My dry, tired eyes stare at my computer screen as I enter hour 5 of studying for my history, chemistry, and math tests I have tomorrow. The clock to my left flashes 12:55 A.M. in robotic letters. My lack of motivation begins to take over; my eyelids grow heavy and I am failing to stay awake. Is this really what school has come to? Abusing my body every night to complete some tedious task in order to receive a mark of approval from my teacher. I have spent too many nights memorizing the fundamental theorems of Calculus or facts about how a cell transports materials across its membrane just to receive an A on my next exam. Like many students, I spend the majority of my time striving mainly just to achieve good grades, and rarely stop to ponder how I can better the world and myself using this opportunity of education. My eyes are tired.
Even in the simpler time of my life, all I could focus on was getting acceptable grades. 7:00 A.M.---When my alarm clock woke me up each morning in third grade I would shoot out of bed and look forward to hopping on the school bus each morning.
2:30 P.M.--- as I sat reading Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches in my basement classroom, Ms. Ruane informed the class that this year in place of receiving simple “pluses, slashes, or minuses” in my report card I would instead earn actual letter grades. As an overly devoted elementary school student, my eyes lit up when I first heard this news, and I was eager to have a more tangible way that I could prove to myself and others what I had learned. My eyes were bright.
To no coincidence, ever since this A through F grade scale was instated, school has grown increasingly stressful.
11:15 A.M.---In Mrs. Bland’s 5th grade class room I am up next to present my “Hero Project” about Amelia Earhart. I spent countless hours preparing for this day: hammering her birth and death date into my mind, searching for aviators and a leather jacket for my costume, and gluing colorful paper onto a poster board. I shake in front of the classroom as I try to utter scripted facts about the woman aviation pioneer. It is the time to recite various quotes said by Earhart, when I freeze. My brain fails to remember all I had practiced, so I finish my presentation by mumbling fragments of her sayings mixed with sentences of my creation. 11:25 A.M.---I shuffle back to my seat with my head down; I know I will not get a good grade on my project. But I now know so much about Amelia Earhart and aviation history (which was the purpose of this project), so why am I so disappointed in myself? The lessons and information I have learned seem irrelevant compared to the poor grade I know I will receive. My eyes are filled with tears.
School to me was all about the result. In middle school, and now as a high schooler, I find myself focusing endlessly on how I can improve my grades, and often forget what they actually stand for. Many students, including myself, view their letter grades as standards and pressures they have to meet, instead of embracing the valuable lessons he/she has learned. Our eyes are confused.
I am guilty of feeling that my grades reflect who I am as a person. 2:05 P.M.---My 11th grade math teacher Mr. Bowler passes back tests and slams the stark white piece of paper face down onto my desk. With my heart beating fast, I clench my eyes as I flip it over to reveal a dazzling 40/40 circled at the top of the page. When I earn an A on test, I believe I am “smart,” but if I receive any grade lower there is a pang in my chest and I am filled with disappointment. There is so much pressure to retain strong grades in classes, that when students get a grade lower than their standards they feel unintelligent and like an underachiever.
School is no longer a place where I bounce into the hallway, ready to see my friends and display my new pair of tennis shows in a show-and-tell. The most of my worries when I was younger was who I was going to sit by at lunch or if I could run to get the corner spot in the library for reading time. In high school, kids change to think about pressure like maintaining perfect grades to get accepted into college and even their careers. In reality, although a bad grade on a test might feel terrible in the moment, it will be a small loss in the scope of your life. Student’s eyes are too worried.
8:00 A.M---Another Monday morning comes along, and with it accompanies the dread of the anxiety a new week will bring. Students eyes are only half open, as we all filter through the hallways on our way to class. We won’t spend our day focusing on what we have learned and how we can use it, but solely on squeezing out acceptable grades. Is this really what school has come to?