Staff development teacher Amani Elkassabany is in charge of a study circle for students that is going to meet during two school days to help the adults in the building understand what it is like being a student in high school.
Elkassabany is the main supervisor of the study circles, but she has help from the administration team, resource counselors and teachers in selecting the students they feel will be the most fit for this group. Study circles started here in 2015. During this first meeting it only contained staff and they talked about issues they saw within the school community. The first student-staff meeting was held in April 2016. “The most common topics brought up since 2016 are the underrepresentation of black and Latina students in AP and honors level classes and why that is, why students chose to self-segregate, sexual orientation, gender stereotypes and bias towards certain types of people,” Elkassabany said.
Study circles are meant to create a closer bond between teachers and students in the community. These selected students will talk about how their high school experience has been so far and how it can be improved to make everyone have the best experience it can possibly be. “I think it’s a great idea because it’s really important to become closer with your teachers because then the whole idea of school becomes so much better when you can relate to them more and you understand each other more,” sophomore Zara Chavoshi said.
The first time the study circle will meet this year is on March 6 and 7. The meeting will be with about 30 students and for two days, the students and teachers can dive into deeper topics they feel really need to be addressed. By the end of those two days the goal is that the teachers will walk away having a better understanding of the barriers students face and what gets in the way of them being the most successful they can be. The hope is that the students will walk away with a better understanding of what it is like to be a minority student. “We try to have students from different races come so they can better understand the experiences from other people,” Elkassabany said.
Study circles were created because students wanted their voices heard on issues in the community that the teachers or school could fix, such as diversity in the community and fewer people from minorities participate in higher level classes. Hearing this will help teachers recommend more students to higher level classes and let them know that they have the support and tools to be successful. “I think that students and teachers understanding the challenges that each of them face will help both find the tools to help each be successful,” sophomore Rachel Son said.