In My Life

The Parker Pipeline

Coming back to school in person after starting high school remotely, I immediately noticed the high levels of stress that I was feeling on a day-to-day basis, with tons of increased stress during testing days. As a person who struggles with anxiety, specifically and ESPECIALLY with tests, I was super-nervous to come back in person and start taking tests again. Taking tests from the comfort of my room had been a luxury for me and had also been beneficial to my grades, but I obviously can’t do that in an in-person setting. I was able to get an accommodation to take my tests in a separate space, without the stress of page flipping, nail tapping, and heavy breathing. Yet, I still struggle with test-taking stress – not because of my physical environment but because of overly high, stress-inducing expectations – Parker’s, society’s, and maybe even my own. Which brings me to my question, how, in coming off of almost two crazy years of online school, do you return to normalcy? What needs to be changed, and what could have or rather should have been changed in a post-remote-learning, in-person environment? The way that I see it, the pandemic could have been an opportunity for our school to improve and to be more accommodating for more students, but it seems like that hasn’t yet been the case.

Parker has shaped me to be a creative thinker who is open-minded, yet, has simultaneously shaped me to be an incredibly competitive, high-achieving student, and I don’t think it’s just me. I’ve had conversations with so many of my friends and classmates who’ve constantly stressed about doing a perfect assignment to get an A because anything below an A- is just simply unacceptable. I know that not everyone feels this way, but I think a lot of people can empathize with the idea that Parker has trained us to be perfectionists and our “embryonic democracy progressive education you can be anything” has somehow shaped many of us to be carbon copies of each other who care less about being passionate and more about being competitive. We are Model UN, Student Government, “Weekly” robots (which I consider myself to be) who are horrified by Bs and not getting a perfect ACT/SAT score to get into their dream, 10%-acceptance-rate, East Coast liberal arts college. That’s not to say however that having high expectations, stress, and similar goals are bad at all. I think stress can be a good thing when it doesn’t consume you. I personally love the extracurriculars that I do, and I see myself loving a small liberal arts college. The issue is thinking that this or one path is the only option. 

Even as Parker has attempted to stress that “grades aren’t everything” and “one grade does not define you as a person,” students are still somehow pitted against one another. Perhaps this is a result of the small class sizes and the perception that any college with a “high” acceptance rate is therefore bad and won’t allow you to be successful in life. Perhaps it’s also increasingly high societal standards and self-expectations, but regardless, I still feel like my time at Parker has had a role in the way that I see these things. Maybe, if Parker was promoting other paths other than just small school to small college or low-acceptance-rate university as being successful and acceptable, then we as a less-than-100 person class wouldn’t feel so stressed about getting what so many schools consider to be good grades. 

This might be confusing, but I think one of the major roots of high school stress, which could have been solved in a post-COVID, crazy college year is the idea that there is only one correct type of path after Parker. Maybe if we broadened our horizons, then students wouldn’t feel so competitive against their 100 carbon copies, all vying to go to the same place because they just wouldn’t be competing. Of course, test-taking would still be stressful, and I would probably continue to use my test accommodations, but maybe I would be less worried that my one bad test or one below A grade will ruin my future. Maybe many of us would do extracurriculars that interest us more than the ones we do now because the ones we do now look good on a liberal arts college application, or maybe many of us would continue to do the same extracurriculars because we genuinely enjoy them. But maybe, either way, we wouldn’t feel so confined in our present lives if we didn’t feel like our future was so narrow.