Make It or Break It
By Jordan Geis-Agar
“You aren’t good enough,” the report card screams. It happens every year. “You could have been number one,” it snarls. That sheet of paper has been said to define what your future entails. Your parents yell if six A’s aren’t plastered across your report card. The teachers look down on you if a question goes unanswered. Your peers look on in fear because they’re experiencing the same situations, but they laugh when they do better.
The pressure to be perfect is practically demanded by teachers, parents, and sometimes even other students. All of these expectations can lead to students seeing their futures in tunnel vision instead of anything they could ever dream of. All of these requirements can leave a student feeling worthless and as if failure is waiting for them.
Kaelee Albritton, a junior at OTHS, reveals, “The pressure to be perfect has set me up for constant failure, making me believe that I will never be worthy of greatness.” This horrendous feeling plunges through students’ minds daily. Whether it’s because they failed a test they studied hours for, or because they have lost all motivation to try, students are losing faith and struggling to believe in themselves. Standards are set so high, they seem unreachable, so students just settle for falling short.
However, even though students should always strive to do their best, being number one doesn’t always show achievement. Yes, having the best grade point average is a great accomplishment, but as Einstein stated, “Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking it’s stupid.” Schools often pressure academic strengths and sports instead of arts and compassion to help others. As of today’s standards, students are expected to have perfect grades, to exceed at sports, and to have a leadership role in a wide variety of clubs. Some, like Jack Larimer who is the president of the junior class, rise high above what is expected. However, he shares, “The standard is almost set too high for academic achievement. From extracurriculars to the loads of homework, school has shifted its actual purpose from learning to getting decent letters on a report card.”
On a more extreme note, the pressures can lead to clinical depression and anxiety. School, for some students, was the root of the problem.Jessica Crum, a junior at OTHS, shares, “I’ve always been a very confident person who got good grades, but for some reason high school has been more stressful than I think it should be. I have gotten clinical depression because of it, and many of my teachers looked down on me for not being able to handle all of the requirements at one time. I finally went homebound in order to avoid the daily struggles of a regular school day.” Lately, it has been common for a student to request homebound, a method of homeschooling that is still sponsored by OTHS and is still held to the same academic standard. Some students choose this option because the homework, tests, sports practices, games, and clubs are consuming their whole lives.
On the other hand, school can also push a student over the edge along with every other occurrence in his or her life. Senior Jessica Soehlke claims, “I believe the standard of perfection in school has changed me a lot. I used to have a ‘go with the flow’ mentality, but the pressures in my learning environment at school got me to overthink situations and put myself down. In combination with everything going on outside of school, it was just too much to handle.”
No matter our reasons, the academic curriculum won’t be changing its ideals anytime in the near future. However, we have something much more powerful: our compassion and motivation to succeed. The motivation for ourselves radiates to others and changes their thought process. Determination is contagious and everyone can catch it. A simple random act of kindness is all it takes to transfer someone’s mood from upset to happy. The little things in a high school career are what can make or break someone. OTHS is considered one of the best schools in the state, so upholding that reputation within its own walls is key. United in blue and gold, we stand.