After much discussion with students, teachers, administrators, parents, and community members, we have identified two growing problems in our high school. The first is that our students do not seem to have adequate avenues to have their voices heard. One of our Language Arts teachers, Jonna Kuskey, wrote an outstanding article for the “School Bells” section of the newspaper and made a simple, but profound recommendation to classroom teachers….ASK YOUR STUDENTS! This led to a great discussion as to why we don’t ask students their opinion on other educational-related topics. The second problem – the growing trend toward the depersonalization of schools – is one we have identified and have been steadily working to improve. Several factors have led to the creation of schools that aren’t as personal as they once were. At JMHS, for example, we are a product of consolidation, which can naturally make schools less personal. Consolidated schools offer students so many resources and advantages. Extensive course catalogs, multiple educational pathways, top-notch facilities, and real-world social dynamics are just a few. However, some students can get lost in the myriad of choices. I believe the best combination is a big school with a small school feel. We pride ourselves in creating that culture at JMHS and will continue to do so. More specifically, we want our community to become acquainted with our teachers and students.
In order to accomplish our goal, we have created the John Marshall High School Blog. In our blog you will hear from students and staff on a variety of topics. Like every high school, we have so many intelligent, interesting, and creative people, and we want to share their thoughts, experiences, and insights with the larger community. We believe our blog will generate several positive outcomes. The most significant outcome we are anticipating is personalizing our school. Our community will have the ability to learn more about our students, staff, and programming. Of course, we will also learn the thoughts of the community through the comments and feedback we hope to receive. Another positive outcome of the blog is providing our students the ability to articulate their thoughts to an audience. Writing for the classroom is important, but so is learning to write for a larger, specific audience. Because our blog exists for a real purpose and not for a grade, students who volunteer to publish their writing will naturally take this experience more seriously than the everyday assignment.
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For the past 20 years, I’ve had the pleasure of waking up every morning and reporting to work at a public school. I can’t overstate how gratifying an experience this has been. Schools are such all-encompassing shells. Within their walls, we encounter such a wide variety of people and experiences that shape both individual students and entire communities. Some days I get to witness students deal with and overcome their personal struggles or watch them achieve their personal goals. Sometimes I’m the person imparting my thoughts to help them in their quests; other times, I watch teachers and counselors work their magic. I have the privilege of helping and watching people transform themselves and their community. Unfortunately, we lost a student this summer, and our students have teamed together to not only help memorialize this wonderful friend but also to make a difference in the areas of cancer research and awareness in her name. In the same time frame, I attended a benefit for Mark Nardone (who happens to be one of my favorite people on earth) and watched an entire community come together. Schools breed these kind of individual and group efforts. There are an endless number of interesting and inspirational stories that occur within our little world, and we plan on sharing them on a regular basis. Hopefully, this will go towards alleviating the aforementioned depersonalization – allowing the community to see us in a much more personal light, while encouraging expression among our students and staff.
Rick Jones is the principal of John Marshall High School.