Today, RBHS teachers will be voting on the Bruin Block proposal after they had a chance to participate in a Q&A session Thursday morning and afternoon. The faculty is currently voting on the proposal and has until 3:30 p.m. today to vote. Advisory director Melissa Coil said principal Mark Maus came to her at the beginning of the year regarding advisory in respect to freshmen, as the district made the commitment to have all high schools do an advisory program for freshmen and sophomores. Coil created a committee to look at different programs to address the issue. The committee had presented the proposal to teachers at least twice, Coil said.
“People could look at [Bruin Block] and say, ‘Oh, they’re changing it because of the ninth graders,'” Coil said, “but we’re changing it because next year, no matter how Advisory is run, half the school will be in Advisory, that has a huge impact on how we provide programming and how it’s organized.”
The proposed Bruin Block would create a half hour time period similar to the current Advisory program, focused on building relationships and connections. For next year, freshmen and sophomores would also have an additional class period that would be a supervised-AUT and a time to study. For subsequent years, only freshmen would have the additional class period, but each year would add the Bruin Block to the next class, meaning that no current student at RBHS would have a Bruin Block.
The Bruin Block would “provide us the opportunity to take the relationships and the connections that we build with kids — and we do that all years — but we do that really heavily in the sophomore year; and it’s going to take that, and allow us to continue that with kids for four years,” Coil said. “And it also is going to provide us the forum to really get more purposeful and more systematic about providing the Rock Bridge curriculum to students, and making sure that everybody gets that equally throughout their time here at Rock Bridge.”
If the vote passes, Coil will form a team to develop the curriculum and calendar, as well as talk with students and faculty to determine what should be incorporated in the curriculum. If it doesn’t pass, she’s okay with that “because it needs to be something the faculty supports in order for it to be successful.”
“We can develop all the curriculum in the world, [but] if the people aren’t passionate about what they’re doing, it’s not going to work,” Coil said. “If the faculty feels like what we’re doing now is sufficient, then I’ll support the faculty’s decision.”
Sophomore Carter Gerling thinks it’s a good idea to have the Bruin Block for freshmen, because the high school atmosphere has a lot more temptations to be distracted. However, he believes sophomores should have a normal advisory.
“The sophomores, I feel like they’re old enough and mature enough that they should deserve just a full Advisory, just a freedom to do what you want,” Gerling said. “I would say just freshmen [should have bruin block]; until this time, it’s always been sophomores and up to have that one period where they can choose to do what they wish, and it’s kind of needed in my opinion for people that age, just because the fact that schedules can get really hard here, and the fact that it’s just a good time to collect your thoughts and rest and get ready for your next class or just a good time to finish up some homework.”
In terms of deliberating the Bruin Block policy, English teacher Deborah McDonough said one of the ideas about the Bruin Block, after all four classes have it, would be to use it for students to research or explore a topic they like and present their work after the four years.
After all students have Bruin Block, “what if that’s a time in which they have chosen a particular interest, or a particular piece of study, that they use that particular block to do interviewing or go out in the community to do work,” McDonough said, “and they do this over a four year period and this would culminate in some sort of research, evaluation, presentation.”
McDonough said the faculty was looking at the idea in-depth and looking at how it fit into RBHS. Teachers have had plenty of opportunities to voice their opinions and have a constructive discussion, she said.
“The faculty here is very, they’re really good about letting themselves process a new idea, look at it in how will it change for the better, the dynamics of Rock Bridge High School, and if we feel that it’s going to change in a negative way — if it’s going to change any programs that we’re already finding very worthwhile, then we’re not willing to consider that,” McDonough said. “There’s lots of discussion, lots of available time periods and meetings that teachers have been able to go to, voicing their opinions to department chairs, all that kind of thing, so I don’t know it’s really opposition … it is an open-forum discussion.”
To Coil, the Bruin Block is a way of following up with students and providing constant support. The Bruin Block, Coil said, fits in with the cultural and relational aspect of RBHS in that it promotes “learning for life” throughout a student’s four years.
“My thing with advisory has always been that I want it to be the place that — even though we’re a large building, I’ve always felt that we’re a smaller large building, and we want make that environment and that that community even smaller, so you really feel like you’ve got that small group, that you can always go back to and that supports you in the building,” Coil said. “In my mind, I think it just helps truly emphasizing “where learning is for life.” We want to make sure that we’re providing supports and educating students as their knowledge base grows, that we’re continuing to move with them and provide them the information and support they need.”
By Atreyo Ghosh
Additional reporting by Adam Schoelz and Luke Wyrick
What do you think about the Bruin Block proposal? Would you rather have a Bruin Block than having had Advisory?
This is part of the Preparing for Battle ongoing special report. For more information on the changes occurring as the district opens a new high school in the fall of 2013, check Bearing News biweekly for a transition update.