By LCHS Principal Mr. Ian McFeat
Dr. Gold’s “Student for a Day,” experience inspired me to try it out myself. I agreed to try it, and asked two of my teachers to join me. Merissa Sadler and Sarah Beattie surprised me by agreeing to join me one day in December, bright and early, to experience life as a high school junior. For the purposes of this article, I refer to them as Sarah and Merissa.
Period 1 (7:45 - 8:41) LCTV--Mr. DeSimone
We began our day in our newly designed LCTV studio, taught by Kevin DeSimone. And it was a jump start to the morning. Mr. DeSimone greeted us at the door and placed us in groups, each assigned to a table. Various movie posters bracketed the classroom walls and gave the room a clean and vibrant feel. Mr. DeSimone gave us an overview of our learning target, with a review of our agenda, and then we watched student projects in the “Shot for Shot” assignment. Essentially, students took popular clips from movies and reshot them using student actors. One group did their project on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, while still another group used the Godfather. I asked the student next to me what she thought of the class, and she said simply, “it is fun to create and learn from Mr. DeSimone. He makes it fun.” After watching these short clips and congratulating one another on great assignments, Mr. DeSimone cast our new assignment. We were to begin production on a commercial, and he handed us our product brand to use in our assignment. In my group we selected Doritos, and our task was to brainstorm messages we might send in our advertisement. Ideas were shot back and forth in our group as we started to narrow in on an idea. The commercial idea was to create a classroom and to have a teacher motivate students by offering them Doritos. Time flew by and the bell rang before our brainstorm had ended. It was time to move to 2nd period.
Period 2 (8:48 - 9:50) Culinary--Mrs. Statler
2nd period was an exciting experience. We hauled our books and supplies over to Mrs. Statler’s Culinary course and sat down in the small seats for a demonstration session on how to make french toast. But first, a quiz. Mrs. Statler walked in between the seats and reminded us that “there will be no cheating.” I think she read my mind. I had no notion of measurements for cooking. We had to remember how many ounces in a pound, tablespoons in a this, and gallons in a that. As I put pen to paper I might as well have been guessing how many water bottles fit into the back of a truck bed. Kindly, Mrs. Statler came over to my seat and showed me this ingenious way to remember them all, and all it took was a piece of paper. I folded the paper and she explained how to remember everything. Brilliant process, but I still didn’t do well.
I am not a small man, so any topic about food interests me, especially if I get to consume it. So, I was excited to turn to the demonstration portion of our lesson. We all took notes on the recipe, measurements and process as Ms. Statler showed us how to cut our bread, make product selections, measure proper amounts, and follow the recipe. She even showed us how to make our own syrup. She reminded us that, “you don’t need to always go to the store if you run out of syrup. Impress your family, make your own.” After the entire demonstration the best part of the lesson ended our class period: we each were given a sample of the delicious french toast. When the bell rang I was able to get a second portion for the road.
Break (9:50 - 10:00)
At break I almost sprinted to the cafeteria with Merissa. She was fine, but I was hungry, and I went to the line with hot chocolate and also grabbed a brownie along the way. After finishing this up quickly, the bell rang and we were due back to class.
Period 3 (10:07 - 11:03) AP Language--Mr. “V”
Following our break we hustled off to AP Language and Composition with Mr. Valassidis. It was a fascinating departure from our previous two electives. Mr. Valassidis began the class by setting up a project of sorts, a project that he deemed challenging and interesting, thought-provoking and compelling. Mr. “V” as he is called, commands the room and used scenarios and case studies to draw students in. He handed us case scenarios involving a crime and then asked to begin defining the parameters around that crime. How would we, for instance, “defend 2nd degree manslaughter compared to that committed in the 1st degree?” We were asked to define “reasonable doubt,” and the moral certainty of our judgements and discernments. “How were we morally certain of our perspectives?”
I have observed Mr. Valassidis numerous times, but being a student was a much different experience. It felt like I was learning the art and craft of argumentation, and I kept thinking about how many students used these argumentation techniques on their parents.I looked around the room, and judging from student comments, determined that all of them probably use rhetorical devices on everything from doing the dishes to using dad’s car for errands. The bell rang and Mr. V reminded us to prepare over the weekend.
Period 4 (11:10-12:06) Math 2 Mr. Huson
We then hurried to our 4th period class, Mr. Huson’s Math 2, or Geometry class. On the way, two seniors stopped to let me know my backpack was open. “I know,” I replied, “the bag is too small for my books.” I pointed oddly at my backpack, as if it was purchased by my mother. I shrugged as if my mother knew nothing about school these days. Sarah laughingly referred to it as a cooler bag. The truth is that it was. I had picked up the bag from our nurse’s trove of backpacks, mine with Verdugo Hills emblemed on the back. It was probably used to carry sensitive medical supplies at one point, but now was helping an aging principal act like a student for a day. I was not sure if I felt more sorry for the bag or myself. Either way, the seniors who stopped me didn’t even wait for my response.
I must say that math class offered some solace. Mr. Huson made it clear that he would have to find seats for all of “the new kids.” I sat up front next to two really smart students who I kept bothering for answers to the proofs on the whiteboard. Sarah and Merissa held their own, and I distinctly had the impression that we were learning something. This was the case until I asked my partner to review my work. I felt fairly confident about my end goal on one proof, listing that corresponding sides of similar triangles are in proportion. My seat partner was kind enough to mention that I needed to include a line about corresponding lines cut by a transversal. At the end of the lesson, we reviewed for the upcoming exam next week, the one that I would not be taking. The bell rang and I checked my cell phone. I had a text reminding me to go down to the office during lunch.
Lunch (12:06 - 12:36)
At lunch-time, I met with parents in my office. I apologized for looking like a roadie for Nirvana, and was pleased that the family got the joke. I didn’t eat lunch, and I hurried off to class so that I wouldn’t be late. I asked one of our office staff to write me a note, and she laughed, “you mean even you can’t make it to class on time?”
Period 5 (12:43 - 1:39) AP Chemistry Mr. Weld
5th period was the toughest class of the day for me. Arriving after the bell, Mr. Weld didn’t make me feel awkward, but arriving late is nerve racking. Merissa and Sarah were already in their seats, working on their warm-up activity. I was lucky to sit with two brilliant students, and lucky for my group, Mr. Weld only called on them to answer questions. Merissa and Sarah sat in other groups, and I could see they actually understood the content. I struggled. It was as much a foreign language the “Twi” I had heard in my travels to West Africa. The students at my table discussed viscosity, vapor pressure, boiling point and melting point, and the impact of these on kinetic energy. When we were asked to turn to our partners and discuss what is meant by dynamic equilibrium in terms of vapor pressure of a volatile liquid, I asked my partners, “why don’t you guys start us off on this one?”
Period 6 (1:46 - 2:42) AP American History--Mr. Carroll
We were greeted by the sounds of Gwen Stefani as we entered our last class of the day. Mr. Carroll rushed over to his computer and then changed the song to something from Greenday. I turned and asked a student if this was just for the new kids in class, and she let me know that this is something they get every day. She said, “yeah, it really energizes us each day. It’s my favorite class. He makes it fun.”
And the fun truly happened all class period long. We began by taking a quiz on the major acts that had an impact on the civil war. We all took the quiz, with Sarah having the most experience and background in the topic. I answered as best I could, but when I turned in my quiz and asked Mr. Carroll how I did, he did give me a 5 out of 9. I was happy with that.
We were then put into groups as we researched the most significant causes to the civil war. I actually went out on a limb and answered that Uncle Tom’s Cabin had a huge impact. My two brilliant partners allowed me to think through my answer, and we prepared our responses in our Google Docs. I really enjoyed collaborating together on our computers and found it easy to share ideas and relate perspectives. It excited me to think that next year we would have many more Chromebooks at the high school.
Being a student for a day was an exhausting experience. I especially was surprised by the significant movement from class to class. Although we had time between periods, I felt like it was all rushed. I wished I had a little more time in each class period; time to reflect, time to understand, and time for more focus. Just when I got hooked into class content the bell would ring for us to leave.
What the day really gave me was some perspective on what it takes to be an LCHS student. It is tough. This experience proved to me that our Challenge Success work is relevant, and that our daily bell schedule can at times be hurried. At our next staff meeting I am going to offer up this experience to three more faculty members with the hopes that we can begin to all speak the same language about student experience. Being a student gave me a brief window into the pressures and the difficulties they experience. I hope that more faculty will go through what we did, and that they can discover their own learnings from it. I also hope that they bring backpacks big enough to carry all of their books.