STUDENTS, STRESS, AND COMPETITION
The high levels of stress that high school students endure is common throughout most schools. Although stress can be a healthy motivating factor (Greenberg), researchers have found that a majority of high school students are chronically stressed (James; Ossola). Chronic stress hinders students’ ability to succeed academically, and compromises mental health functioning (James). The stress and anxiety that students cope with come from every aspect of life; Grades, homework, tests, the college admission process, social media, and issues facing the world today are all sources of stress for teenagers (Denizet-lewis; James). One way that students try to alleviate their anxiety around school is by talking about what is causing them stress with their peers (Concannon). However, this tends to leave high schoolers more stressed than they were beforehand, as now they are constantly comparing themselves to their peers and their accomplishments (Concannon; Denizet-lewis).
HOW HEAD-ROYCE DEALS WITH STUDENT STRESS AND COMPETITION
Head-Royce is a K-12 private school that I have been attending since the sixth grade. It is a very academically challenging school, so naturally stress and competition thrive in the community. In the past few years, the school has tried their best to reduce the amount of stress that students have by eliminating AP classes, no longer assigning homework over school breaks, and working with school clubs, such as Challenge Success, which aim to “implement research-based strategies that promote student well-being and engagement with learning” (Challenge Success). Despite all of these best efforts, students at the school still feel overwhelmed, and as mentioned before, destress by talking about grades and homework with peers. The constant competitiveness and comparison of grades leads students to have a low self-esteem (Ossola). When looking at the students at my school, it was clear to see that when people were sharing grades, students were constructing their self-worth based on how everyone else was doing academically. They felt like they had accomplished nothing just because someone else got a better grade or was spending hours on a project that looked amazing.
I recognize that this problem does not only occur in my community. Student stress is an ongoing and increasing problem as colleges get harder to get into, and the world becomes a more stressful place to live in (Denizet-lewis).
WHAT DOES ACCOMPLISHMENT DO FOR OUR WELL-BEING?
Dr. Martin Segilman, one of the founders of positive psychology, believes that there are five elements that lead to a better well-being: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment (abbreviated to PERMA) (Pascha). The PERMA model is one way that researchers can gage someone’s overall happiness. For this project, I am going to be focusing on the accomplishment element since that is the principle that I found most lacking at my school, and seems to be lacking from others (Ossola).
Having a good sense of accomplishment can be achieved by setting goals and ambitions, whether they be daily or lifelong objectives (Pascha). However, in order to achieve a better well-being, these goals should be realistic and intrinsic, meaning they pertain to personal growth and connection (The Wellbeing and Resilience Centre). Goals give us a sense of purpose, so if they do not match your personal interests or values, you are most likely going to feel very accomplished (Rowe et. al).
RESPONSE: WHAT CAN WE DO?
To make a difference in student well-being changes need to happen on an institutional level, but more importantly on a personal level.
- set goals that work for you
- create a club at your school, such as Challenge Success, that advocates for student well-being
- learn to say “no” & give yourself breaks
- decrease homework load
- send out surveys on student mental health
- No-homework breaks-give students time to rest!
To make an impact on those at my school, I plan to create a slideshow for my peers that will give tips on how to feel accomplished in a competitive school environment. Additionally, when school campuses reopen (there are now closed to due the CO-VID 19 pandemic) I plan on joining the Challenge Success club at my school, and also becoming more involved in our Student Council. Hopefully, by joining these clubs I will be able to make more changes in how our students and faculty view students success and accomplishment.
Here is a rough idea of what my slideshow would look like
FEEDBACK: HOW WILL YOU HELP?
In the comments below, please share your thoughts and any feedback you have on my project. More specifically, I would love to know:
- Which of these action steps most resonates with you, and could see yourself possibly doing?
- What other ideas do you have for creating a community that fosters positive self-accomplishment?