Video by Georgia Wimmer
Westside uses various strategies to promote self-respect
In-Depth Coordinator, Emily Kutler
So many things outside of school can get in the way of self-respect. Whether you are balancing a part-time job, extracurriculars and homework, or overcoming struggles with mental health, it is important that students feel the respect they need to be successful at school.
If a school fails to provide an environment where students are respected, then a school is failing to provide the opportunity for students to learn how to respect themselves. This type of environment is toxic. Students will not be empowered to respect themselves in an environment they feel does not even respect them.
Westside Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Dr. Mark Weichel said that Westside’s vision statement emphasizes the importance of looking deeper into what helps students be successful. Weichel said he feels that humans in general are going to perform better when they feel respected and the district works to recognize this.
He said that the district concentrates on many other things besides just boosting test scores. The Gallup polls that students in fifth through twelfth grade take during the year help the district to make improvements to enrich the learning environment. Results from statements such as “the adults at my school care about me” and “I feel safe in this school” are taken into consideration as the district aims to improve Westside’s learning environment. On a scale of one to five- five being the best- the district scored a 4.05 for the question “I feel safe in the school” compared to the U.S. over- all score of 3.89.
“Our one goal for the district is to maximize student engagement and achievement, and those two things go hand in hand,” Weichel said. “So I think that whole engagement piece is respecting students, listening to what they believe, what they want and what they feel.”
Weichel said one of the biggest ways the district has focused on improving this is through personalized learning. He said that the whole idea behind personalized learning is knowing your learner. The district developed the strategy called voice and choice to do this.
“When students have an opportunity to have voice and choice in their own learning, then you want to come to school,” Weichel said.
Another strategy used by the district is the modular scheduling that the high school uses. This is another example of a method that empowers students to feel respected at school. If a student has the power to choose more courses they are interested in, then it will contribute to them knowing that they have the ability to do what they do best.
As a society, it is helpful to remember the importance of creating a respectful environment for the overall success of students. A school cannot just be proud of good test scores if they are not listening to and respecting the needs of students. Setting students up for success in the real world, has to start in school.
Graphic by Julia Steiner
How stress at school influences self-respect
Wired Staff Writer, Elizabeth Robinson
When trying to explain the idea of high school to a little kid who’s excited to grow up, an average student would respond with, “stay little forever” or “there is so much homework”. For junior Ashley Rogers who is involved in marching band and poetry club, stress plays a huge role in her life.
“I think I’ve reached that point in my life where I’m so stressed out that I don’t even feel stressed out,” Rogers said. “I’ll put off assignments to the point where I’m so stressed out about them that I won’t even do them.”
History teacher Nathan Bramley said students of his are extremely stressed over many small school-related occurrences. He feels that students are worried very early in the year about keeping a good GPA.
“There are some students who get really hung up over grades, especially early in the year,” Bramley said. “There are some small assignments affecting their grades in powerschool and it’s stuff that wouldn’t affect their grade long-term, but it affects the grade in powerschool so they’ll be crying.”
Rogers said she finds that as students move through high school the stress increases with the topic of college being brought up.
“I think especially since now I am a junior, and the topic of college is being brought up, I am definitely a lot harder on myself about my grades because this is the pivotal moment or pivotal year that makes or breaks my ability to go to the colleges I want to,” Rogers said.
Rogers shared one particular time when she was extremely stressed earlier this year. Rogers had a very busy night and had an essay due at midnight; she felt like a terrible student for waiting until the last minute. Rogers said self-respect is an important thing to have but thinks school has a negative effect on students self-respect.
“I do notice sometimes when assignments are due I’ll be like ‘wow, I’m really bad at school’ and those kinds of negative things” Rogers said.
Bramley thinks students let labels and school define their self-worth, and students try to hold themselves to an impossible standard. Bramley finds students are too wrapped up in their grades and how their grades represent who they are.
“I think that sometimes people put too much pressure on themselves to be some sort of an idealized version of themselves,” Bramley said.
Rogers wants to urge students to change their mindset about themselves and their abilities in school.
“I’d probably say you’re worth more than your ability to produce a paper, you’re more than your grades,” Rogers said. “It’s not like you get out of high school and then you’re just immediately an adult and you have to have everything figured out. Life flows and everything in life flows. You don’t have to make all these decisions and not all these decisions are extremely permanent. I think that’s going to help a lot with the stress and in turn you’re going to feel a lot better about yourself.”
When looking back, Bramley said he found that his biggest regrets relate to not putting forth the effort. According to Bramley, effort can change the way a student approaches school and ultimately how they feel about themselves.
“If you try your hardest at something, it hurts sometimes when you fail but when I look back, it’s not the things I didn’t accomplish, it’s when I didn’t put forth the effort,” Bramley said. “If you try hard and treat people the right way, then I think that in the long-run you’ll have self-respect.”
Students find confidence through Poetry Club
Lance Opinion Editor, Maryam Akramova
“Giving voice to the voiceless.” This statement seems to resound with the members of Poetry Club, also known as Louder than a Bomb. Poetry means something profoundly different to each of the members, but a similar theme echoes across the club: speak out, say something and have a voice. Senior Katheryn Monochie and junior Zarifeh Patterson both joined the club because of a love for writing and a desire to express themselves. They said they believe they’ve learned different skills and came to realize something more about themselves.
Walking around on club fair day her freshman year, Monochie noticed something out of the norm. A booth with people who were “funky” and wore what they wanted. She was curious, she said, and had come up to them and engaged in a conversation. She then became interested in what they called Poetry Club. While talking with the students in the club, she realized the club was for her.
“[The club members] were really kind to me,” Monochie said. “I realized, ‘Wow, I really like this.’”
Patterson said he joined Poetry Club because he also liked writing, and that it provides him a different way to be heard.
“I joined Poetry Club because I wanted a place where I could express myself without any judgement, but I’m also a fan of poetry in general,” Patterson said.
Monochie is now the president of the club. Her job includes telling people about the events and giving feedback on the poetry the other members write. But as president, the club is more than that to her.
“I try my best to be a motherly figure and a lot of people in the club are like my kids,” Monochie said.
She gives information to the members about the season and the competitions. The competitions all have rounds called bouts and the participants are promised two bouts. After that, if the team does well they can continue on to the next stage of the competition. The scores are determined by random audience members that score the participants on a scale of one through ten. Last year, Westside’s team made it past semi-finals and got second place. This, according to Monochie, was a huge accomplishment.
The club has changed since Monochie’s freshmen year, going from four to around 15 dedicated people.
Patterson said he really enjoyed the competitions. The competitions helped him find a community of people who he can relate to.
“You hear somebody else’s poem and it might enlighten you and it might reach out to you,” Patterson said. “You’re like, ‘Oh my god that happened to me. I didn’t think it happened to anybody else. I’m glad somebody is speaking up for me.’”
It’s not just the competitions that offer a strong community bond, but the club as well.
Monochie describes the club as a safe place for students. Because of this safety, she said she has also is able to change and understand herself better.
“Just having a place where I can put my thoughts out into the world without judgement has really helped me come to terms with myself as a person,” Monochie said.
Patterson also sensed the strong community bonds and became more self-reflective.
“[Poetry Club] helped me find myself,” Patterson said. “I learned a lot about expression of myself.”
The members of the club have also helped Monochie and Patterson through rough times. For Monochie, it’s the shared experiences and understanding that make a difference when dealing with challenges.
“The little things make you feel not so crazy,” Monochie said.
Patterson said he believes the club helps with anxiety and being able to share his thoughts.
“Even if I don’t ever present a poem I can read it to this wonderful group of people,” Patterson said. “If somebody starts to cry everybody gives each other a big hug. I think it really helps with social anxiety and emotional anxiety.”
Monochie said she has also learned to be less shy and kinder through the club.
“We are all just here, living our best lives,” Monochie said. “So just be nice to people.”
Patterson said he also noticed that others have changed and become more confident because of the club.
“I think they like themselves more,” Patterson said. “I really think [the club] is a good environment and helps people understand themselves.”
Monochie said that all are welcome and encourages people to come and listen.
“Anyone who feels like they’re kind of stuck, [the club is] a good place for them to come and get unstuck,” Monochie said.
From left to right, junior Zarifeh Patterson, senior Rebecca Onken, alumn Gillian Herrera, senior Katheryn Monochine preforming their group piece at the Holland Preforming Arts Center for Louder than a Bomb Finals.
Photo by Rebecca Henry