Your piercing alarm goes off at 6:20 a.m. and you wake up to that feeling that everyone knows: sickness. You have never felt like going back to sleep more than now because your throat is sore, you cannot breathe through your nose, your eyes do not want to open, and your chest is throbbing, but you have school. You pray that whatever’s wrong with you goes away soon. You get out of bed, freezing, and get dressed. You shuffle out into the dining room and sit down to a box of Kleenex to blow your nose repeatedly, wanting a blanket as you eat food that you can not taste. You do not have a fever, but you feel terrible and have to go to school. Why? There seems to be little option.
Two months ago, I got sick on a Monday, experiencing the exhaustion that I have described. Despite the powerful longing I felt to stay home every morning of that dreadful week, the urge to go to school was more potent. I made a choice to go to school every day I was sick. Most students and friends I know would rather come in sick instead of staying home because they feel the same way I do: it’s too hard not to attend school.
I was overwhelmed by the amount of work I would have to make up if I did not go to school. That week alone, I had to take a vocabulary quiz, memorize and recite a nine-stanza poem, write several responses to different works of literature that had to be read at home, study for a Spanish quiz the following week, study for and take a chemistry test, prepare for and write an in-class essay in AP US History, study for and take a Precalculus test, and take the ACT. The following week was no easier or lighter in school work, and I struggled to see how I could stay home and not get significantly behind, considering the fact that I would have to make up the work and tests I would miss. It seemed like more trouble to stay at home and possibly not thoroughly learn the material I would be missing, talk to teachers about what I missed, make it up, schedule times with teachers after school to take tests, and still have time to complete homework due the next day.
Granted, if I was taking easier classes (compared to a notoriously challenging American Literature course, an AP history class, and Precalculus), it might have seemed more reasonable for me to stay home. However, it still seems wrong that I (and most other students) would rather go to school sick than stay home and try to heal sooner.
I am not blaming my school or my teachers for this problem; I simply want to bring attention to the fact that there is a very real shift in priorities among students. The pressure is on to do well in school, and everybody knows it. Schools and society emphasize that kids need to get good grades and earn a high GPA in order to get accepted to good colleges and have successful lives. This situation has gradually created an unhealthy mentality, compelling students, including me, to feel like we have to sacrifice our physical and mental health in order to do our best.