Pressure In School Is A Contributing Factor To The Downward Spiral Of Students

Pressure In School Is A Contributing Factor To The Downward Spiral Of Students

High school culture is way beyond me.

High school, baby. Do you remember the sweet, sweet smell of cafeteria lunch, kids copying homework in the last .5 seconds before turning it in, all the random people you’ve come across crying in bathroom stalls, and many more (that probably include thrashing around to your 6 a.m. alarm every morning)?

I’ve had friends tell me that high school is where they THRIVED. Supportive teachers, unbreakable friend groups and amazing sporting events and spirit rallies; obviously why wouldn’t you deny you had practically a perfect high school experience? I’ve had graduated friends who admitted that high school was one of the worst points of their life...and they don’t like looking back on it.

Jumping from state to state, I experienced completely different schooling methods and atmospheres. Illinois to Pennsylvania to California, my perspective on academics and schooling changed COMPLETELY when I moved to Cupertino, the heart of the Silicon Valley, my sophomore year. I remember family friends back in Pennsylvania who told me that academics were SO much easier in California, and I would ride swiftly through my three years on a cloud.

Then, I sat on my butt in my first class of the year, World History, and thinking; “Well wow. I’m fucked!!!” Through the years, I watched my classmates descend into true madness, panic attacks after tests, sitting through 8 ½ hours of school with a fever because missing the class would be too awful, and overall, a spike in introverted behaviors, anxiety, and depression...which could have been prevented (which CAN be prevented). I’ve had teachers pile work on me before, but not like this. The curriculum was way harder than anywhere I’ve ever experienced, the expectations put on students were incredibly unrealistic, but mostly it was unhealthy because of the insane pressure put on us from parents, teachers, and fellow students. This pressure to achieve unrealistic levels of academic success was what overrode the joys of education and instead made SO many students anxious and depressed.

There is a very real pressure on kids to achieve high levels of academic success. Especially now. Though high schools go about their different ways across the globe, there is essentially no one correct way to facilitate a classroom, nor one clear way to effectively mold students to become successful and good adults. Looking past schooling data, standardized tests, sports achievements, blah, blah, blah, I focused on the ENVIRONMENT of the school, and comparing the systems all the way from Finland to the United States, my point that strain and academic pressure on students will detriment them was verified.

Especially in junior year among the stress of maintaining a perfect GPA, and senior year among the frenzy of college apps and SAT scores, the large majority of conversations with my friends revolved around our stress, anxiety, and lack of motivation surrounding the work we had to do. And THAT was the problem! We had no motivation, and a lot of our jokes consisted of ‘killing ourselves,' dropping out of school and heading to the nearest strip club to hand in our applications. That it is, when you’re overwhelmed with pressure from parents and teachers, overwhelmed with overlapping due dates and four tests in a week to study for, you resort to cramming, procrastinating, and trying to drag ourselves out of an un-motivated rut. It festers up a hate for school.

The educational system is supposed to weave together curriculum and an enjoyable environment in which we can love and appreciate what we’re being taught, instead of looking past the information thrown at us. It should be where we’re GENUINELY interested as to what we’re learning, instead of solely focusing on due dates and as to how we can slide past it doing the bare minimum.

Schooling varies from place to place. Just seeing the shift between teaching methods and the general environment of schools, it struck my interest to really peer into how it affects students. I can definitely say that the Silicon Valley is on another level. It was an eye-opening experience to be flung into the middle of the biggest STEM centered hubs in the nation (even though sometimes it wasn’t enjoyable, and I was overwhelmed by work and societal pressure within the district). We need to find ways to teach our children to love what they’re being taught, implement excitement, motivation, and inspiration. Most importantly, we need to look into how we can eliminate toxic pressure. That pressure is the leading factor to mental health issues, lack of interest, and hatred for school. This pressure is what contributed to many, many suicides in my school district. If we do something about this pressure, and find a way to teach in a different light, lots of things will change.

Cover Image Credit: Didem Arslanoglu

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10 Horrible Fashion Trends From Our Middle School Days

What a time to be alive.

Being in middle school is one of the worst times of your life. You're awkward and you have no idea what to think about everything that is changing. I was cleaning out my closet the other day and found my old pair of Etnies and started reminiscing upon some of the worst trends that ever existed in the 2000s. I look at pictures of myself from middle school and cringe. I really just want to tell my past self to stop shopping at Claire's and Aeropostale. But since I did shop at those stores, I do have many embarrassing photos and fashion choices. Here's a list of popular (and unfortunate) trends from the 2000s.

1. Aeropostale

Buy all the graphic tees! I had at least one in every color. So many skin-tight tees were a part of my wardrobe. These t-shirts would always be spotted in MySpace profiles with people throwing a peace sign. Unfortunately, Aero has filed for bankruptcy, so we will be seeing less of them.

2. Rubber "Causes" Bracelets

You would see people walking around with these things up to their elbows! I had one for pretty much every type of cancer/disease you could imagine. Of course the yellow "Livestrong" bracelets were the bracelets that started the trend. (Thanks Lance for that let down.)

3. Silly Bandz

Yet again, a bracelet trend took over our middle school minds. I remember wearing so many of these wonderful "bandz" that the circulation in my arms were cut off. It was also the best thing to compare and trade silly bandz with your friends. I also scoffed at all of the knock-off brands. I only wanted the real deal.

4. Gauchos

Back when these pants were popular I had at least three pairs in a good variety of colors. I wore them so much, my mother could not do the laundry fast enough. I would compare these pants to yoga pants today because they were just as comfortable. It was always way cooler to wear a poncho with gauchos.

5. Massive Sequin Purses

Every girl had these. Mine was lime green. I thought that these purses were cute at the time, but really they are just atrocious. I'm not even sure why I was carrying a purse in middle school. I really didn't have that much stuff save for my phone, lipgloss, and gum.

6. Wearing Jeans with Dresses

Is that dress or skirt too short? No problem, just wear jeans under it! But really though, I have never understood this trend. Even when it was "popular" I thought that it was just plain ugly. I mean, how can you even look at this picture of Ashley Tisdale and not cringe?

7. Heelys

Hands-down the best trend of middle school. Some of my best memories are in Target Heely-ing around the entire store. I would still wear my Heelys today if I had them. No regrets about these shoes. Every adult that I've ever talked to about them, hated them. I guess that's why they were basically banned from everywhere.

8. Soffe Shorts

I had (have) a pair of these in every color. Having these made you cool. Quite often paired with rubber Old Navy flip-flops or some Rainbows, these cotton shorts were a staple of any middle school girl in the 2000s. My cheerleading really helped reinforce my love for these shorts. But thankfully it seems that "norts" have replaced these.

9. Nike Shox

Who actually cared if the spring-things made walking or running easier. These shoes just looked so cool. While writing this article, I was surprised to find out that Nike still makes these shoes. It was always the sporty-athletic people who wore these.

10. Popcorn Shirts

I never understood the madness that is the science behind these magically shrinking and expanding shirts. They are just straight up fascinating. The best ones were tie-dyed. I had one blue one and thought it was the greatest shirt ever.

Cover Image Credit: Cloud Front

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Elaborative Encoding Needs to Overtake Rote Memorization in Academics

It is time for the age of repeating and deleting to come to an end and the era of lasting learning to finally begin.


I imagine, at some point in the time of your schooling, you have been told the same things as me.

You are anxiously awaiting the arrival of an exam, trying desperately to cram the information into your head in whatever fashion it'll stick. Unsure of your footing in the materials, you are still puzzling through your own study habits in an attempt to figure out the best ones for you. You have been told simply to know the information, right? Your teachers told you to write down everything they said and give it back to them in various forms, right? So you simply write and rewrite and rewrite until your fingers become sore, your eyes have to blink out the exhaustion, and you have a few times the number of copies of notes.

And likely only a dismal amount of information in your mind.

The plain fact of the matter is this: rote memorization, otherwise known as a learning technique based solely on repetition, is ineffective. And oh, I mean wildly ineffective. It is the least likely of the possible study methods to be any kind of beneficial because it will never allow for understanding. It will simply allow you to obnoxiously regurgitate descriptions or formulas and have no idea how to use them.

What can you expect? Rote memorization is based on a surface level understanding of materials and will thus give you a feebly shallow grasp on concepts that are more likely to disappear on the day of the exam than it ever will be to assist. It does not allow you to engage with the knowledge you seek. It is like looking at objects through glass and only through glass - you'll be able to see what is in front of you and can describe it at length, but you will never get a hold on it, and once you walk away, the memory will steadily fade from your brain.

That, my friends, is where elaborative encoding comes along.

Have you ever used a memory device to help yourself learn? Something like a song to remember the states, an acronym to remember music notes names on a staff, anything of that nature? Your mind combined several different areas of study and of your own personal interest and attached them to concepts you previously had nothing to do with. It is not much of a step to make up the difference between repeating something to memorize it briefly and putting random words to a tune to keep them in your mind, but oh my goodness, the outcome of each is vastly different.

Elaborative encoding is a system of learning in which a person connects information they don't really know yet to already existing set of memories or thought processes. By actively connecting what you don't know with what you know, you are forced to truly learn the information and be able to apply it to whatever concepts you choose. You have to know what something means to relate it to a part of your life, and once it is related to a topic or memory that is important to you, it sticks in your brain to the point where you can refresh it with a single thought. With a single phrase! You can tell yourself stories and make the concepts characters, you can write music, you can discuss the framework of a class in the context of your favorite movie. There is no limit to what you can accomplish in learning when you attach information to things that matter to you. And it stays! Oh my goodness, does it ever stay.

Simply repeating information cannot get you anywhere. It will not help you learn, and it will certainly not motivate you to continue on in whatever area of study on which you have set your eyes. Unfortunately, academia is oftentimes not very set on teaching the ways to learn information. For some reason, we are taught mainly what we should know and never how we should know.

And I think that that should change.

It is never too early an age to learn how to learn. It is never too early an age to learn how to function well in life. It is never too early an age to learn how to know what you know, to stave off stress, to build good habits. It is never too early an age to get a running start in what you can one day love.

Elaborative encoding. A mixture of what you know and what you love, unlocking a world of understanding beyond. Have the courage and the know-how to give it a try.

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