My name is Melanie and I am a ninth grader. This year, at the end of school announcements, someone says the phrase “Let’s make high school better.” I agree. But who gets to decide what “better” means.
To start, it is important to know what it has been like to be a ninth grader this year. For one, we have missed a lot of school. We have missed entire days or been sent home early because of guns, a stabbing, threats to the schools, snowstorms, and fire alarms being pulled all the time. We all see the news. All the bad things going on. In reality, the truth is complicated. After a year of remote learning during the pandemic, students have not reacted well to being back in school. Last year we pretty much lived off our own rules. The whole world has been crazy. We act like all this is normal because we are so used to it. But it’s not normal. It’s been hard. And we have missed a lot of learning. Many students don’t want to go to class because they don’t know how to do the work. It is embarrassing to be in class and not understand what is going on. Sitting there worried what others may think of you.
That’s not to say my first year has been only negative. I have enjoyed the cultural events with music, food, and activities that students can relate to. I wish we had more of these types of events during the school day, and not only after school or on holidays. And some of my teachers have set clear expectations about welcoming and accepting all identities. I appreciate when we can support each other and when teachers make sure everyone is respected.
Things do need to get “better.” But students must have a voice in deciding how to make things better. The focus needs to be on more than just the school’s reputation. The focus needs to be on what students need to feel supported at school. We know what is going on at our school so when bad events happen they need to be addressed in a way that includes students.
This year, some students participated in a protest about the metal detectors at school. I understand why we have metal detectors but maybe they do more harm than good. It is not a fun way to start your day. Waiting in a line outside in the cold and being late for first period. And sometimes even getting patted down. At the protest I remember a sign that said “I don’t have a gun so now can we get some learning done.” In my English class, we had an assignment to write an essay about our opinion of the metal detectors. I liked doing that. The school should create more opportunities for students to share ideas and opinions. One person doesn’t have all the answers. That is why we need to all put our minds together to make the school better.
For example, we have something called “demerits” at school. If you do something bad or against the rules you get a demerit. If you go to class late you get a demerit. If you don’t have your ID visible you get a demerit. Demerits, demerits, demerits. Yes, I understand why we have demerits. But why don’t we also have positive merits? If you help a classmate with an assignment or volunteer to answer a hard question that should be recognized. Maybe the deans and principals can give out merits too, instead of only focusing on punishing students. It shouldn’t be considered a bad thing if the deans know your name. We shouldn’t only recognize students when they do something wrong. Our school let’s us “buy-back” demerits but that’s just so you get in less trouble. I think the school could encourage students to take action in making school “better” by recognizing more students when they do positive things. Possibly even have some type of celebration as a reward.
We need the adults at the school to be a positive example for us. They can help us get better by listening to students’ ideas to create a better school environment. Can we work together to get some learning done?
Melanie: They shouldn’t put so much pressure on us coming back to school during the pandemic
“Students must have a voice in deciding how to make things better. The focus needs to be on more than just the school’s reputation.”
“It shouldn’t be considered a bad thing if the deans know your name. We shouldn’t only recognize students when they do something wrong.”