Editor’s note: Cheyenne Fonda is a student in the Running Start program at Wenatchee Valley College in Omak, and worked as an intern at the Methow Valley News. The article is part of her senior project, in conjunction with the newspaper.
Young Methow Voices: Part 1
By Cheyenne Fonda
This article is a part of my “Student Voices” senior project and analyzes the first half of a survey taken by middle school students. Its purpose is to share the opinions of young voices with the community of the Methow Valley. The first half of the survey asks the following questions: What part of your education is most important to you? What specifically about our educational policies in our school would you like to see altered? How might living in the Methow Valley open up or limit any of the following: areas of interest/hobbies, career options, and learning a language?
When contemplating the first question, I think that everyone’s answer is different. The majority of students said that socializing and/or learning how to socialize is the most important part of their education. Other factors included receiving good grades, learning a new language, math, reading, preparing for the future, and being well-educated.
I agree that it is important to socialize and spend time with one’s friends during middle school. During that time, every student goes through a transition and a change in their environment and/or educational system. Socializing can help students understand that they are not alone in that transition, and may, as a result, enable them to help each other through it. I also think that integrity is important in education.
Most students said that testing should be altered in response to the second question, followed by grading. Some participants agreed that testing, in general, should be cut or drastically reduced. Some said testing is quite stressful, and/or it causes students to receive low grades. Other commentary relayed that there should be more tests and fewer individual/group projects “that students don’t learn from.”
While I don’t think testing should be terminated, I think it should be altered. This could help people feel less stressed when testing. For example, students could be given more time to study beforehand and be evaluated only on what they’ve firmly learned. Methods aside, I encourage every student to not be ashamed of a low score that they received on a test or think that they are utterly incapable of learning based on a test score. I ask them to consider if they did their best, as that is all a student can do.
Moving onto the last multiple-part question, the majority of students supported the idea that living in the Methow Valley limits career options because there are a limited number of jobs/careers. Others responded that because we are further away from big cities and live in a small valley that relies on tourism, select careers are hard to fully pursue. On the other hand, some said that living in the Methow Valley can open up particular careers because there is a lot of wildlife and plants to study and examine in the valley.
Observing these results, I believe that living in the Methow Valley opens up career options for some and limits them for others. When I was younger, living in the valley didn’t limit my career options because I didn’t know what my options were. Looking back, I think that the Running Start program being available to students in their freshman year of high school could have given me possible options to look forward to. I also think that having more diversity in the electives that I could take could have built my exposure to multiple subjects.
That said, I think that living in the Methow Valley doesn’t necessarily limit one’s hobbies. Most of the students agreed with this thought and reasoned that there are a lot of outdoor activities that this valley offers, like skiing, biking, involvement in the Methow Valley’s local rodeo, art galleries, etc. The minority had some different reasons why it limited their hobbies, such as there is a small number of areas allotted to spray paint art, and that the valley is limited in the diversity of its topography.
Concluding on the last subtopic of the third question, a lot of students said that living here limits learning a second or third language, while others relayed that it encourages it. Several said that learning a second or third language was not needed, or that they have been content with learning Spanish or Chinese. A couple of students mentioned other languages such as Latin, German, or French. There was also a common explanation that learning a language is easier if one lives in a place where it is spoken.
I see a point to this explanation. I think that study abroad programs and living in a place from which a language originated is essential to learning a language. They allow you to not only experience and personally connect to a foreign culture, but also to constantly hear and absorb a new language.
When I was in middle school, I more or less thought of many things in some of the same regards that students from this survey do. I felt that socialization and hanging out with my friends was important. I have been and am OK with taking tests, although I needed more time than I had to prepare for taking the SAT last winter. Regardless, my school curriculum has always been a part of educational policy that I think needs to be altered. I believe that classes in the arts need to be further advocated for and kept in school systems. I also believe in the idea that everyone learns differently. Speaking to career options and areas of interest, I encourage any young person who feels like the valley limits them to find whatever way they can to be exposed to what they want to experience, but simply can’t. A year ago, I found that seeking validation in what I did well helped me to feel like I was physically bigger than my limitations. So, I think that students finding validation in what they can do well can help students to expose themselves to not only what they want to experience, but also to what they are capable of.
I want to thank all of the students who participated in this survey. It has been interesting to time travel back in time, and to think about where young people stand on subjects like these.