by Stephen Lynch and Janay Davison
From 8 to approximately 4:30 many students leave the safety of their homes to travel to school, taking with them backpacks that weigh about 40 pounds, nearly as much as an average packed suitcase. They wait outside for transit if they don’t have rides to get to school and are met in class by the expectation that they should be awake, regardless of the amount of sleep they got due to the homework.
Brooklyn College Academy (BCA) is an early college high school with two sites, Annex and Campus. Most of the classes for 9th and 10th grades take place at Annex.
Campus, which takes place at Brooklyn College, is a different story, offering Advanced Placement (AP) College Courses and limited high school classes. Students taking AP courses can choose to take the AP exam at the end of the semester, and if they pass this test with a 3 out of 5 or above, they receive college credits. College classes are courses taught by professors from Brooklyn College.
We asked students at Campus taking college classes how stress affects them in their everyday life. Students participating in the survey reported feelings of being in a consistent cycle of weariness and hastiness. 11th graders also discussed a sharp increase in stress and how that impacts their ability to function in a class or even outside of class.
Being “slapped in the face” with information in the classes is stressful, says Hadiya Sergeant, a student in AP English and U.S History.
One of the more stress-inducing college courses is People Power and Politics. Arielle Etienne, a student enrolled in the course, has said that the stress and pressure from this class is detrimental to her. Other AP courses, such as AP U.S History & Politics, can be hectic and overwhelming, according to the students interviewed.
Stress “consumes me and I start to break down and cry,” says Aaliyah Moore, one of the students taking both AP English and People Power and Politics. Moore finds that, when stressed, she shuts people out, affecting her social life.
Moore says the demanding workload drains her. When going back to class, she continues, she doesn’t focus due to the stressful environment and is disinclined to do work in class. Moore says that People Power and Politics is “not interesting.”
Moore is not alone, as numerous students replied that stress leaves them tired, uninterested and unmotivated.
Students explained that the stress and the structure of the class influence their mental health even when outside of school. April Gonzales, another AP student, adds that her patience is thinning, saying that she feels emotional at the end of the day, snapping at people to release in tension.
Cameron Lee puts some of the blame for the stress on the teachers. “Life has begun to suck,” Lee said, explaining “the teachers are confused on what to teach” and the fundamentals are not taught well. Lee stresses that the students do not get to choose whether they would like to take the class or not.
Many students complained about the pace of some classes., April said, “I am a slow learner, and AP U.S is very fast-paced.”
Many students find that the classes are overwhelming, and students struggle to retain information in brief periods of time before the start of the next unit. The lack of instruction also leaves students frustrated and confused, regardless of the subject or level of the class.
Others, though, say it is not the schoolwork that gives them stress but the environment. Although the new college campus environment is liberating for students it requires them to have more responsibility for doing work in their free time. A student who wished to remain anonymous says, “It’s a hard change to having a strict schedule, seeing the same thing and people every day to all that being taken away in the span of two months. “Suicidal tendencies” is one of many of the feelings another anonymous student has felt in AP classes.
Even the practice tests do nothing to alleviate the stress, although they are meant to help calm the nerves for the test at the end of the year. Moore mentions that having three essay prompts and multiple-choice questions to do in three hours is extremely “nerve-racking.”
Although students are stressed, they take active steps in trying to mitigate the effects of it. Sashan Harris said, “When my friends give me hugs it’s reassuring to me that everything will be okay.”
Having a support system is vital for Harris as it provides her the comfort she needs to keep moving forward. “When they tell me that they appreciate me from time to time I feel happy,” said Harris, striving to focus on the positive aspects of her life instead of dwelling on stress.
“It’s calming [to listen to music] when I want to rest my brain,” said Sergeant. Sergeant engages in other coping mechanisms such as treating herself with bubble tea, reading books and watching speed painting videos on YouTube. Like Harris, Sergeant enjoys having friends to keep her company and provide her a haven from the stress.
“Sometimes I go to the bathroom and sit on the floor and hug my knees, my bathroom is a safe space,” says Moore. Another step Moore takes is relaxing on her couch and staring at the ceiling. Moore said, “I think how things could be worse and I make the most of it” as motivation to keep on persevering in class despite her high-stress levels