As student stress becomes more of an issue in schools across the country, D214 has begun to offer an online course focused on mindfulness for AP students. The class will run until mid-April, when exam season intensifies.
The class is funded through the Department of Education, meaning that students taking the class don’t have to pay fees to complete the course. It will be taught by Dr. Michael Mrazek of the University of California, a professor who specializes in psychology.
The class, which began on Feb. 25 and will conclude on Apr. 12, allows students to participate in a class focused on the psychology behind stress. Placed in the middle of exam season, it also allows students to work on comabatting their stress through learning breathing exercises and changing habits that aim to stop anxiety.
“The five minutes I spend everyday listening to Daily Beats offered by the class allows me to breathe and take a break of everything I’m concerned about.” senior Sihyun Kim said. “I thought I could benefit from learning how to deal with my stress and emotions
better, especially during the college application season.”
The beginnings of the class being chosen by D214 stem from the Talent Development Program Student Leadership team. The board, led by one junior and senior from every school in the district, meets four times each year to offer input on TDP programming. Stress among students was a major factor in deciding this year’s programming.
“Based on feedback from my TDP Student Committee, students seem to be experiencing more stress as they take on a more rigorous class load,” TDP coordinator Lyn Comer-Jawaorski said. “It can be difficult for them to manage such a heavy workload in tandem with their co-curricular activities.”
Stress can be found in many students taking several AP and Honors courses. In the spring, AP exams, SAT and ACT testing can all contribute to a strain on some students’ ability to focus.
“I believe that stress and anxiety is most prevalent in students who are taking AP classes, since the workload is so heavy and the material is highly challenging,” senior Diana Morosan said. “I took this course because I have a lot of AP classes, which are stressful in themselves, and because this year, I’m really focusing on my mental health and bringing it to a more relaxed, normal state.”
The class was designed to fit in with the rush of testing season.
“Students are under the pressure to maintain high grades while balancing social life and extracurriculars. For me personally, I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t stressed out about school,” Kim said. “AP classes are worth it for the credits and knowledge students obtain by the end of the course, but stress and anxiety seem to be the price for them.”
Skepticism can come from the idea that another class on top of daily student responsibilities will help with student stress, but according to Comer-Jawaorski, the fact that the class is online means that the course will be able to achieve its intended goal without overwhelming students.
“Being an online class, students can complete the exercises at their convenience,” Comer-Jawaorski said. “This class, along with other services in the district can help students better manage their stress levels.”
Ultimately, the course was designed to be joined alongside other services offered by the district to help students cope with stress. Student services, psychologists and counselors are available across the district to help those facing anxiety throughout the year. While the class isn’t meant to be the quintessential solution to student stress, it was promoted by the district to serve as another option for those facing the challenge of testing season first-hand.
“I hope this class helps kids become more grounded in reality and realize that you don’t have to be perfect to be valuable,” Morosan said. “Everybody has a weakness and everyone makes mistakes. Maybe this would help reduce students’ stress.”