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Dealing with a Busy Student Schedule

by Selena, Grade 8 student at the Swiss International School

Sponsored by the Swiss International School

As I reflect on this past year, I think about everything I have achieved and learned, and many of these things have been done outside of regular classes. Managing my time to complete all homework and assessments, plus outside activities, has sometimes been a stretch.

I am in the Qatar Youth Choir, where we rehearse around six hours a week,  or more when there are important events coming up, plus an hour of music theory and private voice coaching lessons. I also have to prepare for exams in music theory, singing and choir. In addition, my school has a performing arts club where, this year, we practised for the school’s first musical. Students in the club had the choice of being in the show or being in charge of backstage, sound, or lighting crew. I played a character in the musical Annie, which required many extra rehearsals during lunch, after school or on the weekend.

Another activity I take part in is The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme, where we learn about survival skills, take part in service projects, and do an adventurous journey activity to the desert overnight. In the weekly meetings, we prepared for the adventurous journey by taking a course on CPR and first aid, planned our map route, and were taught how to make meals on a trangia stove.

While this is all fun, we also need to choose three activities to complete for an hour a week during a three-month time span. The activities are a personal choice, but there must be a physical recreation, a service project and a skillful project. Students also need to keep a log after every activity. As part of this programme, I spent time taking care of street cats and started running.

This schedule obviously takes a lot of energy out of me every week and leaves me with little time to focus on other activities, which can be tough. But there is a way you can make time for things you enjoy doing while accomplishing everything you need to, and that is by making your commitments fun. This can be done by encouraging a friend to join you in an activity you want to take on, starting something new you’ve always wanted to try, or it could even be something you don’t particularly want to do, but want to challenge yourself to try.

A balance in lifestyle is the most important thing to consider when trying out an activity. All the things you do should contain a fun aspect to motivate you further. When I took on this approach in life, I noticed my performance in school increasing, I was meeting new friends in my activities, and I generally felt that everything that used to be difficult to me just became easier.

Although it is a lot to handle, my activities give me a sense of pride and accomplishment, as I’m doing something more challenging than just school and social life. Parents sometimes worry about their child being stressed or overscheduled, and it is a choice, but if it is a choice a child is willing to make, it can make a big difference overall and they will start to see benefits. Through activities, children can learn new skills but also learn about themselves and practice dealing with challenges at a young age.

Top tips for parents

by Dr Nancy Le Nezet

  • The summer is a good time to sit with your child and discuss what their priorities are. When faced with a lot of exciting options, students can find it very difficult to choose. If they decide in advance what sort of activities and skills they would like to focus on, picking the right activities will be much easier. Writing a list of priorities before the activities schedule comes out is a good idea to help children focus and not get distracted by the many choices.
  • If you have a child who tends to do too much, asking them to keep one weekday evening free of activities can be a good way of safeguarding their time. You could even set that evening as a special family time. As children get older, they will also be grateful to have a little space left for homework!
  • Let your children try lots of different things and make their own choices. A good way to moderate their choices while giving them a lot of freedom is to have a rule such as “you must choose at least one sport and one creative activity”.
  • Focus on the positive. Some parents pack their child’s schedule with all the things they hate most. Imagine, for example, a child who is struggling in maths and loves music. Forcing this child to have an hour of maths tutoring every night is counter-productive and takes away from the time they could have to learn a new instrument or join a choir. Interestingly, the brain benefits greatly from diversity, and the musical education the child craves is likely to help them improve in other areas—even in maths.
  • Focus on your child’s passions, not yours: you may have dreamed of raising a little ballerina in a pink tutu, but if she loves football instead, accept it!
  • Finally, be supportive: activities can take a huge toll on parents as they make our days longer and we can sometimes feel that we spend our life in the car ferrying our children from one activity to the next. However, it is a sacrifice that is well worth it, and one that children will be grateful for.

Dr Nancy Le Nezet is the Director of Studies at the Swiss International School (Doha, Qatar). Nancy studied philosophy in France and in the UK and taught languages in Japan, the US and Spain before starting her career as an IB educator. Nancy is passionate about international education and the IB programme. For more information about Nancy and the school, please visit sisq.qa.