High School: High Stress, High Stakes

In today’s world, stress is unavoidable. Everybody from adults to teens to kids experiences it at times in different forms. Sometimes stress can be a positive, where just enough of it keeps you on your feet. However, too much stress can have effects in health, sleep, and performance.

Jim Lin(11) studying hard for exams.
Chris Kwon
Anson Sik (10) studying hard for exams.

In high school, one bad mark could result in the end of dreams for some. Especially in a school like St. George’s where there is intense competition for the top tier colleges and universities, students sometimes feel the need to do whatever it takes to get that high mark, which may include cheating. An anonymous grade 11 student said this when asked about his opinion on cheating at Saints: “I think that the standards are very high at Saints which creates an environment that can be very pressuring to achieve top marks. This opens up the opportunity for students to find varieties of ways to cheat; which I have seen a lot of, particularly in elective courses.”

The question on how stress is created and what can be done to lower stress is a reoccurring question at every school, especially Saints. Recently a new system called Cohorts were introduced which blends multiple courses into one. This year, a new exam plan was created for the grade 8’s. In the past, they usually just had exams for math, English, science, French, socials. Because of the cohorts, now multiple exams will be combined into one. There are multiple opinions on this topic. Many people like this idea, however many people think this may cause extra stress because it may cause an overload on the students. As well, numerous teachers have said that this is creating more stress for the teachers. Instead of dealing with their known subject, now they have to move into a different subject they may not have experience with.

Michael Odouza(11) shared his opinion on student stress:

Marc Brackett, a researcher in the Yale University Department of Psychology and director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence conducted a student sample of 22,000 students across the USA. These were the results: “Tired was most often invoked — 39% of students said. Stressed came in second, at 29%. To contrast this, the two most frequently invoked positive emotions wer1932351_1426251381805e “happy” (22%) and “excited (4.7%). New York University decided to study the private school setting, which generally has been understudied compared to public institutions. They found that, “nearly half (49%) of all students reported feeling a great deal of stress on a daily basis and 31 percent reported feeling somewhat stressed. The circle chart on the right shows what makes a student stress on average:

These stats show the contrast between students feeling happy versus tired and stress regardless of age, gender, and if they attend public or private school. When stress and tired are number one and two on how students feel, it is unarguable that there is a major problem. If around 40% of public school students and 50% of private school students are stressed, then why are things not being done to try and reduce stress? There are a few things that teachers could do such as: plan major tests around other courses major tests, have tutorials/review sessions, or reduce homework. This can be done quite easily at private schools, but it is difficult to accomplish this at public schools because of numerous students and low budget. Families, however, can do more to help their children with stress. Being more strict with electronics, having healthy snacks, and not overwhelming their child with extra activities. But again, for some lower income families this is more difficult to do.

Mr. Tweedle, Head of Grade 11 and also a math teacher had much to say regarding stress and academic integrity at St.George’s:

As seen in the video above, stress and academic integrity at St.George’s is not a secret and is constantly seen. It is not that big of a surprise due to the heavy workload, expectations, and extracurricular activities such as: art, music, sports, and tutoring. Throw in the studying and pressure from standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT and homework and it is actually no surprise that stress is heavily seen within Saints. However, Saints does their best to try and reduce stress. There is an abundance of resources such as: tutorials, review sessions, and review packets. So how much more can be done to reduce stress? This is a question that is only going to continue to get larger and affect students more unless something is done soon.

Michael Odouza(11) working on his socials term project.
Chris Kwon
Michael Odouza(11) working on his socials term project.

Mr. Roberts, a grade 8,9 English teacher and grade 8 advisor had this to say about stress and academic integrity at Saints:

“Students get stressed for numerous reasons: being over-loaded with assessments at a term end;  feeling pressure from parents to attain marks for entry into Harvard; procrastinating with a Red Bull and Grand Theft Auto; being over-subscribed with piano lessons, SAT’s and public-speaking classes.  Let’s face it: when we’re not sleeping well, it’s usually because we’re stressed.  When we’reon sleep, our brains don’t perform as they should.

For sure, lack of sleep and stress are huge contributors to students making bad decisions and violating academic integrity. As a teacher, I think it’s important for me to be communicating with my colleagues before giving major assignments that involve work done in and out of class over a period of time.  There’s no logic in assigning a long-term project in my class when, for example, Socials also has a project underway.  With a little foresight, we teachers can, at the very least, eliminate the excuse of “I plagiarized because I am stressed because I have three huge assignments due this week. Saints cannot control the lives of its students beyond its walls: that’s the job of parents. The duty of the school is to ensure that within its walls, all that can be done is being done to minimize stress while providing purposeful learning opportunities that challenge the students. Due to the pressure to achieve top marks, combined with witnessing other students cheat; it is not uncommon for students to feel prone to want to cheat as well.”