The Harbinger Online

Staffer Outlines How East Can Reach Greater Educational Success

With news of budget cuts cropping up left and right, the United States’ public education system being constantly called to fault in the media and the end of my own time in high school drawing to its eminent close, I’ve felt more and more pressed to hash out my feelings on the education situation here at home. From the perspective of one of your peers, I present to you, Student Body, a four-point plan to easily overhaul your East experience.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I know it’s difficult to be engaged in every lesson, every hour, every day of the five-day school week. Trust me. I take for granted the fact that we’re receiving a primary education at the best high school in the state of Kansas. I blow off studying and “rest my eyes” during note-taking in certain classes. I gripe about the teachers I feel aren’t performing to my standards. But that doesn’t mean I have to continue acting like a scene out of “Mean Girls”: a stuck-up Cady Heron, slandering Ms. Norbury and wreaking havoc on her teaching methods.

Luckily for us, developing a classroom respect system doesn’t solely fall on the students. In Singapore, teacher-candidates (young teacher recruits from the top third of their graduating class) not only devote a year of their time to pre-service training, but are also given continuous retraining throughout the school year, Sean Cavanagh writes in “Education Week,” clocking around 100 hours of self-betterment annually.

I won’t go so far as to suggest a 360 degree turn-around for the American education system — not just yet, anyway — but for East teachers this could simply mean ditching the PowerPoint presets and stubbornly-in-use-since-1986 lesson plans. Having teachers show that they’re invested in our educational well-being and adapting to the times is the first step in creating a healthy teacher-student relationship and fostering academic success. Try switching to Prezi, an online-based presentation program that uses visual effects to draw the audience through your points: keeping your class engaged in your notes keeps your class engaged in its retainment of knowledge. And through this retainment of knowledge, we develop a special bond with the person who initially supplied us with that knowledge — and we strive for more. Success leads us back to the source.

Easy access. If you knew that you had the power to get tens of thousands of dollars granted to your school through a simple chat with a teacher, you’d do it, wouldn’t you?

Applying for a classroom grant is easy when there are sites out there like weareteachers.com, assuring us that in the face of lengthy budget cuts to the public education system, they’re “more dedicated than ever to help teachers get the resources they need to make their classrooms successful.” In applying for a grant, we could be awarded thousands of dollars per classroom to further the use of technology — and maybe further down the road that could mean making the switch to individual digital tablets instead of cumbersome textbooks.

Tina Barseghian is the curator of MindShift, a website that “explores the future of learning and all its dimensions.” She writes in her article, “The 7 Golden Rules of Using Technology in Schools,” that “we’re doing kids a major disservice if we don’t teach them good digital citizenship.” She argues that tech tools are not just a passing fad and that the more that schools implement the usage of technology in an academic setting, the more knowledge students carry with them into the real world.

Social studies teacher Ron Stallard already feels that embracing technology is within our school’s reach — and even closer to home. Through grants here at the East level, we could be drawing in money from outside sources to benefit the technological advance of the school’s facilities.

“You know the East fund,” Stallard said. “You have grants that are available if you can show that it will help education, [and] it will help the students. There would be an application that a teacher filled out, sent into the East Fund and let them decide, ‘Which one do we want?’”

However, a teacher can only apply for a technology grant under the terms of student need. Simply put, it’s up to the students to approach a teacher and express concern in their own education. And don’t we want to be in charge of our own futures?

Clean sweep. We have nine janitors surveying and dust-busting the entire five-floor building that 1,800-odd students this year alone attend. So, treating our facility like we would a museum by picking up after ourselves, not touching what isn’t ours and steering clear of vandalism (Kid Who Scrawls Mindless Profanity On The Bathroom Wall, I’m talking to you) could greatly improve the conditions for the janitorial staff that is subjected to our messes nightly. It definitely wouldn’t hurt them. And, hey, a good deed might even boost your karma.

Who da man? You da man. It’s like the old saying: take a man fishing and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime. Take a freshman to the Table Tennis club and he’ll sprain his wrist for a day; teach him to hold a paddle, interact with his peers and develop a strategy and he’ll pass it on to the next guy. Relationships built in extracurricular activities (anything school-related but outside of the classroom) are the bonds that don’t break — the ones that carry people through their four short years here.

Marsh and Kleitman write in the 2002 Harvard Educational Review that while most school activities create a larger disparity in academic success between, say, an East kid and an inner-city kid, extracurricular school activities “appear to actually reduce this inequality gap.” Don’t leave controversial topics up to just the Bridge Politics Club or the debate room. If there’s something in the news that’s worth fighting for, bring it to our level. Start a campaign. Talk to the leaders of Coalition. Reinstate the Finer Things Club to its 2009-2010 glory by getting the book club back together. Stop by a meeting of the Graphic Novel Club. With a plethora of opportunity within your grasp, why waste it? Being an overwhelmingly privileged student body has made us jaded, but we don’t have to let that keep us from shifting the younger generation’s mind-set. I mean, if we aren’t going to be the ones to make a difference during our time here, we might as well lay down the stepping stones for future students to take charge.

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Teacher Jim Ricker offers his thoughts on how to improve the educational system.

Veteran math teacher Rick Royer gives his opinion on the past, present and future of the education system.

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Kat Buchanan

Senior Kat Buchanan is the Co-Editor-In-Chief of the Harbinger's print publication. She enjoys self-deprecation and a nice pair of sneakers. Read Full »

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