National Champion Ryan Oosting Closes Out His High School Running Career

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From left to right: Roger Buckley, Ryan Oosting, Justin Bourassa, Adam Elyounssi, and Jeff Candell during the 2018 outdoor track season.

By Halle Snell

Ryan Oosting began running on the AHS cross country and track teams as a freshman. He is now about to begin his last season of outdoor track. During a span of almost four years (eleven seasons) as a varsity runner, he has become an extremely accomplished athlete. Oosting’s  favorite track distances are the mile and two-mile, his P.R.’s being 4:11.78 and 8:53.46, respectively. His fastest 5K time (3 miles) is 14:36.13.

Oosting helped lead the boy’s cross country team to two Middlesex League championships, in 2017 and 2018. He also attended the 2018 Nike Elite Camp, which chooses 18 of the fastest high school distance runners across the country to train together and improve by learning from each other. Oosting’s four year journey at AHS has been “rewarding, heartbreaking, and interesting” according to Justin Bourassa, who coaches the boy’s cross country and track teams.

The Beginning

Oosting had little to no interest in running before his freshman year at AHS. He signed up for the cross country team under his mother’s influence, and neglected to train before the start of the season. After being introduced to the vigorous practices and battling early injuries, Oosting realized that keeping training consistent and taking care of himself would be vital for success. As his freshman year progressed, he “ran pretty fast, and surprised [himself].” He describes thinking, I can actually be good at this.” Oosting then focused his newfound energy on training harder and improving his times.

Secrets to Success

Intense effort is required to be a strong cross country runner, both physically and emotionally. Oosting follows a strict regimen to stay injury-free, well-nourished, and mentally healthy. Drinking water, eating well, and sleeping are necessary for a runner’s health. Oosting explains that “people think they can get away with six hours of sleep, but if you’re not sleeping, you’re not only affecting school, but your running too, because it’s [harder for] your muscles to heal.” Neglecting to stretch or cool down after runs can also directly impact future performance. Oosting explains that “if you cut corners… you’re not going to be as good as you could be.” He advises new runners to “train hard, but train smart.”

Bourassa admits that “it’s always challenging to see runners as entire, whole people, not just varsity athletes.” Because of this, the team stresses balance and wellness. The coaches tell the athletes: “you don’t need to be thinking only about cross country, you always need to be thinking a little bit about cross country.”

Team Support

Cross country is primarily a team sport, according to Oosting. Everyone has personalized goals, but the bond between teammates is what drives them to reach these goals. At the 2018 league championship, “[they] ran for the team, not for [themselves],” and won the meet, beating each town they challenged during the season.

Flexibility from within has also been important for the team. When Oosting was unable to attend a traditional postseason meet due to another invitational, Bourassa explained that “he [thought] about what he wanted to do, and everyone understood and respected that decision, just like… the other guys made choices about what [to] participate in.”

There are many people in Oosting’s life whom he believes have been the “unspoken heroes” behind his successes. He doesn’t think that his coaches- Justin Bourassa, Kevin Richardson, and John Creedon- get enough credit for the encouragement and support they’ve given him. His parents come to all of his races and support his running in any way they can. He “doesn’t think [he would] be here without them.”

Coaching Ryan has helped Bourassa “put everything in perspective, in terms of looking at the bigger picture.” He feels “much more comfortable taking a loss in something that might feel smaller if [they] can keep [their] eyes on bigger [and] more meaningful meets.”

Plans For The Future

Oosting was ecstatic when accepted to Stanford, one of the country’s leading universities. He plans to study sciences and run both cross country and track. Because of his already busy schedule, he doesn’t predict that college will be a drastic change from high school. In fact, he hopes for more free time next year.

If all goes according to plan, Oosting hopes to “run post-collegiate… with a pro contract.”

The Arlington High School community is immensely proud of Oosting’s accomplishments and is excited to see what his future holds.

The boy’s cross country team continues to welcome many new members each fall. The team has dramatically increased in size in the last few seasons- there are now about 50 runners. Bourassa emphasizes the fact that “the running program… at the high school is a great place to start- it doesn’t have to be a place where you end up.” He encourages aspiring runners to “come on out- there is a spot for you. You’re already on the team.”

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Students Intern For High School Credit

By Isabella Scopetski

As students craft their schedules for the upcoming Fall semester, the internship program remains a popular choice for incoming juniors and seniors at AHS. Students who have previously participated in the internship program reflect positively about the program and the impact it’s had on their education.

How It Works

Many students and are enticed by the program because of the promise of a G block study second semester, however, most do not fully understand the process.

Melanie Konstandakis sheds some light on how the ever-popular internship program operates and what her relationship to the students is. Konstandakis is the program director; she works with the students to help them choose the site that meets their needs, and she works with the sites to understand their needs and goals of the organization. “I also do an orientation to help prepare students to be successful in the host site,” she explains. Konstandakis plays a key role in overseeing the work students do at their sites and works with individuals when challenges arise.

The internship program has been in effect for six years at AHS. “Many other high schools have internship programs,” said Konstandakis, “but there are a few things that make ours unique.” The AHS internship program is unique in that it “allows all students to choose their site,students get course credit, it is in the fall, so students can use it on college applications, and it has a diversity of sites so students of different academic levels can find a site that meets their needs,” said Konstandakis.

Benefits

“I think the program helps students experience workplace situations to experience life outside of a traditional classroom,” said Konstandakis. It is her philosophy that “not all people are suited to classroom learning.” Konstandakis sees the internship program as an essential learning experience for some students because it introduces them to new ways of expressing their ideas and solving problems outside of the classroom, in a real world setting. Many student interns “have already taken all the classes that apply to their interests or are just ready to try something new and different,” said Konstandakis, which is why she believes the program is successful and popular among eager upperclassmen who are about to enter a new stage in their lives.

Since many student interns go on to higher education after they graduate, Konstandakis commented on how she thought the program geared students well towards college. “My graduates report that it does,” she said. Students learn a lot about communication, confidence, teamwork and pushing themselves to try new things. “In most internship settings, there is a supervisor but [they are] not necessarily by your side constantly, so students have to problem-solve more independently and take what they have learned and apply it on the spot to make things work,” added Konstandakis.

Although the internship program seems to benefit the students well, according to Konstandakis, it also seems to benefit the adults who run the work sites. “The students bring new ideas and often new knowledge,” said Konstandakis, which is helpful to adults who may need new strategies and ways of interacting with their community. The collaboration of students and adults has reportedly aided these sites in reaching a younger demographic through social media and newer technology which students tend to be more adept with than most adults.

Student Experience

Senior Isa Dray interned with Massachusetts state representative Sean Garballey at the state house in Boston during her junior year. Dray ventured into downtown Boston two days each week and worked for two and a half hours in Garablley’s office. Dray’s internship involved taking notes at meetings, hearings, and sessions with Garabally and his team. Dray also researched different bills, specifically the one hundred percent renewable energy bill; the goal was to understand how legislative action happens.

For Dray, the internship program was an overall positive experience. She enjoyed working with her advisors: Garabally’s own advisors. “It ended up being a really good working relation,” Dray recalled, despite the fact that her advisor was new and sometimes struggled to find work for Dray to fill her time with. Through her experience, Dray unexpectedly learned that she is more interested in being on the other side of government where lobbying takes place, rather than being an elected official.

A few drawbacks to the experience for Dray included the hour-and-a-half commute she had to make each way by train to her internship each week. Working in an office was admittedly “boring at times,” said Dray, “when all I was doing was working in the office all day, researching, and taking notes.” For Dray, the job became more exciting when she “got to sit in on hearings for bills and sit in on the committee.”

Reflecting back on her experience, Dray expressed how she might do a few things differently. “I think I would try to come in with some more of my own ideas that I could work with my representative about,” as opposed to only working on issues Garballey was already working on.

Another Student’s Experience

Lulu Eddy interned with Arlington Community Education during her senior year. She worked on various projects during her semester, which included working on social media outreach by launching the Community Ed. Instagram page and posting on the site’s Facebook feed to remind people about upcoming classes. “I also edited their catalogue,” said Eddy, “organized data on spreadsheets, and I organized classroom proposals.” The summer before she began her internship with Community Ed, Eddy interned with ACMi and built a relationship with Konstandakis, which led her to continue a similar internship through the school year. Eddy expressed her appreciation for the program as it was “accommodating to her demanding sports schedule.”

Eddy’s experience is exemplary of how personal and specific internships can be for students at AHS. While Community Ed benefited from Eddy’s experience with social media and technology, Eddy was able to gain from working with adults and learning the demands of a job in marketing or advertising, within her own town.

 

Eddy enjoyed her experience overall, especially with the people she worked with. “If I had more time, I would have liked to do something a little more hands on in my greater community,” admitted Eddy, “although this worked out because I was also playing sports.” Additionally, Eddy believes that her communication skills improved through her internship. “By the end I felt really comfortable communicating with my boss and the other women I worked with about my needs,” said Eddy. She also took away a greater understanding of event planning, which came into play when she helped organize various Community Ed classes.

Main Takeaways

Konstandakis and student participants find the internship program an overall success. Site supervisors also learn and benefit from their student interns, which maintains a working relationship between AHS and each site.

“Students can still sign up for the fall by putting internship into their schedule and I will set up a time to meet with them and get them matched!” says Konstandakis.

Internship Flyer

Transgender Students in AHS

 

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By Lucy Spangler

In the Massachusetts midterm elections, three ballot questions were voted on. Question 3 ended up passing; however had it not, the consequences could have been dire for the Massachusetts transgender community. Question 3 is a gender identity discrimination referendum dealing with Senate Bill 2470, also known as the bill that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in public places. A “yes” vote would support the bill and a “no” vote would repeal the bill.

I first heard about this bill while attending Boston pride last June. I was curious, so in the weeks leading up to the midterms I was able to interview the leaders of Arlington High School’s GSA, Joanie Cha, Henry Walters, and Morgan Curley. I was hoping to gain some insight through the GSA into what it is like for transgender students at AHS.

I started out by asking them if, in a state that traditionally votes democratically, did they find it odd that a bill like this was being proposed in the first place.The general consensus from the three of them was that it was shocking that a bill such as this was being disputed in the first place. Next we talked about AHS as a community, specifically whether or not AHS provides adequate support for trans students. Cha and Curley brought up how one of the main day-to-day problems is the lack of gender neutral bathrooms, a struggle that not a lot of students may realize, simply because it does not affect them. “There are only two gender neutral bathrooms in the school” Cha said “[and only one] gender neutral locker room.”

Another issue is the inconsistency within the school community when it comes to support and education. “I feel like the school is very supportive in specific ways and provides resources but it is not consistent in the community,” Cha mentioned, illustrating how, while the administration might be supportive, there is a slight lack of support and understanding within the general student body.

While we were talking, the topic of the vandalism last year came up, when homophobic graffiti was found spray painted on the outside of the school. On the day after the vandalism, an assembly was held where Dr. Janger and some of the senior officers all spoke out against the vandalism and about how it did not reflect the AHS community. One would think that the GSA would have been the first ones to know about this assembly, but as it turns out, they were not even notified. Walters expressed that “it alienated a lot of people”. According to Walters, he also explained how, when they tried to reach out to Dr Janger about organizing something with the GSA and the student council, they were more or less shot down. This type of response from the administration was disappointing to members of the GSA and is an example of the disconnect between the administration and the people actually affected by issues with homophobia and transphobia within the school.

Despite these issues, they all agreed that, whatever the outcome of the midterms, the environment in AHS would not change; however, Curley and Cha both expressed their worries about the results. Curley stated that they felt that it could “embolden transphobic and homophobic people”, while Cha expressed that they “would feel less safe”.

When asked if any of them had any suggestions for how the school could improve the environment for transgender people, suggestions such as including more gender neutral bathrooms and locker rooms, as well as including questions about each student’s pronouns in student questionnaires and giving teachers basic gender diversity training were all brought up. Also suggested was, including gender diversity in sex ed classes and having the GSA work alongside the school to educate students. Overall, the changes proposed by Cha, Walters, and Curley are very simple changes; they would not be too difficult to implement, and would make life at school much easier for transgender, gender neutral, genderqueer, gender fluid, and non binary students at AHS.

The mention of such changes made me wonder how much training teachers actually receive and what protocols are in place for the protection of transgender students. When interviewing Mr. DiLoreto, his response to the question was that, “It’s a two part answer: our superintendent and school committee have taken on an initiative to support diversity in the Arlington schools, as a result our teachers have been a part of multiple programs and developments to support our students over the past few years”. He also added that the topic of gender diversity “is very broad. It would be very helpful for our staff to be trained better on how to support our transgender students in the issues they face on a daily basis, [issues like] name changes and identity changes have all been discussed”.

In the end, question 3 passed, which shows that there is support out there for transgender students. The fact that these issues are currently being discussed among the administration shows willingness to provide support however, the concerns from the students are also very real and there is a definite need for them to be addressed. The changes they are asking for would not cause too much disruption among the general student body, and in the end the act of acceptance and tolerance is free. The issue appears to not necessarily be a lack of support, but is a lack of comprehension and communication within the school community.

Bright Future for Burnett

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Burnett (left)

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By Ellie Crowley

Senior Ian Burnett started rowing for Arlington-Belmont Crew during the spring of his freshmen year. Choosing to row led Burnett to many opportunities he otherwise wouldn’t have encountered, and eventually would lead him to represent his country in a world competition.

Freshman year, Burnett was already looking to follow in his mother’s footsteps who rowed in college and for the U.S. national team. He rowed throughout sophomore and junior year, but his rowing career peaked junior year.

During the spring season of Burnett’s junior year, he qualified for the U.S. Rowing Youth Nationals in the pair event with senior Brendan Youmell. The pair finished in the top final of the event, which Burnett describes as his proudest accomplishment.

“This was a special accomplishment” explained Burnett, “coming from such a small team as Arlington-Belmont, and going on to race against some of the best rowers in the country was an awesome experience, even if we couldn’t bring back a medal.”

The summer following his success at Youth Nationals, Burnett rowed for Community Rowing Inc. (CRI) and competed in U.S. Rowing Club Nationals in the U19 Mens 8+. His boat placed first in their event, and Burnett decided to continue rowing with the club during his senior year.

Burnett’s senior year started off successfully, placing 6th at the Head of the Charles race in the Men’s Youth 8+ event for CRI. This victory set the tone for the rest of Burnett’s fall season.

He soon received offers from numerous schools for rowing, and committed to Brown University for men’s rowing. Burnett is looking forward to his future, saying, “I am most looking forward to racing bigger and better teams in college.” College rowing attracts rowers on an international scale, implying a significantly more competitive field for Burnett to compete in.

Most recently, Burnett received an invitation to train with the United States National team, with the chance to race at the 2019 Junior World Championships in Tokyo this summer. What started as a single season of rowing on a small, local team has progressed into opportunities on the national level which indicate a bright future for Burnett and his rowing career.

Glenn Doyle Flips His Way Through the Circus Smirkus

 

By Claire Kitzmiller

Most high school student’s extracurriculars consist of  a varsity sport, or student-organized club, an instrument, or musical theater, but, freshman Glenn Doyle spent the summer creating and traveling with the Circus Smirkus as an acrobat.

Doyle got his start while living in the Netherlands in 2013, participating in competitive acrobatics. During his first year in competition, he won the Dutch national competition, becoming a national champion at age 9.

The next year, Doyle was unable to compete so he turned to Circus. He found a love for Circus and wanted to continue after moving to Arlington in 2015.

During the summer of 2018, Doyle joined the Circus Smirkus, working and living with the group for ten weeks.

For the first three weeks, the performers put together the show.  Doyle described the creation of the show as a collaboration with the other performers, like “a coloring sheet: they have the lines and you just fill it in.”

For the next seven weeks, they toured around New England and New York performing their show, many of which were sold out. Doyle performed as a clown as well as doing some acrobatics.

Doyle said his favorite things was, “spending time with my friends and performing and just having a blast!”

Doyle encourages everyone to check out the Circus as he believes “it will change their view of the circus and clowns because if you see me as a clown, you’ll think, he’s not that scary.”

While Doyle currently competes on the Arlington High School Varsity Wrestling team, he still has a love for gymnastics and plan to continue working with the Circus in the future and possibly as a career.

 

Traditional Class Rank Ends to Improve Student Emotional Health

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By Halle Snell

Academic grades can be one of the highest anxieties in a student’s life. There is competition and comparison between students in many schools, which increases already existing stress. Some U.S. high schools administer class ranks, or numbers assigned to students that rank them from the top to the bottom of their class. This tells students how their grades compare to those of their classmates and where they fall academically in comparison to everyone else.

In many high schools, each student is assigned a number, or a rank. For example, if there are 400 students in a class, and a student’s rank is 100, they are in the top 25% of the class. If their rank is 350, they are in the bottom 25% of the class. Traditionally, the student who has the highest class rank is the valedictorian.

Class ranks are scored differently based on the school and on what classes students take. Rankings don’t take course level into account. So, if a student takes AP or honors classes but gets mostly B’s and C’s, their class ranking will be lower than a student taking standard level classes and getting all A’s.

About 60% of schools in the United States use class ranks, but AHS does not. According to guidance counselor Linda Buckley, “we did, up until a few years ago.” However the guidance department decided that emotional health is more important than ranking the student’s performance, and promptly ended the tradition. “Students were stressed by looking at the ranks,” recalled Buckley, “ and making themselves sick trying to get one step higher than their classmates”.

Sophomore Genevieve Baldwin explained that class rankings would “add another level of pressure… and another thing that people can judge you about.” Baldwin has a twin sister in her grade, and they would be ranked in comparison to one another. She confessed that even if they tried not to let this affect them, “it could still be… not that great, having one of us ranked above the other.”

Many people believe that colleges value class ranks, and take where a student stands among their grade in high regard. However, this is not always true. Because of the problems surrounding class ranks at AHS, the guidance department called colleges of all tiers and asked about ranks. They are not as important as previously believed to get into college.

Ms. Buckley confirmed that in actuality, “GPA makes more of a difference. What matters most to colleges is what you do each day, the level of classes you are taking, and that you are healthy and well rounded.”

Since the removal of class ranks, the administration has “not seen kids jockeying for position since.”

AHS English Department Increases Diversity in the Curriculum

By Maya Pockrose

AHS English teachers piled into the classroom of Matthew Cincotta (a fellow AHS English teacher) after school one unseasonably warm October afternoon for one of their regular meetings to discuss classes and curricula. Chocolate-covered almonds circulated around the table as everybody got settled, talking and laughing, before Deborah Perry, the district English director, began the meeting.

As a goal, the Arlington Public Schools district strives to achieve cultural competency. According to the National Education Association, cultural competence is “the ability to successfully teach students who come from a culture or cultures different than our own” (NEA). Perry says that a goal of the English department at AHS is to “put an increased emphasis on voice and perspective” as well as to “help kids find their own voices, and see other people’s voices.”

At AHS, there is an emphasis on a “living curriculum” that is “always changing and morphing to the times,” in the words of Cincotta. Justin Bourassa feels that “it can always be better,” but the department is “getting much better representation in terms of protagonists [and] much better representation in terms of the authors and their identities, across all spectrums and all factors of identities.” But teachers also want students to feel included and seen even if the books do not feature characters who exactly match their own identities: Megan Miller says focusing on students’ voices provides “an opportunity for students to take their own unique perspective” and think about “what their voice can contribute, just like the character or the authors contributing a voice.”

The English Department is working hard to emphasize perspective. Bourassa clarifies that the department is not embracing different perspectives “simply to check boxes,” but rather they are choosing “good, powerful pieces of literature” that also stem from different origins. One course that particularly emphasizes these choices is the Missing Voices 12th grade course. In the curriculum for that course, teachers have been “broadening” the texts they use and have and “knocked walls down,” according to Bourassa. Perry notes how “in the last four years or so [the department has] consciously changed the senior Missing Voices course” to introduce new and different voices and texts.

Accessibility is also key to diversity in an English curriculum. Perry says that “even adding a graphic novel is another way to add diversity” and telling a story through visuals “is a whole other way of seeing.” And approach plays a key role, as well. “Even if it is an older piece of literature, the lens might be different dependent on the times,” explains Lauren Geiger. She adds that “your parents didn’t read Fahrenheit 451 the same way we are reading it now,” which is why older texts still hold value and have merit even today.

Though the English department is making great strides in adding different types of diversity, it is certainly a group effort that takes time and thought. Erin Bradley, emphasizes that she and other English teachers “all need to and … want to put in that effort to keep [the] curriculum fresh and keep it reflecting the society we see around us.” Bourassa brings up “the idea of ‘updating,’” and notes that “there are a lot of very contemporary texts that are also very good, teachable, powerful, meaningful texts.”

The AHS English curriculum is constantly evolving, and the department has not stopped examining their curriculum and making changes as everyone sees fit. This aligns with the National Education Association’s assertion that “educators become culturally competent over time” and not “as a result of a single day of training, or reading a book, or taking a course.” And the teachers at AHS are certainly putting in that time and effort. The district as a whole is very supportive of this initiative as well; Geiger feels that “the great thing about Arlington is that we’re, as professionals, really afforded the creative space and time to focus on what we teach and how we approach it.” And none of these changes are made arbitrarily or artificially; as Bourassa says, the department is not “doing anything for the sake of doing it.”

Macbeth Takes AHS

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By Connor Rempe

Mr. Michael Byrne, AHS’s very own drama teacher, flinches whenever the word Macbeth is uttered in his theater. Afterall, theater superstition dictates that unless you are performing or rehearsing Macbeth, the word is taboo. Most people would think that this would present an interesting challenge to those trying to perform the show. Mr. Byrne is not most people.

The Arlington High School production of Macbeth wrapped up after its final show on November 17th. When selecting a fall show Byrne has a cycle to go by: Classic American, Contemporary American, Shakespeare and finally Non-English Classic. This year was a Shakespeare year. In the past Mr. Byrne has stuck to comedies, however, this year he went the other way. Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most famous and bloodiest tragedies and presented some interesting challenges for Byrne and his cast.

The process of putting on the show begins in the spring. Byrne picked Macbeth thinking it would resonate with today’s audience. He thought that Macbeth “would be interesting in our current … environment to look at a play that is in many ways about politics and power and who does and doesn’t have power.”

rom there the next step was to look into what was going on in Shakespeare’s world while Macbeth was being written. Perhaps the most notable event of the time was the failing of the Gunpowder Plot, a plan by English Catholic to overthrow King James I, in 1605. Byrne found that Shakespeare’s work was emblematic of that event. “ In 1616 [Shakespeare] wrote [Macbeth], Othello and Lear… all three of which are pretty agressive and ask what does it mean to be a good person and what do you do when bad things happen?”

The next part of the process for  Byrne was to cut down the play from its original form. While this may seem surprising to many, Byrne finds that times have changed since Shakespeare’s day that it is necessary to cut down many of his works. In fact in the case of Macbeth, “I ended up cutting more than I kept,” said Byrne, “ I wanted it to have this forward movement of inevitably.” The show ended up running about 90 minutes with no intermission. An uncut version of Macbeth would probably run about two and half hours.

Auditions for the show took place around the second week of school. Students who wanted to audition had to recite a memorized Shakespeare monologue. Although they are welcome to, Byrne prefers that prospective cast members do not choose a monologue from the play they are auditioning for. He says “If you do the piece in a way that is far away from my understanding of the character, then that puts you further away from the world of the play.” Byrne also appreciates when students do research to pick monologues that fit the play they are auditioning for.  He says it shows imagination. This year’s audition process brought in more freshman than any other class which has Byrne excited for the future of the drama program.

Most high school students see Shakespeare as a dirty word that they want to avoid at all costs. However, Mr. Byrne finds that after the first few weeks of rehearsal his cast realized, “Oh this language isn’t intimidating,”. Once that happens, Byrne thinks that high schoolers, “sink their teeth into it, in a way that someone who is trying to get it right or is precious about the language might not.” By the end of the play, says Byrne, “ I think every actor on stage spoke Shakespeare and fully understood what they and the other people on stage were saying.”

After months of preparation, Byrne and his cast performed the show which was certainly thought provoking and fun to watch. The audience got to watch as Macbeth, portrayed by senior Miles Shapiro, slowly descended into madness and corruption. The show reached its climactic conclusion in an epic fight sequence that involved nearly the entire cast jumping off the stage and running into the audience. It is safe to say Byrne certainly achieved his goal of a 90 minute thrill ride.

At the end of it all Mr. Byrne found himself seeing the characters differently than he had before. “Despite the killing, I think McB could’ve been a good leader, ” says Byrne, “When I started I thought that this was a play about a killer but also I learned it is a play about the arbitrary nature of who has power in the world.” That is the reason  Byrne keeps on doing Shakespeare, it seems to change every time it is performed. “ I think the brilliance of Shakespeare is that over the past 400 years…the lense of society at the time of the production allows you to see things in a different way”. While AHS’s production in Macbeth may just be another in a long line of productions, given the lense of today’s society, it certainly was an poignant and important experience for audience members and the cast alike.

Anxiety Management at Arlington High School

By Grace Walters

Stress-ridden students, as well as the school administration, are faced with a big question: How can students manage their anxiety? Although there is no simple answer to this question, students and staff have shared various methods that they believe will help diminish stress.

Most Arlington High School students experience moderate- to- high levels of stress due to their overwhelming schedules, many of which consist of advanced classes, homework, sports, clubs, jobs, college applications, and other time-consuming activities. “[Anxiety] is such a trapping feeling,” says an anonymous AHS student. “Sometimes I feel like the whole world will come collapsing down on me if I can’t figure out how to balance everything.”

Reducing The Workload

Many students would agree that school work, combined with other commitments, is the epicenter of their anxiety. According to sophomore Anouska Oke, “Exams and tests are particularly stressful—especially when the teacher doesn’t give us sufficient warning or ‘prep’ time.”

Furthermore, Oke believes that teachers could help reduce students’ stress by “giving more supplemental resources” to students prior to an exam and “communicating and listening to students” more effectively. Oke also believes that the weekend is “a time for students to power-down” and de-stress. Therefore, teachers should minimize the amount of homework they assign on the weekends.

David Conneely, an Honors Biology and Physiology teacher, believes that the amount of work he assigns his students is reasonable and manageable.

When asked the question: ‘What might you suggest to stress-ridden students who feel inundated by the amount of work they are assigned?”, Conneely responded in a statement:

I think time management is a big issue for all people (young people and adults). For example, when I am grading a project I often give myself a time frame for each project (e.g., five minutes). I start a timer when I start grading the next project so I can track how efficient I am being with my time. It is easy for anyone to spend too much time on a project or assignment or to get distracted. By timing myself, it forces me to be efficient and to get my work done more quickly. I think students could use a similar approach. Distractions are a big problem for people today. A parent recently told me their son asked for their parents to hold on to their phone in the evenings so they would not get distracted while doing homework at night. Such an approach (or a similar approach involving removing distractions) can be helpful for students to get work done quickly, so they can rest and get enough sleep.

Learning How to Relax

Among the numerous Physical Education electives AHS has to offer, one in particular stands out. The Relaxation elective—taught by Kimberly Visco and Lauren Geiger—is a unique course that is widely appreciated by students. The students enrolled in Relaxation spend two classes each week on any relaxation practice such as restorative breathing techniques, meditation, and yoga.

The students who take Relaxation also look at nature theory for body healing, mindful eating, and using hobbies as a means to relax. “Basically, everything comes down to the idea that the mind and the body are inextricably linked,” says Geiger.  “If we can focus both of those things at the same time, then hopefully, in moments of crisis, we can better contain ourselves and relax.”

According to Geiger, it is ideal that the students leave Relaxation feeling unruffled. However, she explains that “sometimes that doesn’t happen because skills and practices can be involved and hard. However, the ultimate goal is that [the students] leave at least with an option for something they can fall back on when they do get stressed out.”

So far, the student feedback for the elective—which was introduced to students for the first time this year—has been overwhelmingly positive. Many of the students signed up for the course were unaware of the enriching experience it had to offer. “I honestly signed up for [Relaxation] because I thought it would be easy, and I would just get to do nothing […] It’s actually really centering,” says an anonymous student.

For sophomore Anouska Oke, sometimes the most effective way to de-stress is to take a break. “In the middle of a project, I try to take a break and do things I enjoy, like reading, playing guitar, or going on my phone,” says Oke.

Oke also says that sports and athleticism are an outlet for relaxation. She describes track and soccer as “an escape where you don’t have to think about school and other pressures.” That being said, Oke admits that some aspects of sports can be stressful, too, saying, “you’re worried about your skill level compared to other people and whether you’ll be able to make varsity. I know a lot of people worry about being cut, too.” Many student-athletes agree that the benefits and joy of playing a sport outweigh the occasional stress it generates.

Relax with Technology

In this new era of advanced technology, most high school students own smartphones. By downloading meditation apps like ‘Calm’ and ‘Headspace’, breathing techniques, meditation practices, and audible sleep-aids are readily available to most mobile phone users.

“Teenagers, being attached to their phones, can surely benefit from this,” says Geiger.

Wellness Day

On December 12, 2018, Arlington High School will hold its second annual Wellness Day, an all-day interactive conference designed to educate students about emotional and physical wellness. Wellness Day offers a diverse selection of educational workshops such as Coloring for Relaxation, Mindfulness for Everyone, and Cooperative Board Games.

In addition to just discussing how to manage school stress, many of the workshops tackle more sensitive topics such as dating violence, grief and loss, teen mental health, stigma, the dangers of social media, and depression. Administrators agree that these topics are important and prevalent in the lives of teenagers; as such, it is important that the conference addresses them.

Taking the Time

Most mental health professionals recommend that people, particularly teenagers, devote a part of their day to relaxation and self-reflection. “That’s something we talk a lot about in [Relaxation],” says Geiger. “But the students feel like they have no time, or that they’ll only have the time if they take the Relaxation course.” Geiger believes that “taking the time to decompress is invaluable,” and that stressed students should look to relaxation techniques to help them manage their anxiety.

 

Macbeth Comes to AHS

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By Michael Graham-Green

The most recent installment of the Arlington High School Drama Club’s productions is Shakespeare’s cursed Scottish play. Macbeth, for those who have not taken sophomore English yet, is the tragedy of a bloody prophecy corrupting an ambitious nobleman.

When asked why he chose to put on Macbeth this year, the director, Michael Byrne says that this is the first time he’s directed a Shakespeare tragedy at AHS, and he wants students to have the experience. “The brilliance and beauty of Shakespeare is that over the last 400 years the plays have become relevant to whatever is the predominant culture of the time,” he adds. “It’s interesting to explore what is our cultural lens today and what the play is saying to us today. And I think it’s open. [It’s] the universality of Shakespeare’s writing that allows people to see things and hear things.”

The Arlington High School Drama Club’s production of Macbeth is Friday November 16, at 7:30 pm, and Saturday November 17, at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm. Tickets are $8 for students and $12 for adults. Go for the beauty of Shakespeare’s writing, stay for the epic swordplay.

Rehearsals got underway in late September, and opening night is mid-November, so the director, cast, and stage management team do not have the luxury of a lengthy preparation time. This is nothing new, though; the fall show’s cast annually works under a time crunch to get an entire show memorized and staged with a little less than two months. It involves several-hours-long rehearsals four or five days a week up until the production. With so much to do and so little time, how does the cast maintain a positive atmosphere? “Everyone’s here because they want to block out three hours of their afternoon every single day to be here, and there’s good vibes all around,” says Margaret Horgan, a stage manager for the production. “We all have rituals and routines that just make us happy. Everyone’s excited just to be making something together. With [Shakespeare’s] language, everything is so intense, it’s very fun to watch.”

“Plays all expand to the amount of time you have to do them,” Mr. Byrne, explains. “With a solid plan in place you start rehearsing with your end goal in mind, and you just get there. And you take as long as you’re given.”