Note to High School Educators: Consider Slowing Down that Start Time

Hugh
Hugh McDermott, UNHS Principal

The most recent Phi Delta Kappan issue (December/January, 2017) contains an excellent article championing the cause for high schools to start school at later times. The idea isn’t new, but the research keeps getting more convincing that a later start time is certainly in the best interest of  students and carries many benefits for them. This article, written by Kyla L. Wahlstrom, looked at some earlier studies in Edina and Minneapolis schools. The author points out that what we know about the teenage brain is that the need for more sleep is “a matter of biology, not choice,” and many teens are not able to fall asleep before about 10:45 p.m. and remain in a sleep mode until about 8 a.m. This appears to be connected to the circadian rhythm and is directly related to hormonal changes during puberty and eventually disappears as teens enter their 20s.

start-time

Wahlstrom points out that medical research (Carskadon, Acebo, & Jenni, 2004; Jenni Achermann, & Carskadon, 2005) shows negative effects of sleep deprivation such as depression, obesity, substance use and abuse and increased car crashes (this should concern all of us!). Early research showed that absences, tardiness and sleepiness in school had significantly declined with later start times, and that moods and feelings of student efficacy had improved (Wahlstrom, 2002).

Wahlstrom went on to study eight high schools in five school districts in three states—Minnesota, Colorado and Wyoming, from 2010 to 2013 (Wahlstrom et al., 2014). It was found that in those schools that implemented the latest school start times of 8:35 and 8:55 a.m., there was a significant decrease in absences and tardiness in grades 9-12.

Finally, the study indicated that  those students who slept eight or more hours each night were significantly less likely to report symptoms of depression, fall asleep in class, drink caffeinated beverages, have a phone or computer in their bedroom and do dangerous things.

At UNHS, we are fortunate that students who are working through their online courses can choose when and how much time they spend on their coursework. They have much more control over starting their work later in the day to match their circadian rhythms. The ultimate expectation remains the same—the work must get done and having a regular routine study time is an important part of making progress. Aligning a teen’s brain efficiency with their work schedule is a plan for better academic performance. I encourage you to read the entire article in the Kappan as it goes further in discussing how best to approach your school board and community about making a later start time a possibility. It begs our attention.

(“Later start time for teens improves grades, mood, and safety”, Phi Delta Kappan, December, 2016/January, 2017).

Celebrating Differences

Barbara
Barbara Wolf Shousha, UNHS Director

Recently my best friend and I celebrated a special birthday together! It was fun and exciting and a wonder that we even pulled it off. Rarely do you find two friends more different than my best friend and I. She loves adventure while I love the quiet life. She is a night owl; I am a morning person. Her idea of a great birthday included sky-diving and riding roller coasters. My thoughts tended toward art galleries or a contemplative retreat.

Science has proven the benefits of diversity over and over again. In biology, greater diversity leads to healthier ecosystems and increased sustainability. Science also informs us that there are social benefits to diversity as well. The publication, Scientific American, cites research showing that interacting with others different from us requires us to prepare better, anticipate alternative viewpoints and to expect that effort will be required to reach agreement.

This was certainly the case in celebrating our birthdays! Together, we traveled to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. We were within driving distance of both nightlife and nature. I spent a terrifying afternoon on a ski lift up into the mountains and navigated steep trails on horseback. She indulged me with an afternoon of viewing pottery and a quiet nature walk. We each had experiences we would never have had on our own. Our differences became a source of humor and memories that will last forever. Believe it or not, we both enjoyed the other’s chosen activities, because our different preferences helped us experience things we would not have otherwise.

UNHS courses feature much diversity across the disciplines. In each of the areas of study, there are many different types of courses for whatever your passions are. Check out Biology, World Cultures, Multicultural Literature, International Relations and more.

I hope you have many reasons to celebrate differences in life!

 

 

Phillips, K. (2014) How Diversity Makes us Smarter. Scientific American.  Retrieved from

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smarter/

Your High School Experience: Years From Now, Will You Be Thinking, Redo?

Hugh
Hugh McDermott, UNHS Principal

For some of us, a trip back to high school means going back in time, for some (like myself) at least 40 years! What’s interesting though, is that I have a very vivid memory of those high school years. I can easily remember my many wonderful teachers and friends, but it was the high school experience that really stuck with me and pushed me to further my education.

I feel fortunate to be able to hold onto those great memories of fun times and great friends, and not look back wishing that I could redo my experience.

Much of this has to do with my experience during this time. High school was a time of expanding my knowledge base beyond the core academics of English, math, science and social studies. I had the opportunity to obtain a well-rounded public education that included many electives in areas outside my core classes. Forty years later, I am still proud of what I accomplished during my time, but even more grateful for the excellent teachers who invested in me during this time in my life.

To avoid the pitfall of wishing for a redo, I offer this advice: Challenge yourself. Push yourself. Venture into the unknown areas of the curriculum that you never thought you’d try. Take as many advantages of this learning experience as you can, because you can. No one can stop you from trying out for any of the sport teams or plays, or speech debates that are available to all students.

This advice may seem intimidating, but it starts with small steps:

  • Start early. If there is any way you can get into a program at your future high school the summer following your last year in middle school, do it. This could be participating in a weight lifting program during the summer. If the school offers drama, music or speech opportunities during this time, take advantage of them. This will give you a chance to meet fellow students before the school year starts, it also gets you involved right away in activities offered at your high school.
  • Each quarter or semester, remind yourself of your priorities and goals. You are there to get the best education and learning the school has to offer. What grades will you demand of yourself? Build a study schedule and then adjust according to degree of difficulty as you go through the year. Once you reach a goal, cross it off and establish a new one. Push yourself to accomplish any goals set.
  • Take advantage of unexpected experiences as they come your way. You never know when an opportunity becomes available and if it does, be willing to take advantage of it.  For example, school announcements mention great experiences for students, whether it is an opportunity to volunteer at the recycling center or to audition for a school play. Take a chance, get involved and you’ll find that stretching your experiences pays a benefit to yourself and usually expands your skill set.
  • Keep a record of your “beyond the classroom” experiences. After high school, you may be looking for employment before taking on the next educational experience, so keeping track of any community or volunteering activities you participated in, can put you in the driver’s seat of employment opportunities.

High school is a time to grow your experiences, your own learning opportunities and develop social and developmental relationships all around yourself. Forty years from now, you do not want to be that person that says, “I should have participated in the band. I should have gone out for wrestling. I should have participated in debate.”

Go out and make it happen.

Biding Your Time: The College Application Process

Debby
Debby Bartz, UNHS Academic Adviser

Patience, internal fortitude, self-control and poise are all traits required when waiting for a college admissions letter. After all, the past year was spent studying, completing forms, preparing for important tests, writing essays, reading college websites, consulting with college admissions advisers and visiting campuses – one more time. 

 

It’s been a very busy time and now you are checking the mailbox daily for any letter that could contain good news from the multiple applications submitted. The formal acknowledgement is just around the corner—and it will be one of the first big decisions of your life. You will finally get to say, “YES! This is it, I’m going to ____________!”

 

Congratulations, if you’re an Early Decision or Early Action Admission letter recipient. Congratulations, if you have received a letter of intent and/or will be invited to National Signing Day. Congratulations, if you have been awarded a college scholarship. However, be advised that only a few colleges begin notifying students in mid-December to the end of winter (as early as late February). Be assured that many colleges load the mailboxes in March to late spring, and the most competitive colleges allow their applicants to test their patience until April Fool’s Day or later. Rolling college admissions is an ongoing process.

 

In the meantime, what should you do?

 

1.       Check online to review the status of your application.

2.       Check to see if pieces are missing from the application (e.g., order the necessary transcript, test score report or request a recommendation letter).

3.       Call the college if you do not receive an email confirmation within 10 days to three weeks after submitting the application.

 

Chill-lax. Waiting for a college acceptance letter means you are just like thousands of other students worldwide.

 

“Go Ahead, Make My Day”

Ray
Ray Henning, UNHS Academic Adviser

Clint Eastwood’s popular character in many of his movies was Dirty Harry (Detective Harry Callahan). A tough law enforcer, Harry was well known for the catchphrase, “Go ahead, make my day”. This phrase usually came out at a pivotal time in the film where Dirty Harry was ready to dispatch a bad guy if they drew their weapon or did not back down.

In direct contrast to this well-known quote, we do have the opportunity each day to encourage people in a positive way with kindness.

Have you recently benefited from someone else’s acts of kindness?

I know I have. Whether it is someone who allows me to merge in traffic, flashes an accepting smile or shares an encouraging word, I daily reap the rewards from others’ kind gestures.

The size of the act really does not matter. It is important to remember that something you may consider as a very small deed might mean a lot to someone who needed that boost—even if it is just a warm smile.

What are the qualifications for being kind?

Good news! Kindness has no requirements at all, including age. You do not have to have a degree in kindness or have unlimited resources to be kind. It is simply being friendly, generous, considerate and putting that concern for others into action.

It can also improve your health! Did you know that engaging in acts of kindness benefits not only the person who receives, but also the giver? Researchers have found that helping others actually reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and decreases anxiety. The by-product of improving the day of another can also make yours better!

As you start this New Year, please consider one of your resolutions to show more kindness in 2017. You may find how simple it can be. You can find some examples to spark the kindness in yourself and others here.

Hopefully, it will also have a ripple effect on others to follow your example!

So go ahead, make someone’s day!

Showcase Your Achievements and Hobbies

Debby
Debby Bartz, UNHS Academic Adviser

Showcasing achievements through activities is now a standard component of the university application process. While every student applying to colleges will have taken the same standardized tests and similar courses, no one will have the unique combination of hobbies and interests like the ones you may have learned and taken part in.

Writing about your hobbies and activities are a great way to show a university the unique aspects of your personality. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Expertise. If you have maintained a hobby for years and thoroughly understands it, they might be considered an expert on the matter. Any expertise, no matter how trivial it may seem, is very valuable to share with colleges you are applying to.
  • Uniqueness. Unique activities don’t have to include winning a Nobel Peace Prize or a Guinness World Record—activities could include private lessons, leadership of clubs/organizations, volunteering, and employment. You should think how you have had an opportunity to share these experiences through performing, competition, training someone else or being published.
  • Time management. By showing what you do outside the classroom, it conveys that you can use time management skills—a necessary quality to have in college.
  • Hard work. We know you put all the time and effort you have into your activity or hobby, now you need to tell the colleges you are applying to the same thing!
  • Adds to traditional transcripts. Explaining what you are passionate about can help colleges understand you and what makes you special. Stories about what you love to do in or outside of school are a great addition to the transcripts that are also sent in with your application.

Your extracurricular activities don’t just have to include sports or other hobbies. We understand some students have jobs to support themselves and their families, and this can be a very strong topic to share with colleges as well! By holding a job in high school, it shows you are ambitious and have good balance between work and school.

Here’s another tip! It always helps to include an anecdote or recommendation from an acquaintance you’ve made through shared interests.

Colleges just want to learn more about you and what you have done apart from your traditional application and transcript, because your level of involvement most likely indicates how you will do in college. This is your chance to give a face to your candidacy and stand out amongst other applicants.

So take the time to show your strengths. We know you have many!

 

 

Resource: http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2013/11/12/incorporate-jobs-hobbies-into-college-applications

What’s Your Hangtag?

Debby
Debby Bartz, UNHS Academic Adviser

Along with academic advising of students and parents at the UNHS, I enjoy shopping and comparing products and services in stores and online. Of course, it is exciting when I have found the best price, but I also make sure to look at the merchandise or service carefully. The hangtag always grabs my attention, because it usually conveys the price, the designer or manufacturer of the product and much more important information needed to make your buying decision.

So how do you convey to someone why they should “buy” into what you are saying? I personally think we each have an invisible hangtag that explains our professional branding image to each person we meet. I personally want my hangtag to tell others that I am a hard worker and that I care about my students. Everyone’s hangtags are different—we all have unique styles and brand images that separate us from others.

Even though we cannot all wear a physical hangtag, we can all take steps to make sure we are communicating to others our positive and professional brand image, one that stands out from the others.

How to live your hangtag:

  • Actively think about how you want others to see you.
  • Be true to yourself.
  • Separate your professional life and personal opinions.
  • Learn from your coworkers or colleagues.
  • Surround yourself with those who can help you grow.
  • Talk positively.
  • Ask for constructive feedback and make changes accordingly.
  • Be respectful.
  • Have great online etiquette.

What would your hangtag say?