When was the last time you remember doing something you really loved? No, not something you did for your SAT prep class. No, not something you did just for the extra credit points on your math test. No, not something you did solely for college. I mean something you did because you truly wanted to explore your interests and identify what really made you happy. The student body has voiced that stress is a prevalent source of concern within our community. Attending a high school nationally recognized for its academic rigor surely has its perks. Yet, the benefits we enjoy are coupled with significant costs. While the faculty and administration have a genuine interest in helping us achieve our goals, a strong emphasis on receiving exemplary grades, participating in extracurricular activities, and ultimately being admitted to the college of one’s choice creates an overwhelming feeling of stress for many SHS students. Granted, stress in moderation has been scientifically proven to be beneficial for high school students as it promotes motivation. However, we must draw a distinction between “healthy” and perilous stress. Too many of us can say we have fallen prey to sleepless nights and chronic headaches as a result of schoolwork and over scheduling. For too long we have silenced our voices and allowed stress to dominate our everyday lives, compromising our happiness and hindering us from relishing our youth. It’s time we make a change.
A major source of our stress is derived from the quantity of homework and long term assignments we receive here at SHS. An overabundance of work leads to an inability to devote an appropriate amount of time for completing each task to the best of our ability. Perhaps, a limit should be placed on the amount of homework we are able to receive per class. In addition, teachers could announce assignments further in advance to reduce the quantity of daily homework. Lastly, we can explore the possibility of having the first marking period of each school year weighted less in order to design study habits that cater to new teaching styles, workloads, and expectations.
A great portion of stress that exists within our community stems from testing weeks. Although the aim of testing week is to alleviate the “stress” of quarterlies and midterms, in reality testing week has become a source of stress itself. Many teachers feel obligated to give tests on their assigned day, which leads to the accumulation of tests for the students within a short span of time. We at Maroon have found that, the weeks before vacations and the week before testing week have become informal testing weeks themselves. However, this prolongs the official testing week which only adds to our existing stress. Perhaps teachers could assign projects or take home essays as an alternative to formal tests. In doing so, students would still be assessed on the same content while also expanding their creativity.
If schoolwork alone did not provoke enough stress, many SHS students immerse themselves in a wide variety of after-school activities. While extracurriculars provide students with growth and knowledge beyond the classroom setting, they also require a large time commitment, especially when many feel the need to overcommit. Our devotion to all these activities ultimately impede our ability to finish our schoolwork at a healthy hour. This problem exists especially for the athletes within our community and participants in the drama club production. With daily games, scrimmages, practices, or rehearsals, it is incredibly difficult to find a balance. Perhaps, there could be leeway for athletes, members of the drama club, or any member of a time intensive club who finds it difficult to conform to deadlines. These students would still need to complete the same assignments as their peers, however, a chance to amend deadlines could be extended to students in need. In addition, we could explore the option of extending lunch periods. The twenty minutes we receive is hardly enough time to eat a packaged lunch, let alone to stand in the hectic sandwich line in the cafeteria. Many SHS students receive external pressures, real and imagined, to swell their schedule with a variety of extra courses. For these students, lunch periods are often the only times they are able to meet with their teachers. By shaving two minutes off each period, fourteen extra minutes could be added to the lunch period. This would allow students to wait in line while still having ample time to eat their lunches and would provide extra time for students to run “errands” around the school, such as meeting with a teacher.
The stress of high school yields negative repercussions on our mental and physical health. The majority of SHS students can say they have been the victim of sleepless nights or a prolonged cold as a result of schoolwork. The results of the Stress Survey we took this fall showed that SHS students have reported a range of symptoms from exhaustion, weight loss, and anxiety. Failing to receive a proper amount of sleep leads to fatigue, trouble with concentration, and a loss of liveliness. This situation can be further exasperated by students who already suffer from mental health issues. Therefore, in order to safeguard our well-being, we must strive to make changes. Firstly, we could have the school day begin one hour later in the day in order to ensure an extra hour of nightly sleep. In addition, faculty members could offer to facilitate an optional seminar that educates students on wellness and mental health. Hopefully, through raising awareness students can identify effective time management skills that allow for a better night’s rest.
Although it may appear that stress is unique within our community, high levels of stress are found in high schools across the nation. In fact, a major component of high school is being faced with stressful situations. However, it is what we chose to do with this stress. Instead of feeling hopeless, let us channel this stress towards a positive outlet. Our student body is comprised of driven, talented, and passionate students and together we can make change.
by Maroon Staff