High expectations overwhelm students

High expectations overwhelm students

Edward Wang

Two juniors recently dropped classes because of increasingly difficult situations


High school students experience all kinds of stress, stemming from concerns about college admissions, family issues, and peer to peer relationships. MVHS students are no exception to this rule because they often undertake more than what they can handle because of high expectations.

Junior Iris Liu, who now takes Environmental Biology at De Anza College, recently dropped her AP Biology class because she did not feel prepared for the course. Liu attended Leland High School during her freshman year but did not take a freshman biology course because the science curriculum at Leland begins with Chemistry Honors instead.

The academic culture at MVHS often results in students expecting far too much from themselves. In these cases, factors, such as under-preparation and lack of time, soon convince students that their ambitious goals are ultimately not possible. Photo by Edward Wang.“Let’s just take [AP Chem] as an example,” Liu said. “When I used my Chemistry Honors knowledge, I did not really consciously draw on it…I wouldn’t be like, ‘Okay, it’s time to reference back to my Chemistry Honors stuff.’ It’s already there, so then you don’t really feel like you’re using it very much. So it doesn’t feel like a very big jump. But for someone who never took Chemistry to take AP Chemistry, that would be very difficult. That’s kind of my situation in AP Biology.”

Before deciding to take AP Biology, Liu did ask some seniors for advice regarding whether or not she should take the course. She was told that the course would be rather easy, but that advice turned out to be rather misleading because the seniors had taken freshman biology while Liu had not.

“I partially felt obligated to [take AP Biology] because basically everyone takes an AP science junior year,” Liu said. “Freshman biology was kind of awkward because I didn’t want to be the only junior in the class of freshmen, and people would think that I failed three years or something. So I just decided to give it a go.”

Junior Aaron Ho also faced a similar situation, yet in his case, a lack of time, rather than a lack of preparation, contributed to his decision to drop Spanish 4.

“It took probably about four to five hours to do my homework every night,” Ho said. “And adding that onto Variations trips and missing school and soccer also, it was just way too much combined.”

Student advocate Richard Prinz agrees that these kinds of situations often occur because so many factors contribute to stress and the feeling of being overwhelmed. These factors not only include the lack of preparation and time but also social and emotional issues, such as relationships with parents and peers.

“[There are] people who are taking classes because their peers are taking them or because their parents expect that,” Prinz said. “And then they get in, get behind for some reason, maybe stop going in extreme cases, ignore the problem sometimes and feel bad because they’re not measuring up to what they thought they could do.”

In spite of these drawbacks, high self-expectations and academic rigor can still provide some benefits for students. According to Liu, some students from Leland, who attend UC Berkeley for college, struggle because they are not accustomed to the workload of such an academically competitive university.

As a result, having such an academically rigorous environment in MVHS becomes both beneficial and costly at the same time; most students benefit in the long run by becoming accustomed to daunting workloads while others end up struggling with the system because of the obligation to have a huge amount of work.

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