The Crushing Pressure of Grades

Tired student having a lot to read

Tired student having a lot to read

Ashlyn Korpak, Staff Writer

Sophomore Jayla Williams is no stranger to the agitation and anxiety that comes with stress from grades. Even though she’s only in tenth grade, she feels the pressure to excel in and out of school. She understands the pressures of feeling like she must for the FHC mold no matter how unrealistic that is.

“I struggle with grade pressure,” Jayla said. “I feel like at FHC you’re looked down upon if you do not have a 3.8 or higher.”

Lots of feelings come with the pressure from grades: depression, confusion and discontentment. No matter where you are academically, there is always someone doing better than you, looking down at you.

“The kids that barely study and get an A and look down on you,” Jayla said, “or the kids that study and fail make smart comments about how you shouldn’t complain. [It] gives me stress about my grades because you feel bad for complaining in front of the students that need more help, but you feel stupid to the kids that aced it.”

Many students that struggle with pressure from grades and the accompanying feelings go to see the school counselors. Sometimes the student sets up a meeting, and sometimes a counselor will see a student walking down the hall and see the stress written in big bold letters on there face. In those cases, the counselor requests to meet with the student. These meetings ramp up as we get closer to midterms, and again as finals are about to begin.

When a student goes to talk to a counselor, they begin with where the stress is coming from.

“We try to talk about where that stress is coming from,” counselor Kyle Perkins said, “[Is it coming from] school, is it coming from themselves, is it coming from parents, is it coming from feeling like they have to fit a mold?”

Then, they talk about what can be done to combat the stress. Whether it’s taking something out of their schedule, or finding a way to create some down time.

In the war against stress, Perkins calls the counselors the “front lines.” But they’re not the only ones helping to beat stress.

“Teachers are becoming more aware of this,” Perkins said, “and in turn, maybe changing some of their practices or being more intentional about talking with students. I think some teachers do a great job of communicating and are being very intentional with their students and helping them out.”

It’s not just the staff that’s becoming more aware though. Students have begun to take a stand against stress and help each other through one of the toughest aspects of high school.

“We have a very connected student body,” Perkins said. “They’re very receptive of what’s going on with each other. And in general, I think they care and want to help each other out. That’s a big support that I’ve seen more recently too.”

As staff and students begin to search where the stress from grades might be coming from, they look not only to colleges, parents, the school, and the students themselves, but one thing in particular: PowerSchool. For those who don’t know, PowerSchool is an app that’s great for monitoring grades and other school related things. But unfortunately, students often use it improperly, and it causes stress to manifest.

“I think PowerSchool is a great tool when used appropriately,” Perkins said. “I think it’s a great way to stay informed and to know your status in a class and to know what grade you got on a test. I worry that I’m seeing students that are addicted to PowerSchool. They check their grades multiple times a day. They can’t help but click and open the app on their phone, and see their grade. I worry that the arrows have such a negative impact on their emotions. Seeing a class that you’re struggling in and then next to it is a little arrow pointing down.”

But how can this app be changed to be more useful?

“PowerSchool just makes me feel like a different type of stupid,” Jayla said. “I wish it used points system, instead of collecting the averages of our grades. I like how they changed the red arrow to the yellow arrow, but it still makes me nervous and sad to see the yellow.”

The stress to get good grades doesn’t just come from PowerSchool though. It comes from all around. The school, family, the need to get into a good college, even the people we go to school with.

“I feel pressured to have better grades by my peers,” Jayla said. “I feel like classmates and teachers judge others for their grades which makes me want to cry and not actually do the work. Not to mention parents, coaches, and colleges. [But] most of my stress comes from school and colleges. I am not on the rich side here at FHC and my parents cannot afford to send me to college, so I am depending on scholarships right now.”

But, for a lot of students, including junior Megan Johnson, the stress comes from themselves.

“It’s not my parents; my parents are great about it,” Megan said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well because I know I want to get into a good college and my teachers, I don’t want to disappoint them. So I feel like it’s mostly me.”

Even if a kid doesn’t struggle immense amounts of grades stress, you can see it in all the people around you.

“Most of my friends cry every night because of the grade stress,” Jayla said. “I really wish I could help then more often but I am usually trying to do my homework myself.”

A lot of students who struggle with how to deal with pressure from grades don’t know what to do to combat those feelings. And while it’s different for every person the main thing is to do something, anything to give your mind a break.

“When I feel pressured I get really stressed out,” Megan said. “I start to panic and then I can’t concentrate as well. [To help] I really like to run so after school if I ever feel stressed out, I’ll just go for a run. I try to take a quick break, get a snack, watch tv.”

But we shouldn’t just have to figure out a way to combat stress we should work together, as a staff, as a student body, and as a society to eradicate the unnecessary pressure from grades.

“I think high school grades are not what we should measure our intelligence with, it is not worth the anxiety,” Jayla said.