Every student knows that the end of the school year is just around the corner. Keeping grades up and ending the year strong are always concerns for administration and the teachers.
Vice Principal Maija Thiel says she will go out of her way to help out struggling kids.
“I try to let them know that I care about them. ‘First of all how are things going, how are your grades, how are your classes, how is everything going, how are [you] balancing out the stress that [you] have? Is there anything we can do to help? Is there a specific class that is giving you troubles?,’” Thiel said. “Then I work with them and help them with strategies for them personally maybe with their families and also with their teachers and getting them all the help that they need.”
Teacher Matt White says he recognizes the rise in pressure during AP testing time.
“Pressure rises significantly, up until the AP test; it is a high stress [time] for the teachers and students. For the teachers, we are held to a very high curriculum standard. I cannot teach the things that I like, spend time on the things that are fun, you have to march through so the students will be prepared and successful. So that is very challenging and stressful,” White said.
According to White, the high stress times are different depending on the class.
“For AP teachers, the high stress is May. For the non-AP classes, the high stress [time] is in June. Then it is the same thing they have things they have to get through so the student will be prepared for the next level of education whether it be a math or science class, you have to get to this so you can understand the next thing. The stress level for everybody ramps up,” White said.
Current ASB president Noah McDonald has some advice looking back at his high school career.
“You do not want to look back at high school and realize what could have happened if you just worked a little bit harder in certain classes. Creating the best opportunities for yourself would be to put in effort during your schooling career that you will not regret later in life,” McDonald said.
White compares the school year to a 400-meter race.
“Drive hard to the end, drive hard to the finish line. Three quarters of the race is tough but the last quarter [is really tough]. It is the people who are willing to hurt the most [who] are the ones who will do the best. It is the same thing in academics,” White said
According to White, the students who work the hardest will see the greatest benefit and results.
“The people who will work the hardest are the ones who will be the most successful and will reap the rewards. That is the goal that we have. Once we are done with the AP test then you get to celebrate. If the students can see the end goal and that there is a value to getting there, they will work hard through that and then celebrate the results,” White said.
Thiel says she finds two common things that get asked of her towards the end of the year.
“Some kids it is ‘I need help feeling motivated to get here each day.’ That is a common one or ‘I do not feel like coming at all or I feel like coming late and I do not want to do that.’ So they know they need extra help for that. Then I work with them and ask what would motivate them what would make them feel good,” Thiel said.
Thiel says she will do anything to make sure a student is here and learning She says that personal communication is key.
“’Hey, why do not you check in with me each day so I know you got here and on time and if I start not hearing from you or see you are not showing up I am going to come hunt you down. You have given me permission, I am going to come and look for you and try to figure out what is going on. Look for their friends and have them text them: ‘hey, you need to get here; we need you here,’” Thiel said.
Thiel says the second part has to do with the amount of work and the amount of time needed to complete it all.
“The other part of it is just feeling stressed and overwhelmed by everything that has to get done. How do you manage time, so I help them with all of the stuff they need to get done and prioritize what they need to get done and where they are going to go for help for a variety of things,” Thiel said.
White is wondering if the challenges in the ramped-up work level towards the end of the year is a bad thing.
“Is it challenging, yes, because you have all of the tests you have to pass. But the issue is not that it is challenging, the issue is anyone who wants to get better at something they have to do hard things,” White said. “If you want to get stronger, you have to lift heavy weights. If you want to be fit, you run and workout. Those are not easy things they are hard things.”
Working hard is necessary for getting better at something, White says.
“To get better at anything you need to work hard. So if you want to get better you need challenges. Challenges are opportunities to improve and work harder. To then be able to work harder in the future,” White said.
Thiel sees the stress level kick up as the end of the school year comes closer.
“I would say that any time the end of the semester is coming, especially the end of the year, I definitely see more stress for students. We recognize that this a more stressful time because it is an important time, it means a lot what happens with your grades, what happens with your future and how everything ties together and that is certainly something that we watch and pay attention and taking care of kids,” Thiel said.
Watching out for each other is one of many things Thiel says she appreciates about PHS.
“I appreciate [that] at our school [it] is not only the teachers watching out for the students but the students are watching out for each other as well. They come to us and say ‘hey, so and so is really stressed out, I am really concerned about them could you check in on them.’ I think it is really important how the students take care of each other,” Thiel said.
White sees a misconception in society regarding who gets stressed.
“I think we have a misconception about the stress in our society. Stress is a fact of life, it is unavoidable. It is not an issue of reducing stress, it is the issue of handling stress. It does not matter if you are sitting on a beach in Fiji, getting a tan while someone is bringing you a fruity beverage. You are still trying to figure out how am I going to pay for it, how are my kids doing. There is stress everywhere,” White said.
Dealing with stress is a big problem in society, says White.
“The issue is how you are going to respond to stress. If teachers and students can learn skills to help them deal with stress, then they will be more successful when those stressful times come. The only people who are not stressed are dead; they are not stressed, they are dead. Now if they are dead they are most recently very stressed. So that is not as helpful. So the question is: how we teach students how to deal with this stressful times,” White said.
Thiel says she sees a diversity in how students approach the end of the year.
“I think there is more stress for students and so it is helping them know that we are here for them, whatever they need and how we [can] make it through this and it going to be okay, we can do this and just help them get through the testing period and give them confidence that their support is here for them so. I do not think it is any busier or stressful but just a different type,” Thiel said.
Students can keep their grades up if they do one thing, says White.
“Recognize there is a purpose to what they are doing. A lot of students do school for the grade. ‘Just make sure that I do not get in trouble. I do not want to get yelled at. Can we avoid a meeting with Mom and Dad?’ They need to take control of what they want out of school, take charge of what does this mean to them,” White said.
How much you put in, is what you will get out, according to White.
“Students who say ‘school means nothing to me,’ well, that is exactly what they are going to get out of it: nothing. That is what they need to do as an adult. As an adult you need to decide how much does this mean to me. If it means something to you, then you will work your tail off for it. So students need to decide: what does this mean to them because if they can find personal meaning in what they are doing then they will work hard at anything,” White said.
McDonald says there are three things hard about the end of the year.
“I would break that answer into three simple answers. Number one is the weather gets significantly nicer, making it harder to complete homework or study. Number two is that feeling of the finish line so close, but so far away. And number three is the cramming of AP tests, exams and finals all within a limited amount of time,” McDonald said.
Thiel stresses the importance of this small time in life.
“If people can keep perspective, this is a small short period on your life so taking that time to do something that has a long-term impact and take advantage of the time you have because it does make a difference later on. Sometimes it is hard to see that big long perspective and just persevere. Sometimes perseverance and hard work can really go a long way when you are struggling,” Thiel said.
There is always help around you if you ask, Thiel says.
“You just can never give up and always ask for help. That is the big thing, if you are struggling and you do not know how you are going to make it. Do not just try to do it all on your own, reach out for some help because there are people who will help you here, come see us in the office or your teachers but do not give up till you have the help you need because that is what we are here for,” Thiel said.