The Privilege of Time

Older generations have always rolled their eyes at the younger generation’s complaints of how hard they have it. To be fair, I wouldn’t trade an hour of my day for that of my grandmother’s when she was a young adult. Her daily encounters with overt racism, sexism, and every other experience of oppression she endured would undoubtedly make any reasonable person roll their eyes at my recent tantrum caused by my 5th cracked iPhone screen. That is not to say I do not encounter issues that are traumatic and overwhelming to my emotional and physical wellbeing but some of our first world problems cannot compare.

And so, it is with our students. Whether in an affluent school or school serving working class children, country school or rural, suburban or urban, our students are carrying psychological, emotional, and spiritual loads that would overwhelm even the most seasoned among us. And yet, within the classroom, many educators continue to create classroom policies and procedures that presume the opposite.

My co-blogger today is Mr. Tyon James. Tyon is a member of the Class of 2020. He is a member of the National Honor Society and a leader of multiple organizations on campus.

I asked him what assumptions he feels teachers make regarding how much time students have outside of their class. He offered to solicit input from his friends on social media. Here’s what they said:

You’re Not the Only One! Teachers assume students have no responsibilities outside of school.

“There’s never really enough time for me-for real personal development. To actually figure out what I want to do and to do things I like to do.”

Teachers tend to forget that not everyone takes on the traditional role of a dependent child in their household. Some people play more of a parenting or adult role in their own lives and the lives of others. When teachers say, “This is your only responsibility!” and “You have nothing better to do!”, it puts blame on the student. That’s showing disrespect for my time and experience.”

“I sometimes wish I had more time. More time to sleep, to talk to my family, to do something I want to do and not something I have to do.”

Teach teacher! Teachers assumes the class is their personal talk show. They use the allotted class-time to talk about irrelevant things that don’t hold substance or merit within the subject matter.

They talk about irrelevant things and things that don’t relate to the lesson, they focus on the bad kids and talk about what they are doing wrong and end up taking all our time. Outside of school, they give us homework that is more like busy work than something you can actually learn from.”

 “I feel like they are not respectful of our time because of the way they teach their curriculum. For example, I have teachers who have us watch Crash Course videos in class. Like… if I wanted an online teacher, I would not be going to public school.

Hold Up, Wait! Teachers assume their subject takes priority. Teachers don’t give enough time to complete assignments.

Teachers give too many major assignments due the same day for multiple classes.”

They don’t give enough time to finish assignments and they take the entire class time explaining instead of explaining for like 5-10 minutes and then letting us explore and helping us with any questions.”

Are You Going to Grade This? Teachers assume we don’t know what meaningful work is. They assign “busy work that is meaningless and boring. It’s a waste of time.

Teachers waste my time by giving busy work and not actually going over the class material. I believe that students have different learning styles and teachers should be able to utilize all those styles, so every student is engaged. Busy work is not for everyone.”

Is This Thing On? Teachers assume in-person communication is more effective than online communication. Some teachers aren’t very tech savvy. They seem to only want to interact in the classroom.

When they read your email and never reply! And then wait 3 days later to address you in person.” 

We are not calling for less homework (ok…most aren’t). But we are asking for teachers to be more thoughtful and intentional about what they are assigning.

Well said Tyon! Teachers, if we must assign work on their personal time it should be relevant to the course and to their lives. The facts are that time is a commodity and free time is a privilege. Our students need us to be open to creating spaces where all students can succeed, thrive, and be well- even those without the privilege of (free) time.

One Big Family

It is always easy to reminisce on my time as a student at Verb. Walking down the corridors, the field, or even speaking to the students are always a reminder of my time here at Verb. I always remember the constant support and guidance from teachers, coaches, and staff. We as students bonded over homework assignments, sports, and everything else going on in our lives throughout our teenage years. We created a brotherhood that will last a lifetime no matter the distance or the different paths that our lives will take. The Verb became a second home, a place for us students to develop as young men with and for others.

Now in my third year back at home I have seen all the long hours and hard work that everyone at Verb endures. Constantly seeking to grow not just for ourselves, but also for the students. The constant theme is not, how I can make this situation better for me, but rather how can this situation be better for the students. It is this passion and love that I see on daily basis that makes me want to grow and become a better person for everyone around me. It makes me appreciate what my teachers and the staff did for my family and me.

As the admissions season continues and we as a department start getting assistance from the teachers, staff, and students I notice that we all care about one another. We all pull together to ensure that any visiting student, or family has a memorable experience of the work that we are doing here. It does not matter if it is 70 students visiting or just one, the experience is equally as impactful as the next. Everyone on campus greets the visitors with a warm smile, a quick greeting, and every single time students and parents leave the Verb knowing that we are a family. Any prospective family leaves the campus with the feeling that this is not just a place of higher learning, but also a place of community – a family. Any student or family that visits will know that who we are and what we do.

WE ARE VERBUM DEI!

Post-secondary Planning

Post-secondary planning is never an easy task, but when you add the additional layer of being a first-generation college student, things seem to become a bit more challenging. At 16 and 17 years old, students are asked to plan to the direction of the rest of their lives. While this decision can be undone later, a lot of students do not see it that way. Students want to find the right fit for them from the beginning of their college career, so whether that is a trade program, a 2-year college, 4-year college, or enter the workforce – either way, students go into senior year with a plan.  For many Verbum Dei students, they are the first in their family to apply for college, and as a college counselor, it is my duty to help students navigate through the process of finding the best fir for them.

When thinking about fit, for many, it goes beyond their GPA and test scores. Many students consider the schools’ reputations, location, academic programs, etc.  For many Verb students, however, the number 1 factor is financial fit. The issue with using financial fit as the determining factor is that most financial aid packages are not available until March or April and students need to commit a college or university by May 1st. A good way to estimate college cost is by looking at cost of attendance, scholarship programs, financial aid from the institution, and plugging the students’ information into the Net Price Calculator tool, linked here: https://collegecost.ed.gov/net-price  So, what can we do on our end to support students in identifying the other aspects of a best fit college in the meantime? I will list them below:

  1. Consider all the factors connecting students to the best fit for them outside of financial fit (i.e. academic fit, location, Verbum Dei success data, and social emotional fit)
  2. Meet with students regularly and loop in their parents to chat about why certain schools are on their list and others are not
  3. Have a healthy mix of reach, match, and safety colleges/universities on their list.
  4. Use resources available to the students to learn as much as possible about a potential college/ university (i.e. Net Price Calculator, Verbum Dei Alumni, College Fly-in Programs, Summer Programs, and College/University Repetitive Visits)
  5. Making sure the student is comfortable with all the decisions they are making about their futures

Finding the best fit can be a challenging process, but the reward is so great knowing that students are in a place where they feel comfortable living and learning which leads to better retention rates and student stress levels. Here is a video on what the reward feels like, enjoy!

Life-long Positive Effects

On the first day of school I read a thank you email from an alumni that not only brought a smile to my face, but it also validated that the work that we all do at Verb is something to be proud of.

He recalled the times we talked about test-taking skills and grade check-ins. He shared everything he was thankful for – I was surprised that he still remembered conversations we had during his freshmen year!

The relationships we build with students can create  life-long “positive” effects, but most importantly we have an impact in students fulfilling their long-term goals and their dreams.

We are Verbum Dei!

Instructional Framework

There have been several new instructional practices added to the Verbum Dei High School repertoire this year – all of which focused on improving student academic success.

Among these new practices is the implementation of the Instructional Framework. This framework will ensure that every teacher in every classroom will incorporate Learning Targets, Direct and Indirect Instruction, as well as the use of Summarizers at the end of each lesson. Students benefit by first by being made aware of what they will be learning. When students are told what they are about to learn, they are more receptive to the instruction they are about to receive. The Instructional Framework also benefits students by requiring teachers to create lessons that allow students to engage with the subject matter rather than be passive receivers of content. Finally, studies show that students who are allowed a few minutes at the end of the class to summarize the information they have learned will retain more of that information than if they had not summarized it.

I encourage you to take a look at the Instruction Framework yourselves to see what teachers and students have been up to in their classroom this year!

Please click below:

Instructional Framework