Back-to-School 2011 Essay Contest

Over the past month I received essays
from students ranging from Kindergarten through High School. Thank you to each and every one of the participants—I truly enjoyed reading all your essays.

The winners from each category (elementary, middle and high school) received a $15 gift certificate to Powell's bookstore. The teacher from the elementary school category also won a $25 gift certificate to Office Depot for school supplies.

The winning essays were published in my November/December issue of The Neighborhood Connection newsletter. Below are the winning essays and the honorable mention essays. Thank you and happy reading!

If I Could Change a School Rule - If you could change one rule at your school, which rule would it be and what would you change it to? Why did you choose that rule? Why is your rule better than the old rule?

**Elementary School Category Winner**
Navy, Age 6

The rule right now is we all have 20 minutes to eat lunch. I would like to change it to at least 30 minutes. Then I could eat more slowly and enjoy the food. I would also have time to chat with my friends. It is healthier to eat slowly. I would have more time to finish my sandwich, fruit, drink and dessert. I would not have to rush to pack up my lunch box before recess.

Elementary School Honorable Mention:
Rachel, Age 6

I would make a new school rule. Everyone would walk on their hands and eat lunch with their toes and write with their feet. People would have to clap with their feet and run on their hands. This is better than the old rule of walking on your feet and eating with your hands because it is fun to walk on your hands.

Elementary School Honorable Mention:
Luis, Grade 4

Bang!! Went the desk, as my head hit the table. "Are you sleeping in class Luis?" "Ahhh, no?". If we had nap time in school this wouldn't have happened. One rule I think should be changed at school is, allowing us to have nap time. Because not only pre-schools kids need that extra sleep. Read on and you we'll realize 4th graders need nap-time.

If we had nap time, we would be more concentrated. People are usually sleepy in class and don't listen to the important things. Having nap time we would rest and we would do better on our work. We would be smarter because we would remember more things.

Also if we had nap time, we would have more energy in P.E. or outside. Our brains would be more active and more concentrated. More people would raise their hand in class and participate. We would have more fun because most of the time people are not having fun because they are sleepy and just want to get the day over with.

So think about it do you think we should have nap time? If you are a teacher your students would think your pretty cool. And if we had nap time some students might even have dreams about school. Are you thinking? You should!! So the next time you see a student sleeping in class, think: Should I have had nap time in my class? Would it make my students smarter? Should I?

Elementary School Honorable Mention:
Emily, Age 10

If I could change a school rule, it would be to allowing tag to be played on the play structure. We are only allowed to play tag on the bark chips or field, and the bark chips hurt when you fall. In addition, the field is packed with the boys playing football and girls playing soccer. The grass leaves stains on your clothes. Playing on the play structure is fun because of the two slides and the monkey bars. The duty teachers are constantly telling us to stop running on the play structure because we could get hurt, we must play on the bark chips or field. Therefore, we resort in talking or doing the monkey bars. When they do not allow us to play those games, we are not exercising, letting our jitters out, or learning responsibility. The way the school can improve this is by letting responsible, safe, fifth grade students, play tag on the play structure. Fifth grade is more responsible and can probably handle falling better than the younger students could. Another way of improving this is making a rule on the field. The rule should be only one sport/game should be allowed to be playing on the field. Not only will the rule help with tag games, but it will also help students try new sports and expand out of their comfort zone. More importantly, we will not exclude anyone because the more people the more fun.

Another idea I had in mind was letting each grade make a group playground rules along with the already established one. That way we can all agree on the rules, and get a say them. It is unfair how fifth and fourth grade must go with the little kids’ rules. When I think deeply about, I notice we are following the same rules kindergarteners are using. When fifth grade makes their rules, they should be able to have a little more freedom or choices. It would prepare them for middle school. The most important things we need for middle school is independence and confidence. How will we be ready for middle school if we are using the same rules of kindergarten?

What is the rule I will replace it with? Of course, what I have mentioned before, only one sport played on the field at one time. It will be a good rule because it allows students to try new things, learn a new sport, get interested, become friends with other people, altogether socializing. What would be a rule about the rule is you can only play the sport twice in a row before picking a new one. A way to determine it could be taking a poll, or spinning a wheel with the most popular sports. All of this should be handled by our principal. Just to think about all this could happen if the school let us play tag on the play structure.

**Middle School Category Winner**
Rachel, Age 12
If I could change a school rule, I would change the one that says teachers aren’t allowed to talk about their religion. My mom and dad are teachers, so they can’t talk about God and being Christians. Sure, they can say what their religion is if asked, but they can’t say any more about it. Also, I go to the school where they teach, and the school threw this talent show. I wanted to sing a Christian song and asked my dad to play for me and sing harmony. The teacher in charge was nervous about having my dad sing a religious song – something about proselytizing (I guess that’s when you’re trying to convert someone to your religion) – so she asked the principal about it. The principal said we could do it as long as my dad didn’t sing. He could still play for me, but because he’s a teacher he wouldn’t be allowed to sing. So, he played the piano while I sang solo.

I chose this rule, because I think it’s important for people to know what I believe. I also think it’s important for people to be able to talk about what they believe in. I don’t think it’s fair that people can talk against Christianity, but those teachers who are Christians have to keep their mouths shut. There could be a class where the teacher brings in a movie and it talks about how wrong Creation is or how stupid Christians are for believing in a Creator or an Intelligent Design theory, but the Big Bang Theory is much more likely to have happened. That, unfortunately, is allowed. But a teacher isn’t allowed to bring in a movie that talks about what Christianity really is. They can’t talk about it at all. The only consolation I get, is that I can talk about my religion. I can talk about Christianity, because I’m a student. I think my rule is better than the old rule, because then teachers can talk about what it’s like to be a Christian. Of course, they’ll still have to teach math or science or social studies. They can sing with their daughter at a talent show. They just won’t have to be silent.

**High School Category Winner**
Amarachi, Age 15

Is Study Hall Really Necessary for Everybody?

Several high school and middle school students across America sit at their desks staring up at the ceiling, their minds left to wander, while others are chatting aimlessly among themselves about the latest songs or about the up incoming party happening this weekend, all in a particular class. A teacher meanwhile just stares, permitting the idleness of the students. What is being described is a class taken nationwide; called study hall.  If I had the power to alter one rule it would be to make study hall not mandatory for freshman and sophomore, but rather an optional class and to only be made required when a student is failing multiple classes.

One reason why I would make study hall an optional class for lowerclassmen is because study hall doesn’t provide an adequate environment to study and to get homework done productively. Having a countless number of students in one room with no designated lesson plan, who are just told to get work done won’t idealistically work the way administration would desire study hall to. At our age it is all about socializing with our peers and when given the freedom of having a period of no structure, it is inevitable that students will detract other students. The noise made by all the talking makes it nearly impossible for those who want to work to get some homework done to be productive. As a result, many students think of this class notas a study hall, but rather a “socializing-hall”.

Furthermore having to have study hall deprives lowerclassmen from taking other classes they wished to take, but couldn’t because their schedule is full. Having study hall while essential to  some people who either have trouble getting work done at home or have extracurricular activities , isn’t necessary to all. People like me don’t find study hall pointless to be and wished to inside take another advanced placement class instead. Taking another class would be more beneficial knowledge and college wise, than study hall. According to an article in The Oregonian Reynolds high school principal “calls study hall holding tanks”. Schools use study halls as a way to cut back on financial cost, which can be beneficial to the budget at big schools such as Westview, where I go to. Considering this fact I still believe that students should have the choice if they want to take study hall or not. This is our future, taking another class can be influential to our future and we should be able to decide if we want to take study hall or not.

In general, I believe that study hall as a class shouldn’t be required for lowerclassmen to take. The reasons being that the majority of students don’t get much homework completed in study hall and also it deprives student the opportunity to take more class.If this rule can be changed, it would influence how other schools think of study hall.

High School Category Honorable Mention:
Vivianne, Age 16

Classes are formed from one logical and inventive common inquirer that society can't oppose against. This topic focus more on high school rules and the classes the system currently have for the students. One subject that must be taken into thought to add if they are to improve the school's system in the long run for students. Cooking is the number one asset that many high school students do not know how to do. To form a cooking class would discipline yourself to become more responsible in one's actions to dice, steam, boil, fry, bake, etc. If one have already learned to cook from their heritage, great. Now is the time to expand the potential and discover not only recipes from your own, but from other culture's and peers within.

Creating a cooking class would lengthen out the ability for the students to support independently. Also, it will enhance better understanding of international cuisine styles and the flavors often used. Parents/guardians are responsible for the child till they are eighteen years old, therefore leaving the child on their own to fend for themselves if they are to plan to go to college or move out the house. If the student stays at home, The support the child will receive from their parents with the exception of helping with college funds, and to stay in touch with them would be approximately thirty percent. The seventy percent is the child on their own.
In response to this thought, staff members find it very debatable to be assigning a cooking class because students have the will to choose how to cook at home from a relative/friend. Assuming more than half of the students are not motivated enough to learn from their parents, it would be more convenient to learn it at school since the school is already teaching something to the students five days a week. If that is were being taken into thought hypothetically, that would contradict the whole school system. All high school systems' purpose is to prepare students for college and discover the attributes each students have within. Cooking is easily applied to the education system's cause and is essential to the survival and conservation of the student's finances.           

The idea is not supposed to be a new rule to replace the old rule, but to meliorate the rules the system have already installed for us. If the cooking class would station as a class subject, then that would motivate students, especially ladies to learn how to cook, and for all students to actually learned something, addition to be more self-ruling. This would also give the parents the advantage to make the students practice cooking at home too.