Growing Pains

No matter how it may feel, the first nine weeks are not completely indicative of how the rest of the year will go.

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digital art by Julia Poppa

The start of the school year may feel like an emotional roller coaster, but there is some hope.

Kristen Kinzler, Co-Editor-in-Chief

This time last year, I was a junior looking at my first quarter grades and wondering exactly what I had gotten myself into. I was actually happy with my overall results, but thinking about how much stress, anxiety, and grueling work went into what, in my head, felt like mediocre scores forced me to dread what the rest of the year would bring. I questioned my course load, and my mental health, and if I even wanted to try so hard anymore. 

As the first quarter wraps up my senior year, I’m faced with the same feelings of doubt and inadequacy. I don’t know if I’m immune to the perks, or if it’s the sometimes crippling weight of a worsening pandemic, but senior year, personally, has been the most stressful academically.

But, this time around, I do have one advantage. I know that, even though it may not feel like it right now, things get better.

There’s a misconception that the first nine weeks is the best of them all. Class content is traditionally easier, teachers are more lenient, and everything just seems to move a little slower. Teachers and students alike tend to believe that if a student can’t handle the first test or essay, they have no chance of doing well later in the year.

At least in my experience, however, this is not the case. As many times as I’ve gotten upset or questioned if I belonged in a certain academic atmosphere at the beginning of a school year, I’ve also found my footing and ended up being just fine.

One of my biggest complaints about our school district is that, despite the wealth of opportunities and resources, North Allegheny doesn’t feel like a place that extends its students any room for error. Because there are a lot of talented kids who are successful at lot of different things, it’s easy to feel incompetent, and it’s easy for teachers and administrators to expect near-perfection even at the beginning of the year. 

Unfortunately, this creates an imaginary cut-off in classes between the people who can comprehend material effortlessly or have more experience in that subject and those who need a little more time or are in a brand new environment. Both students may be equally intelligent and qualified, but removing any opportunity for growth makes the latter feel like they just don’t belong.

It can be intimidating to be that kid — to sit in a class that you were told you’re supposed to be in and thought you could handle but feel like you don’t have the inherent skills necessary to succeed.

However, this attitude discounts all the other lessons we can learn over the course of a school year. It discounts hard work and dedication. It says that, no matter what, a person cannot get better at studying or figure out how to master a certain kind of test. And that is fundamentally wrong.

You have the ability to adapt to your course load, find new ways to comprehend information, and, hopefully, gain some academic confidence.”

Heading into junior year last year, I probably wasn’t ready for some of my classes. I wasn’t a perfect student, as I struggled with studying for particular subjects and writing more advanced English essays. 

But through experience and proper time management and just the act of showing up every day, I got better. And as I got better, it got easier. The successive grading periods reflected that.

Even though senior year and some of the courses I’m taking also feel like a rude awakening, I know they’ll get easier, too.

The first nine weeks isn’t the be-all and end-all. You have the ability to adapt to your course load, find new ways to comprehend information, and, hopefully, gain some academic confidence. You’ll also have time to figure out to proceed while learning remotely, which is a challenge all on its own.

Not to mention, as the school year goes on, a lot of things fall into perspective. I’m not encouraging you to stop caring about your classes, but I can promise that every AP Chem test will feel a lot less like the end of the world in a few months. Even if it doesn’t get easier, your stress levels will go down.

Right now is the time of our lives when we’re supposed to be developing skills and figuring out how to navigate the adult world. Please don’t let the environment at this school take that away from you.

To be honest, the whole reason I can write this article is that I’m not above these worries and insecurities, but I’m finally at a place where I realize their irrationality. I also recognize that a lot of my peers deal with similar emotions, and there’s a kind of relief in knowing other people feel the same way you do.

So, no matter how you feel about how the first nine weeks went or the anxiety you have about what’s to come, don’t underestimate your power to improve. Have some faith in yourself. Growing pains are completely normal, but the best thing about them is that they always pass eventually.