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Pinewood Puts Stress on Stress



   Five hours of homework tonight. Two tests tomorrow. One essay due Friday. A robotics meeting after school. Two volleyball games this week. A six-hour practice ACT test. A birthday party next week. Four hours of community service on Saturday. How is it possible to accomplish all this without having a
mental breakdown?

   Again and again, students beg for less homework and tests. While this might not be possible, teachers are making a conscious effort to only assign meaningful work and fully prepare students
for tests.

   “[My strategy to decrease students’ stress is through] the stability of my class and predictability of when things are due. They always know, for example, when they have quizzes or tests. I never surprise them because that to me would be stressful and unfair,” junior high science teacher Elaina Tyson said.

   Principal Mark Gardner has responded to students’ and parents’ concerns of an overwhelming homework loads on Thursday nights by eliminating the all-day Fridays. Putting a cap on Advanced Placement classes and moving junior high sports practices have alleviated stress as well.

   “I like not having a day with all the
classes because it means I will always have two days to do my homework and it is good for my back because I do not have to stuff books for both days in my backpack,” eighth grader Ryder Heit said.

   A goal of all students is building a college resume that demonstrates well-roundedness to show colleges a wide range of skills and interests. On top of managing a night full of homework and studying, senior Ethan Bair juggles running the robotics team, freshman PK Stevens plays two to three volleyball games a week, and junior Nicole Tang holds the position of student council president. While all different, each consumes a lot time
and energy.

   “I am the captain of the robotics team, which is a very stressful job because not many people show up to the meetings so I have to figure out what we can do with limited people in order to reach deadlines,” Bair said.

   Because Pinewood is such a small school, people are bound to find out their peer’s tests grades, what colleges they are applying to, or the number of AP classes being taken. With this knowledge, an unspoken competition emerges and some students feel pressured to maintain a perfect image.

   It is no surprise that junior and senior year are the most stressful due to their direct
impact on college.

   “Junior year I would say I had more work to do, so I would feel dead every day. This year, there is less work, but it has a lot more significance because now if I make the wrong choice it is going to affect my entire future so that in itself is very
stressful,” Bair said.

   It would be naïve to disregard the tragic incidences of suicides that have occurred at neighboring schools like Gunn and Palo Alto High Schools. The Mercury News reported that 94 people in that past three years attempted to end their lives on the Caltrain tracks, 10 being successful just last year. Gunn students and parents have created peer support groups to reach out to others experiencing similar feelings.

   As Tyson points out, stress is “a part of life and you’ve gotta learn how to deal
with it.”

   Whether that release is playing one-on-one basketball with a sibling, playing guitar, going for a midnight ride up Skyline Boulevard, or taking a nap, everyone has some sort of coping mechanism to get through the inevitable part
of daily life.

   “I think it’s not so much taking away stress from people or students. It is making sure they can handle it or cope with it. It can all be difficult but it how they learn to handle it and can they still enjoy life even though there’s some stress factors. That is the important thing,” Gardner said.