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Documentary on student stress screens Tuesday at Danville’s San Ramon Valley High

Slipping Behind, a film by an Orinda filmmaker and mom, raises questions about whether we're pushing kids in our achievement-oriented area to do too much.



The documentary, Slipping Behind, screens Tuesday night at San Ramon Valley

Courtesy of Reel Link Films

Lamorinda’s Vicki Abeles is something of an overachiever herself. Trained as an attorney, she worked for a prestigious New York law film, then Goldman Sachs. For the past 10 years, she’s managed investments and legal and tax needs for a number of individuals and foundations.

 

 

Oh, and she’s the mother of three and has launched a Lafayette-based filmmaking company, Reel Link Films.

That company’s first production is Slipping Behind, a documentary made to be shown to school groups and to get parents, kids, and educators talking about whether we’re putting too much pressure on kids to succeed in school, sports, and life in general. With her camera in hand, Abeles set out to ask why children’s lives more closely resemble those of the high-powered CEOs she used to deal with professionally than the relaxed, carefree childhood that she herself enjoyed. Abeles was inspired to make the film after watching her own kids wear themselves out juggling homework, tutoring, extracurricular activities, and family time. Abeles became particularly worried about what societal expectations were doing to our kids when she heard about the suicide of a young local girl.

“None of my kids have the time I did when I was growing up—to relax, to socialize, to pursue my interests,” Abeles says.

Abeles co-produced Slipping Behind with Julie M. McDonald, a veteran of film and digital media, including production management stints at Pixar. The film takes viewers to schools across the country and lets them hear from teachers, students, administrators, as well as education experts. These experts include Denise Clark Pope, founder of Stanford University’s Challenge Success Program; Madeline Levine, author of the best-seller, The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage are Creating a Generation of Materialistic and Unhappy Kids; and Sara Bennett, founder of the web site, Stop Homework and co-author of The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It.

One of the advisors on the film was Danville mom Kerry Dickinson, who helped spark a homework policy revision in the San Ramon Valley School District. Diablo wrote about Dickinson’s quest to create a saner and more sensible district homework policy in its September 2008 special back to schools report, "Homework: How Much is Too Much?"

Dickinson, who has two teenage sons, encourages parents to bring their kids. She says, "It’s very appropriate for parents with children of any age, teachers, coaches and school administrators.  Parents are encouraged to bring their older children with them (grades 9-12).”

Slipping Behind also presents some startling facts, such as how, in the United States, a young person commits suicide every two hours; school children these days report higher levels of anxiety than kids did back in the 1980s; and how countries with the highest scoring students on achievement tests assign less homework than schools in the United States.

The film will be screened 7 p.m. at San Ramon Valley High, 501 Danville Blvd., Danville in the Commons Area (cafeteria). Pre-Registration is requested: Please sign in by e-mailing rsvp4srvhs@sbcglobal.net. The film also will be screened February 25 at Montair Elementary School, 300 Quinterra Lane, Danville. To schedule a screening of Slipping Behind, contact Reel Link Films at screenings@reellinkfilms.com or phone (925) 962-0330.