Last school year was a trial for everyone. There were many changes, and most people in the SPA community can agree that most of them weren’t very good. However, one thing almost all students can agree on is that they loved flex days. No classes on Wednesdays allowed students to talk to their teachers and catch up on work while taking a much-needed mental break. Now, as school is getting back to “normal,” students wonder why flex days have disappeared.
A CNN article talked about Iceland, where they conducted a study with about 1% of the workforce in the country across different companies. They reduced the workweek by five to six hours, less than a day, with no reduced pay. They found that more free time increases the well-being of employees and reduces the risk of burnout. Also, less exhaustion leads to better work from the employees who could function at their best. The trial was described as “an overwhelming success.” Thus people found that shorter workweeks can positively affect people and companies. High school students spend almost the equivalent of a nine to five job at school every day and then bring more work home to complete at night. Couple this with extracurriculars, and it makes sense why students would feel overwhelmed and in need of a break.
Unfortunately, in the case of bringing back flex days, there are more factors to be considered than solely the benefits of a shorter week. One of them being the curriculum. There is a set amount of learning students need to do each year. There are about 29 weeks of school, not including days off and breaks. If one day of each week was taken off for the whole school year, that would be another 29 days off, almost a month. That is a lot of time taken away from learning and could lead to classes being rushed and thus even more stressful. Another factor is that while studies show that shorter workweeks increase the well-being of employees, very few companies practice it. In high school, students must learn to manage their time and stress to move into their adult lives prepared and confident.
A study was done at a private school in New York by New York University, with a community very similar to what students experience at SPA. The study said that “…there is growing awareness that many subgroups of youth experience high levels of chronic stress, to the extent that it impedes their abilities to succeed academically, compromises their mental health functioning, and fosters risk behavior.”
Comprehensive studies in both adults and children show high stress can be caused by too much work and not enough relaxation to counter it. The pressure carries over into adulthood in high school and perpetuates harmful mindsets about work, anxiety, and mental health. It is worth exploring the idea of reducing the workload to allow for rest and personal health. Talk to your teachers about homework that takes too long. Learn to step away and say that the work is good and does not need to be agonized over. Flex days may not be a realistic solution, but many coping mechanisms make students’ lives easier, and learning them would be very beneficial.