The Grades Game

High School students collectively needs to take a quick second for a breather. Students and teachers alike should all consciously calm down and relax. Walking down the halls I’ve never seen so many distressed facial expressions at once. As a senior in a public New York high school I think its safe to say I have closely observed how this school works the past few years. I have come to this conclusion: the behavior and incredibly stressful atmosphere in my school is not normal.

Nor is it necessary. Now of course, competition is normal and healthy. But in a high school, it shouldn’t be bloodthirsty. What many people in our school believe is that academic competition is both defensive and offensive. This is where the mindset is a bit flawed.

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It is hard to realize while wanting to succeed so bad, but your success does not have to come at the cost of your fellow classmates. It doesn’t matter what anyone else gets, because there aren’t a certain amount of A’s given out. What someone else scores on a test has absolutely no effect on what grade I am going to get. So under this logic, shouldn’t we all be incredibly supportive of each other? If you asked a teacher, they might say that the student body is very supportive the majority of the time. This is true; I see examples of this everyday.

However, I have become increasingly aware of examples of complete back stabbing just to be “the best.” For example, if one student worked hours on their essay but the person next to them forgot to do it, the first student might immediately remind the teacher to collect the work. Of course the first student is thinking “why should he be rewarded with an extra night to do the work, it was due today?” As hard as it is to accept, it doesn’t matter if that student gets rewarded with an extra day because you will get the same grade regardless of what day it is was collected.Sure someone might get an advantage, but it’s not a disadvantage to anyone else. Likewise, when a student accidentally gets an extra point on a question, and you don’t, you shouldn’t tell the teacher in order to make things fair.

That person getting one extra point does not affect your score whatsoever. Why is things being fair so crucial in the minds of students? Sure if it is setting your grade back, I see the need for change, but if one person has a chance to do better, why is it not encouraged? It is hard to change ingrained habits, but students need to change their mindset and start supporting one another. I recently heard a freshmen brag to his friends that he received the highest grade on the previous biology exam. Why does this matter to anyone? Why do we constantly compare ourselves to each other, especially in school where the only people we are competing against is ourselves? I’ve had people refuse to help me study or answer questions because they studied very hard and aren’t just going to tell me the answers because that’s not fair. Although some people may agree with this attitude, let me insure you that it is not a healthy way to function. It is stress inducing and gut wrenching to think this way.

Now this isn’t a hit at anyone at my school, this is a collective problem. We are in a small academically advanced school and this is just how we think. The problem is we don’t even realize we are acting this way. This is just always how it’s been, encouraged by teachers and parents. The way to stop this student on student sabotage is to consciously think about how we look at school.

Try to remind yourself someone else’s grade literally means nothing to you. If you ever you catch yourself being angry or upset someone did better than you, try to remind yourself that you should be happy for that person. Because the only person that made you not do well is you. I know this is difficult and different. I realize this seems like an unnecessary change to make, but believe me after experiencing junior year and the college application process I promise you the sooner you change your approach to school, the better you will feel about your life as a whole.

Your health and stress will completely change. School is not a sport where there is a winner, the only person controlling your scores is you.