Student stress and success

Megan Lebowitz and Maya Duplik, Contributing Writers

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Solon City School District was ranked “Best School District in America” in 2018 by Niche.com. However, below the high-achieving student body lies a dark underbelly: stress.

 

The Courier surveyed nearly 400 students from across all grade and class levels. On a scale from one (not stressed) to 10 (extremely stressed), 53.9 percent of students ranked their daily stress level as a seven, eight or nine. When asked how much school contributes to their stress on a scale from one (not at all) to 10 (a lot), 73.8 percent of students reported a seven through 10. These results point a finger at a widespread issue that impacts the majority of Solon High School students.

 

Although many Solon students are stressed at school, they are still getting results. Students from the graduating classes of 2017 and 2018 were accepted into top tier schools including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania.

 

Taking student stress and success into consideration, SHS Principal Erin Short said that she believes stress is a double-edged sword.

 

“The more successful you are, the more pressure there is to stay at the top,” Short said.

 

Student achievements might make it easy to sweep these alarming numbers under the rug, but long-term stress can have severe implications. Chronic stress can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, hypertension or developing ulcers.

 

This begs the question, why is SHS stressed?

 

69.6 percent of students reported homework as a primary stressor. 68.4 percent of students reported testing, 57.4 percent of students reported future and 43.9 percent of students reported college as other primary stressors.

 

“If classes weren’t so test based, I feel like I’d enjoy coming to school more than I do right now,” one student reported anonymously via survey.

 

In contrast, a relatively small number of students, ranging from two to 20 percent of those surveyed, reported bullying, jobs, boyfriend/girlfriend problems and other friend problems as  primary stressors. These results, used in tandem with the high percentage of students who indicated that school contributes to their stress on a level of seven to 10, indicate that most student stress is rooted in school, rather than students’ outside lives.

 

“I am the most unhappy when I am at school because of the pressures put on by the teachers and the administration,” another student wrote anonymously. However, 59.4 percent of students surveyed said that they themselves put the most pressure on their success, as opposed to teachers, administrators, parents, or others.

 

SHS sophomore Urvee Deo said she feels that her stress comes from a heavy focus on Advanced Placement (AP) classes.

 

“I think school has caused a lot of stress in my life, because I’m taking more AP classes that require more homework, and testing is a lot harder than before,” Deo said.

 

Deo also expressed that she does not necessarily think the pressure she puts on herself to succeed is the school’s fault. She added that she thinks she can better utilize teachers’ help.

 

Other students reduce stress through outlets such as extracurricular activities. SHS sophomore Jess Hrich said that she is able to deal with her stress through activities such as Drama Club and Music in Motion Show Choir.

 

“I was really lucky to get involved in Drama Club and MIM,” Hrich said. “Going there on evenings after school really helps me disconnect from school and everything that I have to do, so it really helps me a lot with stress that I might be dealing with.  It’s also really nice to just take a break for a couple hours.”

 

The SHS administration is working to implement a homework free weekend during the 2018-2019 school year to help combat stress.

 

“The school board has incorporated a no homework weekend, and Ms. Short has actually already picked dates for that, and the administration has also identified specific dates where students take tests in departments so students don’t have more than two tests a day,” said SHS school psychologist Valerie Smith. Smith added that she thinks these actions have helped the student body because of student feedback she received.

 

Administration has also decided to add a yoga class to the SHS schedule that students can take during school or for zero period.

 

“We have discussed the concerns of students, and as a result, yoga has been implemented before school or during the school day as an elective that gives students the chance to breathe and stretch,” Trocchio said.

 

Trocchio explained that yoga will also be offered to staff members to curtail effects of trickle-down anxiety. Trickle-down anxiety refers to the theory that anxiety on the administrative level will eventually lead to anxiety-ridden students.

 

Trocchio said she believes that social media is a large stressor for teens. Trocchio pointed out that she believes that technology contributes to stress because it makes it hard for students to disconnect.

 

“Social media is a reason why a lot of kids compare themselves to one another,” Trocchio said. “People are never able to escape nasty or sarcastic comments that might be [left] and it’s a time of growth where teens haven’t fully identified with themselves yet, which I think is a stressor for students, so I think it is important to disconnect.”

 

Trocchio also said that she thinks that students do not approach guidance counselors as often as they should.

 

“I think that [students] see us as college counselors, and as academic counselors, and not as someone that they can come and talk to for other reasons, concerning stress and anxiety,” Trocchio said. “I think some students don’t want to talk to guidance counselors because they don’t realize that guidance counselors deal with things other than college.”

 

Short acknowledges that the stress level at SHS is high, and says that administration will continually work to try to decrease student stress.

 

“It’s important for kids to find balance,” Short said. “They don’t have to take five AP classes to be considered successful. Proactively, we are trying to have more conversations about kids finding balance.”

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1 Comment

One Response to “Student stress and success”

  1. chandra Jain on May 2nd, 2018 11:42 am

    Alarming. Immediate steps must be taken (before it is too late) to undo the whole thing. As a life time academician, I seriously feel that every thing HW, exams etc. Should be cut down into half and still the standards will not be just maintained, but it will improve substantially.
    Chandra Jain
    Retire professor of Engineering
    216-288-0881

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