One of the biggest surprises when I first stepped foot on campus was… the Health Center. Anticlimactic, I know. Before Deerfield, I didn’t even know that students could get extensions from teachers on tests and assignments; I was always taught that you should just “suck it up,” no matter how extreme or stressful the circumstances. Even being sick wasn’t an excuse for me to skip classes, because my mom insisted, “If you’re not sick enough to be hospitalized, you should be in class!”
It’s safe to say that when reality kicked in, I learned that it’s nearly impossible to get through Deerfield without receiving a few extensions. The academic, extracurricular, and social demands are more than enough to take a mental and physical toll on us students. Therefore, I feel that the Health Center has a “blanket” policy of taking in everyone who might be sick so as not to risk turning away students who actually need care. The nurses are lenient for a good reason — it is better to err on the side of caution.
However, we students find ways to exploit the Health Center’s kindness for our own benefit. It’s no secret that Deerfield students sometimes say they’re “sick” in order to avoid a test, in-class essay, or presentation. Some students fall into a habit of dependency on the Health Center, and over time they even feel entitled to this strange “right” to skip classes.
My proctor last year told me that nurses at the Health Center would let her skip an entire school day for period cramps. I’m embarrassed to admit that upon hearing this story, I immediately started brainstorming ways to “cheat the system” — no one can check that your period cramps are so bad that you can’t go to classes. The same goes for migraines, stomach aches, vomiting: how can the nurses prove that you aren’t in pain?
Clearly, there are many problems with pretending to be sick. First, the Health Center only has so many beds. You may be preventing people who actually need care from receiving proper attention. They didn’t choose to be sick and fall behind on classwork, yet you are gaining an unfair academic advantage by lying.
Also, ask yourself: how much would it really help to earn a few extra hours or days of studying? I know at first it feels like waving a magic wand to turn a seemingly impossible day into a bearable one. But I’ve seen my friends become “sick,” only to blow off the extra days they earned by procrastinating until the new day of the test. Did you really gain anything from this informal extension? Or are you back in the same place after having lied to your teacher, nurses, and yourself?
If you’re afraid of telling your teacher the truth that you are simply unprepared or stressed, I say — don’t be scared. It’s much more eyebrow-raising and probably disappointing for the teacher if you are “sick” all of a sudden on a test day than if you come clean and explain your circumstances. Most teachers understand that Deerfield can be overwhelming.
If you’re constantly finding yourself so pressed for time, anxious, or unconfident that you are using the Health Center as a safe haven, I recommend you reassess your schedule and habits. If the root of the problem is having just too much on your plate — classes, sports, activities — step back and determine if everything you’re doing is really necessary, and more importantly, makes you happy. Or maybe you need to cut down on Netflix or texting for hours. Fixing this problem is not as easy as identifying it, but it’s definitely possible with enough determination.
However, I find that our biggest enemy is often our own standards. In economics, the law of diminishing returns states that adding more of a certain factor for production will eventually lead to less output per addition. By staying at the Health Center, you’re hoping to buy more time for better grades. But is it really worth trying to earn maybe one or two more points, going through hours of careful, twisted plotting, misleading your teachers and classmates, wasting mental energy, and falling behind schedule?
Before we start pointing fingers and yelling, “I can’t help it, everyone wants us to succeed!” or “The school made us so stressed!” consider if you are pushing yourself to unreasonable and unhealthy levels. I understand that it’s tempting to make a morally ambiguous decision when seemingly so much is at stake. We don’t want to let our parents down. We don’t want to let our classmates and teachers down by getting okay grades. Most of all, we don’t want to let ourselves down by going to a “mediocre” college.
But we must remember that we make up the school. Our actions, our thoughts shape what we label “the school.” Deerfield isn’t telling you to strive to write a graduate thesis when the assignment is to write a simple analytical paper. If you know you have a habit of over preparing, try relaxing just once. No, you probably won’t “get a zero” by giving yourself a break and setting realistic goals. Challenging yourself is great; torturing yourself is not.
Collectively, we can change the culture of the school. If every one of us maintains a reasonable schedule, develops strong study habits, and aims for excellence with confidence, we will enjoy the most of what Deerfield has to offer.