A High Achieving Environment With Even Higher Stress Levels Highlights La Salle’s Need to Improve


Reilly Smith

La Salle students often feel stressed with their heavy workload and instant grade notifications.

Ava Whalon, Staff Reporter

In a society where superficial success is often placed above all else, it is a struggle to ever be fully happy and satisfied with what we as individuals have been able to accomplish. In a high-performance environment such as La Salle, competition is inevitable, and alarming stress levels are through the roof.

While high expectations, homework assignments, and challenging concepts are not inherently bad, the way they are brought about, enforced, and graded is not encouraging efficient work ethics, or healthy student mindsets.

For as long as I can remember, I have been a good student who cares deeply about my grades, and academic success. Despite having countless teachers, and mentors tell me that “grades aren’t all that matters,” I have never felt higher stress levels than I have while attending La Salle.

Upon a grade being entered into PowerSchool, La Salle’s grading platform of choice, students receive a notification telling them exactly how it has altered their cumulative grade as well as their GPA. Waves of panic ensue and instantly, the joy of learning becomes the fear of failure.

The problems with PowerSchool are widely understood throughout the La Salle community.

“I think rather than letting PowerSchool and Schoology dictate our relationship to learning, we should think about our relationship to learning, and then make the tools support what we want our relationship to learning to be,” said Mr. Greg Larson, an English teacher at La Salle. I wholeheartedly agree.

Grades are now accessible at any second we wish, fulfilling our need for instant gratification in our modern society.

PowerSchool takes an assignment, test, or assessment, and churns out near immediate access to the scores that students receive. This process of instant gratification feeds into the primarily grade-focused environment we have here at La Salle; and once again limits the student’s ability to sit with these assignments and understand why they are being given, which ultimately should be to provide them with knowledge applicable to life.

When students aren’t given the space and time to be proud of the products they have truly worked for, their work ethics become warped and the classroom experience becomes less about learning and more about grades. Grades come quickly, and so does self doubt, anxiety, and as a result, blatant laziness.

I am here to learn, and my family is paying large sums of money to ensure I have the ability to do so in a safe and effective environment; but when I am given hours of homework with low point value, I find myself in a continuous state of doing things to keep my solid GPA, rather than doing them to genuinely obtain knowledge.

This angers me.

An obvious solution to this problem may not be clear, but I believe it should be a shared effort between teachers, parents, and students. We are not asking for thrown-away assignments, or easy A classes; we are simply asking for a shift of tone and awareness when it comes to the busy lives we have been trained to believe we must have in order to be successful.

In addition to constantly emphasizing the importance of grades, our school system pushes college in an urgent way, almost immediately upon entering the La Salle school community. I was given the PSAT, began creating my college portfolio, and was offered the opportunity to listen to college visits, all while being a freshman. And while I believe that college is an experience that can greatly improve a young person’s life, it is naive to say it is the right choice for everyone.

People learn in so many different ways, with so many different strengths, and our modern school system simply isn’t designed in a way that allows many of these strengths to be explored.

Mr. Seth Altshuler, a counselor at La Salle, believes an ideal school system would be one that allows students to explore how, why, and what they want to learn. “[School] should be about what you want to know, and what you need to know, not what somebody else thought you should have known 50 years ago,” he said. “I don’t think you should have to do an equal amount of any [classes] if [they] don’t speak to you.”

College is undoubtedly going to be a part of my life, and the idea of going away to study things I am passionate about excites me. However, being preached to about its importance since the start of my freshman year is not healthy. As I left the theater several weeks ago, after a presentation on what I should currently be doing to prepare, I was filled with self doubt and anxiety that stuck with me throughout the following week.

Realistically I know that I will be fine as I enter the college prep process, but it is much easier to succumb to the messy thoughts my brain emits. From the conversations I’ve had with them, I know many of my peers feel the same.

And now, in a world embedded with technology, our grades, and all of their fluctuations, are accessible within a matter of seconds. It is hard to catch a moment unconnected. Comparison is everywhere and academics are no exception. With top scores announced and displayed, and tests worth 70% of our cumulative grades, it is clear where values in the classroom lie.

My peers and I don’t talk about the essays we are proud of, or the content we find interesting; we discuss the grades we dislike and compare the stressful sleepless nights we endure. It is disappointing, and sad, but it is the truth. Attitudes and environments like this are not going to efficiently push us into our best futures.

“I don’t know a student here who is not stressed all the time,” Mr. Larson said. “I do not know a student here who is not stressed most of the time. That concerns me.”

Despite the amount of pain, stress, and anxiety I see in the faces of La Salle students each day, I know we are all privileged to be going to a school that strives to help us get where we want to go. However, there is always room for improvement. Until there are no longer students waking up each day dreading school, and risking their mental health for a grade that won’t matter in five years, saying that we are truly succeeding as a school community would be a lie.

In order to restore and cultivate effective work ethics and motivation within our community, conversations must take place. It is not an easy fix, but it is an important one, a change that could be the difference between a student growing into true success and being lost in our society’s warped perception of what that success should look like.