It’s time for students and staff to reconnect

A growing concern for students at BHS

By Melody Cosgrove

Recently, students and faculty at Beaverton High have expressed concerns that our school administrators are out of touch with the student body. Given the constant stream of advisories and assemblies during Beaver Lodge, it’s not surprising.

We’ve all had that moment where we walk into Beaver Lodge, ready to either slack off or get things done, only to find out we’re having an advisory. Most people zone out while the teacher drones about something they’ll forget the second they walk out the door. But for those who planned to get work done or meet with a teacher, this can be frustrating. And when students ask teachers why they need to learn the advisory lessons or who came up with them, they get the same response: “It’s not my choice. The administrators give us these lessons.”

Students then direct their criticism toward the “big bad administrators.” Got a problem with the amount of assemblies? Blame the administrators. Are advisories dull and time-consuming? It’s all the admins’ fault.

But is it true? Are administrators to blame, or are we blowing things out of proportion? To learn more, I talked with Mr. Zaworski, a math teacher at BHS. 

I don’t think any one topic is inappropriate for advisories, I just wish we had less overall…You don’t want burnout for your students or your staff,” said Zaworski. He followed up with his concern that he’s not able to see his students often enough to help them succeed in class.

Social studies teacher Mr. Sandri expressed a similar sentiment, doubting teachers’ abilities to adequately discuss the material covered during advisories.

“The time tends to be too long,” Sandri said, echoing Zaworski. “The subject matter is relevant, but the people who carry them out are probably not the best ones to do it. As a social studies teacher, I’m probably not prepared to give lessons on blackface and mental health issues. People have to get their master’s degree for that kind of thing.” Sandri suggested bringing in experts when discussing heavy topics.

But are students the only ones concerned about the administration’s actions? Are we using these advisories as a weak excuse to complain about the whole system? Sandri says this is not the case. 

“A lot of us teachers wonder if the traditions and learning environments in our school are more important than the actions,” Sandri continued. “From what we hear in schools—kids cussing, smoking weed, walking out of classrooms—we’re preaching all these values about traditions, but where is the accountability?”

Students aren’t complaining for complaining’s sake—even the staff are disgruntled. But how are they affected? What’s their role in Beaver Lodge? 

Teachers aren’t legally allowed to teach Beaver Lodge—if they were, they would go over their maximum number of classes, five. (The other two periods are for planning.) But if it isn’t a class, what is it? It’s a duty. Remember in elementary school, when teachers watched you run around the playground at recess? That’s a duty.

So, a teacher’s job during Beaver Lodge is basically to make sure we don’t do anything stupid. Advisories are where it gets iffy, though, because teachers aren’t allowed to teach or plan a lesson for that class period. The solution? Administrators create the lesson plans, and teachers read off of whatever’s sent to them. 

But if administrators make it easy for teachers, what’s the problem?

It’s that students’ attitude toward advisories have turned into something like, “Hey, the teacher’s reading from the screen. Even they look bored, so we don’t have to pay attention.” 

This is a big reason why no one likes advisories: Teachers are disinterested because they aren’t qualified to teach the curriculum, and they spread that disinterest to students. It’s a lose-lose situation. This, paired with students’ annoyance that there’s less time to do homework and access teachers, magnifies an already tense situation.

To get a better understanding of how this impacts students, I asked senior Gray Snyder’s perspective.

“Beaver Lodges are really important for me because I get so much work done, and Beaver Lodge advisories can be distracting. Though the lessons are important, I find myself and other students…not getting much out of it.”

It’s unfortunate: since advisories happen so often, their content has become white noise, with students paying less and less attention as the days go by. It doesn’t help that lately, we’ve had more Wednesday Beaver Lodges than usual due to days off. 

It’s easy to blame the administrators. But first, consider their perspective. While it’s fun to have a scapegoat, the truth is, not everything is in black and white.

I used to agree with everyone else, blaming the administrators for the long, boring advisories. But I no longer believe they ignore us. Here’s why.

The best example of this is Beaver Congress. This year, administrators are present during all meetings, much to the dismay of many Congress members. But according to Dr. Erwin, this wasn’t always the case. 

“I wanted students to feel comfortable speaking, so we did not have an admin there,” Erwin told me when asked about Beaver Congress last year. “Halfway through the school year, [students] said, ‘We need the principal to hear what’s on our minds.’” As a result, an administrator was present at the final Beaver Congress meeting. “At the beginning of this year…They said they needed an administrator there to help bridge the disconnect. So I find it intriguing that people don’t want an administrator in that conversation,” said Erwin.

This, if anything, demonstrates our administrators’ willingness to listen to students. But it also shows that opinions change, making it difficult to shape the school to everyone’s liking. 

However, miscommunication between students and staff and administrators remains. Yes, advisories are important, but their frequency and the way they are taught makes it hard for students to absorb the material.

“Listen,” Sandri advised administrators. “You’ve got your own ideas about where you want the school to go. But listen to the people who’ve been here for a while.”

And if students have any comments or questions for Dr. Erwin, it’s simple. “Stop me in the hall, stop me at lunch. Just send me an email.”

We need more communication between students and administrators. The most important thing is that we keep trying and refuse to quit.

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