Hey to all our readers, this is Troy (85) Small. Every week I edit the Sophomores Speak Out and I enjoy it because I get to read what the other kids in my class are talking and thinking about. We have a lot to say this week. I particularly related to Haley Rossi’s piece about homework. Our readers probably think we all complain all the time, but we have our reasons. Teachers don’t realize that when we get an assignment from them we go on to the next teacher who is waiting with another one. I think all students relate to what Haley has to say, and I think many of them would agree with Melanie Krauss’s piece, Separate Is Not Equal. Enjoy your reading, and see you soon.

— Troy

Separate Is Not Equal


At our school, in math, science, English and language, kids are separated into different learning levels. College 2 is the slowest-paced class, and honors and advanced placement, depending on the grade, are the fastest-paced levels. Students are separated into the different learning levels their freshman year based on what their 8th grade teachers thought would be the best level for them. From there students decide, with the help of guidance counselors, what level they should take.

But sometimes this level separation is not always best for the students. The most organized and focused students who can handle the workload are placed in honors and advanced placement. The majority of the rest of the students take College 1, and the kids who need a slower-paced class take College 2. Sometimes, students are between that honors and College 1 level and have to decide which class to take. Counselors recommend trying the harder class and if it turns out to be too much, then you drop down a level. But when you go into an honors class and look at the learning environment and compare it to a College 1 or College 2 class, there is no comparison.

The honors classes tend to be more quiet and focused making it easier to learn because the students themselves are ready to learn. In the College 1 and 2 classes, it can be much different. There are lots of side distractions from kids who say, “I don’t care,” and don’t want to participate and the work is less interesting.

So in the end, taking the lower-level class that is supposed to best for your ability doesn’t benefit the student at all because instead of being placed in a focused class where the work may be a little tough, they are sent to classes filled with noise and distraction. This isn’t true for all classes, but from my experience of two years at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, I have started to notice the pattern with some of my classes. I don’t know that stopping all the level separation in the classes would solve the problem, but steps should be taken to make all the classes a great learning environment for all students.

Give Me a Break


Lately, I have felt overloaded with homework. Maybe it’s because we just got back from vacation and need to get back into schoolwork habits, but I think that some teachers just need to ease off. They assign homework every night which I understand is important to reinforce what we learned, but sometimes we just need a break. I already feel burned out from all the work that I have and I know that others feel the same way. Whenever I mention it, everyone around me agrees.

What happens is that people start slacking because completing all their work seems like an impossible task. I personally had four papers due in one week among other assignments which I could find no motivation to begin. I think teachers sometimes feel that the homework they are giving us is reasonable, but they forget we have other assignments. Some students spend several hours on their homework every night. To the teachers who don’t over-assign: “I greatly appreciate it.” Vacation was just the other week, but I already definitely need another.

Meeting My Favorite Author


Did you ever think that someone famous could be an average person just like you? My friend, Ally, and I went off Island with my Mom to go to a Jodi Picoult book signing. We had no idea what to expect going in there, but we could only hope for the best. She is our favorite author and as we were anxiously waiting in line every question was running through our minds. Can we ask her questions? Can we take a picture? What will she look like up close?

The next thing we knew we were next in line, and the lady opened our books so it was easy for Jodi to sign them. We walked up and she immediately greeted us with huge smiles. She put her arms around us so we could take pictures and the next thing we knew she was starting a big conversation. She was so excited that we came all the way from the Vineyard to meet her, and she couldn’t believe that her books were such a big hit on the Vineyard. She was cracking jokes and laughing with us and she said that she would love to come to the Island. With a huge smile, she said, “I never turn anything down.”

It was so nice to realize that someone so famous and popular with people could be an average, everyday person that you would see any day walking down the street.

Hockey Sorrows


The Vineyard high school hockey team lost in the semifinals to Sandwich. The score was 3-1 but the Vineyard outshot Sandwich. The Sandwich team scored twice in the first five minutes of the game and everyone on the Vineyard team went into the panic mode. Other than those first five minutes, the game was a 1-1 tie. We really wanted to win, but after they scored the first goal, it took the wind out of our sails.

It’s very disappointing that our season had to come to an end, especially since the seniors on the team won’t be here next year. We all thought we had a chance of winning the state championship game, but if you have an off game in the playoffs you will lose. We didn’t play our best game of the year and coach said that we didn’t play well, so it’s unfortunate our season had to come to an end on a bad note because everyone had a great season. We have many great memories of the season. Sandwich was a good team, but if we played to our potential the way we did against Hanover, then I believe we would have come away with a win. We didn’t play to our potential though, so we lost and it’s depressing, but at least I have a couple more years.

Battling Spring Sports


Kids all around are preparing for the battle of spring sports. More and more show up at the gym every day with spring sports on their minds. Not only do spring sports keep kids active, but they also keep kids academically involved. With the “no playing if you are failing” rule, our high school’s teens are able to keep themselves on track and achieve their goals. Spring sports such as lacrosse, softball, baseball and sailing have kids acting frantically to get into shape.

As a member of the high school’s softball team, being in shape in time for “hell week” is a very important task I must complete. The only thing that could possibly prepare our sporting teams for the coming season is to play these sports year-round. Hearing about other schools that have outstanding athletic records makes some eager to play more. If our school were to have an organized team get-together every so often during the ongoing school year, I think our performances would be much higher. I’m not saying that our athletic department is not good enough, but year-round practice can make perfect.

The only thing stopping this is the rules of the sporting teams. No coach is allowed to be present before a certain time in the season with the teenagers who wish to play that sport. With this detour, captains are left to lead practices as closely as the coaches may lead. By starting earlier, our athletic department will be sure to increase its standards and maybe our teams will begin to have undefeated seasons without struggle.

Fund-Raising Perils


Just a warning to all those store owners and parents out there on the Vineyard: spring sports are about to start. Now you might just think, “Hey, now my child has something to do after school” or “Now I get to watch some exciting high school sports.” That might be true, but the bad news is there’s bound to be more fundraisers going around. I’ve already done two fundraisers for baseball, but chances are we’ll do a few more. Lacrosse and track are bound to do calendars along with some sort of raffle. Softball will definitely do some fundraising and chances are tennis and sailing will too. Now not only does this put stress on the athletes and parents, it also causes all those store owners to pick whom to support, but that’s your choice.

Sexism in Wind Surfing


I just came back from my vacation in Florida where I was competing in a windsurfing regatta. I had signed up for the Koma class under the women’s division, an old-school style of windsurfing. When I arrived at the event and checked in, I was told that I was the only woman in my class. This would have been acceptable up in New England, but I was in Florida, one of the most competitive windsurfing states in the United States.

So there I am sailing with 18 men and doing well for myself, and the next day Sport Fleet joins us. Sport Fleet is for novice to first-time racers. I notice a few women out there with this group where people are tripping all over the place unsure of where up or down is. I was wondering how come these women are sailing with beginners, so I asked one. She said she had done what I had done and found herself to be the lone female too and so this year she had decided to join Sport Fleet. I kept an eye on her and found that off the start she was never far behind the guys in my fleet.

So my question is: why don’t women race seriously? I fly down to Florida to get some good competition. So why are the completely capable women not racing? I personally felt like an idiot standing on the podium alone with my trophy in hand. When Antoine Abau, French world champion, asked me at breakfast if I windsurfed, I didn’t know how to respond. It isn’t just a simple yes, I mean my life revolves around the sport. With both my parents previous world champions, how could I not windsurf? As innocent a question as it was, I couldn’t help feeling frustrated.

Teens Need Sleep


Only 15 per cent of teenagers get the amount of sleep recommended for them. This is for two reasons: other priorities, and the teenage internal biological clock.

Teens have responsibilities like school, homework, chores, and sports. Each of these has a big home time demand. If you don’t do your homework, your grades drop. If you don’t do your chores, your parents get angry. If you skip a sports practice, you don’t get playing time. Sleep comes at the end of this list and is the only thing that a teen is not visibly punished for other than the fact that they feel tired.

There is also a part of this which can’t be prevented by even the most time-organized teen. Most of this is due to the teenager’s circadian rhythm or internal biological clock. In teenagers, this clock is temporarily reset, telling them to go to sleep later and wake up later. This change takes place because the hormone melatonin, which is linked to the body’s sleep function, is produced later at night, causing a delay in sleepiness. Overtiredness comes along with a lot of other side effects, like being unfocused and moody.

Whether or not these obstacles are preventable, teenagers need to overcome them to make life easier for themselves and the ones around them.

The Other Side of Tourism


Over the vacation, my family and I went to St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. We stayed in a resort on the beach in St. Thomas for three days and then rented a house in St. John. The beaches were beautiful, the food was great and the town was always jam-packed at night.

However, one thing that we noticed about traveling to another island was that things were not that different from what we see and hear on the Vineyard in the summer. For instance, there were tourists everywhere, including us, in souvenir stores and people pointing fingers to show us where to go. It was interesting to be on the other side of things and be the tourists asking the “stupid questions,” getting lost, and pronouncing words wrong. We knew how these islanders felt and that they probably wanted us to “get off their island.” It was a learning experience to be on another island, and it was a fun and relaxing trip.

Traveling Horrors


This past vacation was one of long-distance traveling for a lot of students. The few that I knew of were traveling to places such as Jamaica, Croatia and Spain. For myself and my friend Abbey, St. John was our destination. I was forced to fly from Boston to St. Thomas all by myself because my basketball season finished after Abbey and her family had left. The small issue I encountered was that I was flying Friday, the day of the predicted blizzard, so it took an extra half hour to de-ice the runway for us to take off. I was so thankful for no other complications, but unfortunately one of my friends was not so lucky.

When he was flying overnight from Boston to Arizona, he had an unwanted surprise. He said he awoke to see the lights flashing on in the middle of the night and the flight attendant, who you would hope to be calm in the middle of an emergency, sprinting up and down the aisles barking at the passengers to put their seat belts on. In a state of shock and feeling dazed, my friend followed directions to do so, and then strapped on the oxygen mask that released from the ceiling. I have never heard of a situation where the masks have been needed before. Surrounding him were screaming and crying women and children. A man even threw up.

The chaos lasted only about 10 minutes, but he said it seemed like hours. The problem was caused by a loss of cabin pressure at 40,000 feet, which forced them to have to drop to 10,000 feet immediately. He said he thought for sure they were crashing because of all the panic and that they were plummeting rapidly. The plane was practically completely vertical.

The Post-Vacation Slump


A recent week was dedicated to rest, and relaxation, for it was February break. Students and their families traveled to hot places to lie in the sun, and cold places to ski down a mountain. Most kids I’ve talked to say they went to Florida, like me. Some went on cruises to Jamaica, or to the Bahamas. Some went to Okemo Mountain Resort and some went to Loon. A whole scramble of kids went to Mexico, and one even went to Croatia.

Of course, some kids stayed home, but it’s good to sleep and watch television when you can. A week without tests and homework is wonderful, and then you’re right back where you were before, school. Back to reality. It’s hard to get over the fact that you’re not in 80-degree weather anymore, lying on the beach listening to the waves, but you’re in 30-degree weather hearing your alarm clock, and the first period bell. After the first day back, you have to go back to sports practice, back to work. Homework, chores, tests, friends, enemies. The week after break is no fun at all, but then the weekend comes, and you get to relax again.