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In High School, Finding A Balance

Flint Hill Upper School students try to find the right combination of classes and extracurricular activities throughout their careers.

by freshman Hailey Scherer

Each day is comprised of 24 hours: the equivalent of 86,400 seconds. Each of these seconds impacts a person, shapes them; individuals exist as they are today because of every second that has come to pass, each experience he calls his own.

At Flint Hill Upper School, how students choose to spend each of these precious seconds remains a choice they make on a daily basis; not only do students have a constant impact on the school and larger community, but everything they choose to engage in plays a part in who they are to become. Naturally, students seriously consider the participation in extracurricular activities (or the lack thereof) in their daily schedules.

“Without them,” said senior Carlin Pierce, “high school would be utterly awful.”

Many students agreed with Pierce, including sophomore Zane Homsi.

“There’s so much more to school and classes and things like that than actually learning – after all, high school’s an experience,” Homsi said. “Something you really have to make sure you take advantage of while you’re here is that not only do you do well in school, but you also have to use extracurricular [activities] to find your passion.”

One day in freshman year, Homsi heard that the Model United Nations club had food at one of their meetings after school; he was hungry, so he decided to attend the meeting for his stomach’s sake.

“After I came in,” Homsi said, “it felt like it was the right place for me to be... and I could really do well at it; I’m one of the officers for [it now, and it’s] where I think my passion is.”

“I know when I was in high school… those are the things that I remember the most,” said Carrol Anderson, math teacher and varsity girls’ volleyball coach. “I mean sure, I had great teachers that I remember, classes, and so forth – but my [best] memories are the ones that I had playing sports or being involved with student government – those kind of things are things you take from high school, and you don’t realize it but you learn so much from them: how to handle pressure, how to make tough decisions – those kinds of things carry over into life, no matter what you do. The friendships you make are very important and those types of memories are great – I think Flint Hill offers so many different opportunities for kids that everybody should be able to find something that they like, they enjoy and they’re good at so they can have those kinds of experiences.”

Every day, students must ask the vital questions in life: to text, to sleep, or to work? To add activities outside the academic courses is to add more choices and take away time – ultimately, to add extracurricular activities to one’s schedule is to add stress. Why, then, participate?

“I’ve found, through the years of teaching and coaching and seeing students come through, that if a student is involved in a sport or in an extracurricular, they tend to manage their time a lot better because they have to plan everything out, they have to have structure so they get stuff done – whereas if they have a lot of free time, they tend to procrastinate and think, ‘Oh, I’ll just do that later cause I don’t have anything else to do,'" Anderson said.

Robin Goldstein, French and journalism teacher, agreed, saying, “I think as much as it can impede some students as far as their grades, it can also force students to manage their time better – I see that a lot with swimmers, who get up at 4:00 am to practice – once they manage their time better, they focus more on their studies, as opposed to putting things off, because they don’t have time to put things off.”

Homsi said “it keeps things interesting; there’s a lot of things at school that can be dry. So being able to be involved in something that works your brain in a different area is helpful, but it definitely takes up your time. You could view that as time towards studying… they always say with sports, school comes first. At times it can be distracting. And if you love it… I mean I’ve caught myself in a lot of positions where I’m doing work for Model UN and writing papers and stuff for that for hours… and it gets to the point where it’s eleven o’clock and I’m still working. But if it’s something you really care about, you can do it.”

“Time management,” immediately answered Pierce when asked about the best and worst part of extracurricular activities. “Those people who do participate have limited time. Sometimes that’s good, depending on their personalities – they really get concise with their work; sometimes it’s a mess and they can’t get everything done and they end up losing some of their better grades. It just depends on their personalities. Personally, I love the extra help time in the afternoon to do my homework and get ahead on stuff.”

Though the school day officially ends at 2:30 for those who attend the Upper School, extra help is essentially a free period from 2:30-3:00 when students can visit with each other, their teachers, or catch up on homework in the library, which is, as freshman Christine Becker pointed out, the perfect place and time to accomplish things before sports begin at 3:45.

“We always talk about [balancing sports and homework] throughout the [sports] seasons,” Anderson said. “We talk about managing time, taking advantage of the study hall periods, the free periods – and the time between 2:30 and 3:30 is so valuable – any little bit of time that you can get something done and check that off your list is important. I know the girls on the Varsity team will do homework on the bus, or before the game in the bleachers – they help each other, they’re good encouragement and resource for each other.”

Resources from Flint Hill also include the one-to-one student laptops. “Your computer can be your friend and your worst enemy,” freshman Justin Saleh said. “It’s really hard to stay on task. I still struggle.”

“Time management is such a life lesson to teach. The kids that graduate from here always come back and say how well they are doing in college because of those lessons that they learned while they were here at Flint Hill,” Anderson said.

“Once you get to college, you’re going to have a lot of invitations to invest in the life of the community, the campus life, there will be so many organizations – if you haven’t learned to budget your time, it’s going to be really hard in college and your life later on,” said history teacher and freshman class dean Mrs. Deborah Ayers. “There are always going to be other things beyond your primary activity, whether it’s your job, your family, or your academics here, so I think you have to try on some other things.”

Whether within the open, airy hallways of the school or outside of them, Flint Hill has many opportunities apart from the regular academic courses offered, including after-school clubs, sports, and the arts. According to all faculty interviewed, Flint Hill encourages students to seek out their passions while maintaining a well-rounded schedule.

“I love them,” senior Kendall Gibson said. “I participate in a lot. When I was a freshman I didn’t really do much, but then when I was a sophomore I signed for everything. Junior year I picked out what I liked; senior year I don’t really have time to do as much, but I mainly do lots of theatre stuff, manage sports, and I do writing stuff.”

“They’re definitely the most important part of my day,” Saleh said, who plays one sport each season. “It takes off of school work, and it’s something where you learn, have good experiences with your friends, get in shape, have fun – all that.”

“I think they’re a great way to get away from the stress of school,” fellow freshman Arman Azad said. “But unfortunately some of them – like a musical or an extracurricular class – do have their own stress that comes along with them… but the difference is that it’s something you enjoy, so it’s something you go out of your way to sign up for, so that stress is something you sign up for… so it’s more manageable.”

It’s said that time flies when you’re having fun, but does that mean the stress melts away, too? Beimnet Shitaye, freshman, replied in the affirmative.

“If you love something, it’s definitely less of an issue and more of a way to get out of being stressed out about schoolwork and stuff,” Shitaye said.

“Do what you love; don’t [waste time] with things that you think colleges want to see,” Pierce advised. “If you like to write, do writing clubs; if you like sports, then go out for all the teams. But don’t be in the Broadcasting Club if you’re actually a basketball player because you think colleges will like to see it. It’s just not worth your time.”

“If I were looking at students from Flint Hill as a college officer,” said Ayers, “I would be looking to see if they had a good balance of extracurricular [activities] and service, perhaps athletics or some other endeavors, arts – not just academics.”

“Students should definitely get involved. High school’s just not going to be as enjoyable if they don’t,” Goldstein said. “It’s easy to get hyper-involved because there are so many exciting things. Pick what works for you; pick what’s the most interesting. Do the right amount that works for you, and do them because you enjoy them.”

“You don’t want to let your group down,” Gibson said, “so you have to make sure that you choose the right [number of activities] and balance it out.”

Shitaye said, “If you learn how to balance different activities when you’re younger, you will be able to do better in life later on.”

All those interviewed articulated an agreement upon one opinion: finding the balance is what high school is about, whether it be finding the balance between work and play, school and sport, sports and arts, passion and obligation. Flint Hill offers many opportunities to discover a calling in any or all of the above, but it remains the students’ responsibility to listen for it and realize it for themselves.

Scherer is a journalism student at The Flint Hill School. The program regularly submits stories on local issues by its students. You can read all of them by following this link.  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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