Under pressure

Dr. David Gleason asks if pressure is necessary for teenagers to achieve optimal performance

Ahead of his keynote speech at Asia-Pacific International Schools Conference, education innovator, Dr. David Gleason, identified the most problematic conditions among many teenagers in recent years has been an increase in feeling stressed and pressured. 

There is no doubt that sometimes pressure is necessary to achieve optimal performance, but what if teenagers have not yet developed the coping skills?

Dr. David Gleason, who is also the Consulting Psychologist of Concord Academy, is going to be a keynote speaker at the Asia-Pacific International Schools Conference (AISC) in Hong Kong this December. He has just published a book called At What Cost? Defending Adolescent Development in Fiercely Competitive Schools. He explained the mismatch between adolescents’ developmental readiness and the combined academic and social pressures imposed on them too early in their lives.

What are serious consequences if the overwhelming situation continues?

“Poignantly, it is this increase of stress and pressure that has led to their conditions of anxiety, depression, and a host of behavioral manifestations of those conditions including chronic sleep deprivation, substance abuse, eating disorders, cutting and self-injury, and all too frequently, suicide,” explained David. 

“Strikingly, I read an article in USA Today this morning [15 July 2017] entitled ‘America sees alarming spike in middle school suicide rate,’” continued David. “The article describes how the suicide rate among 10 to 14-year-olds has doubled between the years 2007 and 2014, and for the first time, has surpassed the death rate in that same age group caused by automobile accidents.” 

Dr. David Gleason

What are the main reasons leading to these conditions?

A USA Today article states, “There is so much pressure on young people that they can become overwhelmed because they have not yet developed the coping skills adults rely on.” 

David is fully behind of this explanation as he said, “It is this mismatch between young adolescents’ developmental readiness and the adult-imposed expectations and demands that adolescents face long before they are even capable of understanding and managing these combined and overwhelming pressures.”

Overwhelmed teenagers vs. perfect achievement

Students experience a kind of academic pressure as a matter of routine. 

David remembered one of his clients and said,  “This student works and works all the time, because in her mind, she could never work enough. She stated ‘I’m afraid to stop working…it’s just who we are. It’s what I’ve been told so much…for so long. Constant working…for perfect achievement is engrained in me.’”

“The many Asian-Pacific students whom I have encountered in schools around the world exhibit a very similar work ethic, one that seems inappropriately focused on ‘perfect achievement’.”

Defending adolescent development in fiercely competitive schools

“As a psychologist who has studied child and adolescent development for over 30 years, I have been amazed by what I have learned in the last five years. For all our students, finding the right balance between an appropriate level of academic rigour and educating them in healthy, safe and balanced ways has crucial lifelong implications,” added David. 

David is looking forward to his forthcoming appearance at the Asia-Pacific International Schools Conference (AISC). “I remain curious and eager to work with educators in this area of the world to explore these issues together,” he said. 

David will deliver a keynote speech of ‘At What Cost? Defending Adolescent Development in Fiercely Competitive Schools’ to over 500 delegates from international schools across Asia. 

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