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Stressed, Sleepy and Skipping School

Isabella Granqvist, Reporter

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Picture this: a student wakes up and realizes she’s unprepared for a test. Panicked, she scrambles and eventually, she just decides to skip her class and make up the test later. Sound familiar?

This is a more common reality here at Pres than one might think. But what are the root causes behind students skipping classes and what effect does this have on Pres as a whole?

First of all, it’s important to note the attendance policy Pres has in place, which makes it clear that absences are intended for when a student is ill, has an appointment that cannot be scheduled outside of school time or an emergency. Not attending school because of an exam is not following school policies in good faith.

Yet, a recent survey of 141 Pres girls revealed that 44 percent of students admitted to skipping a class. (In this survey, ‘skipping a class’ was defined as purposely missing a class, not for an excused absence or illness.)

While 56 percent of students said they had never skipped class, of the people who said they had, 30 percent of students surveyed said they did it to catch up on schoolwork, 26 percent to study for another class and 4 percent for getting more information about a test from those who have already taken it.

The overwhelming majority of people who selected ‘other’ cited mental health issues for their absences, like depression, anxiety, lack of sleep or general ‘mental health days’. Student Wellness Director Britany Tufnell, who runs the SWELL program, reported that when asked to rank causes of stress, most students named academics as their main source of stress.

An article from The Journal of College Student Psychotherapy said: “Despite uncertainties of the relative relationships between depression, sleep, and academic performance, the fact remains that sleep problems are affecting more students. The incidence of sleep deprivation in a college student population is likely as high or higher than the incidence of depression.”

Although this study pertains mostly to college campuses, the same problems and effects can be seen here at Pres.

One junior who wishes to remain anonymous explained herself. “It got to the point where I had multiple tests on one day, and I went to my parents crying, asking them if I could ditch first period to study for my test that was second period and they were okay with it,” she said. “Of course it isn’t a choice I would like to make, I only miss it when necessary.”

This problem affects more than just the students. Teachers can be greatly impacted by students constantly missing classes as well.

“It is frustrating… it seems really wrong to the students who might have also been struggling and just came. I really wish students who weren’t confident would just communicate with the teacher prior to the test and try to get some help,” said Science Department Chair Diane Rosenthal.

Social studies teacher Amy Fields added, “All we want is for each of you to be successful. Success is when you show up, do your best and learn from your actions… Students who stumble or struggle with academics but who show up and put their best foot forward may not have a great test score today, but they see that they can get a job one, and they learn what they need to work on. Then, if they choose to dig in, they find that success. It’s the student who continually misses ‘the big days’ that ultimately fails to succeed.”

Support like this from teachers can help immensely with stressed students. Perhaps if every teacher operated under the same extension policy, students wouldn’t feel the need to miss classes as frequently.

The number of makeup tests are shocking. Academic Supervisor Jo-Anne Hurlston, who is responsible for administering makeup tests to students, noted that as of April 19, 2018, she has already seen 800 makeup tests (only including the spring semester.) She also explained that she can administer up to 26 tests per day in four hours a day.  

In short: missing school has a greater impact than simply missing one test. Regardless of the cause, its effects reach many people.

Ultimately, Fields puts it this way: “As a teacher, it’s frustrating for me when students miss class for a test/presentation… The more I think about it, I think heartbroken might be the right word. As a teacher, I care about your success.”

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