Sunday, January 30, 2000

Senior Year at Lewisburg Area High School: List of Laments

  • I had been continuously in search of somewhere quiet to work in the school building, and no such place exists. Study halls, especially in the cafeteria, are filled with people talking. Even the library is typically noise-filled, usually a teacher talking to a single student.

  • Senior year study halls in the cafeteria never provided silence in which to concentrate on work. The library, however, was usually considerably quieter. Nonetheless, in my study hall, when students asked the study hall teacher for a pass to the library (or other places such as to the guidance office), he would demand that the student wait until role was called. Role usually took, while this teacher demanded silence only while it was being called, around 10-15 minutes, or ¼ the period.

  • The guidance office did not provide me with a quiet place to take my AP exam. I was the only one taking that particular exam. During the first segment, there were multiple announcements over the intercom that interrupted at least 20 minutes of test time. Those interruptions also greatly threw off my concentration for periods of time in between. The College Board did not weigh my exam grade in consideration of this.

  • Teachers typically waste a great deal of time at the beginning and at the end of class periods. The content of most classes is largely review and not new material. There are very few AP courses offered, in a very limited range of subjects.

  • My senior year Trigonometry teacher would spend a considerable amount of time at the beginning of each class talking about professional sports.

  • Both classes I've had with the Health teacher have been a pathetic demonstration of the immense expanse of uselessness which extends across most of the school day. This teacher often spends half a class period talking to the entire class about such thing as school basketball teams, or to certain students about somewhat personal issues. The Health class I had with him sophomore year had only one class period which I feel I actually learned something. That day we watched a National Geographic special. Eighty percent of the class time for that class sophomore year, was not even spent talking about course material.

  • The Anatomy class I took with the above teacher senior year, in the time we were actually talking about the course material, was a waste as well. The class consisted simply of memorizing names of bones, muscles, and processes but with no intent of this teacher on giving us an understanding of these. I and my former classmates may now recognize the name of a muscle, bone, or process if we heard it spoken, but any conceptualization of it would escape us.

  • When I mentioned to my Junior year English teacher that I saw fault in the fact that through-out high school we only focused on British and American (predominantly white American) Literature, he did not express any reciprocal concern or desire to change this fact.

  • The only book in all of high school not written by a European or white American that I was assigned to read, was in my senior year AP English class, a class which not the majority of students are opt to taking. The discussion of this novel, lead by the instructor, was incompetent, insufficient, and rushed. I did my end-of-year research paper on this book and read things I was amazed were not mentioned in class by the instructor. From the instructor, I was introduced to such racism as "dark black men" intimidate her because of their blackness. In this particular case, I confronted her in front of the class. She immediately grew defensive and left the room in a furry.

  • Computer equipment and supplies are plentiful. This does not mean, however, that they are used effectively. The majority of the time, printers in the library or Tech-Ed lab do not work properly. I've wasted a large amount of time simply trying to print a word processor document. Student "administrators" are largely depended on for maintaining the equipment. This provides a scapegoat for the responsible faculty members, but is not effective enough in maintaining the equipment (printers, scanners, CPUs, etc.). In addition, the faculty does not have the training or knowledge in rendering the capabilities of the expensive computer equipment. Much of the technology, purchased with taxpayer's money, goes to waste.

  • Most attempts at individuality are discouraged by the repressive atmosphere maintained by the administration and faculty. This is reflected in the curriculum as well, in which diversity in English literature presented to the students is non-existent.

  • The Junior year english class consisted mainly of filling out "study guides" while we read classic novels. The tests on these novels consisted of questions taken directly from the study guides. The study guides consisted largely of specific details from the novels, most of which were completely irrelevant to the underlying meaning. I'll pick our reading of Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome as an example. One item on the study guild was the color of the character Zeena's rocking chair. For the exam, we also had to recognize a photograph the teacher took of a hill, which is the supposed basis of the fictional hill the characters Mattie and Ethan took their fateful sled ride on. We were not at any point asked to uncover our own thought and interpretation of the novel. We were simply told what to "think" of the novel. The teacher's entire course was built on making us trivia wizards in the subjects we covered. But being able to name the color of Zeena's rocking chair from Ethan Frame, does not do much in the way of making us brighter people.

  • Full day detentions, known in Lewisburg High School as "TRAC," are frequently assigned to students for an extremely wide range of offensives. The first instance in the school year a student is assigned TRAC, he/she is kept one day in the "TRAC room." If there are additional "offenses" that school year, the student is kept three consecutive days, during which he/she is not allowed to attend any class other than gym. The concept of being given an entire day, or three days, to catch up on work is very appealing to many students, and indeed if one is lucky enough to have TRAC on a quiet day, it can be quite productive. However, for most individuals a typical day in the TRAC room can be very unproductive. The TRAC "supervisor" is also a Special Education teacher. He is more often than not tutoring students in front of the room, speaking load and clear so everyone in the room hears him. In addition to this continuous interruption, this Special Education teacher often holds conversations with other staff members, also loud and clear and in front of the room.

  • This Special Education teacher is often in a bad mood, the unpleasant result of which falls on whoever has TRAC that day. Such days, which are most days, result in students who have TRAC that day, having TRAC one or more extra days. This perpetuates the situation of many who are consistently in TRAC. This teacher takes more of an initiative in tormenting individuals who are consistently in TRAC, who also happen to be individuals with parents less concerned than most about such injustices. In one particular instance which I witnessed first hand, a student who was a frequent roomer in TRAC, was "upgraded" from one day remaining of TRAC. This was a direct result of the teacher's bad mood that day.

  • The only especially good English teacher I had in the high school, was not a faculty member, but a student teacher from Bucknell University. She had a creative and energetic approach to teaching, from which I feel I and my classmates benefited greatly. I also feel the spanish teacher has a creative and energetic approach to her Spanish courses. Honors Chemistry, which was taught by a teacher now retired, was also a very benefiting and useful course. However, these are only exceptions in this item. They make up an extremely small fraction of the classes offered at the high school.

    Overall, I should summarize the productiveness within the school. The atmosphere of the high school is NOT one of productiveness, as some of the above examples illustrate. For the most part, it is not one of learning either. There are only a few exceptions to this, which are shown in the previous item. As a whole, I can confidently say that the content of most courses is a waste of time, from which I have not drawn any benefit. In class time which is actually being used, 95% of the focus is on discipline and being told what to "think," and 5% of the focus is on academics and actual thinking and understanding. Upon my graduation, not one Ph.D. in any course subject was teaching at the high school. This list of laments could continue on for miles with specific deficiencies noted in my senior year and in the proceeding years, but I hope I have provided a sufficient sampling.