How are Grades Affecting Mountainside Students?

Student stressed out from workload

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Student stressed out from workload

Alec Conley, Human Interest Reporter

As midterms approach, it begs the question… are we prepared? Students and adults talk about how the stress of grades is weighing on them, and if it has improved from past generations.

Throughout this article, it is important to know that the people being interviewed are from various backgrounds. These aren’t our school’s star athletes, members of the student government, or the Homecoming court. These are the people you see walking down the halls, you may know them, you may not. It’s important to hear what the quiet voices of Mountainside have to say. So, let’s hear them.

“I’d feel like a failure if I wasn’t meeting an A or even a B. And every time I did meet an A or a B I’d feel like a success.” This is Addison Kachnik, a 12th grader who is also a staffer on The Peak. That was her response when asked how grades and report cards have affected her throughout her student career. And when I asked who she thought was responsible for teaching her this kind of thinking, she said that it was a mix of “parents and society because success was given like a letter grade, and to match that, to be a good student, to be a role model, to be all of the like positive aspects of a person, you had to achieve that success.” 

Hearing this outlook is definitely very eye-opening to those students who don’t get good grades, and in a way, look down on those who do. She gives us an inside look at another source of stress: societal expectations. Just because some students get good grades doesn’t mean they don’t struggle with the stress of them as well.

The education system of America has existed for a long time. It’s quite different from what it was even just 20 years ago. To get a different perspective than that of our current student body, I went to a well-known Mountainside staffer, Ms. Tai, The librarian. Tai has kids of her own who attend Mountainside as well, so that proves she’s coming from a place of understanding. 

“I think Mountainside offers a lot of resources for students and families, but they still need to  advocate for themselves.” This was her response when asked how she thinks Mountainside handles its methods of grading. She expressed that the staff is here for their students and that they are always there for those who need help or support here at school. Tai went on to talk about how school was when she was a teen. 

“The grading system was much more black and white,” she spoke. “Students had much less say in things. What the teachers said went.” She expanded on how she handled the way her school’s grading system fed into her own high standards for herself. “I think I put a lot of pressure on myself, but with my support network of friends and students, we could rely on each other since we were all going through the same thing at the time,” she said.

It’s important for students today to know that our educators were also in high school once. As much as it doesn’t seem so, they understand. Some may sympathize less than others, but they will always understand.               

Q: “Have you ever been overly concerned about grades?”

A: “Yeah.” 

Q: “And how did that affect you mentally?”

A: “It wasn’t great, but then I worked on it more then it was better. It hasn’t really affected me much but, yeah.”

This speaker, a sophomore, claimed they wanted to remain anonymous, so anonymous they shall be. Their demeanor with every question was like they hadn’t thought about it before. The responses came short and curt but not disrespectful. And sure it could have been the tedious process of the interview itself that caused them to speak the way that they did. A look at their grades told me that they did care. 

Q: “Did you used to care more (about grades)?”

A: “No, I used to care less.”

Their tone seemed to dampen at that.

Q: “And what has made you care more?”

A: “I don’t know, I guess I got more motivation.”

They continued to say they gained motivation from things on the internet which is kind of surprising. They expanded that it was things like “TikTok’s of people cleaning their room and being successful,”. It was like it made them want to be efficient instead of just living vicariously through the content creator. 

“I guess the pressure of getting good grades was when I first started experiencing anxiety issues. I think grades are the start of most kids’ anxiety, with parents pressuring their kids. My parents pressured me too.” This is my mother, Stephani Conley. And that is just a portion of what she had to say. 

Stephani is a high school dropout, due to a young pregnancy at the age of 17. Throughout her life she struggled with grades and putting up with having to meet her parents’ standards. And it definitely weighed its toll. “Not only do you get pressure from home, the pressure is just as strong at school, you are almost told that if you don’t get those good grades, you won’t make anything of yourself,” she said. “And that’s a scary thought to have as a highschooler.” 

Like a lot of students, she struggled with finding reason and motivation to do school work, and didn’t put in effort a lot of the time because she didn’t think she was smart enough. After it became too much with the pregnancy and outside struggles, she dropped out her senior year. Two weeks after the fact she got her GED (General Educational Development). Now that she has kids, she says she has a whole different perspective on how the grading system works and how it affects students.

“For me, I have gone from one child that struggled in school to get passing grades every day, to a kid who it comes naturally to. I think one concern I had as a parent who had a kid that struggled with school, was that the system just kept on pushing him through school. With my child who it came easy to, the pressure comes more from herself than anyone else. Which I think comes more from the school’s side,” she said.

She expanded on this by saying that schools like ours set too high of expectations on students, and it may not be the system itself, but the teachers. She thinks that a factor in the grading process has to do with the teacher’s fairness and also the testing and assessment system that isn’t sensible.  “Students [sometimes] don’t work well under pressure. Or aren’t feeling right the day of a test, and then the results of that test decide whether or not their grade tanks.” 

Stephani’s demeanor became passionate at that subject as a parent of someone who had to drop out because of bad grades, especially because of standardized tests like the assessments we have now. 

Here we’ve been given strong perspectives and information that may or may not give you, the audience, an inside look on how students now have been helped or harmed by scores, and whether or not the stress and pressure of them has alleviated at all from the past. It’s important to take in the words from those who aren’t heard as often so that we can better progress into the future. 

And know that,

 “Students should know that we are willing to help, the staff is always gonna be there if students need it.” – Ms. Tai