Schedule updates create extra time, obstacles
October 4, 2022
Column: First quarter reveals advisory period challenges, limitations
Consistency. Consistency would have been the ideal circumstance throughout my high school experience. Being a senior this school year, the past three years have been anything but consistent, leadership-wise. Two different superintendents, two different principals, various new assistant principals as well as counselors. Having new people in administration every year has led this year to look the most different to me, especially due to the new rules implemented.
As we conclude the first quarter, the advisory period is the most significant change I have seen — and the one that took the most getting used to. At the beginning of the school year, I found myself hung up about why some students could meet with their clubs or organizations, but I, a member of various clubs and organizations, could not meet with mine. The band could go to the band hall. The Talonettes could go to the dance room, and the choir could meet in the choir room. But the newspaper staff can’t meet with the other members of ENO during these productive 25 minutes – a big loss as ENO was able to get a lot done last year because of Eagle Time, such as interviews for articles, editing and podcast recording. As well, advisory is considered “active study time”, meaning students are not allowed to talk to each other. Although some teachers are not enforcing this policy, most are forbidding students to make conversation with other students. So how are supposed to have a support system when we can’t even talk to other people?
Being the Chief Operating Officer of ENO, it is very important that I can communicate with the rest of the team, which was done mostly in Eagle Time. I was also hit hard because I am not in the regular newspaper class period, but rather in another class taught by the same teacher, due to schedule conflicts. Once the new rules took the Eagle Time meeting option away, I found myself struggling to get up in the morning earlier than usual, to come to school to meet with the team, which is the only time we are able to meet during the school day.
I am definitely not the only student in this position, as I also have many friends impacted by these changes as well. Pretty much all other clubs or UIL academic activities can only meet before or after school, which is inconvenient – and sometimes impossible – for those without transportation or who have jobs. I have friends who are involved in clubs or even started them, who cannot continue with them because of inevitable scheduling conflicts. Now, they find themselves only able to be involved in fewer, or even no clubs and organizations, which can weaken their college applications and resumes. They also have fewer opportunities to build relationships with other students.
Most seniors are going to be legal adults by the time we graduate, but we are being treated with the same rules as kids who are barely teenagers.
— Neena Sidhu
While I do appreciate the thought of advisory — for students to have a support system and safety for students — it is just inconvenient and a big change, especially for upperclassmen. Freshmen and other students who are just coming to PHS for the first time aren’t used to this system and could thrive under the new rules. But, when the seniors have had four years of different looking Eagle Times, it is hard to all of a sudden have an overwhelming amount of limiting structure. After all, most seniors are going to be legal adults by the time we graduate, but we are being treated with the same rules as kids who are barely teenagers.
Although not ideal, I understand that advisory is a solution to issues that come with having 3,400 plus students. If there was an emergency, the advisory period lets administrators and teachers know exactly where students are. It also is more convenient for administrators to know where students are when they are being checked out by parents. With the opening of the district’s new Walnut Grove High School next school year, I hope that students do not have to feel as stuck as I do at this moment. The opening of the school will help alleviate overcrowding, which also could help loosen advisory strictness.
While the advisory period isn’t my favorite thing this school has ever put in place, in these past nine weeks, I have learned to accept that it is what it is, and I might as well make the most of it. Admittedly, it is a good time to build relationships with others in the class (if we can even find a second to talk against the rules), receive information from the school, and get a little bit of homework done.
New changes to Eagle Time affect students
As crowds fill the hallways on their way to the advisory period, students adjust to one of the changes implemented by the new high school principal Nicholas Jones – the replacement of last year’s Eagle Time period with new “advisory” classes.
After the second period each day, students go to their advisory classroom with a specific, assigned teacher. The individual class groups and their teachers will remain together until the students graduate high school.
“It (Eagle Time) was helpful for the students that used it appropriately, but there were the students that abused it and just wandered the halls,” Jones said. “One thing advisory is going to provide – once we get past the first couple of weeks of going through rules and things like that – is 25 minutes of homework time for every single student to work on. It’s really important for all of our kids to have time built into the day to do work that they need to do because a lot of our kids aren’t able to do that sometimes at home or after school because they’re involved in activities.”
In previous years, Eagle Time allowed students who received a draft request from teachers, to visit classes for academic tutorials, study halls, or group meetings.
“I used to be able to use Eagle Time to go to my different classes and get help when needed, but now I no longer have that opportunity,” junior Lucy Young said. “Because I drive all my siblings to school, I’m not able to come in during the mornings to get help, and the only other time available is after school when I go straight to work and then practice for Lacrosse. Managing homework and trying to find time for questions has become very stressful. All this stress and anxiety of trying to do well in school, but managing everything else on top of it, takes a big toll on my mental health.”
Some students also used Eagle Time to host and attend club meetings.
“I am honestly not very fond of this decision. It isn’t helping me grow and just adding more to my schedule outside of school,” sophomore Arushima Swaroop said. “Because of Eagle Time last year, I was able to participate in a variety of clubs and work on them. I also looked forward to going to these club meetings because it served as a break from school for me. Since advisory has a curriculum this year, I don’t even have much time to work on homework. Much of that time is also spent walking to and from my advisory class.”
Club meetings are now held before or after school.
“I know all of our officers looked forward to those meetings,” Swaroop said. “They were the highlight of our week. Eagle Time is when we planned out all the activities our club would participate in. People have to move things around in their personal lives now to make it to club and officer meetings.”
Swaroop is the founder of STEMMA – the science mentoring club at PHS.
“Not as many new freshmen will want to join any new clubs this year because of the time commitment,” Swaroop said. “It will be harder for them to try new things as well. Eagle Time was the one thing that let me divulge and explore the school as someone new to the district.”
PHS hosts a variety of clubs, from the French Club to the Junior World Affairs Council.
“Changing Eagle Time to advisory has negatively impacted our lives,” sophomore Sofia Popal said. “Before, we used Eagle Time as a brain break or a study hall, neither of which are possible (now). We are not allowed to play games in advisory (or partake in clubs) and due to our advisory being in the portables, the journey to get to the class and the shorter class period leads to little time to get work done.”
Sophomores Popal and Sarah Goddard founded the Card Club.
“One of the main purposes of the club being founded was to serve as a brain break that would force students to take a step back from work and do something fun,” Goddard said. “It’s also easier to meet during Eagle Time than after school. When meeting after school, you have to worry about who’s picking you up, if you have enough time to go, if it conflicts with your schedule, and many more things that may vary from person to person. When meeting during Eagle Time, you don’t have any of these worries or extra stresses.”
Safety concerns played a role in the decision to make the changes. In the event of an emergency, the new format allows administrators to know exactly where students are located during the period. It also allows office staff the ability to notify students quickly when parents need to check them out of school for appointments.
“I think that if the school is going to force us to be in a classroom that isn’t any of our actual classes just to keep us ‘safe’ and ‘happy,’ they should at least let us choose who we would like to be with if we would like to do so,” senior Neha Patel said. “Of course, they don’t have to agree to every request, but because all students will be in this advisory for the rest of their high school career, accommodating the people in their class to people they are comfortable with, would be a lot more mentally healthy than putting us in random classes with random teachers and other random students to promote well being.”
Teachers serve as sponsors for clubs. Due to other responsibilities of the teachers, some schedule conflicts have risen.
“Our sponsor Ms. Launa White, also sponsors Science UIL, and we are having to wait for the schedule to come out, so we can work around it,” Popal said. This was not an issue last year, as the Science UIL meetings were after school, and the Card Club previously meetings (were held) during the school day.”
The advisory teachers check with the students daily to monitor their academic participation – grades.
“It (advisory) also provides time if kids are struggling in some of our larger subjects – math or science and social studies, to get intervention with specific teachers during that time,” Jones said. “The extra help for kids that really needed it in specific subjects. And, I do think the transition time is worth it.”
Advisory is also meant to allow students to bond with their advisory teacher and fellow students as they will meet together every school day until graduation.
“It gives me time to work on my assignments, so I don’t have to do it later,” junior Keeley Dailey said. “Also, my advisory teachers, Ms. Giles and Mr. Whiteside, are really nice and have created a good environment already for us to work in.”
Advisory teachers also try to have individual conferences with each student at least once each week.
“I like that we can have one-on-one time with our teacher to work on our grades,” senior Ava Rarey said. “I’ve never really had that type of aid from a teacher before.”
Jones said the administration is open to addressing student concerns.
“With a few small adjustments, we can make all students happy,” Jones said. “I think advisory is worth it.”
This article recieved updates for additional information and reporting from Jake Radcliffe and Mithra Cama. This article was last updated 4:04 p.m. Aug. 30.