Written by: Veronica Melendi and Natalie Weker
Edited by: Geo Thatch
Grades are stressful. There’s no doubt about it. While Kent Place tries to minimize the stress and negative effects of grades, many argue that their presence still induces a significant amount of stress on students’ mental health. However, while the grade itself can be stressful, some have come forward to argue they believe their “academic anxiety” comes from the conversation and culture surrounding grades at Kent Place.
Opening grades in advisory has not been beneficial, and has actually induced stress on students. This is often because some students decide to share their grades with the group, or make comments that can feel belittling to other students. For example, “Oh my goodness I only got an A in this class” or “I got an A+ in this class, but it was an easy class you know?” These comments can make students who did not earn grades of the same level feel worse about themselves and their progress in the class. In addition, a letter grade doesn’t always reflect the effort someone puts into a class.
Some advisors try to facilitate discussions when grades come out to help put things into perspective and congratulate students for their hard work and accomplishments they made throughout the trimester. However, in many advisories, it’s more of a free for all, which can cause unnecessary stress for students.
Everyone has a different set of talents and skills, and what may come easy to one person is something another struggles with. Opening grades in advisories encourages comparatism and active sharing of grades. Further, this encourages the idea that a letter grade is the sole denominator of an individual’s intelligence. Keeping grades under wraps until they are released in advisory further heightens the anticipation and the idea that grades are the determining factor of someone’s life.
A word often associated with conversations around grading is “standard.” While everyone having their own standards may appear to be a positive thing, as it would allow students to be proud of the work they put into a class and the grade it achieved, it can often lead to drama and stress, as some students choose to impose, or otherwise brag about, their standards on others. When interviewed about this issue, an anonymous student said, “It’s nice that people actually care about school here but the fact that they can’t accept A- is crazy.”
Another anonymous student stated, “I feel as though people’s perceptions of grades have become extremely distorted, especially in Upper School, because I understand the want to get these amazing grades and get into prestigious colleges, but people will break down when they get a B. It’s very weird, because we already know that this is a college-preparatory school. It’s all people talk about sometimes and it makes it stressful and others feel bad about getting certain grades. It’s extremely toxic.”
However, the main question here is: how do we prevent conversations like this from happening in the future? While we can eliminate the advisory conversations, Kent Place is unable to censor and monitor all conversations outside of school and over group messaging. An anonymous student commented, “I think it’s just the culture here at Kent Place. It sucks but it’s true.”
Changing a culture can be strenuous and takes time, though. It doesn’t just happen overnight. In reality, we can have thousands of discussions surrounding communication skills and talking about grades, but that most likely won’t fix anything. However, what can be changed at Kent Place is structure.
One anonymous student commented, “There’s too much pressure put on grades. For example, PE, which is only pass fail. They give you an actual letter grade. The only reason for that is to motivate you to do better. That inherently puts pressure and meaning behind grades that are essentially meaningless.”
Kent Place’s relationship with grades is complex, often causing more stress to students. Stress and grades often go hand in hand, especially for students who, like those at Kent Place, place a significant amount of importance on academic achievement. It is essential to find healthy ways to cope with stress, like heart-focused breathing, and for Kent Place to support them. With the right mindset and willingness to cooperate, students and faculty can manage stress levels and achieve academic success without sacrificing their well-being.