The North Star

Teachers adjust coursework in relation to student stress

Sydney Hamilton, In-Depth Editor

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With adults having such high expectations for students during the school year, stress has begun to take its toll. Reports from the American Psychological Association (APA) have indicated that teen stress levels during the school year are higher than that of an adult.

In 2014, according to the APA, a stress level of about 3.9 on a 10 point scale is what was considered “healthy” for teens. However, during the school year, teens reported their stress levels to be a 5.8 on that same scale. During the summer, teens reported their stress levels to be, a little lower but still higher than what is healthy, at 4.6.

The APA also said that 31 percent of students said that their stress levels increased in the past year and 34 percent say they expected it to increase more within the next year. Not only do teens feel stressed from school, but they also feel overwhelmed, depressed, sad, or tired.

One cause of stress on teens is the amount of homework they get. This means that they can’t get away from the stress of school when they go home because they have hours of studying to do. This is even worse for students who participate in extra after school activities.

English teacher, Sheila Connor, US History teacher, Erin Leick, and Records Counselor, Liliane Jamal have noticed stress in many students. Sometimes it is due to school work, keeping up their GPA, and adjusting to the new grading scale. Other times it is because of situations going on at home or mental health issues.

Connor typically gives all of her students, both honors and academic, a reading assignment every night. The assignment is about 3 chapters with some type of study guide with it. What separates her honors students from academic students is that her honors students also have to read an independent novel each quarter and occasionally there are other projects as well.

Leick knows that history isn’t a priority for a lot of her students, so she knows they won’t do the homework if they have other things to do as well. Instead, she gives them assignments with class time to work on them. She has a similar philosophy for her honors students but does give them a little more homework. However, for her AP students, before the next class she expects them to read 10-15 pages, take notes on them, and do another small assignment on top of that.

One thing Leick notices is that students occasionally are more stressed out and have more of a “frenzy pace” towards the end of the semester because they are worried about getting their grades up. For her classes, she doesn’t have a cumulative final because she doesn’t feel like she needs to test them to know that they know the material they have been discussing all semester. This helps minimize some of the overall stress on her students.

Jamal also noticed an increase of stress towards the end of each semester. She said it can vary throughout the year but usually “there is an increase starting in October and then progressing up through to winter break. The same applies for second semester. At the beginning the levels are moderate and then increase towards the end.”

Connor has noticed that students in AP and honors classes tend to more pressure on themselves which adds to their stress. For example, some kids are in sports, clubs, have jobs, and are taking those AP and Honors classes. However, she said it still all depends on the student and their individual situation.

A good thing for students to remember is that teachers understand the stress that they are experiencing because they went through high school just like them. Both Connor and Leick were stressed out with homework while they were in high school, too.

“I went to a college prep high school and stress was a daily part of life. It was a really high stress environment, but it’s the same type of attitudes that I see from my upper level kids,” Leick said.

However, for Connor, there were more reasons than just classes that caused her to be stressed in high school. She was still taking honors classes but her family was going though medical issues also which added to her stress at the time.

There are multiple ways to handle stress and most of the time it depends on the person. The APA suggests that schools need to “provide teens with better support and health education at school and home.”

Leick suggests organizing things, like assignments, out in a planner for better time management. Connor says that it’s best that students have someone in their life they can talk to, so they can get the stress out. She also suggests the homework help room, coming to her after school, or talking to counselors.

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Teachers adjust coursework in relation to student stress