Inside Areté Blog Series

Areté Insights

Learning Anxiety

Creating Self-Motivated, Confident Learners Without Anxiety

We hear it all the time: all learners have their own unique “greatness.” Indeed, students need their own combination of right things to flourish – the right mentors, the right peers, the right culture, and — most important — the right educational environment. 

While traditional schools puzzlingly claim to provide the right mix of factors for every student, experts continue to lament the one-size-fits-all nature of most classrooms and curricula.

This steadfast dedication to quantity over quality, with its corollary delusion that lecturing and testing lead to actual learning, has seeded a singular trend over the last several decades: through-the-roof anxiety levels with no demonstrable improvement in any indicator of effective learning. 

While COVID has accelerated this trend, it did not create it — between 2010 and 2015, the number of teens who felt “useless and joyless” increased by a staggering 33%. A 2019 Pew study revealed that 70% of high school students identified anxiety and depression as a “major problem” among their peers. 

Not only is this anxiety destructive, it’s largely pointless: research shows that high stress results in less focus and a just-get-it-done ethic, neither of which promotes deeper understanding or lasting improvement in skills.

So if stressing kids doesn’t make them smarter, what does?

By replacing arbitrary workloads and artificial pressures with an emphasis on high engagement and deep thinking, educators have the power to harness students’ authentic enthusiasm in lieu of the carrot/stick game that plagues our current educational system.

anxious student

Some practices that promote high achievement through genuine engagement include:  

  1. Close mentorship by committed, energetic teachers
  2. Student-led, passion-driven classrooms and curricula
  3. Democratic educational environments that honor student voices
  4. Individualized counseling and academic support
  5. A focus on growth and improvement, vs. “one shot” assignments and tests
  6. Meaningful assessments, including capstone and thesis projects, to promote independent, empowered learning
  7. Giving kids a chance to truly use their minds (something teens and preteens are dying to do!), rather than simply rewarding productivity and task completion.


At Areté, we believe in supporting each student’s passions, and guiding them to achieve their own unique goals. When our students discover what makes their hearts skip a beat, anxiety takes a back seat to passion as they invent, analyze, create and imagine their way to exciting college programs and cutting-edge careers.

We invite you to join us at our Open Houses or Contact Us at to learn more.

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