Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
Though late in the book when she admits her own secret – that she, too, was/is an overachiever – Alexandra Robbins proves early on in “The OverAchievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids” that she not only understands but also empathizes with those young students who are pulled, pushed, or accidentally lured into the world of the overachiever. It seems that the overachiever’s world is becoming heavily populated – which is not necessarily a good thing!
Ms. Robbins examines the world of the overachiever from all aspects: the overachiever themselves, the influences that weigh on their lifestyle, the parents of, the secondary education system, the university system, and even the government. Are we really doing our children any favors when we push them to always be at the top of the game? While there are many arguments for this view of the education of children, Ms. Robbins brings up many valid points that few of us consider and of which most of us would be shocked.
I am the mother of an overachiever and, I have to admit, that I was once (and probably still am) one myself. It is a very hard and lonely road to walk. But Ms. Robbins offers us hope and a crystal-clear look at the price that we all pay for the creation of overachievers. She teaches us how to identify the overachiever and how to find those who are incognito (the Stealth overachiever, she calls them). She discusses the “drive” behind the overachiever (i.e., self, parents, peers, the “system”) and alternative paths for those who do not wish to suffer the overachievers’ fate (i.e., doing your best vs. striving for perfectionism).
I was incredibly impressed with her research into our education system and the education systems of other countries. For a long time, the United States has been trying compete with the educational systems in other countries, fearing that our own students were woefully lacking. However, test scores and rankings do not tell the entire story. Ms. Robbins shows the full picture of the education system in those countries, including incredibly high suicide rates at incredibly young ages, and questions whether we should be willing to pay such a price for a ranking. She also looks at the No Child Left Behind Act in the context of its goal versus its results. I believe that most parents with children currently enrolled in the U.S. Education system will be quite surprised.
Overachieving students find themselves constantly trying to balance class time, home work, sports, extracurricular activities, and volunteer or paid jobs in the quest for the perfect college application for the perfect college acceptance. They sacrifice sleep, health and needed social skills to accomplish these goals. Some would say that they are ambitious and that we should be proud of them. I believe that there is be a better way! Ms. Robbins not only shows us the adverse effects of this type of lifestyle, but she offers suggestions for the students, the parents, the school systems, the colleges, and the government to help in teaching our students the proper balance of commitment and enjoyment for life.
Ms. Robbins follows students at a prestigious high school through their junior and senior years, showing the rest of us how they deal (or not) with the pressures of parents, peers, teachers, colleges, and most importantly, themselves. She introduces us to a variety of overachievers so that we can identify their drives and their goals within the overachiever category. We might see ourselves, our sibling(s), or our children in the stories of these individuals – and if we do, hopefully we will begin to understand the pain that can come along with what we perceive to be success. I know that as you read their stories, you will feel compassion, sadness, joy, and you will triumph with those who break free of the need to be an overachiever and learn to live life.
If you have a child who will eventually attend college, are the parent of a high school or college student, work in the school system (including the universities), or work in the state or federal departments of education, this book is a must read. If you are a student who believes you might fall into the overachiever category, this book could be a life-saving read for you! Ms. Robbins has done us all a great service in her study of these students and their world. I thank her personally for giving me, as a parent, a new perspective on my own overachiever daughter’s life. I know now that there are times when I need to direct her away from that all-consuming world and insist that she have a little fun. What a chore!
To obtain a copy of Ms. Robbins’ book, visit Amazon at the link below. For more information about Alexandra Robbins, her book, The Overachievers, or her other literary achievements, visit her web site, also listed below.