When The Books Get Heavy; Student Stress

Matthew Leung and Andrew Tsai (Grade 11) study diligently for their week of upcoming tests.

Stress is a very common topic among high school students, especially at private schools such as York House and St. George’s. The stress over grades, homework and extracurriculars is present in grade eight and increases monumentally by grade twelve. As people who take on many endeavors throughout our lives, we should all strive to gain a deeper understanding about stress so that we are fully aware of how to deal with it when it arises. But before we can look into what teachers and students have to say about this topic, we have to find out what the word “stress” really means.

The Canadian Mental Health Association states that stress is “the body’s response to a real or perceived threat meant to get people ready for some kind of action to get them out of danger”. However nowadays, especially in school, the threats that we most frequently face cannot just be avoided; rather, we have to progress through them as they appear. So now that we have a better grasp of the issue at hand, what do the teachers and students from York House and St. George’s have to say about it?

First, we decided to interview one teacher from each school to understand their opinions on the issue.

Ms. Chang, a teacher at York House, says “I notice when students are stressed out, and often times there is a good reason for it. But other times, when surrounded by so much stress, it seems to build unnecessarily. I discover that when students feel like they are listened to, it often helps with their problem. Students in my honors math class can recount the times they had a “therapy” session after a particularly challenging test. The biggest thing to remember is to look at your problems in an optimistic perspective, and there may not be as much to stress about as you think there is.”

Mr. Wyatt, a language teacher who has been at St. George’s for many years, has a deep understanding and concern for students’ stress. When asked “At what time of school year up until winter break is the most stressful?”, Mr. Wyatt stated, “I find that mid October to mid November is the most stressful [time] for students because that’s when the warm welcomes are finished and the workload becomes very demanding.” Mr. Wyatt also says that he notices a change in behavior when students are stressed out. He admitted, “It is not always easy to recognize because some kids don’t want to express their emotions.” Mr. Wyatt likes to talk about hockey with his students to relax them and give the students a break from all the academics. Mr. Wyatt’s last thoughts about student stress is that the students should take advantage of the great counseling department the school offers.

To get an in-depth and first-person view on the problem, we interviewed one student from each school.

First, we asked Lauren, a grade 10 student at York House, a few questions about the stress she feels at school. “I feel a lot of stress each day. However, I deal with it by sleeping, eating, and watching movies on Netflix. Sometimes, my after school activities such as volleyball also stresses me out. From when I was grade 8 and now I’m grade 10, I don’t think there has been much of a difference in stress level.”

We also interviewed Michael Li, a grade 11 student who attends St. George’s School. “I usually spend around 3 hours on homework every night; sometimes, I spend an extra hour when I have an assessment the next day and nowadays, it seems like I have a test or quiz every day”, Michael said when asked how much time he uses for academics. He also added, “I’m also taking more academically rigorous courses this year than I did last year so the workload has increased significantly”. With so much daily anxiety, how does Michael cope with the stress? “On the weekdays, there’s not much I can do about stress because I rarely have time to take a break. But on the weekends, I like to relax by socializing with my friends and spending time with my family. The weekends are my way of revitalizing my mind so that I can have a fresh start to every week.”

As you can see, even though York House and St. George’s differ in various ways, there exists a commonality that the students from both schools share besides learning in a single-sex environment. The students work tirelessly every single day to ensure that they meet the expectations and that they represent themselves and their school to the best of their abilities. Striving for excellence in all areas of school can be a challenging task for many, and can cause physical and mental exhaustion. As a result, we should not forget that it is acceptable to take a breath from the hectic routines of our daily lives and revitalize our minds. We should seek help from our families and friends so that we do not have to face stressful situations alone. As we move forward in our lives, it is important to remember the various ways of dealing with stress because stress always re-emerges even when we think we have defeated it. Stress has been and always will be a problem that all people struggle to cope with, whether it is in high school, university or  work.

For more information on ways to deal with stress and the topic in general, click on the link below: