Life in middle school: Balancing school and extracurricular activities

14 January 2020

By Erin Shaughness

At the end of the 12th grade, students are all judged on their curricular performance. This judgment will impact the options they will have in the next stage of their lives.

This reality can be stressful for any student and when they deal with this stress, two opposing extremes might come into play.

First, students might immerse themselves in the curriculum in order to maximise good academic performance. But this approach might increase stress if their focus becomes overly narrow. It might also lead to “burnout.”

Conversely, students might immerse themselves in extracurricular activities in order to alleviate or balance academic stress. However, this approach could increase stress if a student’s focus becomes scattered or distracted and causes them to fall behind in their studies.

Each student is challenged to find his or her own perfect balance of curricular work and extracurricular activities that brings out the best in them academically, while allowing them to remain mentally healthy. Four different eighth-grade students at Cayman International School discussed their methods of finding that balance.

Janie Gosselin says her extracurricular activities give her a better outlook, attitude and performance in school.

“When I go home and start doing homework, I am less stressed than I would be if I hadn’t done them,” says the holder of a black belt in karate.

Although Janie admits that her extracurricular activities do sometimes interfere with her schoolwork, she still thinks they are a important part of her school experience.

“Kids aren’t kids for long and they should make the most of this time.”

Lilly Haug, who also holds a black belt in karate, spends a lot of time practising that discipline.

“Karate plays the biggest role in my life because I spend … hours doing it outside of school and it has really shaped who I am today,” she says. “I get homework from karate as well as school, so doing all of that homework can add to my stress, but karate is important to me because it keeps me fit and healthy.”

Football is Zion Bodden’s extracurricular activity of choice. “[Football] helps me because it gives me exercise, as well as teamwork and character building,” he says. “I believe that football increases my performance in school because it relaxes me, gets rid of stress and anxiety, and gives my brain a different challenge.”

Sofia Watler also has a great love for football.

“If I am really anxious or stressed from school, I can go play sports and take my mind off of it,” she says. “Football and softball are important to me because I really enjoy playing them and they are a really good way to meet new people, make new friends and stay fit.”

Even though she spends about 10 hours every week doing her extracurricular activities, Sofia says they give her a positive attitude and improve her performance in school.

“Most of the time it doesn’t interfere with my schoolwork because I can manage my time well,” she says. “However, if I have a big project or test that I am not prepared for and if I have not managed my time well, it can become very stressful.”

Erin Shaughness is a Grade 8 student at Cayman International School.

This article originally appeared in the January 2020 print edition of Camana Bay Times with the headline “Balancing school and extracurricular activities.”