardships at you. Higher resilience levels correlate with a lower risk of suicide.
So thinking about your children’s socialization is critical to supporting their mental wellbeing. In considering online schooling, you may be rightfully concerned that your children won’t engage in the socialization that they need. This is a legitimate concern. Many online schools don’t prioritize socialization enough.
On the other hand, traditional schools aren’t inherently social in their instruction either. Sure, students are able to squeeze in friend time in between bells and during lunch. But their attempts at socialization during lectured instruction tend to be labeled as a disruption to the class. Oh, the time teachers spend telling students to stop talking to and texting their friends!
Sora’s Social Approach
Sora has found a creative solution by imbuing students’ learning experience with social engagement. Every day, students meet virtually with their school houses–the kind of houses you find in Harry Potter. Here students hold the space to collaborate, discuss projects, and keep each other accountable for personal growth.
Instead of lecture-based learning, students actively collaborate with experts and classmates to tackle real-world problems. The flexibility that this approach affords is a huge benefit to students with ADHD, for whom hours of lecture-based learning may be especially ill-suited.
Here’s an inside look into why parents love Sora’s social approach:
[My son] finished one year of high school. He did well academically, got along with some teachers, but didn’t necessarily feel like he was fitting in socially…So far with Sora, we’ve had a tremendous experience…I can hear him every morning on his video calls, you know, how animated he gets…Even though he sees most of them over video call, the bonds he’s developed with them are far closer than any of the students he was seeing in person.
Click here to find out more about what a flexible and social online education could look like for your child at Sora.