A Declaration of Representation
Dear Ms. Butler Ginolfi and the Washington Middle School Administration,
In our 8th Grade history classes this year, we have spent a lot of time learning about the U.S. Revolution and the beginning of the country we live in today. Unfortunately, we are not able to continue those important and historical discussions with many of our same classmates, peers in other classes and programs, and even in most cases our teachers, but we have learned a lot about how much power matters in a system. This kind of situation not only happens in our history classes, but is now reflected throughout the school. If we are going to make a school where everyone learns and is cared about, we need to start having more student voice in decisions, because when different groups of people are involved, just like it should have been in the American colonies, everything works out better for the whole.
Below are different students’ voices and opinions on what needs to change in our school. We don’t expect you to do everything we say or even change the way you run our school, but we do ask you to acknowledge our voices and hopefully take our opinions into consideration when you are making changes that affect us.
One of the changes that have been put into play was changing what teachers teach, not just what classes the students are in. I had a history teacher that has been teaching Social Studies for a very long time and I know that she was very passionate about it. A lot of the students have been disappointed to find that a teacher they loved will not be teaching them anymore, myself included. She was an amazing teacher and I have learned so much from her this year. I understand that the school wants every student to get a chance to experience different teachers’ classes, but by completely changing the schedules, the students who were in those classes can’t enjoy them anymore. Even though we all deserve the best education possible, the worst thing to do is to interrupt any of these learning experiences. Instead of switching students and teachers around so that every student is better served, why can’t we make sure that every teacher is able to benefit every student?
Another problem is that bias against students because of the race or program they associate with. It is unfair and needs to change. If we had more students involved in decision making, we could change the way different students are treated. Just taking the time to listen and create platforms for students to speak out could change the whole school dynamic. Communication is so important, but it isn’t a one-way street.
One student says, “Students are treated differently because of their skin. As a black student, it sucks that people like me get in trouble and are being suspected of things that other people aren’t.”
Another issue is that new schedules impact the projects we work on in school. For example, many students were supposed to have the opportunity to work on science fair projects in class since they were started so late. Now students in science fair groups are mainly in different classes and they don’t know if they will be able to finish the project on time. Book clubs were also created in some Language Arts classes so now students will not have a way to continue discussions and meet with their groups in class, these issues were also not made clear with teachers before Tuesday,
One thing that really bothers me is not being able to have collaborative discussions with students from other programs. As an HCC 8th Grader, it had been a helpful experience to share out and have discussions with students in other programs in history, a result of great structured classes by the 2 old 8th grade US History teachers. But now, we don’t have the opportunity to do so as our classes are split among 4-5 teachers and we are unable to collaborate due to the fact we are across the school from another. Blended History used to be something I really looked forward to, and now it seems like a far reach to have any inter-program discussions at all.
Periods, Periods, and more Periods
This year the passing periods have also been changed. Last year we had 5 minutes and the schedule and times were easy to memorize, but now we have to remember exactly when class ends and when it starts and it is really confusing. This is in addition to us having to memorize a completely new schedule in the middle of the year.
Also, four minutes is not enough time to get to our classes especially if we need to use the bathroom. I know that as a girl, it can be very inconvenient to have your period because of the bathroom limitations. It’s stressful to have to deal with your period when there’s no time to use the restroom due to the fact that we don’t want to be tardy. Girls can’t plan their periods, sometimes they start during class or passing periods. Girls can’t always wait until a class is over to take care of it. It is very difficult to get from one side of the school to the other and use the bathroom in the middle of it, in four minutes. It’s also very hard to wait until lunch because that is the only time during the day we have time to ourselves to go freely. Passes are not easy to get but it’s also not easy to go outside of class time. In addition to the passing period problem, we are not allowed to go to the bathroom the first or last 10 minutes of class. This is completely unfair because you never know if someone is having an emergency. This goes back to girls getting their periods as well, sometimes going to the bathroom is necessary. It shouldn’t be a shameful thing or a thing to get in trouble for. Even worse are the hall sweeps. If you have a late bus, you had to go to the bathroom, or you’re just late because of traffic and you get caught in the halls, you still get punished even though you were never disrupting any classes.
This connects to another problem. This year we have to be escorted to the gym or the library during lunch. It’s not like we are going to cause chaos; most of us just want to have some fun during lunch. It’s unfair that we are expected to get to our classes in four minutes but aren’t able to roam freely in the halls during lunch.
We should have our lunch back ( 1, 2, 3, lunches) even though some of the lunch tables are empty, because now that there are only 2 lunches and the lunchroom going to get crowded. Students will want their own table with their own space and friends to hang out which excludes the individual or small groups of students, and even to get a lunch there is going to be a much longer time.
We could make this better by letting the students have responsibility, be treated like high school students, and be given high responsibility especially since we are close to going to high school and we should be prepared for the future. We should be given high expectations as students here at Washington Middle School, and also be given opportunities like having noticeable input on school decisions
As a student that goes to Washington, I find that the music program is an important thing that the school has to offer. Without the music program, there’s not much left of our school’s amazing history except our old building. To show you how important the music program is to the students, I decided to ask around, and here are the responses I’ve gathered.
Our first response is from a student in Intermediate Orchestra: “The music program makes me feel like I can learn stuff and have opportunities because we grow each day.”
A student in Senior Choir says “I would say [the music program] makes me feel included and it makes me feel like I am a part of something special.”
A student in Senior Band said: “Music class gives me a time of day I can really be excited about, it’s frustrating that people get taken out of these classes and aren’t able to practice material in class like other students.”
This next student is in Senior Choir as well: “I love the music program because it gives a chance for me to express myself in a different way and I get to meet new people who I might not be in classes with normally. The music program is also great because the teachers care about us and they want us to learn and do well.” This student was taken out of Senior choir and put into a lower level, Junior Choir. Another student who I had Junior choir with had been taken out abruptly. They asked to not be named and said:
“It brightens my day and honestly it gives me a break so I can get back to focusing on academics after. It's the perfect way to get concentration back.”
To end this off, the last opinion I'll give is mine, (Senior Choir) “I think that choir, and music in general, gives me a chance to express myself and feel like I’m welcomed. I've met so many people I’d never thought to talk to through choir. I find that it's easier for me to be myself and have fun but also learn a lot about my voice.”
To have music classes be disrupted has been very disappointing to many students who enjoy what they have previously taken, and that needs to change.
Side Note: these are just some of many opinions, we didn’t want to waste any ink.
In addition to these changes that are being made, we can’t ignore that in the letters the principal has given us, they show no apology for not communicating to students and families, no regard for raised opinions by the community, and they often blame other sources for problems that have cost us time being educated and much more. She even got the address of our school wrong; it is the address of the school she previously worked at. She also mentions that the changes being made happen often in secondary school, but secondary school is high school and not middle school. We need to be treated like the school we are, and we need our principal to set an example of how to act in these situations, because believe it or not we are all still learning. We understand this is all part of her own principles and values, and understand how hard of a job she has with little state funding, but we think everyone should be able to have a voice in the decisions being made at our school, no matter how much the impact.
We care about what happens now and in the future. Hopefully, our administration does too. Just like in Colonial America, the power belongs to one group of people. But if we want to be the school that fixes inequities, first we need to fix one of the biggest inequities by giving everyone a voice. We hope that you listen to our concerns and take all these suggestions into consideration, and even if you do not, know that we, the students want our school to be the best it can be, for everyone. Everyone wants to have every school year be amazing and in order for that to happen, you have to listen to us and our opinions. Thank you for reading.