Maddy loves her high school, but like many teenagers, Maddy’s school experience has had its ups and downs. While her school encourages students to become confident, independent, globally-aware citizens, the environment is also stressful and competitive, with expectations of high-achievement. The traditional school schedule was so rushed that students had no time to meet with teachers, to have breaks during the school day, or even sometimes to eat lunch. Many students were obsessed with grades and were frustrated that the grading scale was inconsistent with other area schools. And, when changes were proposed, faculty hesitated: they refused to implement homework-free weekends because they had material to cover, and they thought a coordinated test and project calendar was just too much to take on. As a result of the unspoken “above average” expectations and stress, Maddy had her share of melt downs, sleep deprivation, and anxiety attacks. She told us that despite striving for a balanced life, she found herself choosing between health, happiness, and grades and schoolwork.
Then, in September 2012, after working with Challenge Success, her school adopted some big changes. The school changed the grading scale to allow students to make mistakes and maybe even feel comfortable taking more risks. And they decided to implement a new schedule. Instead of a traditional schedule, they adopted a modified block schedule, with a seven day rotation, four seventy-five minute classes a day, a common work period, and a daily meeting/club period. Now Maddy wouldn’t have to scramble during lunch to meet with a teacher, and she would have two days to do homework in between classes. Because of these changes, Maddy found herself less rushed and anxious.
When a friend from another school heard about the schedule change, she said, “that is the most thoughtful thing I think I have ever heard of a school doing.” And a classmate pulled Maddy aside to thank her for getting involved with the Challenge School team—she, too, was less anxious due to the new schedule. Maddy was proud of her contributions, and to ensure continuity after she graduated, Maddy co-founded a school club where students could hang out, learn about ways to reduce stress, and get involved in CS projects, including a sleep campaign. Maddy told us that Challenge Success gave her hope—hope that real change was possible and that help was on the way—and she was grateful that CS gave her school the tools and structure to make real, lasting improvements.