Why Participation Shouldn’t Be a Graded Requirement in Today’s High School Classes

By: Maria C ('19)

      In today’s high school classrooms, the majority of teachers count participation as a key factor in their student’s overall grades. Although not all teachers include participation in their grades, many care very deeply about students speaking up in class.  

      “I personally don’t count participation in my math classes because I think that the students grades on their assignments speak enough for if they have participated or not. I do think many teachers count it because they want to hold students accountable and help them want to stay engaged in their class,” says Upper School teacher Chelsea Evans.

      Yes, the fear of a bad participation grade does help some students stay engaged, but for some it just causes a great deal of anxiety. One in eight students in the United States today suffer from an anxiety disorder. Some students are naturally more shy than others, and even a bad participation grade won’t encourage them to speak up in class.

      “I don’t like it when teachers give me zeros for participation because I’m just too scared to speak up. Especially when if doing well in their class, and that one bad part of my grade takes my overall average down,” says freshman Katana King.

      Participating can not only be hard because people are shy, but also because high school teenagers can be a little intimidating. Not only is your teacher staring at you to get the answer right, but so is the rest of your class. Even worse, if you do get it wrong, students might laugh or scoff. So why would anyone want to speak up?

      “Sometimes the aura of the class just makes me uncomfortable. Having everyone staring at me makes me really scared and heightens my anxiety. Especially if I’m not good at that class and I know I’m not going to get the answer right,” says freshman Toni-Ann Ocloo.

       Many teachers force kids to answer questions, by calling on them even when their hand isn’t raised. They think this is just helping students to step out of their comfort zone. But if a student doesn’t have their hand up, they most likely don’t know the answer or are too scared to answer it. Calling on them only makes them feel uncomfortable and embarrassed.

      “When you aren’t talking in class, teachers automatically assume that you aren’t participating. Even when you could be sitting there fully engaged taking very thorough notes,” says Katana King.    

       Teachers do assume that if a child doesn’t speak up often that means that they are completely not paying attention. But that could really be far from the truth. And when a teacher casts all of that pressure and anxiety on that student, it makes school a lot less enjoyable for them.

      The Child Mind Institute says, “Anxiety tends to lock up the brain, making school hard for anxious kids.”  

This shows that when teachers force children to participate, they are less likely to want to come to that class every day. Why would a teacher want their students walk into their classroom every day extremely nervous that they are going to get called on? Wouldn’t these teachers prefer their students to actually like coming to their class?

To Be or Not To Be… American?

By: Sarah J ('19)

      I walked down a cracked sidewalk flagged by graffitied stone walls and chipped apartment buildings.  The young kids at the school my friends and I had just visited were overwhelmingly eager to meet us and practice their English, while we wanted to practice our Spanish.  It was a small neighborhood on the outskirts of Seville, Spain, and I felt like a welcome visitor in this tightly-knit community.  But I soon felt unwelcome.                     

      As my group and I walked down this sidewalk, we heard a shout from an apartment window high above us and heard a large splat towards the tail end of the group.  Immediately a few girls in the back started to shriek – the person from above had thrown an egg at us!  We arrived at the small apartment where the service organization was centered, and shakily the girls washed the splattered egg off their clothes.

No one said much as we piled up in the minibus and drove back to the center of Seville.  We were all shaken up by the drastic change from feeling very welcome to feeling all eyes on us: the Americans who infiltrated their neighborhood.  An egg might have been a harmless weapon, but it sent a scary message: It could have been something worse.

      We entered a little plaza and sat under the shadow of a large statue of a man on a horse.  Here, tourists in khaki shorts and pastel polo shirts snapped pictures and chatted happily in their native languages.  I listened mutely as our guide reluctantly tried to explain to us the perceived views of the United States in Spain and throughout the world.  She explained how some people disliked American influence and tourism.  Even though heat radiated off the stones in the plaza, I shivered.  I didn’t understand.

      I had not done anything wrong.  I helped little kids practice their reading and helped teachers keep the kids occupied.  I played jump rope and sang Spanish rhymes.  The boys in our group played tag and basketball and let the little boys win.  What had we done to hurt anyone?  But I began to think about how when abroad, I represent the United States and its actions even if I have no say in how our government acts.  My presence represented the American presence in domestic government across the world.  In the United States, being American was a source of pride and safety for all my friends and family.  But abroad, was it a source of shame?

But then one of our teachers took an optimistic approach, “By being so kind to the kids in that neighborhood, maybe they will grow up without thinking stereotypes about Americans because they met you guys!  Even your small presence in that neighborhood as kind can make a difference for the better.”

      My perspective changed.  I might represent the United States when I was abroad, but I also represent myself.  By choosing to smile and act kindly towards these little kids, I can change how people perceive America.  I realized how powerful that is, and I felt a little better.  I stood up from under that statue and learned an important lesson: Although stereotypes are dangerous across the world, I have the power to change a stereotype for the better.

Bias on Instagram

By: Maria C ('19) and Lilli S ('19)

      Some people would say that in today’s society discrimination based on gender and race is no longer an issue that we need to talk about and have to face. But, anyone who takes a look at trends on social media can see that this is actually a huge topic of conversation, especially amongst teens. There are still very different opinions out there about how much progress we have made, but against that background, Country Day students unite to have our voice of open-mindedness and inclusion heard.


      Recently, a young woman from our Country Day community posted a picture on social media of friends and herself at the Women’s March in uptown Charlotte. Later, a young male outside of our community decided to comment on this post saying, “still trying to figure out what rights men have that women don’t.” After one or two young women commented back that discrimination is still an issue, the conversation became very heated and over 300 comments were made on the account between the dissenter and members (both male and female) of our Country Day community.

      The young man had his own opinion, but several Country Day students still felt that it was necessary to let him know that women’s rights ARE still an issue in society. Many members of the sophomore class responded with some very well thought out answers that should have silenced this young man, but he still continued to insist on his rightness and began to insult the American feminist community.


“You don’t even have any facts to back up your argument. That’s the problem with ignorant feminists, they can’t distinguish fact from feeling,” says the young boy.

The Country Day responders said back:

“Do you receive pepper spray as a gift? Do your clothes say more about your consent then your mouth? Do you have to fight to be payed the same amount as a man for doing the same exact job? No you don’t so you really don’t understand how these people would feel”  

      Although progress toward equality has been made since the 1920’s, the job is still not done. There are so many other statistics that show being a woman does make you part of a minority. For instance, women today still earn 97 cents for every dollar made by men. This gender wage gap exists in all ethnic groups. By the time women reach the age of 45 they earn about 15,000 less than men per year. Women are also more likely to work in lower paying occupations due to gender discrimination. (all statistics are from the college times.)

Not only did the girls at our school unite to fight back against this young man’s ignorant comments, but the boys in our community did too.


      One boy said, “You’re a white male in America. You will never understand what it feels like to be a minority, oppressed, or powerless. Until you have to deal with any of that, it’s not your place to comment on the issues unless you’re providing a solution.”

      Several comments name the young man who started the argument as “close-minded.” Students gave him fact after fact and were increasingly frustrated that the he refused to concede and understand their side of the argument. This earned him the title “close-minded” by the other commenters. Yet he also gave out his facts to support his view, and no one from Country Day changed their mind either. A first step toward communicating for a solution is shifting the focus to what can be done to advance equality for all genders and races, no matter their background.


“Even though this is just one guy saying these things, he still represents a minority that still has this sexist, discriminatory opinion. Just shows how far we really do have to go in our country and world.”

     Keep fighting for what you believe is right, Country Day! Be an example on our campus and in our community of unity and inclusion.

A Month Without Instagram: How I Survived and What I Learned

By: Sara Kathryn M ('18)

      The phrase “addicted to your phone” has become so cliché that it has practically lost all meaning; however, it wasn’t until recently that I realized how truly addicted I am. This year, I decided to give up Instagram for lent. I made the decision after finding myself—yet again—unaware of how much time I’d spent scrolling through photo after photo on my Instagram feed. I can’t imagine how many cumulative hours I’ve wasted mindlessly double-tapping my cell phone, thumbing through picture after picture until I’m not sure how much time has passed.

After a month away from “the Gram,” looking at the app for the first time made me see it in a different light. I’d watched for weeks as my friends prioritized picture-taking, spending time making sure the camera angle was just right, and crafting the perfect, witty caption. Looking through my feed, I realized how misrepresentational our Instagrams are compared to our lives. An Instagram account cannot wholly encompass a person—his personality, her laugh, or the tiny things that make someone who they are. Despite our attempts to accurately represent ourselves, a person simply can’t be represented by their online presence.

      Additionally, without the distraction that Instagram once provided, I was able to fully appreciate and be present in my communications with others. I was more open to conversation and found myself talking rather than immediately pulling out my phone if placed in an awkward situation. My conversations were more memorable and meaningful than before. I was able to use the time I once wasted scrolling through photos to study, spend time with friends, and live more purposefully.

      The most surprising thing I noticed is the discrepancy between the value we place on the likes we give and those we receive. I’ll admit, the instant gratification I got from posting that first photo felt pretty good. I found myself refreshing constantly just to see the heart icon pop up on the bottom of my screen. However, as I scrolled through others’ photos, double-tapping almost every image I passed, I realized that the value I assigned to likes as they appeared beneath my picture was not the same as those likes as I double-tapped the screen. As I found myself falling back into the trap of substituting likes with others’ approval, I decided to delete Instagram again.

      I have yet to re-download the app, although I suspect I will sometime in the near future, and I’ll likely delete and re-download it again. Although Instagram is a nice way of keeping up with friends and keeping friends updated, I’d prefer to remember my high school days as more than one giant photo-op. I’d like to remember smiling with my friends rather than my friends smiling faces as I browse Instagram, lingering for a moment before I move onto the next image. I know that in 2017, a social media-less world is impossible to imagine. I can’t bring myself to give up Snapchat, and I know I can’t force my friends to delete their Instagrams. But as for me, I’ll be living in the real world rather than through a screen.

You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?

By: Victoria W ('17)

(Don’t be mean, keep campus clean! Or Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…whatever, just pick up your trash!  Or maybe: Trash:  There’s no App for that!)


      Some Country Day students leave their trash around campus like it’s a garbage field. I just don’t understand it. All my life, my mother and father have drilled into me to pick up after myself. If you go to someone’s house, if you’re out in public, if you’re just making a mess clean it up! Do parents not teach their kids that anymore? Why is cleaning up so hard for Country Day students?  Why, just a few days ago, I noticed a senior boy left all of his trash from lunch in the senior lounge. Just got up and left it! Who does that? It’s gross and rude, and if I had senior lounge duty that day, I would have a few words with that person about cleanliness.

      It’s not just the senior slackers who are picking up on this trend of laziness. Juniors in the student center think it’s cool too! Last week after I got out of musical rehearsals I went to the student center to get a quick drink from the snack machine. There were brown paper bags and empty drink cans all over the tables, unwrapped food and wrappers on the floor. It was absolutely disgusting. If you’re wondering how I know juniors sat at those tables, it’s because I saw them during lunch. I’m not blind. Maybe all students should prepare now to pick up after their own children in the future by picking up a piece of trash or two around here.

      What’s up with people leaving the plastic trays around campus as well? Take it to the cafeteria people! Again, why is this so hard? Are some students so accustomed to their mothers waiting on them hand and foot that they can’t even walk the couple of feet it takes to dump a tray? It’s sad, truly, honestly. Just because you pay a lot of money to go here doesn’t mean you get to use the campus as your trash can. I’m not interested in hearing the argument that it’s the janitor’s job to clean, because that’s incorrect. The janitors’ jobs are to uphold the maintenance of the school, not clean up after forgetful kids.

      So here’s a public service announcement: YOU ARE IN HIGH SCHOOL! Some of you are just months away from going to college. It’s time to take off your diaper, put on your big kid pants, and have some decency. Clean up your mess! Don’t be a slob, and don’t let your friends be slobs.

13 Reasons Why Not to Watch the New Hit Netflix Series

By: Blake B ('19)

      By now, most have either watched or at least heard about the show 13 Reasons Why, a Netflix series that came out recently following the fictional story of Hannah Baker, who commits suicide. Hannah leaves 13 tapes, each addressed to a new person who she believes is responsible for her death. The show is more about a revenge act, than the mental health issues that ultimately lead to her suicide, which is why students should not be watching it.

      Teen suicide is one of the most sensitive topics to talk about. The issue is hard to discuss if you are not the one experiencing it, because in today’s world, teens have an unreasonable amount of pressure on them that adults would not understand. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, one in five teenagers have reported contemplating and or committing suicide. These numbers are higher than they have ever been. This being said, there needs to be something that will stir conversation about this sensitive topic without offending anyone. The show 13 Reasons Why has definitely stirred up conversation, but in the wrong way.

      13 Reasons Why attempts to tackle the topic of suicide without dropping the most important word one time in the show. Depression. Hannah Baker was clearly depressed throughout the show, a result of bullying, rape, and loneliness. But not once does the show discuss the mental illness causing the horrific event. Instead, this show depicts Hanna’s suicide not as a result of mental illness, but as a result of wanting revenge.

      Because the way the show is filmed (Hannah as a ghost) it does not emphasize the fact that Hannah is dead. In real life, Hannah’s actions are final, and she does not get to see all that she left behind. Often, teens don’t understand that suicide is final, there is no coming back. By having Hannah narrate the whole show, the viewer never receives a sense of finality from Hannah’s death.

      The suicide scene is extremely graphic. I understand why the directors of the show decided to film the scene this way. They want to show that suicide is painful, and should not be glorified. For teens who are vulnerable and have contemplated suicide and self-harm, which again, is one in five, this is an extreme trigger. As a teenager who has struggled with depression and anxiety, I can say that the scene was extremely hard to watch and left me with some unfriendly thoughts that I had not had to deal with in a long time.

      Schools all over the United States are warning parents not to let their children watch the show. In Florida, a school district reported at least a dozen cases of acts of suicide or self-harm within a week of the show coming out, more then have ever been reported before. If you think this is far away from Charlotte, it’s not. Charlotte Country Day felt the need to email the parents recently, advising them to supervise their children watching the show. If schools are emailing parents, there is clearly some concern that this show is a trigger to students suffering from the anxiety and depression that Hannah Baker feels.

      Instead of demonstrating the tragic end to a teen life, the show 13 Reasons Why demonstrates an entire school caught up in the drama of a suicide. In the USA, 5,000 teens attempt suicide every day. It is a topic that we have to address as a society if we want anything to change. We need to educate parents and children about the issue, making sure they know it is not an option. Do we really need a TV show that is meant for entertainment to be what brings up these issues? Do we want a romanticized Hollywood version of reality of the way teens view suicide?

© 2017 The Hook                                                                                                                                 Foster Harris

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