Student Stress and Hitting “the Wall”

A reader asked me a question about student stress, referring to it as hitting “a wall” in learning. The person said: “On the surface, and without the benefit of knowing the author’s definition of this ‘wall,’ would you agree with this situation, especially regarding high school students today?”

Here is how I responded about student stress and “the wall”:

Yes. I have witnessed this from my experiences as a high school teacher, high school counselor, high school assistant principal, and high school principal.

As youngsters move up to higher grades, less emphasis is placed on learning skills and collaboration and more is placed on competition. We can see this in how teachers ask questions and the emphasis on grades. For example, every time a teacher asks a question and hands are raised to answer, students are competing against each other for the teacher’s attention. This results in student stress. Collaboration, as I show in my book, is a much more effective approach for improving learning.

Also, in the last few decades, emphasis on those factors aimed at self-improvement (as noted by Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin) have rarely been emphasized in meaningful ways. Yes, we may see their platitudes displayed on classroom posters. Generally, though, posters do not teach. Of course there are some exceptions. In the corner of my high school campus was a sign that was there all through my three years: “Achieve the Honorable.” That sign is no longer in front of Hollywood High School.

Today’s students think they have good character if they help pick up trash and are environmentally aware—even though they may show little respect to their own parents.

The reason that I use “Level D” Democracy in the Levels of Development is that democracy and responsibility (taking initiative to do the right thing) are inseparable.

So, I think that the emphasis on competition to youth who never find themselves in the winner’s circle when they compete and the emphasis on rights over responsibilities are two reasons that we see so much student stress in high school and why students hit the “wall.”

If you’re looking for stress management advice, check out the book Live Without Stress: How to Enjoy the Journey.