By Mary Rose Fissinger
It doesnât take a lot to see that students at Harvard-Westlake are given a fair deal of independence and respect.
Sure, itâs easy to complain about the occasional unaccommodating teacher or undeserved detention, but itâs important to also consider the privileges we have. At very few other schools are free periods such a frequent occurrence, or independent studies even an option. However, as we all spend the majority of our time in this environment, itâs easy to lose perspective and begin to take this freedom and respect for granted. I certainly had, but my gratitude for Harvard-Westlake was renewed after a seemingly insignificant observation made during my Saturday spent taking the SAT put things back in perspective.
I took it at a public school near my house, and during one of the five minute breaks allotted to give the test takers an opportunity to refuel and/or use the restroom, I found myself glancing around the room I was in and taking in the scenery as I nibbled on a protein rich power bar. It seemed to be an all-purpose science classroom, complete with Bunsen burners, a giant periodic table and several diagrams of the inner workings of the human body adorning the walls. What really struck me, however, were the myriad signs around the room placed there, Iâm assuming, to remind the students of the various rules of the classroom.
They were printed on brightly colored sheets of paper and seemed to predominantly feature capital letters and exclamation points. They warned against things such as cell phones, talking out of turn and chewing gum. One in particular that caught my eye read, “15 MINUTE RULE: NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO LEAVE THE CLASSROOM DURING THE FIRST OR LAST 15 MINUTES OF THE PERIOD!”
Iâm not sure what exactly the students of this school had been doing during the first and last 15 minutes of the period that prompted the administration to make such a rule, but I am aware that signs of that nature are very rarely spotted in the classrooms of Harvard-Westlake. They arenât necessary.
I believe that this can be attributed to the fact that the students and faculty at our school have an amount of respect for one another that is simply unmatched at most other schools. This may just be my own personal experience, and Iâm sure there are people who disagree, but coming to Harvard-Westlake from nine years at a Catholic elementary school, I appreciate the small things. Being able to simply get up and leave class at any moment to use the restroom is a nice change from my sixth grade teacher standing in the door to the classroom and timing students as they sprinted down the hall in order to ensure that they returned from the restroom in less than 90 seconds and didnât waste any time.
In my almost three years at this school, Iâve always found the student-administrator relationships that Iâve encountered to be ones of mutual respect. Teachers here expect a lot of the students, and itâs not just because Harvard-Westlake has an academic reputation to uphold.
Itâs because their students have rarely given them reason to think that they were incapable of meeting those expectations. For the most part, we do the work, we take school seriously, and we donât need multi-colored signs screaming at us from every wall to make us do it.
Iâm a junior, and with my senior friends receiving college decisions on what seems like a weekly basis, I too sometimes become weary of the structured high school atmosphere and long for the freedom of college. But now I realize that if Iâm going to be in high school for another one year, two months, two weeks and two days, Harvard-Westlake is the best place, in my opinion, to be.
And so, instead of pouting, Iâll enjoy my free period, or maybe even get a drink of water in the last 15 minutes of class.