Each morning, towards the end of first period class, the national anthem plays and announcements are read over the school PA. Most students stand for the anthem, though several fuss with their phones or papers or friends. Once the announcements begin, no one listens. Even if you wanted to hear the announcements, the noise from student chatter would render it impossible. To me, this is the moment that represents the state of our high school classrooms.
Playing the national anthem seems a worthwhile tradition, a brief moment in the day when the school community comes together. Recognition that we are part of something greater than ourselves; it’s a chance for gratitude and connection and reflection.
Announcements are an extension of that sentiment. They offer a window into the happenings at school and a way for students to get involved. Announcements are a portal for new friends and a guarantee on having fun. Those of us in post-adolescence know that the best high school has to offer happens in moments beyond the classroom.
Except students have little connection to this experience. They tend to see the morning routine as a hassle and waste of time.
I sometimes deliver a speech to neglectful students. I ask them to consider why we do this same routine every day. Most remain silent, though a few have said things about indoctrination into a soulless system. I then answer my own question, saying that the opportunity to connect to something beyond oneself has value, because few among us are so important that we can’t interrupt what we’re doing. Even if the routine is contrived, it’s a path towards something meaningful.
Of course, in staff rooms and admin offices and places where students don’t go, few adults adhere to the morning routine. They continue with their business when they out of students’ view.
Are these morning routines, ubiquitous in public high schools, one of those ‘you’ll understand when you’re older, just do it because I said so’ sorts of things? Or is it that routine is important for youth, even if we’re exhausted by enforcement?
Perhaps we have common interest, adults and students, in that we want to build community. But we need to rethink how we’re going about doing it. As it stands, we’re just going through the motions, and as a result, doing a lousy job of building authentic school communities.
Consider that the announcements are read by an upperclassman, someone who knows no one is listening. “I do it because someone has to, and because it looks good on my resumes”, he once explained.
To me, this is the epitome of conventional high school; administration driving forward with traditions, students complying in so much as they ‘have’ to, and each bypassing this moment in hope of something better.