By Julien Luebbers ’19
As the first few weeks back at school come and go, almost every student has been facing an extreme shift towards a more regimented schedule. In my recent weeks, I have more specifically noticed the school’s apparent inability to give students free time.
From breakfast check-in to classes to sports to dinner to study hall to bed there is barely any time for students to decompress and relax during the week. Even the time that is given to students feels pressured by the need to finish homework and extracurricular work as soon as possible. Overall, the time pressure and pace of day-to-day life at Thacher creates an atmosphere of hurriedness and panic.
Beyond the obvious implications of panic and hurriedness, the lack of free time also prevents students from being able to reflect on what they have accomplished. A simple example is when a concept or idea is briefly explained or mentioned in the class, and a student captivated by that concept is unable to look further into it. On a higher level, self-reflection helps keep a student honest with his or himself and allows them to see where their mental resources are better allocated.
If free time grants so many opportunities to students, then why don’t we have any? The question is an interesting one, of which there are many possible answers. In an interview with Katherine Halsey, teacher of French and English, she said, “We want to offer you the opportunity to develop your talents in every area to the fullest capacity.” Developing every talent of a student is a time-consuming task, and in order to achieve optimal growth a lot of time is demanded of students.
Ms. Halsey also explains that “there is a school of thought that worries that teenage people, given too much free time, will get themselves into trouble.” The reasoning behind this theory is complex, and there is some validity to it. It is true that having too much free time would not benefit the student body. However, given the proper guidance in their use of free time, students would most likely transform boredom or “trouble” into productivity in a non-academic sense.
There is no doubt that the task at hand is daunting; the administration would have to be deliberate and thoughtful about allocating free time to students, as it would be revolutionary. Likewise, students would need to honor the free time by using it in a positive (although not necessarily academic) manner.
Finally, it would be critical for the school and administration to change their school of thought regarding free time. Instead of assuming students would make poor decisions, guide students so they can make good decisions. In the long term, these skills would be useful outside the context of Thacher, where students will have free time and will need to make conscientious, productive choices.
As Ms. Halsey put it, “filling in your time constantly to try to distract you from the possibility that you might make bad choices, that’s not really doing the work of engaging you explicitly and thoughtfully in thinking about the importance of making healthy, smart choices.”
The hectic Thacher experience guarantees that students will be prepared to budget their time and meet deadlines in an increasingly demanding world. But when the longed after free time finally arrives, will Thacher graduates know what to do with it?