How Student Support Became Detention at UWCM – And What We Can Do To Reinvent It


EDITORIAL,
March 18th, 2018


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Our school is a bubble of students from all around the world, of many colours, speaking many different languages. But we are also a school of all kinds of personalities. Some students are studious, others are not, and our reasons as to why we study are equally many. Some students may be filled with individual ambition or even parental pressure which propels them to study, while others may focus entirely on “the UWC experience” which, some claim, lie beyond academics. But United World College Maastricht is, first and foremost, a school, and it aims to educate students so that they can graduate which entails obtaining an IB Diploma. The institution, therefore, allocates many resources to help students academically. We have tutors who guide us, teachers who educate us and digital educational platforms that support our studies beyond the classroom. Likewise, Friday space was created to support students academically, be it because they find it difficult to keep up academically or simply need a quiet space to study. This genuine aim to help students graduate is something the UWCM community should be grateful for, but many students feel that it is not so at all, in fact, they find it a punishment. For this reason, it is important to review what Friday space has become to understand why students and teachers have two very different understandings of what Friday space is.
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UWCM established Friday space to have a time and place set aside solely for academic support. If a student disliked working in the library for all its loud chatter or found it impossible to concentrate on chaotic floors, they could turn to Friday Space to work under the supervision and support of teaching staff. As academic pressure increases dramatically in DP2, it is a concept mostly familiar to second years, but Friday Space is also a place for DP1 to go and finish their work. Unfortunately, it is rare that students voluntarily attend this student support, and so, teachers resort to “referring” students to the Friday Space if they aren’t keeping up academically. This year, complaints about Friday Space on campus happen more frequently, but whether that is due to more students in Friday Space remains unclear. As there is no data on Friday Space, we do not know if more students attend Friday Space this year than last year, and Deputy Director of Secondary, Tom Oden, said that “there has been no conscious attempt to refer more students”. The second-year students’ notion is, however, that teachers refer students to Friday Space much more this term than the last. This is, however, not the biggest concern for students. No, students seem not to be dissatisfied with the number of students referred to Friday Space, but rather the reason why students are referred to the student support.
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The students’ notion may stem from how Friday Space relates to other trends at UWCM. As UWCM has become a “Bring Your Own Device School”, it has also acquired Kognity, an online textbook platform. Not all students are fans of this digital textbook, and most teachers emphasise that Kognity serves merely as a complement to our other textbooks. Reality, however, proves a little different. Kognity can track whether students read sections and complete tasks, and this has allowed teachers to have an overview of who reads the material in class. That is, at least, what a few teachers believe when they refer students to Friday space because the students did not complete specific sections on the platform in time. This is, unfortunately, in disregard of the fact that many students still use their physical textbooks to learn the material. Sadly, this misuse of Kognity has worsened students’ view of Friday space and given it a punitive quality. Additionally, it has forced students who prefer studying physical textbooks to read from Kognity, which is unfortunate for second-year students who have to adjust to a digital textbook less than two months from exams.
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But the greatest challenge to Friday Space came a few weeks ago, when six students were sent to Friday space because they were caught smoking close to school premises. This incident has sparked much controversy on campus and seems to have cemented the students’ claim that Friday space equals “detention”. Though disciplinary action towards students who consistently disregard UWCM’s rules can be justified, it is the opinion of this paper that leadership’s lack of communication and clarity on this incident, unfortunately, paints a picture off-colour of what they intended Friday Space to be. When leadership neglects to communicate clearly, as seen in the smoking incident, they leave students’ opinions on the matter to vague rumours and gut feelings.
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But it is possible to reinvent Friday Space so that it can become the support it set out to be. It is no news that we have pushed many deadlines this year. Recently, the Science Department moved the Physics Internal Assessment after students requested an extension from a Friday to the following Monday. Unfortunately, many students simply waited till Sunday to finish the IA. This is a recurring pattern among the student body and has created many complications for teachers. UWCM has no set agreements for students who do not meet their deadline. Friday Space could be used as a standard for extensions. If a student or class asks for an extension, then they also sign up for Friday Space to finish their work. Such a reinvention would change the perception of being “referred” or “assigned” to Friday Space to a bilateral agreement between a teacher and the class.

 

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