A for Anxiety?

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Ashley Slate, Staff Writer

It’s finals week here at Keller High School, and the usual signs of anxiety and desperation are on everybody’s faces. Everyone’s digging out their long-forgotten notes crammed at the bottom of their bags or shoved far back into overflowing folders, and stress levels are running high. But we all know that finals aren’t the only time to be stressed out. Why are all of us so worried all the time?

The fact is, most of the problems with stress that exist in high schools today come from one source: The incredible pressure exerted on teenagers to receive good grades. And sometimes, this stress could lead to desperate measures just to get that “A.”

In school, teenagers are told repeatedly that we must work hard and do well in school in order to go to a good college and have a successful future. At home, parents hound us about how we’re doing in class, what we scored on that one homework assignment or test, and give us the lecture about how we need to keep our grades up so we can “do well in the real world.” In school, we students compete aggressively for the spot at the top, as we know that colleges want the best and that’s what we strive to be. We even compare our grades with peers. No student has ever gone through the high school experience without hearing or saying the question “Hey! What did you get on…?”It’s an obsession. That column of numbers on report cards seem to determine our overall success, and we are driven to make sure that those numbers are acceptable, because they have to be.  And for some us, the scrutiny we face from parents, teachers, and ourselves can lead to an incredible amount of stress.

Not surprisingly, school ranks as the highest stressor in teens’ lives ages thirteen to seventeen in a survey conducted by the Examiner. Academic pressures play a huge role in this fact.  But why is there so much pressure that surrounds us? Why can’t we just ignore all of it, do our best, and simply shrug our shoulders when we don’t get that “A”?

We want to please the people who hold us to such high expectations, and we want to please ourselves, as well as earn the assurance that we have what it takes to succeed. We want to achieve our goals that we’ve set, and we’ve been told that good grades are the express ticket in becoming a doctor or lawyer or whatever it is that we’ve made it our dream to be. So we’ve adopted this mindset that if our grades don’t fit the bill, then all our dreams could be tossed out the window.

So we push ourselves. Fueled by the desire to accomplish our dreams, we endure the hours of studying and the late nights scrambling to finish all the homework assignments. We try ignoring how tired we are. We try to ignore how increasingly unhappy and irritable we’ve become. But most of the time, it can’t be ignored.

Many students turn to cheating as the answer for their problems. CNN conducted a poll of 4500 students in high school, and 75% said they participate in cheating that could be considered “serious.” Over half plagiarize assignments from the Internet, and 50% percent of students say that copying another’s’ answers does not count as cheating. The mindset is that this way, stress is reduced by not actually having to do any of the work, and a good grade is guaranteed at the same time. Now our parents are satisfied, and we can breathe a little easier, except we can’t. Because now, the overall education and the learning experience is compromised. And if we have to resort to cheating because we feel there’s just too much pressure to get that A, then we all have to make some serious changes.

Parents need to step back and ease up on their kids. They need to make sure that they aren’t under too much stress, and offer encouragement instead of hounding them about their schoolwork. Students need to ease the pressure on themselves as well, and realize that getting a “C” in a class does not diminish any future dreams in mind. There are plenty of successful people out there who didn’t have very good grades in school; Steve Jobs had a 2.65 GPA in high school, after all. So calm down everybody, and take a deep breath. Grades are important, but definitely not everything.