Adults, if you’re feeling burnout, imagine how we feel

The Wolf Staff, Feature Editor

It’s no secret that teenagers are stressed. Seemingly, they’ve been complaining about it for forever, a pattern brushed aside as a common experience and swept away with pitying nods and false promises of change.

Adults blame our use of technology for our lack of sleep, even as schools start far earlier than necessary for a bedtime fitting our REM cycle. We’ve been outcast for having mental health problems, without a thought as to how these problems arose in the first place. At a time when the world is shutting down, expectations of returning to normal continue, and there are only mild attempts to mitigate the problem. Bandages don’t fix broken bones. 

At Tualatin High School, 20-minute time slots have been dedicated to “Pack Time,” a practice apparently based on Social Emotional Learning, which administration touted as a safe space for students to talk to staff and teachers. Of course, Social Emotional Learning is beneficial. After a year and a half in quarantine, we’re glad to see the admin being more responsive to the needs of students. Yet the program in its current form falls short. Students reject its invitations to be more vulnerable with peers and teachers, many saying it feels surface level and obvious. It’s unclear if the administration will be able to change this approach. 

Yet, even if administrators can truly tap into the potential of Social Emotional Learning, the program could not alleviate the amount of anxiety students feel from their overwhelming expectations and workload. 

In a simple world, school begins at 8:55 in the morning and ends at 3:45 in the afternoon. Let’s round it up to seven hours of school. Fifteen to seventeen year olds are expected to get nine to eleven hours of sleep per night. Say we spent an hour in the morning to get ready, and 10 minutes to get to school at 8:50 in the morning. We should be waking up at 7:40 and going to bed, at the latest, by 10:40 in the evening. Getting back home will take 30 minutes, either by bus or by car. 

That gives us six hours of free time, but now subtract an hour for dinner and an hour to get ready before bed, so now we’re down to four hours of leisure. 

The reality is that we don’t have four hours. We have sports, realistically taking up two hours and forty-five minutes. Substitute that for —or add to that— work, which can take up more hours in our day. Even worse, as we look towards our post-secondary plans, educational institutions will require us to participate in clubs and activities that point to some supposed career. In the midst of all these responsibilities is the need for actual free time, the time to spend with our family and friends, the time to actually be a teenager. 

For all of these reasons, however, we realize that there are forces outside of our local control. School schedules are dependent upon sport schedules as well. The state does require a certain amount of instructional hours and days that the district must uphold, albeit Oregon’s is much lower than other states. 

Nonetheless, all over the world, many workplaces, not just schools, are considering the viability of our pre-pandemic hours. More prominent than ever are the questions of whether we need to be working so hard, to be so productive and toward what end are we working? Many major publications, including the New York Times’ Ezra Klein Show, NPR’s Life Kit, Vox’s Today and others, have dedicated coverage to the idea of the four-day work week. 

We need to be mindful, though, as teenagers are not adults. Looking at our supposedly-productive hours, however, it seems as if we are working more, and more is expected of us. As adults come out of the pandemic questioning and changing the cards they’ve been dealt, you should look at ours, too. We’ve been questioning our conditions for a long time, but unlike you, we can’t change them.