Head to Head: Senior Month From the Senior Perspective
October 30, 2020
On left, senior Elliot Landolt on why Senior Month should happen, and on right, senior Scarlett Pencak on why it shouldn’t. Vote at the bottom!
Head to Head: Senior Month From the Senior Perspective — Pro Senior Month
Parker has worked on creating the Senior Month concept for two years and the opportunities it provides are infinite and expanding. It is rare that a student gets to write their own curriculum for a month, and although COVID-19 has impacted us and internships won’t happen, there is still a great chance for students to explore a passion or hobby in a low-stress environment. Because of this, I believe that Senior Month should happen in May for the class of 2021.
I have had a plan for Senior Month since it was first presented: a private pilot’s license. I’m also not the only student with a plan for Senior Month. Many students have contacted me privately expressing their support for Senior Month and their unique projects and ideas for Senior Month. There are plenty of examples of ways to use Senior Month as a way to learn a life skill and/or explore a hobby. While it was seen as a joke in plenary, senior Sam Meiselman-Ashen noted that he could eat pizza for a month, and could learn about the art of pizza making as a Senior Month project. Sounds pretty good to me.
Senior Month also provides an educational opportunity for students. While classes are still held and seniors have to go to class, “senioritis” is in full effect. Most seniors have made the decision for where they are going to college and students have begun to stop caring about high school as they look forward to their college, education. Senior Month provides a chance for students to continue to learn in May and gain educational value from their projects. My opposition argues that they do not want Senior Month to happen because they want to be with their friends in school. In my opinion, the school wouldn’t consider this argument as valid and would think that students want to be in the school for the social value rather than the educational.
From a teacher’s point of view, they don’t like seniors and senioritis. As I heard in my graderoom from a teacher, “You guys have already been admitted to school and don’t care about high school anymore.” This teacher said that students complained about having to do homework and continue their classes, that they were not engaged and/or interested in high school anymore. Senior Month combats this, letting the seniors choose their topics and assign their own homework, even if that means no homework.
In addition to the opportunity to focus individually on a project, Senior Month has a social value for seniors as well. Students that want to see their friends and socialize during May can do so in a four-person group with the same project, or they can circumvent the system to have multiple four-person groups all interested in the same subject. The social value of being in school can be replicated during senior month, as students still have the opportunity to socialize, especially when there are fewer hours of work in a week of Senior Month versus regular school.
During plenary, I was told to pursue my passion outside of school, on weekends, or during breaks. This quite simply is not viable for many students. We all have tons of commitments and activities. Senior Month provides an opportunity for students to pursue a passion that they previously were not able to with the stress of school. With Senior Month, students can continue to participate in sports, clubs, and Student Government.
The idea of in-person school has been skewed by our imaginations. In reality, the high school returning to campus means a hybrid system that is able to accommodate K-12 with social distancing protocols in effect. This means no bench, no alcove, no cat boxes, and most importantly, no fourth-floor chairs. Students will be kept in groups and not permitted to socialize with other groups of students. If a group of friends were to do senior month they could also pick the topic, something that they would find more enjoyable than regular classes. The social aspect that so many students wish for in the spring won’t be a reality.
Finally, I want to clarify the comments I made in plenary so many weeks ago. The value of Senior Month and what I hope to learn outweighs spending more time with friends that I have known for over 10 years and will continue to socialize with throughout my life. Many interpreted my words as me saying that I will not stay friends with anyone from high school, but this is not the truth. I have many lifelong friends at Parker, but there is an opportunity presented in Senior Month, a chance to go to college with a new skill, understanding, or hobby. Taking a month to walk in one-way halls, wear a mask all day, and have all of my movements tracked doesn’t appeal to me as much as taking a month to pursue a lifelong dream, alone or with friends.
Head to Head: Senior Month From the Senior Perspective — No, We Should Not Do Senior Month
One of the most talked about and controversial plans coming from Parker’s administration, to date, is May Month. Also known as Senior Month, May Month is a possible addition to the senior curriculum in which students would take the month of May off from classes to participate in an internship or “passion project” outside of Parker. Students have been told that during this month they would be connected with a teacher advisor and possible student group that would meet once a week to check on students’ progress. Now spearheaded by Head of Upper School Justin Brandon, May Month was originally brought to the attention of the student body last year by Student Government President Matthew Turk before the rise of COVID-19. However, according to Brandon, May Month has been an idea of the Parker administration for the last 10 years.
Due to the multitude of uncertainties students — and the rest of the world’s population — have already experienced this year due to the coronavirus, one would rationally assume that May Month would be postponed. However, the administration is still strongly pushing forward with this idea regardless of the current state of the world and regardless of the student body’s hatred of the plan. On Plenary on September 24, Brandon proposed a question to the high school student body: if senior month wouldn’t occur this year, when would it? Here’s why we wouldn’t do it now. Because we are in the middle of a pandemic in which the senior class has already missed out on many of the traditions and experiences they have been looking forward to and now will be missing out on all of the first semester. Because the job market and economy are at an all time low making it extremely difficult to find fulfilling internships. Because multiple surveys and Student Government pleneries have shown that the students simply do not want May Month. Because we as students want to spend the last month of our high school lives with our friends that we will never get to be with again. The vast majority of upper school students have expressed their concerns with immense loathing of May Month to the administration. Based on the administration’s response, or more precisely, the lack thereof, it is clear that the students’ opinions are being ignored and blatantly neglected.
Nobody wants to be at home doing online school. Students want to be with their friends and enjoying the teenage years that they will never get back. Teachers, students, parents, and administrators alike can all agree that being alone in our rooms all day staring at our computer screens for hours is no way of life. With more and more being taken away from the students on an almost daily basis, why would the administration try to take away more? Why spend the entire first semester online and then take away the last possible opportunity for students to be in school in May? Many students have expressed how May Month would worsen their emotional state by adding to the amount of time they are spending alone due to remote learning. “We are the grade being pitied by the country, and I’m so worried about not getting closure from leaving Parker properly,” senior Maddie Mendeloff said during Plenary on September 24. “This is making me so upset because this is just making things worse. So many people are depressed, anxious, and stressed.” The administration is bluntly ignoring the emotional state and emotional health of their students right now by pushing forward their plan of senior month.
Many students have questioned why we would do Senior Month in the middle of a pandemic in which, according to The Wall Street Journal, between 20-40 million Americans have lost their jobs. As though the reasons to delay May Month are not blatantly obvious, Mr. Brandon has expressed that he feels as though the students are looking for reasons to delay May Month. “You say we are looking for excuses to delay it, and it is a global pandemic that has shutdown the world, economy, and jobs,” senior Matthew Garchik said during Plenary on September 24. “Is that looking for an excuse or a genuine excuse?” In the midst of a struggling economy, realistically the senior class is not going to find 75 fulfilling internships. On this issue in Brandon’s presentation of May Month, he said that while seniors normally will have the option for a passion project or internship, this spring, seniors will likely only do a passion project. Because the administration recognizes that internships will be hard to come by and this year would just be passion projects, why not postpone May Month until it can actually go as planned? Why push forward with May Month if it is clear that the students will not be able to get the full intent out of the program?
It is clear that there are many flaws in the May Month plan, especially for this year and the students have shared their voices and expressed their loathing towards senior month in Student Government. In Student Government, the high school passed a resolution opposing Senior Month and postponing it. Many students have recognized that the decision to stay online for the whole first semester came conveniently before the decision of if May Month would be happening this year or not. Students have questioned if this is a tactic or loophole the administration is trying to use to ensure that May Month will happen. In their final decision about May Month will they say that because we are online for this whole semester and they have to make their May Month decision now and that the student body has expressed that we would prefer May Month over online school, May Month will be happening? Is the decision to be remote this whole semester all in efforts to force May Month on the students?
The results of student surveys have concluded that 79.5% of students would prefer hybrid school over Senior Month in May and 88.4% of students want in person school over Senior Month. It is evident that the student body wants May Month to be postponed and sees the clear flaws in this plan.
Parker claims to pride itself on having a special relationship between students and faculty. However, the blatant disregard for student opinion is clear when looking at how the administration is handling the May Month decision. Senior Ada Collins was frustrated with the administration’s approach to Senior Month, she questioned, during Plenary on September 24, “If this is a school for the students, and students don’t wanna do it, why is it an option this year?” Collins wrote. Parker will be breaking their promise to the students that Student Government is a place where students can make a change in their school, if they do not postpone Senior Month. As said by senior Emme Silverman in the Student Government September 24 Plenary, “…the goal was to plan a project that fits their mission, but their mission is embryonic democracy, and this isn’t a very democratric way of doing this… it is not aligned with their mission because it does not listen to the input of the students.”
While Senior Month is an interesting opportunity it is blatantly obvious that the students do not want this to happen this year, it’s as simple as that. Summers are for getting internships, not the last month of senior year in the middle of a pandemic.