The juniors and seniors in the psychology class anxiously wait for their teacher, Mr. Meyers, to begin the dreaded graded discussion. They converse with one another as they compare pages of notes and refer to quotes from an overly highlighted article on gender roles. There were simple guidelines for the assessment: a student must speak in order to receive a grade, a quote is essential to support a statement, and points made must relate to the topic at hand. With his glasses on and pen and coffee in hand, Meyers takes his seat. “Take it away,” he says.
With seconds, half of the class begins to speak. “I believe—“ says one. “If you look at page 3, I have a quote that states—“ says another. “Oh, darn it, that was mine,” says then junior Emma Savely as she quickly flips back to the article to look for another quote she can share. Until the completion of the discussion, students constantly interrupt and shout over one another in order to contribute their thoughts.
Part of human nature is to be competitive with others. Everyone strives to succeed in their lives and achieve their goals. But individuals also want to achieve more than others and become the best of the best. No one chooses to come in second rather than finish first. “Humans always want to do better than the person sitting next to them,” Savely explained.
Marissa Dorros, a member of the Class of 2016, said she found herself constantly competing in her sport. As part of the gymnastics team, she was constantly competing with teammates. Dorros felt the pressure to improve upon her skills in order to participate in certain events at meets. However, Dorros is not alone. Many athletes at AHS feel the need to be better than their teammates in order to make or participate in their desire sport. Competitiveness has branched out from being a reaction into a needed skill.
Students tend to blame the high pressure of succeeding and achieving on their parents. Parental pressure may occur because parents want to see their children succeed in life. But if their child excels further than the neighbor next door, that’s just a bonus.
AHS alumna and mother Lea Savely has found a large parent presence in competition. “You can go on social media…and you will see parents boasting about their kid’s school grades and achievements as they compete with other parents on Facebook,” said Lea.
Students have also found their peers as contributors to their competitive instincts. A large majority of said competition comes from academics. Ms. Parsons, AHS English teacher and former AHS student, has witnessed students’ competitiveness. “When I pass out essays, or quizzes, or whatever it is…before I’ve even given out maybe four or five, [students openly show] it to their friend or [say] ‘Whatcha get? Whatcha get? Whatcha get?’” said Parsons.
For some students, however, this competitiveness is not as strong. AHS guidance counselor Ms. Alamnzar has found students supportive of their friends and motivating each other to achieve as much as they are capable of. Dorros is an example: instead she finds herself complimenting her friends and is “happy that they are doing well.”
Of course, a common theme is that a little competition is healthy for an individual. Griffin Clark, a 2016 graduate, believes competition is healthy in the sense that it pushes people to do better. Competition diminishes laziness and motivates the student to excel.
However this is not the case for all students. “As a guidance counselor, I see a lot of different angles,” Almanzar said. “I also see the flip side of the anxiety and the depression and the constant ‘I should be doing better. I should be doing this.’”
Parsons has also seen this within her students and is very concerned. She has witnessed stressing over grades that are well above average and disappointment over a decent participation grade. The large amount of stress generated from grades has led some students down a rocky road.
“I think everyone in the high school is competitive,” Emma Savely said. “Everyone strives to be the best they can and a lot of times it’s getting the best grade or doing the best on the SATs.”
Not only is the school known for having high academic standards, but also high athletic standards. Winning the state championship in any sport is worth a celebration; however, it is no longer a rare occurrence. Even though competitiveness is within everyone, the competition at the high school has affected students in various ways.
“At Andover High, it gets a little overboard,” said Clark, “because people are so focused on beating others that sometimes lose focus of what’s important to them.”
By Julia Lem