CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 5. . . .October 5, 2012
Under Pressure: Grads Face the Future. (The National).
Toronto, ON: CBC Learning (www.cbclearning.ca), 2011.
19 min., DVD, $60.00 (Single site license price).
Product ID Y8Q-11-05.
Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.
Review by Julie Chychota.
I said to my teacher a couple of weeks ago, when I informed him that I got a $16,000 scholarship from York University, ‘What is the price of my musical soul?’ Well, evidently not $16,000, because I jumped York and chose U of T over that. And in my situation, that is a lot of money – I think in anyone’s situation, it would be a lot of money to turn down. (Shannon Devereaux)
Wendy Mesley hosts The National as reporter Ioanna Roumeliotis takes the pulse of the Class of 2011 for a CBC news special feature, Under Pressure. Roumeliotis visits two Toronto high schools where students’ heart rates are accelerating the nearer they approach graduation. In a large group setting and also in one-on-one conversations, Roumeliotis discovers some of the biggest challenges students face, as well as some of the coping strategies they favour.
The first of the DVD’s two chapters follows Roumeliotis into Glenforest Secondary School in Mississauga where she surveys graduands. The auditorium is a virtual pressure-cooker: students disclose they feel pressured to achieve high grades, decide on careers, finance their post-secondary education, and fulfill familial obligations. She singles out “three students facing incredible odds”; their interviews are spliced between, and alternate with, footage of the entire class in the auditorium. First is Daniel Tulla whose parents rely on him to take care of younger siblings after school; his primary concern is earning grades high enough to qualify for basketball scholarships. Meanwhile, musician Shannon Devereaux declined a scholarship from one university to pursue studies at another she prefers, knowing full well it will mean taking out student loans and biking 45 kilometres a day to classes. Finally, there’s Rachel Chen, who, as a result of a falling-out with her parents, now shares a two-bedroom apartment with six other people. Rachel holds down a daytime co-op placement and a part-time job as she saves for a college paralegal program. In the midst of all the pressure, however, these three students, and the majority of their peers, look towards the future with optimism.
Chapter 2, entitled “Pressure Release,” comprises part two of Roumeliotis’s report. Here, she enters North Toronto Collegiate Institute (NTCI) to view the adaptive measures it has put in place to help students cope with the enormous pressure they feel. Ashkhan Tabib, on the verge of graduating, and Sabine Wex, who still has a couple of years to go, are two advocates of their school’s “Stress Busters” program. Sound therapy sessions—with resonating crystals bowls and cymbals—and mindful meditation classes leave them “recharged” and better equipped to handle the pressures that come their way. While Roumeliotis admits that these practices might sound “indulgent and New Agey,” NTCI’s principal and social worker explain that, with more and more students being diagnosed with anxiety or depression, it’s important to intervene early, to offer tools and techniques to help them manage stress, not just now but lifelong.
Under Pressure would make for worthwhile viewing for high schoolers, their parents, teachers, and school administrators. The DVD is a tractable 18˝ minutes, and its brisk pace will hold viewers’ attention. It should encourage discussions between adults and teenagers on matters of importance for post-secondary education: tuition and textbook expenses, transportation and living arrangements and costs, good study habits and strategies, grade expectations, and ways of handling pressure.
The complete content of the DVD is available for viewing on the CBC Website, along with a couple of Web “extras.” (See http://www.cbc.ca/thenational/indepthanalysis/story/2011/06/20/national-underpressure.html). The Web version is not closed captioned, whereas the DVD is. A word of caution, however: some media players probably display the closed captioning without incident, others stubbornly refuse (DVD Player), and still others display them out of synch with the action (VLC Media Player). In addition, the captioning provided is problematic in two ways. First, words and lines jump around on-screen as they progress outwards from a centre-aligned starting point, making reading more difficult. Second, the closed captioning appears to be missing a few words here and there, which means viewers with hearing disabilities are not receiving access to the same information as others. It would be desirable for all parties responsible for closed captioning on this and other DVDs to resolve these issues because, as “Under Pressure” demonstrates, students already have enough pressure to deal with; it’s not necessary to heap still more on students with disabilities.
Julie Chychota recently upgraded her cell phone to one that facilitates text-messaging with university-aged clients; she is now under pressure to learn its ins and outs.
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