Written by: Anuva Ganapathi
By this point, we have all experienced the immense stress that comes with finals week. We have found ourselves overwhelmed with the pressure of trying to remember a whole semester’s worth of information and considered ourselves lucky if we got more than three hours of sleep a night. As seniors begin to enjoy the perks of second semester, the rest of us are faced with yet another semester of endless work, late nights and last minute studying, simply to get a grade. But by focusing so much on how we do in class, we sometimes forget to concentrate on what is actually important: learning. Instead, we have created a stressful atmosphere that undermines the purpose of school.
Unfortunately, we have grown accustomed to worrying more about when a teacher will update grades on Infinite Campus than viewing learning as a top priority. Each year, as the deadline for grades approaches, students generally begin to scramble to push their grades over the borderline. However, these grades only partially represent how much a student has actually learned and instead, may be more indicative of a student’s ability to do the minimum amount necessary to get a good grade. Grades can easily be influenced and changed, regardless of whether a student knows the material.
Throughout my freshman year, keeping up in biology was an uphill battle; I spent the entire year doing the bare minimum necessary to satisfy the prerequisites for Advanced Placement (AP) Biology. Now, as I face the same struggle in AP Biology, I realize how much easier my life would be had I spent a couple extra hours actually understanding the material in ninth grade. The hope of getting a good test grade always seems more important than the goal of really understanding the concepts. For me, the few days before a test always consist of immense amounts of procrastination, to the point where I am forced to pull a caffeine-fueled all-nighter to cram as much information as possible into my head, only to forget it afterwards. The entire purpose of school is lost, as nothing is ultimately learned.
I’m sure I am not the only one who has suffered the painful experience of getting back a test that was spent hours studying for, only to see red marks all over the page and a disappointing grade at the top. When I first started high school, I was under the impression that each class would simply require a couple hours of work per week. The first test of my high school career made it abundantly clear that it would take a lot more than a few hours of studying and even made me start to dread going to some classes, for fear of getting back another failed test. In addition to preventing students from learning, grades can also discourage students from trying to perform well. When a student constantly associates a subject with bad grades and failure, there is no motivation to actually try and learn. With the pressures of getting a high grade point average and going to a good college, some students are willing to do anything to get a good grade. Many factors, such as extra credit opportunities and assignments that are meant to add free points, can change a grade.
The idea of high school today has become more about a commitment to borderline grades, last-minute extra credit, and all-night cram sessions rather than a commitment to learning. The grade is only indicative of a student’s knowledge when he or she makes the effort to learn beyond the bare minimum, instead of focusing on their GPAs. By making grades a secondary priority, students can both avoid the stress of last-minute studying and truly be able to understand the subject.