100 Days of School

No, these are not tiny centenarians, they are Hillcrest’s kindergarten students, dressed as if they are 100 years old and celebrating their 100th day of school!  Oh, what fun!

“If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.” – Confucius

El Restaurante de Señora Stovall

Last week in Spanish II, students applied newly learned vocabulary to script their own restaurant scenes. Throughout the week, students worked in groups to create a scene, write a conversation, and construct their own props. They had to agree about which characters they would play and how each line should be spoken using correct food vocabulary, verb conjugations, and word order. Each group had to include the same elements of a normal restaurant encounter: greetings, asking for a table, ordering food and drinks, paying the bill, and saying goodbye. Once they met these requirements, all the groups added their own creative flair to make their restaurant scene fun and/or funny. Some groups had silly waiters, customers who stole silverware, or relatives who refused to leave a tip. One group even had a customer who brought a stuffed cat named Lasagna!

After all of their hard work during the week, students enjoyed watching the other groups as each performed their restaurant scenes for the whole class on Friday. Did the students succeed AND have fun? ¡Por supuesto! (Of course!)

Teachers Improve Financial Fitness

While students hopefully enjoyed a day off from school yesterday, their teachers were hard at work, learning about “Financial Fitness for Life.”  This in-service presentation sponsored by the Mississippi Council on Economic Education featured lessons which not only were intended to help teachers plan better for their own futures, but also included activities and skills which teachers can pass along to students. Some of the specific areas covered were recognizing income and assets, mastering a budget by understanding fixed vs. variable expenses, and learning advantages and disadvantages of credit. These are skills which can be used in almost any classroom setting, not just in Economics or business classes: for example, English classes might study vocabulary related to finances; math classes can calculate costs based on interest rates; and social studies classes might explore the history of banking and how the industry has changed in America and throughout the world.

In order to practice teaching, instructors must earn a professional license, and this must be renewed every 3 to 5 years. Because a teacher’s daily actions influence students’ lives — their brain development, their character, their aspirations, and their self esteem — each state puts a process into place to ensure that those who assume this role have the necessary skills and expertise.  The workshop held on Monday will help Hillcrest’s faculty toward that end.

Promoting Career Readiness

Today during 1st through 3rd periods, Hillcrest juniors and seniors took the ASVAB — the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. This is not a test which has typically been given at Hillcrest in past years; however, many of you parents probably remember taking this standardized test when you were in high school.  According to Military.com, “The ASVAB is a timed multi-aptitude test, which is given at over 14,000 schools and Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) nationwide and is developed and maintained by the Department of Defense.”  It tests four critical areas — Arithmetic Reasoning, Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension and Mathematics Knowledge — and first determines whether a person is competent to enlist in the U.S. military, and then how qualified a person is for certain occupational specialties and enlistment bonuses.

The ASVAB is useful, moreover, for helping students who may not haven any idea about which careers they might be interested in studying and pursuing.  The test specifically measures knowledge in the following skills:

  • General Science – measures knowledge of life science, earth and space science, and physical science
  • Arithmetic Reasoning – measures ability to solve basic arithmetic word problems
  • Word Knowledge – measures ability to understand the meaning of words through synonyms
  • Paragraph Comprehension – measures ability to obtain information from written material
  • Mathematics Knowledge – measures knowledge of mathematical concepts and applications
  • Electronics Information – measures knowledge of electrical current, circuits, devices, and electronic systems
  • Auto and Shop Information – measures knowledge of automotive maintenance and repair, and wood and metal shop practices
  • Mechanical Comprehension – measures knowledge of the principles of mechanical devices, structural support, and properties of materials
  • Assembling Objects – measures ability with spatial relationships

With this program, students also take surveys about their interests and to identify personal characteristics; their ASVAB scores then help them match their background to possible careers.  When students receive their scores in the near future, they will also receive a report which shows them the areas in which they scored highest, and this might introduce them to fields of study and careers which they had not considered before.  Hillcrest juniors and seniors were given this test because, whether or not they enter the military, it is a great tool which has helped many students make decisions about their future path.

Writing Is Fundamental

One of the courses required for graduation from Hillcrest is Writing Skills.  This is a semester course taken first when students are in 8th grade, and again in 10th grade (when the class counts as .5 elective credit).  It was added years ago as part of the curriculum to ensure that students are prepared for college-level writing.  Because a number of skills are taught in the typical English class — literature, grammar, vocabulary and spelling, and writing –there are times when one or more of those skills does not receive the amount of time and attention truly necessary for mastery.  And because effective writing is essential not only in the college academic setting, but also in most careers, Hillcrest wants our graduates to feel well-prepared when they are faced with writing numerous essays, papers, and presentations — sometimes all at once and with little-to-no guidance.

At the 8th-grade level the goal of Writing Skills is to master effective paragraph writing and to become familiar with essays.  Because the paragraph is the basic building block of an essay, this is a critical skill for communicating ideas.  At the 10th-grade level students learn, in detail, the parts of an essay and begin to develop their own style of writing by drafting two different types of compositions, typically a narrative and then an expository essay.  They also study resume writing and filling out applications — skills necessary for earning college scholarships or grants and for job hunting.  And while seniors do not take a separate Writing Skills class, during the first 9 weeks in English 12, students thoroughly review grammar, mechanics, and writing again, polishing and perfecting their skills.  So, parents, if you hear your children complaining about “all that writing” they have to do, now you know why.

Hillcrest’s teachers work hard and proudly to continue the school’s reputation for creating strong writers who excel in composition both in college and beyond.  For example, every year around Homecoming, recent graduates — often those who struggled while at HCS — return to visit and are excited to tell the high school English teachers, “My Comp. teacher uses my papers as the example for the rest of the class!” or “I have the highest grade in my English class, and everyone else is asking me for help!” Those first-hand testimonies of student successes are “music to a teacher’s ears” and the ultimate goal of Hillcrest’s comprehensive writing instruction.