Homework: An Hour a Day Is All the Experts Say

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How much time does your teen spend doing busy school work each night? According to a recent study, if it’s more than one hour… then it’s too much. A study from Spain published in the Journal of Educational Psychology by the American Psychological Association found that spending more than one hour on math and science homework can be counterproductive. Students seem to gain the most benefit when a small amount of homework is consistently assigned, rather than large portions assigned at once.

The study examined the performance of 7,725 public and private school students (mean age 13.78 years). Students answered questions about the frequency of homework assigned and how long it took them to complete assignments. Researchers looked at standardized tests to examine academic performance in math and science. They found that students in Spain spent approximately one to two hours per day doing homework. Compare that to studies that indicate American students spent more than three hours a day doing homework.

Researchers found that teachers who assigned 90-100 minutes of homework per day had students who performed poorer on standardized tests than those with less homework. However when teachers consistently assigned small amounts of homework students scored nearly 50 points higher on standardized test than those who had daunting amounts of homework.  Another interesting finding from this study was students who were assigned about 70 minutes of homework, of which they needed help from someone else to complete, scored in the 50th percentile on standardized tests. Whereas those who were assigned the same amount of homework, but could do it independently, scored in the 70th percentile.  So clearly, not only is the amount of homework assigned of importance, but so is the ability to master it independently.

 There are several possible explanations for these findings. First, teachers may be using homework as a means to cover what was not completed in class. So rather than practicing concepts taught in class, students are left to self-teach material not covered in class. Homework should supplement learning, and not be used as a tool to keep up with a curriculum pacing guide. Another explanation for testing gains is those who work to master material independently experience more academic success.
As a student, I know for sure that I am negatively affected by excess homework. I would consider more than one hour to be a nightly thing, but anywhere more than three hours is when I begin to see negative side affects. Many nights I get home around 7 o’clock because of after school activities, and am up much past 10 (when I like to go to sleep) doing homework. I wish there was more of a penalty to teachers who assigned excess homework. I believe that homework should be a time for practicing what you learn in class, not working on an entire new project or teaching yourself.

Emotion, Stress and Health: Crash Course Psychology

Here’s another crash course psychology video by Hank Green. In this one he talks about emotion, stress, and health. The part of the video I found most interesting was the discussion about stress. Stress isn’t just an inconvenience, it can actually KILL you. Feelings of sadness and depression can put our health at risk. It can weaken your immune system, making you more prone to attract sickness of some kind. Reactions by our body to stressors can fire up our body’s sympathetic nervous system and trigger our ‘fight or flight’ response. Stress is natural, but too much stress can be unhealthy.

Why the Bruce Jenner Interview Matters

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It hasn’t even been 24 hours since the televised interview between Diane Sawyer and Bruce Jenner. I watched the interview, and was amazed by the openness of Bruce. In the interview, he says he still wishes to go by the pronouns of “he” and “him” for now, so that’s how I’ll refer to him in this post.

For those who don’t know about this, after months of speculation Bruce officially announced that he is transgender, and his words has “a soul of a women”. In the interview, he says he’s felt like this for as long as he can remember, and it’s always been a part of who he is. I think telling to world about this is incredibly brave of him, as he talks about his goals to help other people feel comfortable in their own skin.

Before watching the interview, I was worried it would seem more like a publicity stunt. However I found myself moved by the authenticity in which he approached his story and the care and compassion with which Sawyer handled the often loaded material.

Last night, social media was filled with support for Bruce.

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The buzz surrounding the interview and its aftermath begs the question of, is our culture experiencing a tipping point regarding transgender rights? Long recognized by advocates as the most persecuted within the LGBT moniker, transgender individuals continue to live in the shadows, with staggering suicide rates, open hostility and discrimination lodged at them even from law enforcement and other institutions that should serve to protect their rights.

While I was watching the interview I felt like I was watching history being made. There are very few high-profile transgendered individuals, the only other person I can think of is Laverne Cox. Hopefully this will lead to more awareness to the issues these people face everyday.

The actual interview was filled with amazing, from the heart quotes. He said at one point, “I’m saying goodbye to people’s perception of me and who I am. But I’m not saying goodbye to me. This has always been me. [When you think of me], please be open-minded. I’m not this bad person. I’m just doing what I have to do.” Another big moment was when Saywer questioned his sexuality and how it relates to his gender identity. “I always felt heterosexual,” Jenner said. “I’m not gay. As far as I know I’m heterosexual.” He explained later that there’s a big difference between gender and sexuality: “Sexuality is who you’re attracted to… gender is who you are… in your soul.” I think that quote is very important for people who are confused by who he is. We need to break stereotypes that because you are one thing, you have to be another as well. Every person is a mixture of different qualities, and everyone is beautiful for being who they are.

Preparing for college

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I’m approaching the summer before my senior year of high school, and I’m really starting to feel the push towards college. It seems like high school is centered around college, which I think is a mistake. There are many students who are planning to enter the workforce almost immediately after graduation, and they probably feel left out from all of this college talk and preparation. My personal belief is that high school should prepare the student for whatever step they wish to take next. If that next step is college, than yes AP tests and college prep is the way to go. However if the next step is entering the workforce, we should give them options to prepare for what they wish to do if they already specifically know what that is. And if they don’t quite know what they want to do, we can have classes they can take to figure that out. I think we need more shop classes like repair classes. We should also have more classes that prepare students for work with money, that is essential for almost every job. The point is that not everyone is going to college, and high school can be much more efficient for the students that aren’t.

Teens are under a lot of pressure to make the right decisions for their future. Michael Winerip, who interviews and recommends potential Harvard applicants, wrote in the New York Times, “I see these kids—and watch my own applying to college—and as evolved as they are, I wouldn’t change places with them for anything. They’re under such pressure.” Now more than ever, the years of high school and even middle school are often thought of primarily as years of college prep. Certainly by junior year, if not before, many college-bound students take on a full schedule of AP classes, standardized testing (including SAT or ACT preparatory classes and tutoring), campus visits and interviews, volunteer hours so as to fill out a high school résumé, participation in extracurricular activities and sports so as to be well-rounded, and studying to maintain a near-perfect GPA.

What can be lost in this busy schedule is the fact that adolescence is about so much more than preparation for college. It’s about preparation for the rest of life, including moral, personality, and social-emotional development. I’m in my junior year of high school, and this year has been the busiest year for me in terms of everything I feel I need to do for school. However, I feel like most of what I’m assigned is busy work, meant to weed out those who can’t handle the workload in college. I think that’s a waste of our teen years, we should be allowed more opportunities to find who we are and what we want to do with our lives.

With that said, it’s important to know some ways to prepare yourself for college. This list tells you a few ways to mentally prepare yourself:

  • Maintain your support system- Stay close with your friends and family when you’re away, with visits, facetiming, texting, or calling. It’s important to stay close with the people you were close to before your move to college. This will make the transition easier, and you’ll always have someone to talk to about what you’re going through.
  • Learn time-management- Get organized. Buy a planner, and write down everything you have to do in it, and when you plan to do it. This will help you stay on track when life gets fast. It’s also important to not stress yourself out; make sure you give yourself enough breaks.
  • Know the basics- Before you live on your own, it’s important that you know how to do basic tasks like laundry and dishes. Even things like gaining some technology skills would be useful in case your computer or TV breaks.
  • Be open to new things- Be willing to get to know all types of people. Colleges are usually much more diverse than high schools, and you may be surprised by the types of people you become friends with. But that’s what college is about, broadening your horizons to new people and new ideas.

Social Thinking: Crash Course Psychology

I really enjoy watching the crash course videos on psychology, and I plan to start incorporating more of them in my blog.

In this video, Hank Green takes us through the basics of social psychology. I thought he had a great example about how how we see a situation differently in turn changes our perception about a group of people. Our political views can very well be influenced by how we perceive situations, like poor or homeless people. You can see them as lazy and looking for a handout, or as having a lack of educational and other opportunities like many of us receive. Politicians will try to use this in getting votes from people. As a voter, I think it’s more important that ever to listen to the facts and determine your own beliefs instead of letting them persuade you.

He also talked about how we naturally adapt to the roles we’re given. If you are assigned as a group leader for a project, it’s difficult to not feel more important than your group-mates. That’s probably why people often times misuse their high positions of power. I just find it insane how people are able to change to the point where they grossly dehumanize other people. Staying humble is incredibly important.

How to cope with a breakup

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A good friend of mine is currently dealing with a hard breakup. I’ve tried to comfort her, but it’s hard knowing the right things to say and at what times. It’s good to vent to a friend, but it’s even more important that you know how to take care of yourself. So in this post I will give some tips to those dealing with a breakup, from how to cope to how to move on.

Ending a relationship has very real effects on the mind and body: A 2010 Northwestern study found that breakups cloud our sense of self, and the more serious things were with your ex, the more of an identity crisis you’re likely to experience. So step one is to realize your ex doesn’t determine who you are, that’s completely up to you. You may have changed throughout the relationship, but who you are is completely your own.

You have to treat yourself after the breakup, whether you initiated it or not. While it’s true that time heals all emotional wounds, you can speed up the process of moving on by taking control over your health and well-being. Here are some ways I think could help speed up the healing:

  • Write or talk it out- After visiting with my friend and talking through her emotions, it was very obvious that she felt much better. Although suppressing unpleasant feelings is a natural impulse, avoiding your emotions will ultimately prevent you from moving past them. There are so many emotions involved in a breakup- anger, sadness, loneliness, feelings of rejection and uncertainty about the future — and it’s essential to confront them head-on.
  • Take care of your body- Going on a “breakup diet” may sound like a good idea- possibly looking our best as a way to get revenge on an ex- but it can easily become a way to punish yourself, reinforcing feelings of rejection. (Not to mention encouraging you to develop an unhealthy relationship with food.) Instead, look for foods that nourish your body and brain. A balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits, greens and stress-busting superfoods can help counteract the stress of a breakup.
  • Get active- Getting your endorphins pumping through cardio exercise is often prescribed as a way to get over a breakup, and for good reason: Going for a run or hitting the elliptical can lower your stress levels, improve cognitive functioning and boost your mood- in addition to providing a healthy distraction from your worries. It’s good to get your mind of the breakup and focus on something positive.
  • Do things YOU love- After a bad breakup, it’s hard to get excited about the things you loved pre-split- but the only way to start enjoying yourself again is to force yourself to get out and do them anyway. Hang out with your best friends, go to your favorite restaurant, do things that make you happy.
  • Change it up- Post-breakup haircuts are commonly known, and a little cliche, but it sounds like a great idea to me. If you’re looking for a fresh start, why not get a new haircut? Maybe even go get some new clothes. Another way you can change it up is to try something new, and meet new people. Some ideas might be to join an art class, a fitness class, or even find a new hobby.
  • Give back- Performing acts of kindness towards others has been shown to improve well-being and help relieve depression. Volunteering at a local soup kitchen or Boys and Girls club can take your mind of the breakup and focus on the positive impact you can make.

Why do people enjoy cliche movies?

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This past Saturday I went to see The Longest Ride, which is a movie adaptation of a book written by Nicholas Sparks. Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson) is a senior at Wake Forrest University in North Carolina who is majoring in art. Sophia is convinced by a sorority sister to attend a bull riding competition, where Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood) is competing as a bull rider. After a successful ride, Luke gives Sophia his hat, and they meet again later on that night.

They go on a date and hit it off, but Sophia breaks it off because she is planning to leave for an internship in New York in two months, and doesn’t think it’d be worth entering a relationship for that short of an amount of time. However, driving home in a rainstorm together they see a car wrecked off the rode, and Luke pulls an older man from his car and rescues him. Luke and Sophia both stay close with the man (Ira), and learned that he experienced a difficult relationship with the love of his like, Ruth. The movie goes back and forth between the story of Sophia and Luke, and the story of the (younger) Ira and Ruth. Sophia and Luke’s relationship is what you’d expect from a typical Nicholas Sparks movie. However I fell in love with Ira and Ruth’s relationship, there was amazing back story and great chemistry between the two actors. I also enjoyed how to two stories connected to each other, and the relationship between Ira and Sophia was very sweet to watch.

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Overall I really enjoyed the movie, but it also got me thinking about why people enjoy cliche movies so much. Girl meets boy, they fall in love, have some issues, and end up happy. Our minds are preset to expect that to happen, but we still enjoy them. Why? Well, for most of us, we like to enjoy the fantasy world that many people will ever experience. We are drawn into a story that shows two people falling madly in love, and imagine it’s us.

I enjoy watching these movies because it takes me away from my own world and I’m put into an ideal fantasy world. Still, I don’t like when movies are too predictable. I like when the writers add in something unexpected to set it apart from other movies. In The Longest Ride, that twist is the backstory of Ira and Ruth. I really enjoyed the movie, and was impressed by how the two story lines related.