School needs serious modifications to alleviate student stress

Stress is literally an inescapable, inevitable aspect of our lives every single day. No matter how hard you try to block out, reduce, and cope with stress, it’s still always there. With the “mental health awareness movement” on the rise in the past decade, students, teachers, children, and adults alike are becoming more aware of the causes and effects of anxiety.

  Stress and anxiety are common things that almost everyone in the world reports encountering at least one time, or many times, during their lifetime. However, an increased amount of anxiety can begin to be a cause for concern when it starts to become more than just a ‘typical’ thing.

  But where does this anxiety all stem from?

  In an upper-middle class suburban town such as Voorhees, an area specifically known for its excellent quality of education, many children are under immense pressure starting at a very young age to “be the best.” In school, sports, and activities, kids are pressured to succeed and perform superiorly to their peers.

  Starting as early as 5th or 6th grade, students are pushed hard by parents and teachers to work as hard as they can in order to achieve the best test scores and numerical grade results they can. This extreme academic competitiveness starting at such an early age instills strong values in the minds’ of many students that it is important to do well in school, which is of course a great value to have.

  However, this competitiveness can eventually begin to have negative emotional and psychological effects on the tender brains of middle-school aged students.

As pre-teens and adolescents begin to realize what grades and standardized test scores really count for, this can trigger an overwhelming explosion of anxiety. When eighth grade rolls around, teachers and parents begin to explain the importance of getting the best grades possible in high school and how those grades will eventually determine the odds of getting into prestigious universities.

  As a 13 or 14 year old kid, you are suddenly being told that your academic success for the next four years essentially determines your future. That is an extremely difficult concept to understand for young teenagers whose brains are not yet fully equipped with critical thinking and decision-making skills. Soon thereafter, school goes from a place where you “try your best” to a place in which your success supposedly influences your adult life and beyond.

When high school begins, the pressure intensifies, and quickly. Many students are told they “have to” take higher-level, rigorous classes in order to make their resume and transcript look as attractive as possible for when applying to potential colleges.

  In the eyes of many, a grade next to a student’s name depicts not just how well one performs on tests and quizzes, but actually how intelligent that student is. Put simply, this perspective that some people may have is absolutely and unequivocally false and unfairly-based.

In even more recent days, such as the past year or two, there is now much talk that “colleges do not take SAT or ACT scores into account as much as they used to.” Apparently, some colleges around the nation are now even unwilling to accept or acknowledge these standardized test scores as a means to getting enrolled into their school.

So now, this puts us back in the exact same place we started…why are parents and  teachers putting so much pressure on the shoulders of teenagers to have to “score above a 1300” on the SAT when apparently the test is now becoming obsolete?

  Well, this is now the question we all must begin to ask ourselves as anxiety issues and depression skyrocket and standardized test scores and grades, in some cases, may begin to plummet.

What is really more worth it to us, as a society, in the long-run: the mental stability of our next generation or how high of a score one can achieve on standardized tests?

   What is a more important skill for our youth to possess: learning how to be a kind and successful person in the real world by being able to communicate effectively with one another, or calculating the Pythagorean theorem and memorizing the quadratic formula?

Well, the truth is, there really is no “right” answer. But, I’ll leave you with something interesting to think about as I conclude this article. As an

adult in the working world, you are asked very few times, if ever, what you got on the SAT. You are asked very few times, if ever, what your high school “grade point average” was. You are asked very few times, if ever, how many “A’s” you got in your high school class.

What the young people of today need in order to succeed in adult life are skills such as real-world problem solving, understanding how to deal with everyday-life situations, and knowing how to recognize the feelings of others’ around them.