The Hawk's Eye

Course Selections Article

By: Annie Steuart and Sofiya Lyall

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Do you feel like you are stranded in the desert? Do you feel like you are an Athenian student stranded in the wilderness with no water and food, terrifyingly close to DEATH? If this is you, listen we’re finna drop some knowledge…

Contrary to the PsYchEdelIc imagery that our graphic suggests, this is actually an article on course selection at Head Royce.  It has come to our attention that students often find themselves in a hopeless, stranded-in-a-desert like condition because they are taking classes they find uninteresting. We have heard students complain time and time again about the obscene stress they face each time they step into their accelerated math class, or their challenging AP science classes. Invariably, when a question is posed to students regarding the reason they subject themselves to classes they so abhor, the response is something along the lines of ‘It looks better on a college transcript.’

At Head Royce, and in California specifically, there is a stigma surrounding what qualifies intelligence. Often, it seems it is defined by your ability to stay afloat in advanced math and science classes. Though it is understandable that schools in California put an emphasis on STEM courses, given the revenue coming from technological innovation in Silicon Valley, it nonetheless frankly demeaning to students with a predisposition for different subjects. To impose a system upon students which encourages them to prioritize math and science courses, despite the fact that these courses are not appealing to everyone, creates a burnt-out, uninspired student body who take classes not out of passion for the subject matter, but simply to appeal to a college board which prioritizes a certain type of learner. It is critical that students are encouraged to take classes that they are genuinely interested in, so that they can eventually develop skills in a subject they are passionate about. This means that outside of core classes, the only question that should be asked while scheduling  is “What are you interested in?” Currently, it feels like emphasis is placed upon classes that will “challenge” you and therefore make you look more appealing to colleges. But what if you just rode out your desert trip a little bit, found something you were legitimately interested in and went DEEEP MAHN? Classes that challenge you are certainly beneficially and in most cases, inevitable, but, if given a choice, make sure you opt for a class that is not EARTH-SHATTERINGLY DIFFICULT or overly unpleasant.

In addition, this prioritization of STEM courses creates a power divide between different fields of learning, and makes students who may possess a different type of intelligence feel inferior, and unrespected by their administration and fellow peers. More broadly, by encouraging students to select courses which do not develop their own strengths, we condemn our youth to the idea that life is about suffering through insurmountable obstacles in order to achieve some form of pay-off in the distant future. While teaching youth the importance of perseverance is certainly laudable; compelling students to increase the time they spend on subjects they feel no emotional connection to or aptitude for is detrimental, in that it discourages students to develop skills in classes they are passionate about. By forcing students to waste their time absorbing and regurgitating information they have no interest in, we create an education system interested purely in a transactional experience, one devoid of true meaning and so far removed from real-world application, students lose all sense of purpose, and eventually lose all excitement for learning.

Those who favor the humanities shouldn’t feel obligated to necessarily take that harder math class if it is really going to be digging into time that they could be sleeping or doing something beneficial to one’s health. There shouldn’t be comments like: “Oh but he/she is in the easier math class” as if this is somehow a testament of your intelligence or willingness to put in effort. And the best part is, if you want to go to Death Valley and collect GEODES and like be obsessed with that, you should have time in your schedule to do so. Passion can be hard to find when you are just grinding through the everyday, uninterested in what it is you are actually doing. Interestingly as well, when you are feeling fulfilled and excited to learn, I think feeling excited about something is much easier. FIND YOUR GEODES MY G’S.

Advice to Second Semester Juniors

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Dear Juniors,

 

You feel tired, stressed, over-worked, and overwhelmed. Days have begun to blend together, school to sports to homework to sleep to school, and you are smack in the middle of it all. Having recently completed Junior year at the School, I know how you’re feeling, and I’m here to help. The following is a compilation of advice, from a previously over-worked and overwhelmed Junior, for how to complete the remainder of the year as smoothly and successfully as possible.

First, find a space where you work well. For me, this space is the Orinda Public Library. I’m no physicist (Bio and Neuro all the way!), but I truly believe that time passes slower within the library’s walls. Assignments that would normally take an hour are done within minutes. I work best with a table, a lamp, a chair, earplugs, and silence. Find your place, whether it’s your bed with Spotify in the background, or your kitchen table among your family members.

Next, sleep. I’ve completed dozens of school weeks on four to five hours of sleep per night. It’s possible, but it’s more stressful and less efficient. Although working until one or two a.m. allows for more homework time, it’s ultimately not worth it. The curriculum may seem insurmountable, but it is not so vast as to require keeping such late hours. You can go to bed at ten or eleven p.m. every night; it just takes discipline, prioritization, and organization. I recently started using an app called Sleep Cycle, which allows you to track different characteristics of your sleep including length and quality. Moreover, you can set daily “sleep notes” to fill out right before going to bed (these only take ten seconds) including eating habits, water intake, and athletic activities. Sleep notes both help determine if certain factors of your day are affecting how you sleep and serve as positive reinforcement. For example, one of my sleep notes is “Productive and Efficient,” and it always feels really good to be able to click “yes” after a busy day. I’d definitely recommend giving the app a try, plus it’s free!

Work around your commitments (literally). If you had plans to see your friend but haven’t finished your math homework, bring it to their house (they probably haven’t done it either). If you’re going to a concert on a school night, read your Western Civ passage on Bart. Studying with friends or out of your normal spaces is not always as successful, but you may find that it works for you.

Hydrate. Between all of your commitments, you are undoubtedly exhausted, so give your body what it needs. Try to drink eight cups (64 oz.) (two nalgenes) of water every day. Your mood, physical and mental fatigue, and efficiency will improve. Bring a water bottle to every class.

Take your new responsibilities seriously, such as standardized testing, APs, and college workshops. These duties constitute the main difference between Sophomore and Junior Year. The amount of work does not dramatically increase; it’s all the extra stuff that you have to do on top of it that makes school harder. It’s easy to put such duties off, especially when some of it may seem superfluous; however, all your dedication will pay off. It’s the small things that lay the foundation for what is to come.

One successful way to tackle Junior year is to establish a routine, which has been the main focus of this article thus far. Routines, however, can quickly become overbearing. Many students feel guilty or restless when they are not working, even if they are not behind. So breathe. Relax. Take a moment. Not only will you feel better, but you will probably be more productive afterwards than if you had studied the whole time.

Finally, as recently embodied by rising NBA star Joel Embiid, “trust the process.” Junior year is meant to be difficult and crazy. You’ve already completed over half of it and are all more capable than you imagine. You’ve got this! Hang in there.

 

Sincerely,

Zack  

The Dangers of Plastic Water Bottles

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Plastic bottles are being sold around the world every single day.  They are easily attainable in grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations.  However, there has been a recent concern about the safety of these water bottles. In fact, there could be a connection between drinking out of plastic water bottles and contracting cancer.

There are three hazards commonly found in plastic water bottles: Bisphenol A (BPA), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and Phthalates. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that plastic water bottle companies put into their bottles to prevent the soft bottles from cracking. However, this chemical can leach into the water when exposed to heat.  It is recognized as a cause of ovarian, prostate, and breast cancers. In addition, Bisphenol A (BPA) has been found to affect fetuses, infants and children’s brains, and prostate glands.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is another chemical compound that is used in plastic water bottles.  This chemical is free from Bisphenol A (BPA) but also has some health risks.  The water bottles have some fecal matter, saliva, and food residues in the plastic so they are hazardous when the bottles are re-used. This is a safety issue, but could be easily solved by tossing the plastic bottles into the recycling.  

Phthalates is another chemical found in plastic water bottles used to make plastic flexible.  This chemical also leaks into the water if it is there for a long period of time.  This could have some deadly side-effects: liver cancer, testicular atrophy, and sterility in males. Do you want to have kids? Don’t drink water from a plastic bottle.

It seems as if the use of plastic bottles is a fad of the past. Since recent research has unearthed some shocking evidence, I believe that more people will be aware of the dangers of chemicals leaking into their water and just toss their bottles into the recycling. The question remains: Should the School be selling plastic water bottles to its students? A good replacement for the plastic water bottles are glass water bottles, and they are a sustainable option, too.

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