At some point in a student’s life, he or she will feel judged. Whether it’s encouraged by parents, siblings, peers or teachers, stress is inevitable. We rely on a sense of external validation, we rely on someone else’s opinion or standard, to feel a sense of accomplishment. This social pressure drives students to put more stress on themselves as they strive for perfection.
I think it’s pressure from our society. I think it’s easier to say, I am an A student, then, I am a student who can creatively express my ideas. A letter is much easier to say, people understand what it means. We think that colleges define us that way.
— Jennifer Selleriek; Literacy Curriculum Coordinator
College is the ideal end goal of a high school student’s path. Throughout high school; the idea of college is drilled into a student’s brain. Teachers reiterate that students need to get good grades to get into college, they need to be doing extracurricular activities because it will look good on their applications, they have to be practically perfect. All this pressure accumulates into stress.
“I think, as I’ve gotten further into high school, the looming doom of applying to colleges is really hung over your head … it’s putting the pressure on me and comparing myself to other people, which I know teachers say you shouldn’t do,” junior Sara Littiken said “It’s literally a part of high school. And I think that is definitely going to be a stressor for any high schooler.”
Colleges compare students to one another to find the best fit for that school. Throughout high school, students do that as well to prepare for what is to come in the future. Comparing yourself to others is, once again, external validation, only leading to more stress.
When you are stressed, it is harder to focus on what is truly important — understanding the material.
According to Ned Johnson and William Stixrud in “The Self-Driven Child,” stress causes an imbalance of dopamine and norepinephrine, vital hormones that allow the prefrontal cortex to function normally. Within this imbalance of hormones, the prefrontal cortex is impaired, making your working memory, the part of your brain that allows you to hold information in your mind while also adding on to it or changing it, to not obtain and sustain the information you are learning.
Throughout Clayton High School’s school day, students are given a forty-seven minute lunch period, not including passing periods. This is not enough time for a student to successfully relax, and take a break in their school day, not to mention if they have a science lab or zero-hour class that takes place of their lunch that day. For students at Clayton High School to be more successful, we need more breaks in the school day.
In the early 1900s, Robert Yerkes and John Dodson invented the idea of the Yerkes-Dodson Law. This law explains that a student’s performance in school increases with arousal up to a certain point, then it starts to decline. Over time, students become less interested in what they are learning and so their mind starts to wander, not allowing them to obtain all the information. When they can not learn, they stress about how their final grade will come out, and what their peers will think about it.
If Clayton High School granted each student more of a break spread throughout his or her day, then students could focus better in class. This would give a student a chance to let his or her mind wander and then be extra focused in class to learn more. Learning more then leads to better grades and ultimately less stress.
If students have more time to breathe and recuperate, it will increase the overall school performance and make the day generally less stressful.