This is an Education

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. Hurrying is a Thursday 3 p.m. deadline for the full color State of the Academy double truck. Hurrying is starting an un-researched, bibliography-less History 310 paper seven hours before it is due. Hurrying is the 4:15 a.m. shot of adrenaline coursing through my veins that bring completed work and a bitter loneliness as the first birds sing outside to wake the sun. Hurrying is hours upon hours of work collapsing suddenly into minutes, into moments, into a single point in time. And then, it’s over.

It’s over and out of my hands. The paper goes to press. The teacher takes the essay. The adrenaline is gone.

I hurried.

But little is accomplished.

The paper has holes and mistakes that temper my pride on Friday morning because we didn’t start editing until Wednesday night. (“We need to hurry now,” we thought) The essay returns with a grade for which I can’t take responsibility, or a thesis that I no longer recognize since I crunched it out in the dead of the night. And the work I finished in an all-nighter is wasted anyway when I am barely awake enough in class to take a quiz or listen.

For me, hurrying has come to mean not only the act of rushing itself, but also lapse in judgment that forced me to hurry in the first place. At Andover, and especially in the newsroom, where we brag about how little we sleep and how much work we do, hurrying is a cop-out. It enables us to place the blame for the declining quality of our work, sliding effort grades and failed relationships on mere lack of time. Hurrying is an excuse, always. Had I wanted to write a 6+ paper, I would have started earlier and planned my time out. Had I wanted to pursue that extra angle in an article, I would have read it earlier and turned around e-mails and comments. That I was hurrying is something I use to explain something that falls short of my own standards.

Not only does hurrying fail to provide accomplishment, it also brings real, negative consequences. Exhaustion isn’t a good thing; it disrupts our ability to learn and grow.

The key to education seems simple here in Mumbai (often despite a very complex context). In order to effectively educate a child, you need to secure his or her emotional and physical wellbeing. It isn’t enough to read a book, you have to also ensure that he or she sees a doctor periodically and eats daily.

Mumbai Mobile Creche was initially shocking to me because it was so comprehensive. Their four-room building housed not only classrooms, but also a kitchen. A doctor visited once a week. Manav Sadhna followed a similar pedagogy. The community center they built consisted not only of a computer lab and blackboards, but also a fitness center, doctor’s office and separate kitchen facilities.

Health. Food. Books. That is an education.

So why is the first of those three things so often neglected at Andover? It could be that we are too busy hurrying in our academic and extracurricular lives that we forget the importance of our physical and mental health. But this seems unlikely in a place where the vast majority of the student body openly admits that attending the school has impacted their health (State of the Academy, 2013). More likely, it is that we believe academic success and health are mutually exclusive things. Maybe I have to sacrifice my health to do well at such a high academic level.

So, so many teachers will argue that I don’t have to, or shouldn’t have to. The faculty met multiple times this year to discuss “student exhaustion.” There has been talk of taking away Phillipian covenant so that we can get more sleep. I absolutely don’t think that is the solution, but here is what I know: that The Phillipian has been an integral part of my academic life at Andover. I don’t call it an extracurricular because it isn’t. It is, as Connie Cheng ’13 put it, a 35-hour sixth course. I have learned how to make myself heard and, more importantly, understood in a room of 20 other teenagers, how to ask questions and understand, how to listen, how to take responsibility, how to explain, how to write, how to lead. I know I have learned.

But I know also how it feels to be so tired that my body hurts.

Health. Food. Books. Should I have to choose between these? Should there even be a choice?

I don’t know.