All posts by Sean Thompson

Opinion: Is year-round school a better option?

Sixty day summer break or thirty day summer break, which is better? For the majority of people attending school in the United States, they start somewhere in August or September and end in June with almost all of the summer off. However, a small percentage of students attend school year-round with breaks every couple of months. As of 2017, about 10 percent of the United States students follows this year-round schedule. Both methods have relatively the same amount of days off, so this raises the question of whether this method should be used in place of the current one.

How this year-round school would work is that summer break would be about twenty days shorter but spring break and winter break would be longer and there would be a fall break. A  benefit of this is that there is time to go on vacation at any time throughout the year instead of being forced to go in the summer or having to miss school.

Embed from Getty Images

One of the main reasons people consider the year-round schedule to be beneficial is because students will retain a lot of what they had just learned. In the traditional format, students have over two months off where they lose some of what they learned the previous year. This causes teachers to spend a big portion of the beginning of the year going over what students had already learned the previous year. Having year-round school would give students a nice break but they would better retain what they learned so teachers would not have to spend as much time on review.

This format also creates a rhythm for students and parents. Instead of having a huge break in the summer and losing that rhythm of school, you have shorter breaks more often during the school year, allowing for a much needed rest, but not breaking the overall rhythm of learning. Having a couple months of school then a break knowing that you are going to have some time off in a few weeks can keep students motivated and is something students can potentially look forward to.

Embed from Getty Images

Although there are some benefits of having school year-round, there are many drawbacks. The long summer break is used for summer school, educational camps, or original credit classes that they wouldn’t be able to take during the school year as it is. This long break allows them to make sure that they are going into the next year prepared and to get caught up on things they did not understand. 

The year-round schedule also has the potential to create problems for teachers. Too many breaks can disrupt the flow of learning. Teachers cannot create in-depth lessons because they will be interrupted by these more frequent breaks. The traditional schedule allows teachers to make lessons knowing that they have a good amount of time to cover all of the material. It may be more difficult to get teachers for those positions, given that many teachers use their summers to recuperate, or take classes to get better at their profession.

The condition of the school itself could be problematic. Many schools do not have air conditioning so the conditions in the summer could not be a healthy way for students to learn. Also, schools using plan renovations during the summer months when the school schedule is not going to be impacted. What happens to all of those plans for upgrades, renovations, and capital projects? The space and the availability of the space needs to be considered.

Another reason that year-round school seems problematic is that kids need to be kids. I think they need a long break to just enjoy themselves and not have to worry about school. They need to be able to go on long vacations and stay up late not having to work about going back to school in a short time. 

Embed from Getty Images

When taking a quick look at it, the year-round school might look beneficial. However, when you look deeper into it, there would still be many problems that you would encounter. Year-round school could create more problems than the current format and people are already used to the system that has been in place. It will be interesting to see if more schools start adopting this year-long format instead of the current one. 

Sean Thompson is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

Why high school athletes should be able to go straight to the NBA

In the basketball world, there is a lot of controversy surrounding the topic of athletes going pro straight out of high school. The current rule to enter the NBA draft is that you need to be 19 years old and one year out of high school. This was not the case until the rule was created in 2005. If athletes are physically ready to go pro and mature enough to handle the spotlight, then it should be up to them to decide what their future holds. 

For many of the highly recruited players, they will only spend one year out of high school before entering the draft. This is known as the one-and-done rule. Their goal is to get to the NBA and they are looking for the most productive way to get there. The typical route is to attend college for one year and then declare for the draft. This route however is becoming less common for the highly rated athletes who are either going overseas to play or playing in the NBA G league. These alternatives are becoming more common because they replicate the NBA game more than playing in college would. The college game is taking a hit by not getting every star player that it used to get year in and year out. 

Embed from Getty Images

Some people may say that these high school kids are not mature enough to play in the NBA at such a young age but one year will not make much of a difference or not any difference at all. Also, the college game is much different than the NBA. There have been some great college players who have turned out to be busts in the NBA. The quicker these players can get to the league then more experience they will get.

One of the main problems about not allowing an athlete to go straight to the pros after high school is the risk of injury. If a player were to get an injury during that year before they are eligible, their draft stock could be heavily impacted in a negative way and could have a long-lasting impact on their whole career. Take Kevin Ware for example. Ware was a guard for the University of Louisville basketball team and during the Elite Eight of the 2013 NCAA tournament, he suffered one of the most horrific injuries in sports history. After a long recovery, Ware decided to enter the 2016 NBA draft but unfortunately went undrafted. His injury definitely stalled his progress and might have cost him a chance to play in the NBA. 

Embed from Getty Images

To go along with the risk of injury, college athletes do not get paid. These athletes have spent their entire lives working to play the game they love for a living and one injury could leave them walking away with nothing.  Also, the quicker these athletes can get to the pros, the quicker they can get through their rookie contracts and earn a more lucrative contract. 

Another reason that this rule should be revised is that the ones who are going to college spend half of their time in the classroom. These athletes have to take classes that they are not going to use as a career and they spend half of their day in class when they could be working on their game instead. There are also restrictions on how much college teams are allowed to practice whereas in the NBA there are no restrictions. 

There have been multiple players who went straight to the pros out of high school when the rule was not in effect. Take Lebron James as an example. Lebron was one of the most hyped players of his generation coming out of high school.  Some may argue that he is the best basketball player of all time. Kobe Bryant is another prime example. Kobe went straight to the league from high school and ended his career with five rings. There have been many players that have done perfectly fine with the transition from high school to the NBA when there was no rule.

Embed from Getty Images

The argument of whether the NBA should allow players to go straight to the league out of high school is one that has been going on for decades. There have recently been talks around this topic so it will be interesting to see if they update the rule in the near future.

Sean Thompson is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

Is distance-learning an effective alternative to face-to-face education?

Embed from Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of our lives immeasurably, and has introduced new concepts we probably never gave a first thought to, such as wearing masks, social distancing, and distance learning. Distance learning, or remote learning, assures that everyone is staying home, and is proven to have significantly slowed the spread of the virus, but the question everyone is seeking to answer is different: can this type of learning be as effective as face-to-face learning?

I started off asking both of my interviewees about their experience with online learning. Ms. Thadine Coyne, a Theology teacher at Mount Saint Joseph High School said the online learning we started last spring was very new for her, but thought it had gone really well. She knew the kids she was teaching, and “they had a sense of how to interact with me and what to expect.” 

Theology Teacher Ms. Thadine Coyne

Ms. Coyne found this year’s online, and hybrid, classes to be much more challenging, “It’s impossible to establish what I call a classroom flow of action.”  Eli Gatto, a junior at St. Joe, and one of Ms. Coyne’s students had a much different response. He thought his online classes this year, as well as last year, have gone pretty well so far. “The workload hasn’t been as excruciating; I have been able to have some free time while still doing good work,” said Gatto.

Online learning and face-to-face learning certainly have their benefits and downsides, but could a specific type of learning significantly affect a student’s grades? Ms. Coyne said the greatest difference regarding student’s grades was in testing. “I hate to say it, but the truth is you guys cheat.” Giving objective tests through Google Forms allows the student to use other resources that wouldn’t be normally be available, and Ms. Coyne has no control over what the students are doing/viewing when they are on their iPads at home.

Now thanks to the hybrid model, Ms. Coyne said face-to-face learning so far has been “like a dream come true,” because the smaller cohorts allow her to engage with her students easier, and she finds it more enjoyable. Eli Gatto had a similar response, saying that face-to-face learning makes it easier to engage with your teacher. 

On October 1, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan implored schools to begin getting back to normal, welcoming students on campus as it became feasible. So when Mount St. Joseph made the transition to hybrid learning on October 5, what was the general consensus of the faculty and students to this change? 

The sign of the times: Interviewing Ms. Coyne via Zoom for this story

Ms. Coyne thought opening school on October 5 as a hybrid schedule was a good decision, because families were given the option to stay at home, and overall, she thinks that students and adults are being responsible with social distancing. “Hopefully, everybody will keep doing that so we can continue coming back and forth to school.” Eli also said it was a good decision, because the hybrid schedule has a smaller amount of students, and people are following guidelines and all wearing masks in their classes.

After interviewing Ms. Coyne and Eli Gatto, it became clear that face-to-face learning had more advantages than online learning, whether it be easier to engage with your teachers, or less distractions. Although this is true, there were still some benefits to online learning, such as increased flexibility and not having to drive to school. Both Ms. Coyne and Eli spoke about the benefits of each type of learning and concluded that the hybrid schedule that we have in place was the most preferred. 

Embed from Getty Images

This pandemic has been challenging for everyone and has made us all adapt to a new lifestyle. Every teacher and student has had to adapt to virtual school and some have found the transition to be easy while others have struggled. For my part of the story, I interviewed Mr. Brian Shearer and one of his students, Jeremy Abrams, to get their perspectives on how a teacher and student have handled this unexpected change. 

In the interview with Mr. Shearer, I wanted to get an idea of how he handled the transition and some of the challenges he faced as a young teacher. The primary challenge for him in virtual learning is communicating with his students, and he made it clear that he is using email much more than he had in the past. “The biggest difference has been having to stay on top of students who are missing work. It’s easier for me if a student has incomplete assignments to just speak to them after class. It has been a lot more emails to students and parents as well, just about grade updates, staying on top of missing assignments, and getting work completed.” 

Theology Teacher Mr. Brian Shearer

Mr. Shearer said that while he definitely prefers to be physically in the classroom, being virtual with students has forced him to rethink the way he does certain assignments and the way he approaches teaching. He also said that being online so much has forced him to get comfortable with different platforms. When it came to the technology aspect, he said “My transition was easier than most and part of that I think is just because I’m younger so I’m a little bit more familiar with some of the platforms.”  

While there are a couple of benefits of online learning, Mr. Shearer made it clear that there were many issues that he encountered. He told me that Zoom would sometimes be a problem for him saying “being a discussion-based teacher, having discussions through Zoom is the worst because of connection issues or just timing when someone is going to respond, it just feels unnatural.” He also misses the social aspect that he does not get from virtual learning, adding “What I value the most is the relationships you can form in the classroom that are really hard to form without a physical presence in front of you.” 

I also wanted to get Mr. Shearer’s opinion on whether he thinks students who are completely virtual are getting the same education at home that they would be getting if they were in school. He feels that more students are struggling. “The more you are in-person, generally speaking, the better the education because there is more of an emphasis on focusing and being able to elaborate on deeper questions when you are in the classroom.” He said that some are handling it well, but more students are struggling worse than they should be. 

When I asked him the amount of time he is putting into teaching at home opposed to in person, Mr. Shearer said, “I would say more time in planning, but less time in actually teaching.” He said when it comes to teaching, it takes more time to do attendance, more time to get platforms ready, and more time to grade which does not allow him the full amount of time to teach whereas if everyone was in the classroom, he would have the full class period.  

At times, a student’s perspective of virtual learning can be very different from a teacher’s perspective. Some students enjoy virtual learning because they are able to wake up later and have more free time during the day due to the cohort schedule. Other students miss the in-person interactions and struggle to keep up without physically being able to have a teacher in front of them. I wanted to get a student’s perspective on how he has adapted to online learning. 

I interviewed current sophomore Jeremy Abrams. Jeremy pointed out that the biggest change for him from a traditional classroom setting to virtual learning was the obstacles he had encountered with the technology. “Depending on the WiFi, it was either hard to see what he was presenting or the microphone was lagging. In person, this was not an issue because the presentations were always ready to go.” Jeremy also said that he found himself putting more time into school when he was virtual as opposed to if he was physically in school. “I feel like teachers are giving out twice as many assignments. This has made online more stressful than in person.”  

Sophomore Jeremy Abrams

After my interview with both Mr. Shearer and Jeremy Abrams, I realized that teachers and students both had a lot of the same challenges when it came to virtual school. Whether it is having to stay on top of students who are missing work, or microphones lagging because of the WiFi, both teachers and students have encountered challenges throughout virtual learning. Everyone is still adapting in these unprecedented times and we will surely always remember our time virtually teaching and learning.  

Sean Thompson is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

Kyle Shao is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class