Actions Speak Louder

Students need support in school more than they need empty motivation

Sofia Hughes, Staff Writer

I don’t think I’m the only one who’s noticed how some people talk about grades nowadays — maybe it’s just my parents, teachers or where I am on the internet, but I get told a lot that grades don’t matter and that they don’t define me.

One of those statements is true — grades don’t define someone as a person — but to say that grades don’t matter belittles the effect they have on our mental health and on our future.

The increasing focus on mental health has helped adults in our lives notice the effect that school has on us, and now, many people tell teenagers to take care of themselves and their mental health. However, without making any changes in the school system, choosing mental health over grades isn’t always possible.

Grades affect students.

They are an abstract letter representative of a stream of inconsequential numbers, but regardless of how made up they are, they affect us.

Students who don’t plan to go to college need passing grades to get their diploma.

High-achieving students need to keep a high GPA to ensure they get into their desired colleges.

Athletes need good grades to be allowed to compete.

Many students feel pressure from their parents to keep their grades up, and some get grounded or face other consequences if their grades aren’t up to par. These intangible letters poke and prod into every corner of our high school lives.

So when a teacher tells their class that grades don’t matter as much as the learning does, they need to back up those words with actions. If a teacher says that grades don’t matter, but then makes it difficult to get a good grade, they aren’t teaching the student the lesson they want to.

A student will always prioritize a grade over learning ungraded material because we simply don’t have a choice. With seven classes, extracurriculars, home life situations and more, students need to choose what to focus on because there isn’t enough time in the day to put 100% effort into everything. So, we prioritize the things that impact us the most, which usually includes grades we need to improve.

Teachers who tell students to nurture their mental health need to understand the impact the work they assign has on a student, and if they truly want to reduce stress, they need to listen to the needs of the students.

I know it’s not always possible for teachers to assign less homework due to the curriculum they follow, but there are other ways they can help students as well: having clear communication, not penalizing late work, providing easily accessible study materials for tests, giving time at the end of class to do homework, allowing breaks in class and giving extra credit opportunities. Additionally, just being respectful and kind to students makes it easier for them to succeed in a class.

Adults also need to understand what the prioritization of mental health looks like. Improving mental health isn’t a simple matter of saying affirmations in the mirror every morning. It takes time, it takes effort and it takes a support system.

Prioritizing mental health means letting things go, not getting assignments done and getting worse grades. It means doing less work and getting more sleep — teens who don’t get enough sleep are four times more likely to develop major depression, according to a 2014 study by the Sleep Research Society. In addition, ‘prioritizing’ mental health can actually make it worse in the long run — if we didn’t take AP classes, college would be more expensive and difficult later down the line.

If we went to sleep early every night and didn’t get our assignments done, sure, we’d be more well-rested, but our homework would pile up until it was completely overwhelming.

If we could just ‘choose’ to take care of our mental health without other important things in our life going down the garbage disposal, I promise you, we would have done it by now.