The current schedule and curriculum for Student Support Time is clearly inefficient, as students are unengaged, and some teachers are lacking the necessary engagement to effectively lead a class.
Currently, the support period is much too long for the amount of time spent on the actual social/emotional learning lesson, and students are instructed to check their grades or work on homework from other classes for the other duration of class. This does not work in some situations, such as PE classes with kids sitting on bleachers without enough space to do their work. This extended period also takes time out of other regular class periods during the day, depriving students of work and learning time without anything in exchange.
The videos used in the social/emotional learning program are set to be inspirational, but they lack the proper connection necessary to get students engaged. Most teenagers understand the basic life lessons that are being promoted, but stories about other people overcoming adversity and inspiring others just don’t reach most kids. The curriculum of having students watch a video and then discuss and answer questions simply will not work in most classrooms, especially if the videos aren’t touching on any sort of subject that runs deeper than inspiration and motivation.
The lessons utilized for these support periods should be far more interactive and open with the students, in a way that stimulates both teacher and student engagement. An example of a way that students can get more involved in discussions is an anonymous question box that can be used for students to reach out or to spark an open discussion about difficult topics.
If there are pre-planned lessons and videos, they should be about topics that students want to hear about. In October, students were sent a survey that they were instructed to fill out regarding important topics such as sexual assault and bullying, and students had to rank provided issues in terms of importance or frequency. These survey results could be used to guide lessons during SST periods to get students engaged and discuss topics that they actually want or need to talk about.
As of Jan. 24 OHS families were sent an email with a letter attached from the Student Advisory Committee regarding the October survey and its results. The Committee acknowledges that “understanding sexual harassment of students [is] a critical area to start” and that more research needs to be done in order to take steps in teaching students about this topic. With this in mind, they scheduled another survey for the following SST time on Jan. 26 focusing on “student safety and reporting, student education and awareness, and student mental health”.
Not only should teachers and OHS itself make changes, but as students, we need to step up too. Staff can only help the students to a certain extent, and we can help by participating in discussions and understanding the importance of them.
Solution For This Year
During SEL, there should be an active lesson comfortable for students to participate in that focuses on topics important for students. After the lesson, students will be able to use their free time to do homework, get help from one of their teachers, or take a break.
Solution For Next Year
Focus more on academic goals now that students have gotten extra social/emotional learning to make up for the pandemic. Then, based on the amount of staff and COVID-19 outbreaks, after-school tutoring can be considered for early dismissal days.