Through another school year of masks and always-changing schedules, students are feeling stressed more than ever. Whether it be an increased course load, college applications or COVID concerns, this feeling is more than stress: academic burnout.
“Academic burnout” can be defined as a negative emotional, physical and mental reaction to prolonged study that results in exhaustion, frustration, lack of motivation and reduced ability in school, as defined by University of the People.
More so than usual, seniors are feeling the effects of academic burnout and the added stress of living through a pandemic (and not just senioritis).
Senior Sadie Coalier explained how academic burnout impacts her.
“I definitely think academic burnout has affected me. I have always tried really hard to do my best and always end up feeling unmotivated and so stressed to the point of feeling like it’s too hard,” Coalier said.
Coalier learned about academic burnout through physical education teacher Evyn Spencer’s Kinetic Wellness class.
“I always thought this was just me until I took Kinetic Wellness, and we learned about academic burnout. I think Coach Spencer gave us really good tools and things to help with it, but this year it’s been harder than any other,” Coalier shared.
Senior Nora Kelty said, “I 100% think that I have struggled with academic burnout, as I think most people have. I can definitely be hard on myself when it comes to school, and I stress myself out pretty easily.”
Kelty believes that COVID has impacted her struggle in school.
“As a senior, I think I am struggling with it now more than ever, especially with the ways that COVID has affected school and our workload. It can be really challenging to keep up with assignments,” Kelty said.
Teachers have noticed the impacts of COVID on learning and academic burnout this school year too.
SSD teacher Marina Holcomb said, “Being in person this year appears to be more effective, but so many students are experiencing mental health issues and still have gaps in their learning. I do believe that WGHS has some of the most committed teachers who are trying their hardest to close the gaps and keep the students engaged.”
“I do feel that students and staff feel the negative effects of the crazy past two years of the pandemic and COVID have had. I have been teaching for almost 30 years, and the past two years have been the most challenging,” Holcomb shared.
College and career counselor Jennedy Lombard explained the mental health climate and increased signs of academic burnout at WGHS.
About academic burnout, Lombard said, “I think it isn’t because there’s more work or more expectations on the students. I just think that everybody is just dealing with so much more at home, so instead of being able to focus and set aside time for school to be like real clear headed about it, there’s just too much going on to navigate, like restrictions, rumors, quarantines. A lot of it has nothing to do with school, so we don’t have so much control over everything. So now, school is just a lot to deal with. School is just not the most important thing right now for a lot of families and kids.”
Lombard said, “First semester, for sure, tensions were high. I think that everybody is very much on edge. The baseline of general anxiety and optimism: optimism is low and anxiety is high. Everything’s just been a little more extreme.”
Lombard said a change in schedule has had its effects on students and staff.
“For students having four classes to focus on at a time as opposed to this year having seven, just that change for so many people has been significant. Three days a week, you have seven different classes that you have to be prepared for. It’s just a lot. It’s more teachers to get to know and understand and understand the expectations of all of the classes, as opposed to four. There’s just more to navigate that isn’t actually related to what you’re learning in class,” Lombard said.
Students also feel affected by the constantly changing schedules.
Senior Margot Siener said, “I think it’s hard to get back into the groove of doing school in a full day after having asynchronous learning, and half days and the different schedule changes we have had.”
Senior Katie Wiedemann explained how COVID has made academic burnout more present this year.
“It just gives you the motivation to do nothing. COVID kind of made me just forget how to do school in a way. Like when we were online, I didn’t really study for tests. Coming back to school and actually having tests in person and having to relearn how to take in information was very different,” Wiedemann shared.
Siener said, “I think academic burnout has affected me in the sense of the stress of COVID on top of the stress of school in a bad way. I feel tired: burnt out, if you will.”
A lack of motivation is very present in seniors this year.
Senior Edrie Gowan said, “We’ve already gotten into college, so it’s hard to feel motivated to keep working once we’ve already achieved those goals.”
The ongoing pandemic has clearly had its effects on the mental health and motivation of students this school year, more so than others.
Lombard said, “We have data and numbers to support that students are struggling. The amount of students that we’ve seen in our office with certain concerns has increased a lot. I think that we are aware of it, but because we are having to respond to difficulties with COVID like with staffing, and subs and custodians. All of that operational stuff has had to come first before confronting all the needs of the students and staff. I think we’re trying.”
This will be Jackson Parks’ second year on ECHO staff, but he made several contributions while taking journalism class his sophomore year. He served as Junior Editor his first year on staff.