High Hopes for Year Ahead

A new year is a time to start fresh, a time to reflect on oneself and decide what things in one’s life need to be changed. While there is room for improvement across most if not all aspects of one’s life, it is important to narrow down the scope when setting personal goals. Doing so is necessary
in order to avoid getting overwhelmed and, as a result, discouraged by broad, unreasonable objectives.

We asked our staff what areas they need to work on and the majority of their answers were related, indicating many could benefit from aiming for similar progress.

Some students said they have trouble with placing themselves in others’ shoes and thus need to embrace empathy. They acknowledged that they need to be mindful of what those around them are going through and realize that everyone has their own problems at any given time.

Likewise, staff members said they could benefit from extending empathy towards themselves. Teenagers are no strangers to pressure, especially that which they put upon themselves in terms of school, sports and jobs. Many forget to be kind to themselves and as a result develop a negative self-image. These students would like to practice more self-love and accept that they are only human and cannot be perfect.

Self-compassion was also brought up by students who want to begin putting themselves first. Some said they need to stop allowing themselves to be walked over by others, as well as needing to stop spreading themselves too thin by helping others before themselves – following the principle of putting on one’s own oxygen mask before assisting others with theirs.

Several staff members responded by saying they need to improve their mental and physical health.

Their ideas for doing so involve self-care, for their minds with rest and awareness and for their bodies with a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise routine.

Students want to change their attitudes as well, in particular, their views on life to more optimistic ones. They would like to start looking at every day from a more positive perspective than they typically do in order to be able to appreciate each day they have.

Additionally, our staff spoke of wanting to become carefree. Many students struggle with nerves and over-thinking. They said they need to quit worrying about petty things and begin to give their attention to the things that actually matter.

Our staff also mentioned wanting to change their personalities to become more outgoing and extroverted people who are not afraid to put themselves out there. The idea of such self improvement is often a subject around this time of year. Everyone is setting their new year’s
resolutions and hoping to make this year better than the last. When asked what their resolutions were, our staff’s responses fell under the overarching theme of consistency.

Students want to be consistent with their good habits in the new year, habits such as volunteering, studying and working out. Some students responded with wanting to be motivated and determined as well – things that allow consistency to prosper.

Several of our staff members admit to losing their motivation halfway through activities which results in them abandoning them. Students want to become self-driven, to be strong in their initiative so as not to count on others for finding success.

Others would like to pick up new practices like journaling to get their feelings down on paper and better understand their thoughts. Reading is another thing members want to do more of in the new year. They would like for it to become a source of enjoyment and escapism, something that would allow them to put their phones down and feed their brains.

Staff members want to alter their frame of mind. Instead of longing after the lives of others, students wanted to start romanticizing their own lives – appreciating the beauty of the little things around them. While it is important to work towards self-improvement, it is vital to remember that working on oneself should not be determined by the date. It can be a journey that begins anytime during the course of the year and something that one takes breaks from now and again. A lot of pressure is put on becoming the best version of oneself with the beginning of each new year and that stress can deter people from making any progress at all.

This issue can be aided by setting goals that are both plausible and achievable. It is easy to think big when it comes to goals, and while it may be true that one can do whatever they set their mind to, it is also true that one can get themselves in over their heads.

Planning out a goal into a series of smaller goals can be helpful. When doing this, one is able to celebrate the minor successes that contribute to reaching the overall goal. Students mentioned how this method allows them to see their progress and prompts them to keep working towards what they want to accomplish.

Another way our staff members stay on track to achieve their goals is by finding the right motivation. They find it to help significantly when they ask themselves why they are setting a goal and what the goal will do for them when they reach it – therefore knowing the significance of seeing it through.

Some spoke about how they nudge themselves to keep working towards their goals by setting reminders on their phones and writing notes for themselves in order to remember what they want to achieve.

A good support system can push one to improve themselves also. Our staff thinks it’s a good idea to inform those around them, their family and friends, of their goals. That way, they can be a source of encouragement and maybe even offer a little help.

Measuring one’s success is a critical part of reaping the benefits of one’s goals. This can be done in several different ways.

Our staff members consider themselves successful by their level of personal satisfaction. Even if they have not completed their goals entirely, students say that if they feel good about their progress, they already consider themselves successful to some extent.

Furthermore, one can measure their success in self-improvement and goal-achievement in terms of where they are. One can look at where they were previously and compare it to where they are currently and where they would like to be in the future. Students say they notice how far they have come and how much they have grown when reflecting on their past selves.

While the start of a new year presents a good opportunity to start working on oneself, it can also be a root of stress. It does not have to be, with specific goal setting and a relaxed approach self-improvement taking the pressure off of making progress.

Staff Editorial

New Student Advisory Brings Hope to Media Staff

The formation of a new committee is afoot at PHS. The Student Advisory Council (SAC) is a project the administration has taken on with the hope to unite students and staff and bring about positive change to the school.

Students are excited about this, ready to have their voices heard. In order to ensure this, they have a few ideas about who should be on the council. We asked our staff who they thought would best suit the role of a Student Advisory Council member and many mentioned fellow students by name. However, these students all fit into certain demographics – ones who will represent the student body and speak in their favor.

Athletes, band members and class officers were a common answer. Additionally, those who do not participate in any activities were brought up. Students in all grades, from all backgrounds need to have their opinions made known. The main priority of our staff is to have students on the council who aren’t afraid to speak their mind and who won’t sugarcoat the school-wide issues that demand more attention.

Our staff members also have suggestions on the problems that should be raised to attention first.

An ever-popular topic is the dress code. While it is always a point of tension between students and staff, the dress code rules are still somewhat vague. Our staff believes that it needs to be clearly defined and not just subjective to teachers and administrators.

A huge issue, many of our staff members feel, is the stress that is put on the dress code in the first place. We acknowledge that it is not the teachers’ fault. They have to make sure students follow the dress code as dictated by administrators, but we believe that is the problem. We don’t think the administration quite understands what it’s like to be a student anymore – especially in these times. Many students struggle to make themselves go to school in the first place and being worried about their outfits should not be a main concern.

We believe the concern should be schoolwork, but the focus is never on academics at PHS. What school is supposed to be about is seldom, if ever touched on. This leads to the need for celebration of academically successful students. The work so many students put in to maintaining their grades is never recognized, which our staff finds to be a terrible oversight. There is no motivation for students to do well if all they ever are is looked and talked down upon.

The tardiness policy is yet another area our staff thinks could use reforming. Teachers are told to count students tardy in the mornings if they aren’t in class by 8:10 a.m. This sounds perfectly reasonable; students should be in class on time. When one factors in the context, however, being on time becomes nearly impossible. Many students are in zero hour which releases at 7:50 a.m. Students then have to walk to the locker room, shower, change their clothes, get breakfast, go to their lockers to put their backpacks away and get to class before that bell rings. When breakfast lines are halfway to the cafeteria doors with one line open the majority of the time, it is impossible for students to be in their seats by the second bell with the most important meal of the day in their system. Perhaps if school started at 8:15 a.m. like it has in the past, there were more breakfast workers to keep up with the morning rush and students were allowed to bring their backpacks to class, this would not be as difficult. This morning breakfast rush is also not taking into account bus riders who may have varying times of
arrival.

Similarly, our staff thinks that meal times are too short. With the passing period lasting five minutes and students having to go to their lockers to get their lunches or put things away, lunch is then only 25 minutes. This leads students to rushing their meals, especially when one has to wait to be called to the lunch line, which is not ideal.

Students, overall, need help. New students are one example. It is especially hard for students to move schools when they’re in high school. Everyone already has their friend groups established, so students find it tough to make a place for themselves. Even students who moved here in the last couple of years still feel somewhat isolated from others – like they haven’t been accepted yet. We think initiative needs to be taken to not only welcome these transfers, but continue to include them throughout school.

Student mental health is a big issue at PHS. With extreme stress, a never-ending workload and what is mostly viewed as a hostile learning environment, mental breakdowns are bound to happen. No student is a stranger to the fact that sometimes it is simply too hard to be at school and a break is necessary. As a result, many of us take mental health days. Our staff believes these mental health days should be provided for students and accepted as excused absences – one or so per grading period to give students a day to breathe.

We think all of these issues should be addressed by the Student Advisory Council. If they are a committee able to make a difference, the SAC needs to tackle matters that the student body cares about even if they are tough topics to fix.

Staff Editorial

Small Changes Could Make a Big Difference

On Tuesday, September 28, a new kind of two-hour delay was started to reward students for no zeros. The idea was to reward those students who have kept up with their work, and give students with missing work the chance to make it up before the end of the nine-weeks.

The effectiveness of this day is something our staff is divided on.

Several of our staff without zeros enjoyed it, and were able to participate in the activities offered or used the time to catch up on homework. But the majority of our staff did not feel it had a significant impact.

In the future we hope our school leaders could plan a field trip or letting the people who have no zeros stay home for the first two hours as an incentive to keep up on schoolwork.

But how can we avoid the need for a day like this in the future? Members of our staff were divided into two main sides: the responsibility should fall on the shoulders of the student and the responsibility should be shared between the educators and students. Our staff offered a few potential solutions.

One change we would like to see made is making assignments due at 11:59 p.m. for all teachers. A consistent turn in time might help us avoid late work penalties. Every student has been in the situation where they get on Google Classroom and see an assignment due at 3:15 p.m. or 8 a.m. the next day. Many of us have felt a collective annoyance at the changing times from class to class because we know our teachers are not going to grade our work at those times. To fix this, assignments need to be made due after school – otherwise students may be forced to use other teachers’ class time to complete their work.

Another popular suggestion was lessening our homework load. After doing assignments all day at school, no one wants to come home and have to put in even more hours of effort into academics. The same can be said for teachers who spend much of their own time outside of school grading assignments and preparing for their lessons. Although in some situations, homework cannot be avoided, but maybe more time could be given to allow students to work through some assignments in class. While students are doing their homework, teachers could catch up on grading or lesson planning. Another solution given was to allow students to have all of their homeroom to work, instead of making us do activities which take away from studying.

A few students feel a change in our learning environment, both physically and mentally, could be improved. In terms of physical discomfort, the constant variation in temperature was brought up. It is very difficult to learn when we are shivering from the cold in one room and sweating profusely in the next.

Similarly, many students feel uncomfortable asking questions in classes because they are afraid of being embarrassed, whether by their classmates or even teachers. This leads to a lack of clarity on subjects which snowballs as the year goes on and increases the chances of failure. In order to stop this and help students to get a full understanding, each classroom needs to feel like a safe and positive space which supports the asking of questions.

It’s hard for us to not feel like we are more than just a potential detention, rule-breaker, or criminal. We understand the need to follow rules in order to become law-abiding citizens, but continual condemnation takes a toll on us all, especially those of us who are not apart of this small group of rule violators. It is crucial to find a happy medium between constructive criticism and rewarding reminders. We believe teachers and administrators could concentrate on more positive things like students who have been performing well academically and those who have made improvements. Hearing others being praised for their accomplishments will encourage others to push themselves harder for the same validation, and make it known the effort we put into school does not go unseen.

Having no motivation was mutually agreed upon the reason for student failure. Many students believe how they do in school won’t affect their lives, and don’t have clear goals they are inspired to reach. We asked our staff what they use to drive themselves to get their work done – even when it gets hard. Several students had simple answers like practicing good habits such as using agendas and calendars in order to get an idea of what they need to complete and prevent themselves from forgetting something and in turn stressing over it.

Others said they just get it done, even if they procrastinate until the last minute, they are aware of the importance of their assignments and make it come together in the end. Even if you don’t complete an assignment, just doing half of it is better than none. That 50% won’t hurt your grade as much as a zero.

The majority of our staff members said focusing on the future is the most helpful thing for them – by thinking about the consequences that will occur if they don’t do their work. One student mentioned incorporating a method they used at their old school which involved making an index card or a slideshow that listed the things they wanted in the future (ex: a college degree, a big house, a specific job) and what they needed to do in order to get there. It all starts here at school, acquiring habits and strategies which will help us throughout our lives. After all, as soon as we graduate, how we did in
school gives us the options for our futures.

Staff Editorial

Survey Says: We Need Help

Hannon is Stressed — And You Are Too

Recently, I sent out a survey to staff and students asking two questions: on a scale of one to five, how overwhelmed are you on a day-to-day basis, and what do you do to cope with that stress. The results were concerning. Of the 169 who replied, 82.7 percent of those surveyed placed themselves at a three or higher for how overwhelmed they feel.

For the second question, “What do you do to cope with stress?” there were two common answers that really stood out. One was that many people turn to music to help them deal with their stressors and emotions.

Music Helps

This is not a new strategy unique to our school. According to research done by the American Psychological Association, listening to music increases the body’s production of antibodies and reduces stress hormone levels. Students may not understand the science behind it, but they know that music has a powerful effect on how they feel. As a music student, I have firsthand experience with the benefits of music. Playing my instrument is always therapeutic, as it is something I do not have to think about. I can just let my feelings flow through me and come out as something beautiful. When it is not convenient to play an instrument, just popping in my earbuds and listening to my favorite albums and instrumental music helps improve my mood and takes my mind off of things.

On Earbuds

Our current policy prohibits headphones in the classroom and blocks most streaming services on student Chromebooks. Could a change to the headphone policy provide a resource for students who could benefit from the stress-relieving properties of listening to music?

In my opinion, yes. I believe our policy should be updated to make music more accessible to students whenever there is time to do so without the possibility of classroom disruption.

Mindfulness

Other than listening to music, the answer that really stood out was that many students just do not know how to cope with being overwhelmed. They do not have the tools to help them get through tough situations. This is concerning, as students and teachers alike are under rigorous performance standards, and with no way to deal with that stress, it can have negative effects. There is a possible solution to this issue that has already been implemented at Throop.

Kara Schmidt, a community member and founder of SoINBody, began working with elementary students before the pandemic, teaching them mindfulness and yoga skills. She also did a trial run with Carol Fullington’s 2019- 2020 speech classes, coming in twice a week to practice mindfulness and yoga with high school students. I had the opportunity to be in that speech class, and those mindfulness lessons were some of the most helpful things I have learned in my high school career. I think this sort of experience should be available for all students at the high school, seeing as we are more vulnerable to mental strain as a result of our education. The easiest option would be to create a mindfulness club which meets once a week during homeroom or even after school, giving students a chance to take a break and practice something that could be beneficial for them.

Talking about mindfulness can be difficult because there is just not enough common knowledge on the subject for most people to really know much about it and how to practice it. However, if the school implemented new policies and programs which had students’ best interests in mind, and that engaged in mindfulness improvement, we might see our data shift in a more positive direction.

Story by Michael Hannon

Step Away from the Screen

Platforms Become More Toxic When Mixed with Misinformation

Since the very birth of social media, it’s use has been a highly debated and controversial topic. It’s destructive – rotting youth’s brains, destroying their capacity for empathy, ruining people’s ability to distinguish between what’s real and what’s fake. We’ve heard it all. On the other hand nothing can bring people together quite like the latest Tik Tok dance trend.

No one is more aware of the impact of social media than the most active users: teenagers (that’s us!). Because we are so often engaged in social media, we know firsthand the impact it can have on our lives. It’s no secret what’s going on in the head of a teen isn’t always pretty and the majority of us struggle with our mental stability on a daily basis. Many times, the issues can be traced back to social media and its hold on us.

Common byproducts of social media usage are not limited to depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, etc. These occur in response to the content we’re being presented with, whether it’s false narratives on issues related to health care being pushed, the consumption of overwhelmingly hateful material, or a more personal encounter of online drama and cyberbullying.

Quarantine

Especially now, in the midst of a pandemic, we are susceptible to a decline in emotional well-being and either the influx of new mental illness symptoms or the worsening of preexisting ones. Coupled with exposure to the toxicity of online platforms, our online world is a lethal combination with the potential to lead one down a very difficult path.

When quarantined, we spent enormous amounts of time scrolling through feeds and this increase in screen-time on social apps can be extremely detrimental to one’s state of mind – depending on what it is you’re looking at.

Staff’s Answer’s

Since our staff consists solely of teenage students, we thought they’d be the perfect people to ask for opinions on and personal experiences with social media.

We asked which social media platform our staff found to be the most toxic and the answers were all over the place. Several students said Instagram, due to the false image many users convey and the use of editing apps like FaceTune that take it even further. Some replied with TikTok because of the diversity of views on different subjects and the tendencies of people to attack those with perspectives other than their own. Twitter and Facebook were mentioned for the seemingly constant gossip on them. Students also said Snapchat because of the anonymity of the platform and the fact users so often bash other users on it.

On Being Aware

On the contrary to the leisurely use of social media, we rely on social media to receive our news and get the latest updates – now more than ever. In the age of the coronavirus, factual accuracy is of the utmost importance. One would think that would be easy to determine, right? Wrong. So much misinformation is spread which can easily fool people, whether you’re typically naive or not. This can be extremely harmful for people who take highly liked posts as gospel and take advice for things off of platforms without checking up on the source or consulting anyone else.

People take advice everyday for physical health, mental health, etc. that could seriously hurt them. For example, someone might watch a TikTok on how someone lost a lot of weight and follow that person’s routine when it may not be right for them physically or mentally. This can lead to eating disorders and other health issues. People give mental health advice as well, making others think that professional help isn’t necessary and likely making their problems worse.

The Upside

Although there are probably more negative sides of social media than you can count, it has its perks too. Mainly, people are able to stay connected with one another. This was particularly evident in 2020, when families and friends were separated all over the world without much ability to remain active in each other’s lives. So many moments were missed in-person due to the coronavirus, though they were posted on social media platforms for those people to see. It may not have been the same as if they’d been there physically, but it was better than nothing as one of the only forms of interaction available.

Social media has its upsides and downsides, but overall the emphasis should be put on the mindset and attitude of the user.

We are responsible for how we approach social media, how seriously we take it. It is our job to always be mindful of the content we’re consuming, however significant or trivial, whether it’s a news report or a TikTok gag. In order to protect our mental health and prevent ourselves from contributing to the spread of false information, we’ve got to stay aware.

Staff Editorial