The Tyranny of T.E.A.M.S.

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It’s no secret that Ann Richards School students are are obsessed with checking their grades daily. Whether you freak out about a 96, or are struggling to pass a class, academic scores are constantly on a student’s mind.

“Grade obsession affects almost everyone I know,” Cedar Toavs (9) said. Toavs has noticed that grades are no small thing at Ann Richards, where the students and the curriculum are unique. “[It affects] how you see yourself at school. I don’t know how else to explain it, it’s just bad!”

“It’s definitely in our school,” said Jacky MacLean (10). “All the time, people are like, ‘I have a test next class, I’m gonna die.’” Grades are certainly ingrained in the culture of our school, and students focus on them more than what’s healthy. Maclean pointed out that often, suicide jokes are made within our walls, most of the time in connection with grades and report cards. MacLean’s example about joking, “I’m gonna die” before a test seems silly, but I’ve heard it more than once.

I know I’ve let school consume my life a few too many times. It’s difficult, because you want to have sparkling grades, but that can mean you aren’t making time for other things. I’ve seen my mental health go through highs and lows at Ann Richards, when I was stressing about getting a project done by myself, or fixing a six weeks grade at the last minute. It’s not easy to think to myself, “I can relax. Everything will be fine.”

Obviously, this toxic “grade obsession” affects students, but how do teachers deal with it? They are on the receiving end of all this stress, and certainly that must be difficult.

“I think that a struggle I see often is that students become so stressed about getting a good grade, they forget the goal is to learn something,” said Ms. Anni Knox, a 9th grade English teacher. “The real purpose of learning is often overshadowed by the desire to get a 4.0 [GPA].”

This is seen often in our school; many students are so stressed they neglect the true meaning of academia, which is, at its core, a student walking away learning something. However, this does not mean that there are not people taking steps in the right direction.

“I think our school this year is trying … as a faculty we’ve been having more conversations around wellness,” Ms. Knox observed. “[We’re] trying to have no homework weekends … [and we are] reframing our thinking about busy versus meaningful work.”

Your friends may also be a contributing factor to grade stress. You could feel pressured to attain grades equal to or better than your friends’ grades. “Sometimes you try to keep your grades on point, but sometimes your friends don’t put as much of an effort,” said Miya Jaimes (8). Many students feel differently depending on the dynamic of their friend group. “I feel like if I get a 90, they’re [friends] gonna be like, ‘Poor you,’ and what if I’m proud of that,” said Mairany Serrano (9).

Many students also share their grades with one another as a way of venting their pent up emotions. Of course, confidentiality is something increasingly important in a student’s life. It seems like common sense, but if you have a grade you are not happy with, all you want to do is talk about it. Little do you know, that could have a degenerative affect on others.

So you might be thinking, how can all of this possibly be applicable to me? And what good would this article be if I didn’t give you some advice on surviving ARS? Maybe it isn’t enough to just stop checking your grades so much. You can also help your friends, support them in areas other than academic success. Remind them a 95, an 85, a 75 is an awesome grade. As a school, we need to relearn how to live life. We need to remember everyone’s standards are different, and to not nose into peoples’ lives without permission.

Recently, I stopped checking T.E.A.M.S. ten times a day and began holding back. I found that after a while, I didn’t want to check. I wasn’t constantly on edge about what I had in a specific class, and why. That helped me a lot. It wasn’t healthy, wanting to go back and make sure everything was perfect. And who cares if it isn’t? Humans aren’t perfect, so why should our grades be?