Student Life at North Platte High School
March 2017 Article in the NP Telegraph
Recently, I decided to look at our high school from an entirely different view. I wanted to experience the typical school day of a high school student.
I spent two entire days shadowing North Platte High School students. My purpose was to get an in-depth view at what it’s like to be a student in 2017 and to address some of the misconceptions that exist regarding the learning environment of high school students I have read about in multiple media sources. I went about this experience with an "open mind" to learn the reality of what a student experiences throughout the day.
Myth: High school students are sitting passively and listening during approximately 90 percent of their classes.
I shadowed students through four 90-minute classes, and in each class all the students were engaged. All students were tuned in and responded well to feedback. The classes involved some lecturing, small group collaborative activities, small group presentations, and pair-sharing conversations about the topic. I believe many adults assume students sit in straight rows listening to the teacher lecture. This was not the case. In every class I observed, students were involved in engaging discussions, having conversations and debating, problem-solving, presenting and learning new applications.
At the end of the day, I was not bored or exhausted. The teachers engaged the students in dialogue, class discussions, group discussions and activities, note taking, presentations, and provided active learning throughout the day. Some teachers had students moving about the room and interacting with each other.
Myth: Students are disrespectful toward teachers and other students.
Not once did I hear a teacher tell the students to be quiet and pay attention. Overall, student behavior was excellent! Students were respectful to each other and to the teacher. Again, not once did I witness a teacher redirecting a student due to behavior. I did not hear sarcasm or snarky remarks by any student. Students were respectful in responding to teachers’ questions and working collaboratively with classmates. Students asked questions freely and respected the classroom rules set forth by the classroom teacher.
Myth: Students don’t like their teachers and don’t care about school.
During lunch, I sat and ate lunch with the students. We engaged in good conversation. I asked what they liked about the school. They like the teachers and believe teachers care about them. They like the block schedule, 90-minute classes and the school environment. I asked them what they did not like about the school. Most of the students said they don’t like the closed campus for juniors and were hoping they would be offered open campus as seniors. The majority of the students said they were going to a two- or four-year college after graduating and/or the military.
Myth: Students are troublesome.
During the transition between classes, students were respectful. I didn’t hear any vulgar language. There was no pushing, shoving or bumping into each other in the hallway. I saw very little cellphone usage during instructional time. I did not witness any students arriving late to class without permission. The transition between classes was swift, smooth and non-disruptive. Before school, students were gathered in the school commons area mingling with their peer groups, playing card games and socializing good-naturedly before classes began.
What surprised me most about the school day?
There are misconceptions about how school is boring and not challenging our students. The misconception that students don’t care about school is not true; it’s just the opposite.
I observed throughout the day that students do care about their education, their teachers and their school. Overall, students were happy with being part of the school and working with the teachers. They liked the school culture.
How is school today different from when I was in high school?
I believe students in high school today have so many more opportunities to prepare themselves for the transition after high school. There are multiple programs for students as well as the use of modern technology. Students have numerous options in choosing their college and career pathways via dual credits. If every student takes advantage of all the learning opportunities available, they will be able to choose whatever career path they desire. It is all about being prepared to have a choice after graduation.
Summary: The teachers and principals of the school should be commended for their hard work and for being role models for our students. The students deserve recognition for their willingness to learn and embark each day with a positive attitude for learning. The perception that students are not engaged and are bored with school was certainly not evident during my shadowing experiences.
Describe the experience in one word? Enlightening