Category Archives: Editorials

Editorial: Clothing Optional?

The dress code at Germantown Friends School is somewhat unique, in that there is heavy emphasis on the choice of clothing being a highly personal matter. This reflects in a student’s dress in quite a few different ways.

The first sentence of the code allows for students to be free to express themselves. “GFS recognizes that choice of personal clothing is a highly personal matter, a valuable form of expressing the self.” In fact, this is more or less what the whole first paragraph is about. In the GFS Bluebook section on clothing, there are virtually no dress limitations that a student or parent could find “unreasonable.” However, it must be pointed out that if one were to really take this code literally, one could almost make an argument for coming into school stark naked, so long as one was wearing “footwear at all times.” Of course, we are pretty sure that if a student did come to school sporting only footwear, he or she should probably expect to have an almost immediate and extremely private conversation with an adult about his or her choices, but it could be argued that technically no rules had been broken. Of course, no one actually does this, but it is an indicator that perhaps there are some “holes” (no pun intended) in the GFS dress code. Perhaps, the emphasis on self-expression through clothing is potentially dangerous. While often this is a positive approach to dress, sometimes a conversation with an adult, however severe, is not enough to get a message through that certain ways to dress are simply not appropriate for a learning environment as GFS, and should be used in more private circumstances.

Some solve this problems through uniforms. Imagine having to wear the same thing every day. That’s what students with school uniforms have to do. For many other schools, Middle and High School girls wear skorts and collared shirts to school; boys wear a jacket with a tie and khaki pants. Whoever invented the idea of a uniform was crazy. The skorts itch; the collared shirts are hot. Yet, you can see the good intentions behind the idea. In Middle School, some people judge others on what they wear, so having everyone wear the same outfit means less criticizing. Even with a uniform in place, people find loopholes, such as which shoes people wear. People could wear expensive shoes to school, and the people who don’t are “separated” from everybody else. Also there is the matter of how short the skort is. Some schools have a rule that the skorts are supposed to be as long as your finger tips. People find loopholes in that field too by safety-pinning the front part of the kilt, making the skorts look shorter. It is different when people can wear whatever they want. At GFS, we have guidelines and that implies that the student body knows what is acceptable and what is inappropriate. It helps the students make their own decisions earlier.

However, uniforms have  some advantages, too. A Middle School is full of teenagers, or people becoming teenagers, and this journey from child to adolescent to adult is fast paced and full of change. People try to find out who they are and who they want to be, and part of this experimental process is displayed in clothing. Finding a style normally starts with copying someone else, whether it be a peer or a celebrity. In Middle School, it’s all about fitting in or sticking out. The kids who choose the former copy one another, until a widespread stylistic norm has been established. At Germantown Friends School, there is space and acceptance for these kinds of norms. In the beginning, this is fine, until the norms reach an extent where if you are not in the norm, you are abnormal, and outcast. For example, if everyone was wearing ivy league college sweaters and someone wore a sweater from a high school or obscure college, they might be looked down on by some peers. If everyone wore similar clothing, these status gaining brands and clothing types would be annihilated.

It is clear that although there are one or two flaws in the current and somewhat indulgent Germantown Friends School dress code, there is more than one answer as to what to do with the issue of student dress. So, with many teachers struggling to compensate for the social needs we obtain through dress, it must therefore be up to the student body, at GFS and any other school with no strict dress code, to use our very own code in the way it was meant to be. And with all due respect, please, let’s all come to school in more than just our shoes.

~ The Corner Editorial Board 2011-12

Editorial: Bang Head Here

The weekend is here again, it’s time to unwind. It’s more than just a few days off, it’s a state of mind.” -The Weekend Guy

6th, 7th and 8th graders all have homework. Most of the time, they have it every night. They also have it on weekends. The subject of homework on weekends has sometimes been a problem because it interferes with the other activities that happen during the student’s two days off. Often teachers assign more homework on weekends because of the increased time the students will have to work on it. However, this is not true in every case. Many students play sports outside of school which can be very time consuming, with out -of -town tournaments and games, etc. Other kids may be preoccupied with dancing, singing, acting or other artistic interests. When a teacher assigns more homework to a student over the weekend, it may increase the anxiety level that the student feels during his or her days of rest. Some teachers take this into account, only assigning work that will be easy to spread out of the two days or not overwhelming to do in one night. The overall point trying to be made here is that weekends can be used in many different ways, doing homework being only one of them.

Homework on the weekends can really get in the way of family bonding. Everyone loves spending some quality time with the family. Maybe go out to the movies, have a family dinner at a restaurant, family game night. But homework can get in the way of that. You might have something planned for a certain time, but homework is unpredictable. You never know how much you will have until it’s too late. And in some cases, those weekend plans are mandatory (grandfather’s birthday, weekend trip to the beach, etc) and then you either have to stay up late, do it the next morning, or not have your homework done. Homework really takes a good hack out of family bonding.

Weekends shouldn’t be filled with homework, and everyone thinks this. Friday school days and Sunday nights are constantly spent telling oneself that each weekend homework will be dealt with on Friday and Saturday, and the weekends can go by doing activities that are enjoyed, not homework. Procrastination is one of the greatest banes of a middle school existence, though most of the time we blame it on too much homework and too much else to do. There’s no one surefire way to stopping procrastination, though slowly working through small chores and homework definitely helps starting off a day of working. Homework should be done away from unneeded distractions, so unless you need a computer, there’s nothing good that comes of doing homework near one. The best thing is to start with little pieces of work, such as a worksheet, making breakfast, anything that gets you focused on work. Planning should also be done for longer projects like essays, after all, weekends are a small part of the week with way too much to do.

Weekends are an important time because they are those special 2/7’s of each week when there is sufficient time to do other activities besides attending school and doing schoolwork. At least, that’s what they’re supposed to be. It is a precious moment for a middle schooler when all work has been completed, even on the weekend. Weekends are meant to be a time to have a break from school, giving students (and teachers) time to engage in other activities that are not school related. Most middle school students have outside activities including sports, music, and other things, in addition to spending time with friends and family. It can add to the already stressful life of a middle schooler to have to fit in writing an essay between a 1:30 piano lesson and a 4:00 soccer practice. All too often the choice must be made between schoolwork and an outside activity, with schoolwork usually winning. Having to miss a favorite, once-a-week activity for “another stupid worksheet” creates additional resentment for schoolwork that could be avoided. The dread of schoolwork that needs to be completed can often make any fun weekend activity less enjoyable. Time on weekends to engage in non school-related activities and interests is very important to “nurture each student’s mind, body and spirit” as the GFS mission statement says. A variety of activities helps good students become well rounded adults. Time out of school to pursue one’s own interests is important because although GFS caters to many types of people, in reality there are many activities that students may wish to do that are not offered at GFS.

~ The Corner Editorial Board 2011-12

Editorial: Should Your Teacher “Friend” You?

At GFS, many positive teacher-student relationships are generated.  GFS honors the Quaker principle that there is that of God in everyone and thus, we are all equal and there should be no titles like Mr. and Mrs.  Middle School teachers make themselves available to their students for help. Students can easily meet with teachers during study halls, or even after school. The fact that teachers make themselves available as much as possible is a valuable thing, not to be underused. We know that many students have called, emailed, or even chatted online with teachers if they needed help. These relationships are definitely useful and can help bring the community together, but they may also have a downside.  For instance, could the development of close student-teacher relationships, lead to favoritism?  Favoritism could certainly be a real possibility in such an environment and cause certain problems in a community.

Such closeness has a potential downside and can cause problems. If one is sitting in a class with a teacher that might has a good relationship with you, it could be very awkward if they yell or get tough with you. You might feel that they are being mean, overly harsh or critical, but really, they are trying to help you. If one compares this to a friendship, than one might think of it as ‘Okay, this person is yelling, but I will (hopefully) still be their friend’. Another con is that such close relationships could be used to the students’ advantage. If a teacher is particularly close to a student, he or she might also give a little curve to their grade. We don’t know of any scenarios where this has actually happened, but the possibly definitely exists.

All and all, teacher-student relationships have more upsides than down. One positive aspect of the closeness is a certain level of comfort when interacting with each other.  This way, students can speak their minds and seek advice from teachers about issues outside of the classroom. Teachers may make themselves more available for questions when you have a strong relationship with them. For example, someone with a strong relationship with Rhonda may be more likely to receive a computer pass than someone who has a weaker relationship with Rhonda.

GFS generates strong teacher-student relationships, which have many pros and cons to them.  These relationships allow students to be more successful but sometimes can create tough or awkward situations.  In the overall picture, these relationships are a unique tribute to GFS.

~ The Corner Editorial Board 2010-11

Editorial: iPods in Study Halls

Whose study hall is it? Why can’t students listen to iPods in their study halls? Study halls are a time to work independently. There are different ways of working just like different ways of learning.  This should be recognized like we recognize different ways of learning. Some students work with a pen, some with a pencil, some fast, some slow, just like some work listening to music, some without listening to music. If students listen to music quietly without disturbing others then aren’t they still working independently? Working quietly and productively is the only rule of a study hall. Some students feel that listening to music is relaxing and allows them relieve stress.  In some instances music is helpful in memorizing school related studies.  iPods in study hall can be useful or preferred.  If people use the them while obliging with the study hall rules there is no reason one should not be able to use them.

~ The Corner Editorial Board 2010-11