High Fever, High Stress

Reading Time: 3 minutes

During finals week last month, attendance dwindled as sickness spread through the halls of Stuyvesant. With crucial exams and projects jam-packed into the days leading to the end of the semester, students had no choice but to attend their classes with stuffy noses, sore throats, and burning foreheads, inadvertently passing on their symptoms to their peers. While academics are central to school life, we must be cautious of our health and that of our classmates.

Copious amounts of stress and exhaustion, both of which are all too common at Stuyvesant, greatly weaken our immune systems. But with deadlines to meet and finals to study for, we are unable to rest our bodies and minds, and we force ourselves to push through our illnesses, worsening our conditions. While the simple solution would be to simply stay home, in students’ minds, the consequences of doing so often outweigh the health benefits.

Students often come in and attend a full day of classes to avoid the burdensome process of making up tests and quizzes following an absence. Students who miss a test are required to take it either during the regular class period, which causes them to lose out on the day’s material, or during a time when they and their teacher are both free, which often results in students staying after school to make up their exam. Hence, students often choose to come to school and risk doing poorly on an exam, since it seems more convenient and appealing than to make it up later on.

Not only are assessments difficult to make up, but some teachers exacerbate the issue with their testing policies, which ban make-up exams on the grounds that allowing make-ups would create a breeding ground for academic dishonesty. Other teachers provide accommodations by dropping a missed test, but doing so only increases the stress that comes with academic performance—students who missed an exam due to supposed sickness no longer have a safety net to fall back on should they do poorly on another test. Some teachers allow make-up tests, but make them more difficult than the original, encouraging students to take the regular test rather than take a day off.

Regardless of whether there is a test that day, missing school has detrimental effects on a student’s academic performance. Being absent from school means that a student is missing all of the notes for that day’s lesson and accordingly has to ask peers for them in each class. Even if a person gets adequate notes, digesting information without actively learning the content in person is much more tedious and usually less effective than being present. This, combined with parental and school pressure to maintain perfect attendance and academic excellence, contributes to a culture that normalizes the practice of pushing oneself past a healthy limit. Going to school even when one is sick or mentally unwell is not simply expected—it is encouraged.

While the inconveniences that come with make-ups and catching up will always persist, there are several courses of action that students and the administration can take to limit the spread of illnesses and maintain their health.

One way to solve this problem would be to create a standardized policy for students who are absent on a test day due to sickness. Students should not be put in a position where they must choose between health and academics. As such, they should be allowed to take make-ups, and a test missed because of illness should not simply count as that student’s dropped test. It is unfair and pernicious for sickness to force students to decide between taking a day off to recover and coming to school in order to take a test.

A warped set of priorities or expectations is no reason to push oneself beyond one’s physical limits or to infect one’s friends and teachers with a preventable illness. At Stuyvesant, a school community with approximately 4,000 members, everyone must take care of their own mental and physical health. The student body has an unfair reputation for its ruthless pursuit of maximum advantage in school, to the point where it might feel more like a punishment than an education. Help out not only yourself, but also the Stuyvesant community as a whole, and please, just stay home when you are sick.