Palo Alto Online : High school life: To whom it may concern

Palo Alto Online : High school life: To whom it may concern

Some ideas from a veteran teacher at Gunn High School, Palo Alto:

■ Start the school day later on Thursday so that kids can catch an extra hour of sleep;

■ Have the Adolescent Counseling staff visit classrooms to say “hi”;

■ Restrict the use of cell phones and other devices on campus during school hours;

■ Host a once-a-month, school-wide evening potluck so parents, teachers, students, administrators and counselors can mingle and hobnob;

■ Emphasize to new teachers, and enshrine in our culture, the immense worth of moment-to-moment affirmation of students (as expressed in Project Cornerstone’s “40 Ways Teachers Can Show Students That They Care”);

■ Unplug the round-the-clock, online feature that enables teachers to post, and students and parents to track, grades on tests, quizzes, homework and papers on a 24/7 basis;

■ Change summer-school curricula back from two semesters to only one (students’ GPAs and AP course loads — and most importantly, the kids themselves — will survive);

■ Require parents of a student registering for more than two AP classes to sign a form acknowledging that this course load may result in detrimental losses of sleep, time with friends and time with teachers and may lower their child’s resiliency, increase his or her anxiety and affect mental health;

■ Scuttle the “Titan Profiles” from morning televised announcements. These portraits of achievement are sometimes agreed to in order to please an adult but can also discourage our kids most affected by depression;

■ Move the counselors’ presentation on how to approach college applications from junior year back to senior year;

■ Add a technology that monitors students’ total nightly homework (with a function that gives teachers feedback on how long their assignments are actually taking) to the technology that tracks attendance and grades;

■ Institute policies that require special attention to homework loads in the immediate wake of any campus trauma (and require deferment of disturbing learning materials such as films or books that deal with genocide, war or torture);

■ Survey students to rate all teachers and coaches and administrators on how approachable they are (with the results communicated to the educators only upon request, in complete confidentiality, and with follow-up support and guidance or coaching made available);

■ Fairly and consistently enforce, and clearly communicate, rules against academic dishonesty so that our kids’ anxieties about whether the academic playing-field is level are allayed;

■ Keep teachers’ full-time loads at five classes rather than, as was proposed this past year, adding a sixth, once-a-week class period in which faculty are expected to bond with 20 more students and facilitate group discussions of personal issues;

■ Commit to the smallest reasonable class sizes so that teachers’ energies are husbanded and every student has a maximum chance to be heard, recognized and valued.

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