Creating a better support system

Although it may often be an under appreciated issue, the most important conversation we need to be having as a school right now is that of setting up our support systems.

Whether we like it or not, we, as students, need a strong support network. We need a group of people to be ther for us in our toughest times, and to advise us on our future. We are still only teenagers, unable to always make the tough decisions. We still need the support of our elders.

The current support system we have in the high school – based around a dean system – works well for the most part.

Students are able to get the advice that they need from someone with experience, and when times are difficult, they have someone they can talk to.

But, as I see it, a crucial piece of our support network risks being undermined by new initiatives developed by the administration. This key piece: Trust.

New policies are being developed to ensure that students don’t fall through the cracks. Emails are automatically sent home when students perform badly in a course, deans are notified when a student fails a test, and the attendance policy has been strengthened to ridiculous levels. Put simply, the cracks have been filled.

But by beginning the implementation of these new policies, the administration has set up a situation where the student’s responsibility for maintaining a support network has been taken away. By going over a students head and making sure that all important-parties know a student is struggling, the crucial aspect of self-responsibility has been taken away.

It is being made so that it is no longer our job to seek help. Students should be the ones to tell their deans that they are struggling in a class. Students should be the ones to tell their deans that they’re having a hard time with a friend. Students should be the ones who are responsible for getting to class.

The best option for reforming this system is not to strictly-regulate our lives, but to improve the available avenues for offering us support. The concept of developing an advisory system instead of a dean system is a good one. Having someone who we can build a relationship with, perhaps even more so than in our current dean system, is an excellent way to force us to build a strong support network.

But the solution has to be greater than just having a stronger relationship with one adult in the school. An environment has to be created where students are forced to take ownership for getting themselves the support they need, and not a system where we are spied on from afar to make sure we don’t mess up. The only thing I can think of that would force this environment to form is mandatory, regular meetings with a student’s dean, a trusted teacher, or in the future, their advisor.

All too often students ignore the help that is so readily available to them, making the safety net that has formed necessary. For a school that prides itself on creating “future leaders” it needs to allow us a bit of independence.

 ian_scoville@asl.org