Different Grades Weigh in on Stress

Lana English, Reporter

In the rollercoaster that is the six-year career of Burroughs students, stressors will invariably go up, down, and loop back around, and there will always be challenges pervading the lives of students. In a typical year, one might overhear gripes of finals, AP Physics, term papers, and sports practices drifting from the crammed Commons. But the 2020-21 school year has seen an unprecedented series of stressors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We asked students from the seventh, ninth, and eleventh grades to share their experiences and perspectives on the stresses they have experienced in this abnormal year.

When asked about the biggest current stressors in their lives, every student interviewed from all three grades agreed that the coronavirus has altered their experiences. In seventh grade, meeting and getting to know classmates with whom you will spend six years of your life is daunting in and of itself. This has been made even more difficult by the confines of Zoom and the separation of classes into different cohorts. Seventh graders agree that finding friends and socially connecting with classmates both inside and outside of school is especially difficult this year, and is one of the biggest sources of stress for them. Claire Roth (‘26) highlighted that her class overall is “Stressed about meeting people in the other cohorts and not knowing many people.” While the social scene is particularly stressful for many seventh graders, distance learning has proven to decrease stress for others. “At-home classes are more relaxing… you are more comfortable inside your house… and you can take breaks between classes,” Jerry Chang (‘26) offered. In this way, COVID-19 has not necessarily proven an entirely negative effect on student well-being.

This is another ten levels of worry higher. I think when we finally head back to full school with a vaccine, we’ll all have a better appreciation for sports and being together.

— Summer Levin ('24)

The transition to hybrid schooling is causing anxiety for Burroughs freshmen that are entering high school where grades actually “count” towards college, extracurricular activities are encouraged, etc. Zoom classes in particular are more stressful for many Burroughs high schoolers. “With COVID it’s definitely harder, at least for me, to pay attention during my Zoom classes and it’s a lot harder to learn when school is online,” Arden Sigmund (‘24) said. Freshman year is always a big academic transition, and in light of COVID, our usual tasks regarding Canvas, Zoom, and personal well-being augment that stress. Summer Levin (‘24), a fully-remote student, feels that “…being at home makes it difficult for me to concentrate and really do my work efficiently. It gets done eventually, but the longer this goes on, the more tedious the work becomes.” Going from a normal middle school experience to high school in a pandemic has been difficult for the freshman class. “This is another ten levels of worry higher. I think when we finally head back to full school with a vaccine, we’ll all have a better appreciation for sports and being together,” Levin further explained. The junior class, although more experienced with the rigor of JBS, is still experiencing similar problems. Charlie Schoenecker (‘22) echoed what younger students reported, saying, “My biggest cause of stress this year is probably the difficulty in connecting with people in general.” Schoenecker (‘22) also added that participation in class and working at home remotely have contributed to the rise of stress for him, but Burroughs has kept it manageable so far. The unpredictability of hybrid school is also a big source of stress for many juniors; Eva Kappas (‘22) reported that some weeks she has an overload of work, while in other weeks it is relatively light.

Regardless of the pandemic, academics are homologous with stress for Burroughs students. Seventh graders recognize that their academic stress is not at an all-time high, yet they are still sometimes overwhelmed with homework, tests, and other assessments. One of Chang’s biggest stressors is tests, and managing his time to work and study. All of the surveyed seventh graders agreed that the shock from elementary school to middle school, with increasing homework and expectations, causes stress to begin to grow on an exponential curve. Meeting and communicating with teachers is also problematic for seventh graders, as they are just figuring out how to thrive in the Burroughs environment.

Similarly, learning how to manage their time is especially stressful for seventh graders, as again, they are just finding what works for them. With finals on the horizon, freshmen are arguably the most academically overwhelmed they have ever been. The first round of finals, a rite of passage of sorts, is a big source of anxiety for Sigmund, and students in every freshman class for that matter. Students are even beginning to talk about college in the ninth grade class, now that they are in high school, Sigmund (‘24) reported.

AP classes, extracurriculars, and standardized testing fill the minds of many eleventh graders as they approach college. “College is a major factor in our lives now. We have to set aside time for that outside of all of our school work,” Andrew Herbster (‘22) said. The recent practice ACT and PSAT have also put pressure on juniors. Eva Kappas (‘22) has been involved in the Sunrise STL hub, a youth-led group fighting climate change, both last school year and this year, and cited this as her biggest stressor. But now that she is less involved, AP physics has been taking up a lot of her time. Sea Gira (‘22) agrees, and as a three AP class student taking two above-grade classes, academics have been a huge stressor for her this year. The junior class is able to officially take honors and AP classes this year, and even students who are not taking three AP courses like Gira feel the pressure. Everyone misses filing into a crowded Haertter Hall every morning and laughing at sports games with peers; 2020 has been extremely taxing for the Burroughs community. Despite these difficulties; friends, family, hobbies, and newly adopted “COVID pets” have brought happiness to the student body, and they look hopefully towards 2021 with a new-found appreciation for each other and JBS culture.