School draws blurred line between stress, academics

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Aubrey V. '19, Writer

High school youth is thought of as a carefree part of life when teens can learn, find themselves and have fun. However, teenagers in today’s generation feel like they can’t fulfill these expectations because they are weighed down by stress. Stress is a high school epidemic with the potential to limit the achievements and happiness of students.

One major source of stress for high schoolers comes in the form of grades. Freshman year marks the turning point for grades in which they could begin to impact one’s future. With this comes stress which is perpetuated by the phenomenon of Powerschool.

“I look at my grades 24/7, and I’ve become more focused on the numbers than the learning aspect,” senior Gillian S. said.

Freshman Kylee B. agrees and said grades are her major cause of stress.

“I put the most stress on myself because I want to be able to maintain good grades while excelling in sports and still have time to have fun with friends,” Kylee said.

The ability to check grades whenever is convenient and can help students stay on top of their work. However, for some, the activity of checking grades becomes obsessive, and a bad score on a test or assignment can cause anxiety.

“I remember when we didn’t have Powerschool. Kids would be surprised sometimes because they didn’t realize they were going to get a lower grade than they wanted, but now it’s almost gone the other way. Kids are constantly checking their Powerschool and it stresses them out,” guidance counselor, Michael Naveau, said.

Naveau said a solution which might eliminate stress is if Powerschool would do away with the “current GPA display.” The only GPA which counts is the cumulative GPA which isn’t known until the completion of a course when all grades are averaged together for the year. The GPA featured on Powerschool can be unrepresentative, especially at the beginning of a quarter, and students should be hesitant to stress over it.

Another big stressor for high schoolers is the workload teachers give students and expect them to manage.

“In high school we, in many ways, make it harder on students compared to college,” Naveau said. “High school students are busier outside of school than many college students.”

Extracurricular activities and time management are the issue for many. In a study published by the Journal of Experimental Education, 61 percent of students said they were forced to stop an activity they enjoyed in order to make time for school.

“I think the school needs to take into consideration how much high schoolers have on their plates and try and help out as much as possible with managing our time,” Kylee said.

According to Naveau, some teachers have made a shift and only assign essential homework to help students. Others have not made a change in methods despite their students being in a constant state of stress.

The district has intensified the stress epidemic by shifting down accelerated programs to middle schools. Current middle school students are taking more high school courses than in the past, including physical science, algebra, geometry, English and foreign languages. This means some students start AP classes as freshmen, and they experience heavy workload at an earlier age.

“We have a lot of kids that can handle this, but at a cost,” Naveau said. “The cost is stress, the amount of time they put in and possible interference with other activities.”

All this stress results in burnt-out students who are then told they need to figure out their future. This additional stress targets upperclassmen who are running out of time to figure out where they want to attend college and what career path they want to follow.

“I don’t feel passionate about any specific field yet, so it’s hard and frustrating to deal with the stress to figure it out,” Gillian said.

In certain situations, stress can be good if it helps motivate kids to prioritize and get things done. Some students aren’t stressed enough over their future and risk missing opportunities to help them reach goals, but others are stressed to an unhealthy point.

“The bad stress comes in at the point when students let it consume them, and they’re worrying too much about either future events or events they can’t control,” Naveau said. “For some, this almost paralyzes them and prevents them from getting anything done at all.”

Everyone has different mechanisms to cope, but Naveau offers some simple techniques. First, Naveau said the best way to deal with stress is to “concentrate on the present.” If focused on the current situation, students feel less overwhelmed and can concentrate on steps which lead to immediate success.  

The second method is to focus on the big picture. If a student has the average 25 credits by the time they end high school, one class is only four percent of the overall picture sent to college. Therefore, one class can’t ruin a future.

It is important to find ways to cope with stress because extreme stress can lead to anxiety, depression, sleep problems, overeating or undereating, according to the Mayo Clinic.

There are individuals in the building who aid students in coping with stress, but Naveau said the building should take a more “systematic approach” on the issue.

“We as a school do a lot of in-service on different things, but I don’t recall ever having much in-service for staff on how to reduce student’s stress,” Naveau said.