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Solutions for School Stress: Schedule the Workload Better

12/17/2013 12:10 pm ET | Updated Feb 16, 2014
  • The OpEd Project A collective of journalists and thought leaders whose goal is to enable a wider range of voices to shape the news, our history and our future

By Kyler Sumter, 16

"At 14, you don't need sickness or death for tragedy," Quaker author Jessamyn West once said.

She seems to be the one of only a few adults who get it. Some adults may believe that Generation Y young people are living the good life. Most of us don't pay bills and we have pretty much everything we need supplied for us. They must have forgotten the struggles and pressures of high school, because it's anything but easy.

In a 2006 comprehensive study on the stress levels of teens, 78 percent of the youth surveyed reported that most of their stress came from their schoolwork. With so many projects and final exams looming on the calendar, now is the time where schoolwork seems especially stressful, added on to the distractions and family obligations of the holidays.

Yes, stress is normal, it happens to everyone all the time. Stress helps us live every day life by giving us the motivation to stay focused and alert. But too much stress can raise blood pressure or give cause for anxiety disorders. For many students, school is the biggest stressor of all.

We know that what we learn in school is meant to help us in life. We get that, but school can be a burden. We have class after class and project after project and it just becomes too much.

School isn't our only priority; we have other things going on too. We have sports, clubs, extracurriculars and church. It's almost impossible to keep up with it all the time demands.

Some students hold outside jobs to help their families, some students help watch younger siblings for working parents. A recent U.S. Census Bureau study showed that 1 in 4 high school students or 3 millions American teens over the age of 16 holds a part time job. Even worse, some students may even be homeless.

As high school students, we feel stress and pressure all the time and this stress could have even more disastrous effects.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15-24 years old. A University of Oregon study in 2011 showed that the number of teen suicides spike when school is in session.

The course workload is clearly getting out of control if students are taking their own lives because of it. Everyday we have these expectations from our parents and teachers to do as well as we can and with all the work it seems nearly impossible to do so. We want to succeed so badly because we're taught that we must and sometimes we feel like we can't.

Once I had so many tests in one week that I literally had to pick which ones I would study for. I just didn't have the time for all of them. I am a 16-year-old high school junior and I try my best to keep my schoolwork in perspective.

There are many students who can find ways to deal with this pressure and, unfortunately, many who can't.

So what can we do? There are too many students my age who are stressed out, burned out, and fed up. I'm one of them. There have been nights where I wanted to cry myself to sleep because I had so much work to do.

Our teachers seem to have no idea what's going on in their students' lives and all the different pressures that we feel. It's just inconsiderate to be assigned so much work from seven different classes.

I propose all our teachers start communicating on a master calendar so they aren't all assigning projects at once.

It's not all on the schools, though. Most of us are procrastinators and we leave all our work to the last minute. We need to start pacing ourselves and giving ourselves enough time to do our work. We need to learn better time management.

I know how stressful school and life can be. High school is one stressor, but then there is college, and after that, jobs and adulthood with so many more complications.

But what helps me to calm down is to see my parents and adults I look up to, and realize they made it and so can we.


Kyler Sumter is a 16-year-old junior at Lindblom Math & Science Academy in Chicago. She participates in The OpEd Project's Youth Narrating Our World program.