Activity Policy Editorial: Good Intentions, Improvable Implementation


Credits: Graded

Our News Editor, Saniya Joshi, recently published an article about changes to Graded’s activity scheduling policy that came as part of a larger initiative to promote student wellness. The change forced all clubs that had previously met within school hours to meet during Flex on Friday. We noticed some problems with this policy last semester, and we decided that we wanted to give the changes a full semester to ascertain their full consequences. Given that this decision has had wide-ranging effects on our community, the Talon editorial board thought it apt to dedicate our first editorial to this issue. The purpose of an editorial is to express an informed opinion on a school-related issue from the point of view of The Talon’s staff. As Saniya investigated, the change in policy was part of greater plan designed to alleviate stress, encourage balance, and contribute to wellness. The Talon appreciates and supports the school’s endeavor to improve the well-being of its students; however, the editorial board believes that the recent policy change indicates that the implementation of this initiative could be improved upon.

First, The Talon would like to make it clear to the student body that the various initiatives that are taking shape this year—a change in the master schedule, community time, grade-level leaders, and others—are all part of a unified effort to improve the quality of life of Graded students. While it may not always be clear to the students, improving our well-being is the driving force behind the changes that we’ve been seeing over the past year. Their purpose is to challenge the idea that high school students must do everything perfectly all the time and instead emphasize a culture of improvement and growth. As previously stated, The Talon wholeheartedly supports this aim, for it believes that mental health must be a priority. We should concentrate more on balance and wellness, accepting that human beings are vulnerable, rather than the idea of perfection.

However, despite its main purpose, the policy modification has arguably brought just as many issues as solutions to Graded students. The suddenness of the policy’s implementation has caused students to refrain from participating in certain activities and has hindered the ability of certain clubs to achieve their aims. While the implementers argue that this is important because “students must make decisions” about which activities to pursue, it ultimately discourages students from exploring different interests that meet at the same time. Now, the editorial board is not defending the idea of a student having ten activities at a time, for this would cause damaging effects on a his or her mental health. The Talon simply believes that students should have the ability to explore every type of activity that interests them.

Furthermore, the editorial board would like to propose the following short term solution: the reinstatement of lunch-meetings, which are a great option for students who engage in several activities but are now discouraged. Not only do lunch-meetings strengthen community and develop friendships, they also allow students to engage in activities they enjoy. After all, students should participate in clubs because they take pleasure in being involved. Besides, some students don’t always have a place to sit at lunch, and by having lunch-meetings, they will have a sense of belonging.

Another possibility is to ask the student council, whose main purpose is to serve as the voice of the students, to take action and ask for the students’ input. Stuco could use a community-time session for the students to share their opinions and suggestions on the new activities system. The representatives could then ask the students to write their ideas anonymously on pieces of paper, which would give them more freedom to share their input. After collecting the notes, Stuco could have a meeting with the administration to communicate the students’ suggestions/proposals.

Ultimately, it is the position of The Talon’s editorial board that this change in policy reveals a flaw in the long-term approach to student wellness. The change was made without consulting or even alerting students. This shows both a lack of foresight and a top-down pursuit of wellness. In the long term, both these attitudes are unsustainable. Firstly, all of the consequences of any planned change must be taken into account, or else the change will result in unforeseen problems that will simply add to stress rather than relieve it. Secondly, the goal of these recent initiatives is to promote wellness by changing the mindset of students. But mindsets will not be changed through top-down imposition of policy. Instead, new mindsets must be cultivated through bottom-up engagement with students.

With that in mind, The Talon would like to suggest a few long-term changes to how wellness policy is approached. First, major policy proposals should be presented to students during assemblies, and their intentions should be explained. This could be complemented with detailed documents outlining proposed changes and their purposes. This way, students will understand the larger strategy that is being pursued by the administration. While the goal is that students should understand and hopefully support new policy changes, greater transparency and communication would also allow us to consider and raise possible consequences that were not foreseen by the administration.

Besides greater transparency, The Talon would like to suggest that wellness be pursued using a bottom-up strategy. This suggestion, however, is not directed at the administration. It is directed at our fellow students. We must understand that the administration’s goals will never be met unless we come to see the value in them. And once we see the value in them, it is our responsibility to modify our mindset and culture in such a way that discourages competition and emphasizes balance. While the administration can implement policies that nudge us in this direction and and help us understand the advantages of wellness, it is time for us to recognize its value and start working towards it ourselves.