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How can we as a school community help to relieve our school related stress?

Introduction video!

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For teens, the two most commonly reported sources of stress are: high school, and getting into a good college or deciding what to do after high school. I go to Germantown Friends School which is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My school is naturally competitive. Students compete about everything, from test scores, to stress levels, to who got the least amount of sleep the night before. It’s definitely not healthy, so I decided to look deeper into one of these competitions: stress. I wanted to know where our stress comes from, who causes it, and how can we help relieve some of it. I began creating anonymous surveys to send out to my upper school with these exact questions and more, as well as conducting interviews with various members of different grades of our high school, some of which are included below.

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First Survey Question

This was the first question on the survey I sent out to my upper school (consisting of grades 9, 10, 11, 12). The question at the top reads ‘Do you experience stress surrounding school?’. 95.7% of respondents said ‘yes’, followed by the 2.1% that said ‘no’, with ‘sometimes’ and ‘very occasionally’ each trailing with 1.1% respectively. This shows that 90 out of the 94 students who completed this survey experience some type of school related stress. This is pretty much the outcome that I had expected.

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Interview with 9th grader Mike

Interview with 9th grader Riley

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Second Survey Question

This was the second survey question. The question at the top reads ‘What do you think your stress is about?’. For this question, respondents were able to check off all the boxes that were applicable to their stress. The highest overall stressor was grades followed by tests and homework which makeup a students overall grade. After that was college and then social and athletic aspects. The bottom two responses were from the ‘Other’ category which allowed respondents to fill in their own answers. Right above the ‘Other’ responses is the amount of people who said they do not experience school related stress. For this aspect of the survey I expected college to be higher but grades are a big part of getting into college so it makes sense that grades and the components of a grade would be higher. Another unexpected part of this response section was the number of people who said they did not experience school related stress (3 people), because in the previous survey question only 2 people had put ‘no’ for their answer.

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Interview with 10th grader Neil

Interview with 10th grader Sam

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Third Survey Question

This was the third survey question. The question at the top reads ‘Who do you think your stress comes from?’. For this question again, respondents were able to check off all the boxes that were applicable to their stress. The overall highest person putting stress on us, is us. Followed by our peers, then teachers, then family, then coaches. For the ‘Other’ category, one person had put ‘administration’ followed by a specific member who’s name I have redacted for their privacy, and it seems as if another person selected other but then did not add further comment. For this I expected pretty much this outcome, however I would have thought peers to be slightly higher. I was also not aware why so many people had put teachers until I looked into it further a discovered that it was mostly because of the amount of work assigned, not because of any mannerisms that could lead students to be stressed or fearful. Again coming back to the number of people who put that they do not experience school related stress has by this question gone back down to 2 people, I am not aware of the reason however I thought the change should be noted.

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Interview with 11th grader Carolina

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Fourth Survey Question

This was the fourth survey question. The question reads ‘On a daily basis how much stress would you say you experience?’. For this question, respondents were only allowed to select one number on a scale of one to ten. The most common number was a 7 followed by 8 then 6. I was expecting it to be right around here, however in casual conversations with peers while reviewing this data I received feedback that they believed these numbers to be very high and a more realistic number would be a 3 or a 4. However, as for all of these questions, the responses will definitely vary from person to person depending on how they handle stress. Also during the formal interviews which I have linked in this site, people tended to be around a 6, 7, or 8, with the exception of the 2 tenth graders who seemed to have a better handle on their stress levels.

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Interview with 12th grader Tsega

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Fifth Survey Question

This was the fifth survey question. The question at the top reads ‘Do you feel GFS is a safe community to talk about stress?’. The preset options for this question were ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘sometimes’, and ‘other’, respondents could only choose one. Three people used the ‘Other’ category with their respective responses being ‘Sometimes its hard because I think a lot of people like to say they experience stress just to be relatable when in reality they’re just trying to fit in’, ‘yes because other students are in the same boat but no because teachers don’t really change the workload.’, and lastly ‘I don’t care.’. The people I interviewed said that they felt these responses were mostly accurate. However I did not list the last response because I was not sure whether the person meant that they don’t care about whether GFS is a safe community or if they meant they didn’t care about the survey. This feedback is definitely along the lines of what I expected going into this project. It is also concerning that students don’t always feel safe to talk about their stress with their peers or other community members.

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The big takeaways I’ve had from my interviews and research are:

  1. We need to make people in our school community more familiar with and more comfortable with our school psychology team
  2. We need to raise more awareness about and normalize stress and mental health in our community
  3. We should ask for our teachers to take a look at the workload they are assigning and see if it could possibly be made lighter

How can we realistically do these things?

  1. Most people know that we do have a school psychology team, but I’m not exactly sure if people know how to get to them. I think a good first step would be to have conversations about our mental health team in homerooms and smaller advisory groups. These conversations could include naming each person, talking about how to reach them, and when students could make time to talk to them. Then to familiarize students with the team, they could come around to homerooms and introduce themselves and talk a little about what they usually talk to students about and just make sure students get a feel for who they are. A second way to do this would be to have assemblies maybe once a semester to talk about the mental health team and mental health in general. 
  2. To continue with the assembly idea, these assemblies should also include statistics and facts about mental health in high schoolers. They should highlight the stress and anxiety that people are feeling and push people to see that they are not the only ones experiencing this. I think that these mental health assemblies should be at least once a trimester and then the first and last can also talk about our mental health team as well, just as a way of tying them all together. We should also continue the conversation in health classes and homerooms. Homeroom teachers should check in with the group as a whole or one on one with individual members at least once a month. If they’re hearing particular stress from one student they should encourage them to meet with our mental health team. If they are hearing a trend among what the students are experiencing and it seems to be too much then they should try and talk to someone about small changes to help the students. 
  3. Still going with the small changes idea, I would encourage all teachers going into each unit of the class to look at the work load. If it can be reduced by even one minute a night that would help. I know that everything we are learning is important, but spending 7 hours at school and then 2 hours at school required sports and then 2-3 hours on homework can really take a toll. 

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Below I have pasted the link to the survey I sent out, feel free to fill it out and reflect on your school related stress! Remember it is completely normal to be feeling stressed out, you are not alone!

Click here for the anonymous survey.

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What can you do?

In the comments below it would be great if people could answer one (or all) of these questions:

  1. What is something your school already does well that helps your stress levels?
  2. What is something you would like for your school to do to help relive your stress?
  3. What do you usually do when you are feeling stressed?

Feel free to respond to other people’s comments!

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Works cited

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COMMENTS: 24
  1. April 23, 2020 by Morgan

    Awesome page! At my school, the teachers don’t coordinate with each other and we end up with really busy weeks and really empty weeks. The workload is very unbalanced and during the busy weeks it’s very stressful, so I’d like to see the teachers at my school coordinate more.

  2. April 24, 2020 by Turner

    Quality presentation I learned a lot
    Stress is way too big a part of the average student’s life and this just goes to show how dramatic the situation really is

  3. April 24, 2020 by Jaden

    Lots of great information here, Nice job!

  4. April 24, 2020 by Christian

    This really resonated with me, great work!

  5. April 24, 2020 by Anya

    Great idea! I loved the amount of information and passion you displayed. Keep it up 🙂

  6. April 24, 2020 by Harlem

    This was really informative and I learned so much. This presentation is great!!

  7. April 24, 2020 by Carolina

    Very interesting to hear the results of your research. Learning and just in general being more mindful about stress and where it stems from is so important.

  8. April 24, 2020 by Max D.

    Thanks for covering a topic so important yet so rarely talked about. Stress is something all of us deal with on the daily, but we never talk with others about. Great article!

  9. April 24, 2020 by Amelia

    So interesting to read and I agree with these takeaways! You presented all this information in a perfect way. Stress is such an important thing to recognize and talk about! people need to be more aware of the problem

  10. April 24, 2020 by Neil

    Very interesting. Lots of great information and very thought provoking. I especially liked the interview with Neil.

    • April 27, 2020 by Jane

      Thanks so much for the feedback. I enjoyed that interview as well!

  11. April 24, 2020 by Ava

    This is an awesome page!! It’s so thoughtful and well put together and the topic is certainly timely. I’m a little offended Tsega got and interview and I didn’t, but I love to see all the hard work you’re doing!

  12. April 24, 2020 by Nikhita

    Hi Jane! I really loved your project and I think this topic is very important. I think that students face a lot of stress and pressure, and a lot of these times it is due to school. I think that this is not discussed enough, and that there should be more measures taken to help with stress.
    1. My school tries to have mindfulness moments and it really helps out for everyone to take a pause in their day. I think that there can always be more measures taken in order to help relieve stress!
    2. I think that there can be so many ways to help and be involved. Assemblies are really good resources, but so are one to one talks. I think that individual attention can also help out.
    3. I usually try to reassure myself and take deep breaths, but I never really think about it. That is such an interesting question!

    • April 27, 2020 by Jane

      Thanks so much for this feedback! I would love to know more about these ‘mindfulness moments’. How long are they? Who participates in them? Who decides to have one?

  13. April 24, 2020 by Anna

    Very interesting! Nice work!

  14. April 24, 2020 by Owen

    This is a very good presentation, and it is especially so because I also go to germantown friends school. I look forward to seeing how you put your plan in action in the future!

  15. April 24, 2020 by Lara

    Hey Jane!
    1. My school has tried to reduce stress levels by giving us opportunities to talk about stress in advisee (our version of homeroom) and gives us no homework weekends for holidays. In addition to this, certain teachers have helped us reduce stress. For example one teacher gives us time in class to either vent about what’s going on in our lives. Another teacher, my psychology last year, gave us “mental health days” throughout the year to give us a chance to do nothing and even gave us a sleep day.
    2. One thing I wish my school would do would be to give each student a couple “mental health days” that they can use throughout the year when they need it. Sometimes students just need a time that they can use without fear of getting behind.
    3. I’m going to be honest, I’m not very good at dealing with stress. I didn’t to shut down when I get too stressed and feel like I can’t do anything because I have so much to do. However, recently I have been trying to use mindfulness exercises and this has really helped.

    • April 27, 2020 by Jane

      This is really interesting feedback thank you so much! I would like to know more about your vision for what you described as ‘mental health days’. When I initially read it I thought you meant each student could take them when they needed them but when I saw you had said ‘without fear of getting behind’ I thought that you meant everyone would have them at the same time? Either way I think it’s a great idea and something that might be worth bringing up with a trusted teacher or faculty member!

  16. April 24, 2020 by Annie McLaughlin

    This was amazing to read and I learned so much! Great job!

  17. April 24, 2020 by Chauncey Hill

    I really liked that you included voice overs of your interview, surveyed your school, and had a lot of visuals. I think that this really made your project engaging and easy to read and understand. This is such a thought provoking topic because so many students suffer from stress, and I know that my school is really competitive about it also. My question to you is, do you think this stress will ever simply go away? Or do you think the best thing to do is to teach students how to balance being stressed out but also having healthy behaviors?

    • April 27, 2020 by Jane

      I really appreciate your feedback and I think these are some great questions. I do not think that stress will ever simply go away, I think that stress will always be a natural part of our life and behaviors. I would also like to point out that a small amount of stress can be healthy and good for people. For example stress can motivate you meet deadlines and goals. When we have too much stress is when it begins to be problematic. So to answer your second question, I do think that the best thing to do is to help students manage their stress and make it known to them that it is a normal behavior.

  18. April 25, 2020 by Maria

    This was really interesting to read! This topic is great because so many kids get/suffer from stress.

  19. April 26, 2020 by Heather

    Hi Jane, your collection of data is amazing! How might you keep the conversation going at your school after the conference is over?

    • April 27, 2020 by Jane

      In my project I had listed some ideas of how to keep the conversation going such as: mental health assemblies, possible curriculum adjustments and small things like that. Thanks for the feedback!

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