Category Archives: Editorials

8 Changes We’d Like to See in the New Middle School Schedule

With the arrival of May, an article such as this more than likely has the appearance of five whiny eighth graders complaining about all the issues of middle school. Though we may be eighth graders—and whiny—there is more to it than that. It is our love for this school that makes us question it, point out its issues, and criticize. As the school creates a new schedule, we find an opportunity to make suggestions that we hope will be implemented. After three years of middle school, we are well-versed in the faults of our schedule and possible improvements. This is an amazing school which we would like to make better by improving the student experience for those behind us.

Thank you,

The Corner Editorial Board, Germantown Friends School

Free time

Students have school for six-and-a-half hours per day.  There are a couple moments in the day that are meant to be set aside for free time. There is such a thing as non-academic learning, which is vital for a student’s growth. In our current schedule, we have a 30- to 45-minute lunch, study hall a couple of times a week, a ten-minute homeroom every day, and a 10- to 15-minute snack. In the end, this should come to one to two hours a day of free time. But somehow, this is not the case. This is because Mondays we have assembly, Tuesdays class goes until 12:35 so we only have 30 minutes for lunch, and on Wednesdays and Fridays the whole middle school participates in activities. While it might sound absurd, the only lunch not encroached upon is Thursday, the one lunch period where we are able to converse with our friends and eat our food instead of inhale it.

With short, 15-minute recesses and only one 45-minute lunch period per week, students have little time to socialize with friends. School is a place where students are supposed to have the opportunity to not only learn and grow academically, but to learn lessons regarding social and emotional intelligence, and communication skills. Without sufficient time to socialize, students will not have that opportunity.

Homeroom

Do we really need that 10 minutes before classes? Admittedly it can be nice, and from a scheduling standpoint it means people are late to homeroom and not first period, but in reality how beneficial is it? It’s fair to say not much. Access to advisors can be very helpful, but they are usually sought out individually. So what is the purpose of homeroom? Should we have it? The primary objective seems to be for attendance and daily announcements, but in reality it becomes a time for socializing. Given that there is scant time in the day for this, perhaps those 10 minutes from homeroom can be converted into longer snacks and lunches. Couldn’t those new PA systems be used for announcements?

Monday Assemblies

Ah, Mondays. Every time I look forward to lunch I have to wait 20 minutes until I have an abridged lunch because Obviously Underprepared Seventh Grade Homeroom #7 has their assembly. The assembly is inevitably going to be a fake game show involving five people at the maximum, probably not me. Thanks to this useless presentation of the middle school’s vast knowledge of koala facts, lunch now starts 12:40 rather than at 12:20. However, I could live (albeit irritably) with this were the assemblies not completely and utterly devoid of value. We learn and experience nothing from Obviously Underprepared Seventh Grade Homeroom #7, as we will learn nothing from Obviously Underprepared Sixth Grade Homeroom #3 and Obviously Underprepared Eighth Grade Homeroom #9. We learn nothing about academics, life lessons, or even the minds of our peers.

Monday assemblies are unnecessary, and, in fact, counterproductive to learning. These 20 minutes (count them up—with 26 weeks, that’s 8 hours) could be used for engaging with our peers in a less constraining way and we could get to know the people that we all but live with, instead of twiddling our thumbs until we can bolt out of the Poley. This is a great school in almost all other aspects; we could bear to do away with this one.

Start Time

Countless studies have shown that middle schoolers are not able to fully function at 8 a.m., yet school starts at 8:10 a.m. Sometimes, we even have tests first period, though studies show that students perform better when school starts later. Doctors and teachers advise students to get at least 8 to 9 hours of sleep per night, but this is impossible with the time we spend on homework, sports, and extracurricular activities. Add to that the fact that we are exhausted because school starts so early in the morning. Starting school around 9:30 a.m. would strengthen students’ abilities to concentrate, allow us to get more sleep, and allow our brains to develop at a faster pace. In the end, many students and teachers would be appreciative if school started later (even if it meant that school would go later).

Study Hall

The topic of study halls is highly debated among both the middle school students and the faculty. Study hall was built into the schedule so students would have a productive 45-minute period to work on their homework and speak with teachers a couple of times a week. This being said, study halls are often used for very different purposes. While some use study halls to do homework, others play games such as slither.io or watch Netflix.

This brings up the question of whether study halls should be mandatory. Having multiple 45-minute blocks where students are not completing work causes teachers to enforce rules more strictly. This somehow leads to kids not wanting to do their work even more.

One option is the to make study halls “frees.” Those who did not wish to do work would not have to and would not distract those who were working. Yet even with this solution there are problems; responsibility is required unless we want complete chaos. Despite these problems the Editorial Board believes this to be the best solution. Some restrictions would be necessary—a certain degree of responsibility and a recommendation or permission slip. The issue is complicated, but what is most important is that each factor is understood and then used to create a solution.

Passing Time

While we understand that the school may not add passing time to the schedule, we want teachers to understand that we can’t teleport to class. Teachers should be more understanding when we are late to class. Especially on days when we have classes on opposite sides of campus, it is unfair to lock students out of classrooms for being two minutes late.

Activities

Activities are one of the most enjoyable times of the week. Lunch is one of the most enjoyable times of the day. Yet somehow, combining the two just results in stress. Kids get to their activities late after rushing to wait in line to get their food. Group leaders can’t arrive on time; when at last everyone has arrived, no productive work is done because everyone is eating. As a result, sacrifices have to be made, and activities have to be shortened. In addition, most students arrive late to their subsequent class, resulting in frustration for the teachers.

So the solution? Have activities meet some other time. For example, have study halls be a choice. Every student can have two “electives” a week, replacing the time their study halls would normally be. Students can choose between study halls and activities, and everyone gets the most amount of work possible completed. Otherwise, it forces some kids to do activities which they do not want to (since the normal lunch option has been taken away). So, we must decide what is more important to us—less lunch and less productivity, or more flexible study halls?

The one-hour period

For the seventh grade, it means Project Time. For the eighth grade, it means being stuck in a classroom for 15 extra, pointless, laborious minutes. The reason school is organized into 45-minute periods is to help students focus on their work and interpret information in smaller, more digestible bits. Longer than that, and student performance will suffer. It’s just another useless fifteen minutes sitting in math or language class, while every student begs the teacher to leave fifteen minutes early. If the teacher doesn’t have anything planned, we are forced to sit in the class, not learning anything or doing anything productive.

There is seemingly no middle-school-related reason for this hour period to occur. Those fifteen minutes are taken out of our lunch period, which, for many of us, is already shortened by 15 minutes of waiting in line. This takes away almost all of our time to socialize, which is one of the most important things for a middle schooler to do after he or she has been trapped in a room learning all day. So, it doesn’t benefit the teachers, it doesn’t benefit the students, and it doesn’t teach anyone anything. The solution is simple: give us a normal lunch period, like we’re supposed to have every day anyway.


We hope that these criticisms may at least be heard and that with the creation of the new schedule some of our suggestions may be implemented. These are our views—what do you think? Give us your opinion in the poll below.

Editorial: The Four Way Race

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Over a year has passed since the election cycle has started, and it has been a very long year. When Trump first started running he was thought of as a joke. Many rumors and scandals kept on coming out, each time getting crazier and crazier, but somehow more believable.

Continue reading Editorial: The Four Way Race

Corner Editors Look Back On Middle School

Middle school is a long three years of life, and the innate awkwardness of it can make the experience hellish for some people. Others say that it is not so bad, or even fun (I question your sanity, but ok.) Because no issue can be debated without the input of your favorite editorial board, our editors reflect on how we feel about middle school as we are leaving it. Continue reading Corner Editors Look Back On Middle School

Editorial: Laptops in the Age of Netflix

We have all been in a very boring class, wishing that we were watching Netflix at home. But most outsiders not in middle school do not understand that the passion for watching Netflix gets in the way of every part of a teen’s life. Many students have laptops and are encouraged to use them during classes in order to take notes or do research, but do teachers and the administration really understand the loophole that laptops and tablets create in the school’s strict “no phone” policy? Continue reading Editorial: Laptops in the Age of Netflix

Editorial: Is GFS Inclusive Enough In Terms of Sports?

Sports can be a controversial topic all over the world, and even at GFS, there are differing opinions about the positives and negatives of school sports and the middle school’s athletics requirements. In seventh and eighth grades, two seasons of sports are required, a reduction from three seasons required in past years. Although it is possible to get an exemption, the topics surrounding required sports and athletics in general typically spark some controversy.

Continue reading Editorial: Is GFS Inclusive Enough In Terms of Sports?

Editorial: School Security

After school shootings all over the U.S. such as Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech, many schools and colleges are tightening up their security. But there has been very little to no coverage on how Quaker schools such as GFS and other schools with similar values have been balancing their Quaker values of community with the need to protect students from physical harm from weapons such as guns or knives. How can administrators be proactive about school security without going over the top? Continue reading Editorial: School Security

Editorial: Is Today’s Generation Overscheduled and Overstressed?

overscheduled_from_albanyedu (1)Most students at GFS will admit to being a victim of overscheduling. This phenomenon is making its way into lots of middle schoolers’ lives and is resulting in sleep deprivation and stress, which are two things that shouldn’t be a major part of middle school students’ life. Our schedules are seeming to take over our brains, on some days making us completely dysfunctional without three cups of coffee. Why is rushing from place to place, having hours of homework, playing two sports, three instruments and still keeping up with your Instagram account now the norm?

Continue reading Editorial: Is Today’s Generation Overscheduled and Overstressed?

The Awkward Years: a middle school retrospective

Middle school is over for me and the other sixty-six humans with whom I have now spent much too much time over the past three years. So first, a congratulation: we actually made it! We managed to live through the first of the awkward years, the painful and humiliating years. The years that at family gatherings our relatives cringe to hear we are currently encountering. The stressful, socially inept and hormonally imbalanced years have descended upon us, and we have made it through eighth grade. Continue reading The Awkward Years: a middle school retrospective

Editorial: Our New Principal

We need a principal who cares. While this sounds self-explanatory, the Middle School often gets lost in the shuffle of a busy K-12 school such as GFS. Our principal should be willing to stick up for our division while collaborating with the entire school. To do this, he or she will need a vision for what the Middle School should be, and want to follow through. We believe that any person can be well-meaning, but it takes determination to make their job work. Continue reading Editorial: Our New Principal

Editorial: The GFS Bubble

On the other side of Germantown Avenue, just thirty feet from the end of Germantown Friend School’s campus, lies NHS Parkside Recovery, a methadone clinic.  Even if they have noticed, not many students think about it.

As a rule, GFS is very liberal. The student body is fairly affluent. Almost every family owns one, if not two cars and most live in relatively good-sized houses.  Full tuition for the Middle School costs $28,000 to $30,000 per year.  The neighborhood of Germantown, on the other hand, has somewhat less.  Average household income* is around $37,000, just 23% more than GFS tuition and only 13.1% of the population attends one or more years of college (100% of GFS graduates attend 4-year colleges).  With all this, it’s no wonder the idea of a GFS Bubble is so often brought up. Continue reading Editorial: The GFS Bubble