Opinion: Scholars in Need of Perspective

May 1, 2018


I am writing this to address the letter published last week in The Catalyst, along with the subsequent comments, rumors, and complaints I have heard from the student body (mostly the upperclassmen).

First and foremost, I want to make it clear that despite being in disagreement with Molly’s letter, I did not, and would never, discourage her or any scholar from writing a letter to the editor. Students are always free to submit letters when they are frustrated by a school policy, and as long as they are well-written and appropriate, they will be considered for publication. That is the very definition of a democracy, and as The Catalyst advisor and former journalist, neither I nor the administration ever want the students to feel like they do not have a voice.

That being said, sometimes I think teenagers tend to forget how their words sound, or where exactly those words land.

I want to remind the scholars, some of whom seem to think that receiving a diploma from The ASK Academy would be the worst thing in the world, how much extra time and effort the staff has put into making sure this school is the best that it can be.

Our prom—which was the most highly attended prom in ASK history—was put on by our  motivated and hard-working Dance Committee, who raised money all year long. That being said, we still did not have enough money to afford the dance that the student body wanted, and Mr. Barbour and the administration immediately stepped up to fund the rest of the dance—without blinking an eye. Despite us being a STEM school (and thus, some may argue, meaning all the money in our minimal budget should go solely to STEM-related activities)  the administration values the student body and recognizes that if an elaborate prom is what the scholars want, they will make it happen.

Every year, Ms. April collects dresses and promware for students who may want to go to prom but can’t afford it. Every year the staff pitches in with their own money to sponsor tickets for students who may be stressed out about covering the costs. Every year, a group of teachers stay until midnight chaperoning the night for you guys. Do you know how much Ms. April and the staff gets paid to give up our weekend for the student body? Nothing. We do it for the scholars we love.

The school has been working tirelessly on a graduation celebration—both the ceremony and the rehearsal dinner—putting in time, effort, and money. This is not a requirement. Our graduations used to be small and to the point, but each year we try to add something special for you guys, because we love to celebrate your journey right along with you and your parents. As the person in charge of graduation, I have included scholars in the ceremony, asked your opinions, spent hours tracking down baby photos for the senior slideshow, contacted venues and paper shops, all to make sure that the senior class has the best graduation we can possibly put on for them. Do you know how much I get paid to spend hours planning senior graduation? Nothing. I do it for the scholars I love.

Ms. Shimada has been racing the clock, putting in hours to make sure seniors graduate on time, meeting with students who are struggling emotionally, financially or academically, so that every student has a chance to walk down the stage and receive their diploma.

Ms. Pink just spent the past week chaperoning a group of teenagers across country to allow them a chance to compete in a world championship. She does it for the benefit of the scholars she loves.

Across the campus, starting at the middle school level, managers are staying after school, giving up their weekends and precious free time, responding to emails at all hours of the day, organizing trips around the world so that you have the opportunity to participate in competitions that build your experience, knowledge, and opportunities in the future. Again, we don’t get paid to do this, we do it for the scholars we love.

Mr. Busse works tirelessly to figure out the delicate balance of scholars, parents, and staff. He has stayed committed to his open-door policy since day one; he will meet and hear out any staff member or scholar who has an issue, even if it means putting his miles long to-do list on hold. That’s not his job, and he doesn’t get paid extra to allow students to sit down in his office and vent. Mr. Barbour, likewise, puts in countless hours and yet is always willing to do more. They do it because they care.

So I guess that as the year comes to a close, it’s awfully disheartening to hear entitlement, complaints, and sentiments such as “I would be ashamed to graduate from this institution” or “I only stuck around because of my friends” or “My teachers don’t teach me anything, I go home and learn everything myself,” instead of “thank you.”

To hear students rip apart the school, our teaching style, the classrooms, and to focus on rumors about the future that may or may not even happen, certainly makes me question why I bother to work through the weekend and late into the night to plan these extra activities for the student body. It makes me wonder why I bother to stop you in the hallway when I can tell you have had a really hard day, and check in on you after I know you have gone through a breakup, or ask for your genuine feedback on assignments.

What’s frustrating is a lot of the complaints are unfounded. I know in my classes, we have quite a few projects each quarter. I hear about the cool things kids are doing at the high school level from many of my colleagues. So a few managers give nothing but worksheets? Guess what? Worksheets are important, and more importantly, they prepare you for college—we prepare you for college. You will be able to spit back the content and material on the ACT or SAT to get you into those prestigious colleges, and these prestigious colleges you are trying to get into will be dishing out a whole bunch of book work, so now is as good a time as ever to understand that different professors (and different bosses) have different teaching styles. Learn to adapt—it’s an incredibly important life skill.

Yes, I would agree the school has changed. We grew. We moved. We added a couple of grades. We hired new managers from all walks of life. I know change is scary, but once again, everything changes. Six years ago, when I first started at ASK, Model UN didn’t exist. Trips to Japan for robotics were not an option. School proms were held in the commons of a tiny campus, AP courses were few and far between, and the after-school activities were limited. In my time here, I have watched this school grow into something pretty fantastic. We have kids winning competitions on all levels, we have above average test scores, we have foreign exchange students come here—and stay! We have sports! We have a place to call our own. With change and growth comes growing pains, but to say that ASK has “gone down hill,” without focusing on any of the positive aspects is inaccurate.  And again, it makes me question why I do all of the things I do for the scholars I love.

I don’t know if the school-wide phone ban will take place next year. But here is what I do know: I am paid to make sure you are prepared for your future. I am paid to make sure you pass the tests required for graduation. Essentially, that is it. All the rest that we do as teachers is for the love of our content, for the love of education, and for the love of you guys. And if you are being disrespectful and snapchatting/texting/gaming while I am presenting a lesson, or while your classmates are talking, you can bet I will be removing the distraction from my classroom. I have seen all scholars (even the “high achieving” ones) struggle to put the phones down, and I am tired of enabling the addiction. The inability to detach from electronics contributes to the NC rate, jeopardizing graduation and requiring the staff to once again go above and beyond for credit recovery.

If you can’t put the phones down for more than one class period, then that’s a problem, and as your manager—the person paid to make sure you graduate—I will do what is necessary.

I am speaking to the collective student body here—if that feels unfair to you, by all means, try a larger, impersonal school. Take study hall, office aide, have late arrival and early release. Get a mediocre education. I challenge you to find a staff and administration that cares about you as much as we do, that invests in your well-being at all levels, and does not allow you to settle for average.

In the meantime, the staff and administration will keep fighting for each and every one of you, even if you believe it is all a lie.

Ms. Del Curto, ASK Manager


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