A Plea from Overscheduled Students

As Seniors, we have attended approximately 113 chapels and 113 class meetings during our time here. We both feel that the time taken up by these required gatherings could have been better used completing work and preparing for upcoming assessments, meeting with teachers or advisors, or catching up with friends and relatives. We believe class meeting should not be held every week, rather respective class deans and class presidents should consider the necessity of this gathering based off current needs of their class. Additionally, Chapel should be made optional to all students; an email should be sent to the two classes the night prior detailing the speaker and topic so students can make a responsible decision as to whether the gathering will be a good use of their time.

In such a demanding educational environment, where students are striving for the “highest standards of excellence” (as stated in The Hotchkiss School Mission) and therefore fill their schedules – morning to night, Monday through Sunday –  it is a given that stress, fatigue, and frustration become overwhelming. So why does the same educational institution force us to attend two meeting times that, combined, take away an hour out of our crowded week? Perhaps they feel a need to offer time for us to contemplate in Chapel, or to ask questions or  propose suggestions at a class meeting, but in reality, we go to a boarding school where we are to make our own decisions and manage our own time. In essence, we believe students should be able to decide when they need to relax and when they need to reach out to faculty for help.

Class meeting is a time for important information to be shared with the class; however, almost every announcement made in class meeting, at least for Seniors, starts with the disclaimer that an email will be sent shortly detailing whatever the announcement said. Casey Wolff ’19 says, “Class meeting is the most pointless waste of time in our schedules. Especially this year, all we seem to do in class meeting is take attendance.” In a survey sent by Harry Roepers ’19, 83.1% of the Senior class deemed class meeting not a productive use of time. Class meeting inevitably provides a place and time for students to ask questions and express their concerns, needs which are more prevalent amongst lower class students who are new to the community. For a school that preaches values of independence and maturity, it seems that class meeting for Upper Mids and Seniors is not only patronizing and useless, but makes us, as students, more stressed when the time could be used to complete tasks that can cut into out hefty work loads.

Class meeting is the most pointless waste of time in our schedules. Especially this year, all we seem to do in class meeting is take attendance.

Casey Wolff '19

Occasionally, chapel talks offer deeply meaningful insight into the lives of other students and are worthwhile. However, often, Chapel is a forced gathering where we stress more about our upcoming classes rather than benefiting from the time we give up.  Making Chapel optional will give students the choice to balance their time responsibly, a key strength we encourage students to uphold in our community.

We plead not to remove Chapel, rather to make it optional. Chapel, when effective, is a time for the community to join together and listen to each others important perspectives. Mr. Moon, former class dean, says “I guess what I really appreciate and like about it is when you get to hear from particular peoples speaking about some experience.  When they do that, and that’s not 100% of the time, but when they do that, I think it really means a lot.” Although Chapel influences many of us, there are many times where students stress about the day ahead rather than concentrating their focus and attention on what’s presented before them. Bradford Rawlings ’19 says, “Chapel is sometimes just used for students to express themselves or tell a story, which I think is beneficial but would not say that it is essential to have on a weekly basis.” 

In the survey Roepers sent, 55.1% of students find Chapel to be an unproductive use of time. Many high level classes require meetings with teachers outside of normal class hours, and for most students who commit to the schools Statement of Goals and Purposes, “enthusiastic participation in athletics and other school activities,” and for Seniors who also have testing and college applications, finding time for these meetings can be extremely difficult and in many cases, impossible. A simple email outlining the topic and speaker(s) the night prior to Chapel sent to both classes will allow students to consider whether or not they choose to attend Chapel.

We need to maintain a balance between the various statements presented in the school’s mission statement. Each student should have the freedom to portray themselves in a manner they seek benefits themselves and those around them, especially those who have been a part of the community for over two years. The aim of a boarding school should be to give individuals the resources and opportunities to express their skills, strengths, and passions in a safe and welcoming environment, and encourage students to make their own decisions.

A simple email outlining the topic and speaker(s) the night prior to Chapel sent to both classes will allow students to consider whether or not Chapel will be a productive use of their time.

There is no need for class meeting to be held every week; perhaps holding the gatherings bi-weekly or once a month, depending on what the class dean of each class deems necessary, will allow students to pursue more demanding tasks in this time. Chapel gives students meaningful experiences only a part of the time; at the other times, students stress about the day ahead and claim it as an unproductive use of time. As mentioned in the school’s Statement of Goals and Purposes, in a “community based on trust, mutual respect, and compassion,” we students should be given the freedom, especially in a college preparatory environment, to weigh our priorities and make righteous decisions.