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January 25, 2007

Examine This

Midterm exams test your knowledge of everything the teacher taught you since day one. This means if we haven't retained the information, we must look back at our notes and really plan out studying time in order to get a good grade. These last two weeks or so, studying has definitely been on almost every student's mind.

At Hamden High, midterm exams count toward 10 percent of the final grade (in half-year courses, they make up 20 percent). These numbers are crucial because they can easily make or break a passing grade. Kids who have maintained good grades for the first half of the year tend to be a little less nervous than those who've been joking around since September.

Some students do much better on exams than they do in the actual course. Two times last year, I failed a class, but I received an A on the exam. That is because a lot of students, including me, don't do the work in the actual class, yet they know the information from either paying attention to the teacher or studying very hard. Some kids take long nights to go over the information that they never learned because they slacked off. Studying hard really helps and sets apart those who care about the class from those who don't.

Teachers, of course, are here to help us to do our best on the exams. Some teachers make up study guides for students so they can test themselves. If you keep on reading important points over and over (such as Columbus was funded on his initial voyage by Queen Isabella), then eventually it'll stick in your head and when exams roll around the answer will pop out immediately. Other teachers take each day of the week to go over a different section or chapter. They'll give out small quizzes and go over them explaining why such and such weren't the right answers, and why another answer was right.

When exams finally take place, students are given one of two types. One is the department exam. This is when every class of that type (example: U.S. History Level 7) takes the same exam. A certain teacher usually writes department exams. I've found it very annoying to take the department exam when a teacher other than mine has written it because teachers have different ways of explaining what you have to do in a problem.

The other type of exam is written by each respective teacher and is usually designed for a certain class. Those are generally easy.

I've been very lucky this year as far as midterms go because I only have to take two. If, as a sophomore, you passed the CAPT testing in a subject with a score of 4 or 5, then you're exempt from the corresponding exam in your junior year. I, being a CAPT scholar, had the opportunity to miss all but one exam this year, my Latin exam. There are no sections of the CAPT that correspond to a language. To be exempt, you must also have a B average in the class. Sadly, my average in math is a little below that, so I will have to take that exam also. But they're both on the same day, Friday the 26th, which means I get the whole week off except for Monday and Friday. Rest assured, I'll be studying for the exams. Wish me luck!

ATTENTION: What kind of topics would you like to see covered in “Hallway Stories?” I am looking for topic ideas. Please e-mail your questions and thoughts to streetsim@gmail.com.

Ethan Long has attended the Hamden School System since 1995. He is currently an 11th-grader at Hamden High. He is also a news editor at ABXY.org. You may contact Long at Streetsim@gmail.com.

January 19, 2007

A Crook in Every Nook

There are thieves at Hamden High.

I hear that things get stolen at least once a month. Some of my friends have had things stolen right from under them. According to Hamden High School's Green and Gold Guide, theft is a major offense that could lead to expulsion and arrest. But what if you are never caught? Well, I know for a fact that there are a lot of thieves in Hamden High who have stolen and gotten away with it.

About a year ago, the high school swim team had a practice session after school. When they were done swimming and racing each other, they went to the locker room, which is always open and is just a short walk from the pool. Once inside, they found most of their valuables missing from their lockers. HHS senior and swimmer Ben Strobel said “almost every phone” and “iPods” were on the stolen list. He said the stolen stuff was worth around $4,000. When asking the police for help, the student-victims were given the unfortunate response of, “sorry.”

HHS junior Mitchel C. said, “The police get so many phone thefts a day that they can't help anyways.” Can’t someone help?

Julia Hershonik, a high school junior who had her phone and mp3 player stolen, said she didn't tell the administration because when her friends had reported theft in the past, they got no results from the administration.

“Administration and police alike would rather tell you that you should have been more careful and deal with it,” she said. The school rule is to keep your belongings inside of your lockers, but most kids won't part with them. I feel obligated to have my phone on me at all times in case something happens.

There are security cameras in our school, but nowhere near the 200-plus that the middle school has. One of my teachers said there might be five cameras tops in the high school. I know this is not the case, as I've seen new cameras popping up in random places. Still, I haven't seen cameras in important places. Maybe one in four hallways on each floor has a camera. Sometimes the cameras are so obvious.

The following instance happened right behind a camera, about 20 minutes before first period started. A kid had brought in candy to sell for fundraising one day last week. He put the candy down next to him and started talking to friends until the five-minute bell rang. When he reached down for the box of candy, it was gone. He looked around only to see the box open with candy wrappers scattered in the middle of the lobby. He had lost a lot of fundraising money with only a few candies left in the box to sell, but hopes were high because it really isn't that hard to regain profit in a school where kids would spend almost anything for sugar.

Another place people frequently steal from are the boys' and girls' locker rooms. Two years ago, a huge robbery took place in the girls' locker room, where many phones, wallets and iPods were stolen. The robbers had gone in during the gym period and easily swiped goods without detection.

I remember the day one of my good friends came into class with her face all red. Everything but her books had been stolen. Fortunately, good people in Hamden helped her raise enough money to replace some of the goods.

Locker locks don't help. Kids have ways of picking them. When I was a sophomore, I came into gym class one day only to find my gym locker busted open and my clothes missing. What compels people to steal?

Even teachers have had things stolen from them. One of my teachers stayed after school one day and walked out of his class into the barren hallway. When he returned, his workbag was missing. Thankfully, he found it in another room where his papers were scattered everywhere. His phone was stolen and was then used to make $300 worth of calls.

This is what I feel the school should do. Step one would be to put cameras on each side of each wing, that way you catch the face of every student who passes by. Step two would be to put a camera on each entrance to the downstairs C-Wing, where the lockers are. It is illegal to put cameras inside of changing/locker rooms, so keeping the cameras focused directly at the staircases that lead downstairs would be more efficient than having none at all. Third, I really wish we’d get some sort of bar-coded cards for teachers instead of keys. Keys have started to expire. I see a lot of buildings using key cards because they’re light, you can keep them in a wallet and most high school students aren't able to pick those kinds of locks.

Perhaps we should start tagging all of our belongings with GPS signals, because it's obvious that being more careful isn't working. Here's to the day when we don't live in fear of theft.

Ethan Long has attended the Hamden School System since 1995. He is currently an 11th-grader at Hamden High. He is also a news editor at ABXY.org. You may contact Long at Streetsim@gmail.com.

December 18, 2006

Easy Pass

During class kids frequently leave to go somewhere else in the school. In order to walk the halls during class time, you need a paper pass from the teacher, which this year was changed from a mustard color to a neon lime green. These little passes have “Hamden High School” at the top, and a simple form to fill out: time out, from what room to what room and teacher signature. When kids are late to class or have to leave early, they are given a pass to hand to the teacher.

It seems like a simple system, but some teachers find it hard to have to stop in the middle of class to write out a pass for the same kids who go to the bathroom every day. Some teachers resort to ripping off white-lined paper for passes, but now that we are prohibited from using anything except the green passes, I guess that's out of the question. If students don't abuse the system, they should return about five minutes later with the paper signed by the teacher who was on bathroom duty.

Now some kids abuse the system and take 20 minutes to walk around the halls with no one stopping them. Some kids also hang out outside, and then walk into class 20 minutes late with a forged pass. Kids also walk around the halls during class for full periods, totally cutting class, but they appear to be fine because they have a green pass.

How do they get these green passes? Easily. When a teacher isn't looking, kids swipe them off the teacher's desk and no one notices. There's a surplus of them, just like there were loads of extra HMS passes in a video Sharon Bass took a while back. Yet, teachers still can't seem to get enough of them.

Anyway, seeing as students find and use fake green passes extremely easily, why can't teachers use their clipboards? It's easier for kids to swipe passes from teachers and use them rather than going to Wal-Mart or Staples to buy clipboards with paper. Who wants to carry a clipboard around? I'm sorry, but I just don't see HHS students at the checkout line at Staples saying to themselves, “Gee, this'll sure get those teachers!”

So, this is my open letter to you, the administration of HHS. Please allow teachers use of their clipboards/folders with paper once again. I don't think it's a problem. It's not going to cut down on pass abusers. If you want to cut down on that, have teachers check the times more carefully, or maybe stop students in the halls once in a while. Why disrupt a class?

Ethan Long has attended the Hamden School System since 1995. He is currently an 11th-grader at Hamden High. He is also a news editor at ABXY.org. You may contact Long at Streetsim@gmail.com.

December 4, 2006

The Ads are Here! The Ads are Here!

Hamden High’s location is perfect for the regular teenager who wants to hang out after school. Being right in the middle of Dixwell Avenue’s “Magic Mile” is similar to placing a school right in the middle of a mall. After school, the only way that kids don’t see stores and advertisements is if they close their eyes and ride the bus home.

Dixwell Avenue is full of ads and corporations that want the spending bucks of the HHS students. The teenage demographic spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year, so naturally mainstream companies want in on our buck.

Last month, I started noticing more and more advertisements slipping their way into our school. See, I was in the middle of my American literature class trying to get some Poe reading in, when people in the class kept talking. I couldn’t concentrate, so I started looking around to see if anyone else was trying to read. Once I saw that everyone was talking, I decided to look out the window. Right outside is a billboard that is directed exactly toward the building, as if it was meant to catch our interest. The ad is for Panera, which opened about a year ago right next to the school.

I turned around to the back of the room and looked at all the American literature books on the back shelf. A good majority had book covers and a good number of those had the same book cover. Every year, companies send schoolbook covers promoting their latest products, and we’re free to pick them up in the library or in our English classes. This year’s theme was alternative music. On the book covers are pictures of school locations: lockers, bathrooms, podiums on stages, etc. In each location pictured are stickers promoting bands. On the side of the book covers are lists of new albums being released.

Inside the school’s newspaper, The Dial, are ads and coupons placed to catch the reader’s eye. Businesses such as Subway appear in these ads. Some school clubs sell “Green and Gold Cards,” which are supplied by http://www.varsitygold.com/. These cards can be presented at a bunch of corporate-owned stores for discounts and other special deals.

Speaking of deals, Barnes and Noble and the Hamden High PTSO have made a deal in which the PTSO gets a percentage of sales for the books we buy. The Hamden High Web site says: Support the PTSO and the HHS Library Buy your holiday books and gifts at Barnes and Noble Monday, Dec. 4-Friday, Dec.8 and present the Barnes and Noble Bookfair Voucher. The HHS PTSO and the HHS Library will receive a percentage of the sale. Vouchers have been mailed with high school report cards and are also available at the high school library, high school office, and from a PTSO member. Vouchers may also be downloaded from the high school library homepage, www.hamdenhighlibrary.org.”

While I see this as a good thing for our school’s PTSO, it’s still another way for corporations to get our dollars. Is it wrong to want our money? Not if it’s stuff kids actually want. But the media control what we buy nowadays, with ads placed on the Web sites we go to (like Myspace.com), and in the magazines we read.

Who knows what advertisements in schools will be like in 20 years? Maybe business classes will be sponsored by corporations. Maybe all the instruments in band classes will be provided by the same company. While this may sound farfetched now, it very well may happen. What do you think?

Ethan Long has attended the Hamden School System since 1995. He is currently an 11th-grader at Hamden High. He is also a news editor at ABXY.org. You may contact Long at Streetsim@gmail.com.


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