Graphic by Jeremy Suh
The learning done in a classroom is important, but it is not everything.
The high school already sponsors institutionalized events like Asking for Courage Day or Day of Dialogue. However, due to students advocating for exposure to more issues, the administration has decided to implement a new week in March for assemblies and seminar style workshops. The week will be based on student-proposed issues, so fellow students can be further exposed to relevant topics not taught in the classroom.
Students, alongside an adviser and student organization, submit proposals for topics that they think are important to share with the rest of the community. Examples include assemblies on climate change, mental health and citizenship.
A planning committee of four faculty and four students work together to choose the right proposals, then assign them to different grades. This is a key distinction, as these events are not school wide like Day of Dialogue or Courage, but are targeted to one grade. Each grade is given one day during the week, where they will attend one assembly followed by seminar workshops during the other blocks.
Melanee Alexander, Associate Dean and member of the planning committee, said it is important for this event to be student-run.
“I want student voices to be front and foremost. Adults are in charge a lot of the time, but this time it’s what issues students think are so important that they deserve the attention of the entire grade. This is a way to flip the switch, and have students be in charge of their learning,” Alexander said.
However, students and faculty will have to figure out how to get accustomed to the new week. Mathematics Curriculum Coordinator and planning committee member Joshua Paris understands that these assemblies will take up class time but thinks that the benefits will be worth it.
“We have to weigh the loss of class time versus the benefits of the proposals, which is why it is very important that they are beneficial to all kids,” Paris said.
Sophomore and planning committee member Dhruva Schlondorff said that having a mixture of students in the planning committee is crucial.
“We bring a student perspective, and therefore have some unique insights when helping to decide what assembly topic should go to what grade. Unfortunately, there are issues that students deal with, but do not really open up to teachers and adults about,” Schlondorff said.
Paris said that school represents much more than subjects and tests, and that learning about real world issues is important to integrate into student learning.
“School is more than math, science, english, history, language, etc.; it’s more than that. In general, there are major issues facing our country, our society, our world, how we interact with each other, and they do not always get the proper airtime they deserve,” Paris said.
Schlondorff thinks that with the proper planning, worries will go away, and hopefully all students will be able to take something away from this event.
“There is a nice balance between problems that would help students with their high school experience and those that inspire them to make change,” Schlondorff said. “I hope that students will find them interesting, and for the students that may not see the value in them, I hope they keep an open mind and take it all in.”
Alexander strongly values this new way of learning because she understands that this is another method to foster growth within students.
“I value what happens in the classroom, but I also highly value what happens outside it. We have to understand that students are multidimensional,” Alexander said. “Students should get other avenues to learn about these real-world issues that may or may not be part of the traditional school curriculum.”
Paris strongly believes that these assemblies are a crucial step for students to grow and thrive past high school.
“I see it as planting a seed. For someone who might not otherwise be interested in a topic, it could take root inside and then they could continue to pursue that,” Paris said. “Our goal is to graduate students who are independent thinkers, aware of the world and the injustices around them, and these are opportunities to do that.”