From a Junior crazy enough to take four APs to you: advice and optimism

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Photo: Chloe Zehr

“What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of stress?” I asked Junior, Buddy Takemoto. Takemoto, with an unvarnished and even tone, replied, “Darrough.”

Throughout SLVHS, Advanced Placement classes, or AP’s, such as Ms. Darrough’s AP English Language and Composition, are becoming benchmarks for academic success. However, the stress that often comes hand-in-hand with taking an AP is a well known source of contention for students.

Stress is the demand or emphasis placed upon a physical or emotional circumstance that is adverse to a person’s mental state, yet it is the powerful force that keeps many of us doing our homework and turning it in on time.

According to Junior Harena Haile, AP’s provide phenomenal opportunities for challenging ourselves, learning to keep constant organization and becoming proficient in desired academic subjects that would cost thousands of dollars in college. Ms. Darrough’s class is a key example of why our school’s AP program is so outstanding. It provides both intellectual and cultural literacy, fluency in logical argumentation, and exposes students to contemporary sources of conflict such as gender and racial equality.

Nonetheless, the question remains: to what extent does the stress of AP’s make them worth it?

When asked whether AP’s induce unnecessary stress and competition, Haile stated “I think the AP’s aren’t the problem… it’s whether each student can handle it – students who usually are academically competitive are generally the ones who take them. It is those who take them out of peer pressure that create unnecessary stress for themselves and other classmates.”

AP classes are frequently seen as a way for students to appear accomplished to colleges; taking on an unhealthy amount of them just for the grade bump and sometimes due to the “peer pressure”, is one of the worst mistakes that students can make.

The effects of stress can be incredibly beneficial – just imagine if we had no motivation or demand on us to finish our homework or to study for exams. However, as many students in AP classes can attest, the lack of sleep and piles of homework become overwhelming.

A UC Irvine study found association between the effects “early-life psychological stress” has on young adult rats and the effects stress has on humans. “These findings constitute the first evidence that a short period of stress early in life can lead to delayed, progressive impairments of synaptic and behavioral measures of hippocampal function, with potential implications to the basis of age-related cognitive disorders in humans,” according to the study.

So, why do we accept these feelings of tension and anxiety for the sake of “academic success”? In today’s academic atmosphere, success is often only seen as the letter of our grades and the number of AP classes one is crazy enough to take. Finding the root of our stress could help us to answer this question.

According to Author William Zinsser, who wrote the article, “The Right to Fail”, the root of students stress stems from the idea that society dictates students personal perspectives on accomplishment and defeat. Zinsser argues that because we have the right to own our own bodies, we have the right to define success and failure for ourselves – rather than societies black and white depiction of them. One student’s definition of success could be taking 5 AP classes; however, that does not mean it has to be everyone’s!

Zinsser wrote in his article that failing often is a way of “dropping in” to new opportunities that we would have never experienced if we were not afraid to change our own definition of success. This in no way means that we should all go about failing our classes – it does mean that we should take into consideration what stress benefits us and encourages us to challenge ourselves.

This is what I encourage: remember to breathe. Though it is a simple and necessary function in our bodies, it is imperative that we breathe for the sake of our mental health as students. Try dancing! Any song, anywhere, just moving our bodies is necessary for releasing tension. And though I have a personal bias as a certified yoga teacher, doing yoga really does reduce stress levels significantly. But the most vital piece of stress reducing advice I have is to do what we love – whether it be to take an AP that focusses on a subject one is passionate about or going to catch some waves after school. Making time for what is closest to our hearts is integral to stress management. Remember: not all homework is worth finishing if it is 3 A.M.

Challenge yourself academically, but keep your mental health and happiness as your main priority.

By Chloe Zehr


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