Student Affairs: How Are We Preparing Our Students for the Senior HS?

Mr. Ronan Capinding is Ateneo High School’s Associate Principal for Student Affairs. This is his speech to Grade 10 parents whose sons will graduate from the Junior High School this year, in the enhanced K-12 curriculum.

Mr. Ron Capinding, Associate Principal for Student Affairs, Ateneo High School. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ
Mr. Ron Capinding, Associate Principal for Student Affairs, Ateneo High School. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Good afternoon, parents and guests.

The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators define Student Affairs as “services and support for students at educational institutions that enhance student growth and development.”   In the Ateneo High School, the Office of the Associate Principal for Student Affairs supervises the Office of the Prefects of Discipline, the Office of Student Activities, the Athletics Program, and Student Services, particularly Food Services and Health Services.

Although your sons joined us in the Ateneo High School campus last school year, they came as Grade 9 students, supposedly the 3rd year already of the K-to-12 4-year Junior High School. They were generally the same as our Freshmen of previous years; the only observable difference between your Grade 9 sons and the Freshmen of the previous school years was your sons’ relatively familiar and comfortable stance in being a high school student; they were generally not as timid, not as insecure, not as scared as our previous freshmen — perhaps because they have gone through the Grade 8 Junior High School Formation in the Grade School campus before they went to us. But other than that, they were still like our freshmen of the previous years, and we made them experience the Discipline, Student Activities, Athletics and Student Services that we offered in the previous years.

Unlike the Academic Area, the offices under the Student Affairs Office almost did not implement anything different for your sons when they were in Grade 9, except for having to take the mindset that these “new boys” were already in their second to the last year of Junior High School.   So we had to expect a little more from them than usual – in terms of discipline and involvement. We always told them, “ga-graduate na kayo sa Junior High School next year!” But besides that, we had the same programs for your sons.

But this seeming uneventful similarity to the old practices is just the calm surface of the vigorous preparations for probably the very radically different Senior High School programs our sons will go through after Grade 10.

These preparations for your son’s eleventh grade peaked this summer when all faculty members from Grade 7 to Grade 12, teaching and non-teaching, came together for a couple of weeks as committees that would complete and distill all recommendations of policies for Junior High School and, especially, for Senior High School, for implementation during school year 2016-2017.

Parts of these recommending committees are focused on Student Affairs matters such as the Senior High School Code of Discipline, the Senior High School Conduct Mark, the Senior High School Uniform and Morning Procedures, and the Senior High School Student Activities and Social Events.

So much significant work has been done by all these committees, which I will not be able to share fully today because of time constraints and because the work still needs to be finalized. But perhaps I can describe to you what we did in these committees.

Basically, we perceive the Senior HS (and when I say we, I really mean both the parents and us, the school personnel), as something beyond our comfort zone because of two new features: there will be female students (like our Loyola Schools) and there’ll be academic strands (somehow also like our Loyola Schools). Being aware of these two new elements, we knew what resources were needed to allay our insecurities in redefining old terms and crafting new rules and policies.

In formulating the Senior High School Code of Discipline, we redefined our system of rewards and intervention, and also the actual list of infractions. We obtained the student handbooks of co-ed Jesuit educational institutions like the student handbooks of Ateneo de Zamboanga, Ateneo de Davao, Ateneo de Cagayan (Xavier University), Ateneo de Cebu (Sacred Heart School), Ateneo de Naga, Loyola College of Culion, and the Loyola Schools of the Ateneo de Manila University. And laws expressed in our country’s Child Protection Policy, the Anti-Bullying Law, the Violence against Women and Children Act and even technology-related regulations like the Cybercrime Act of 2012 and the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009. We have tried to be as comprehensive, correct, exhaustive and clear in preparing the Senior High School Code of Discipline. We had email correspondences, face-to-face interviews and surveys with appropriate people to verify our formulations.

In defining the various conduct marks in the Senior High School, we also included in the definition the bearing of these conduct marks on student promotion and honors. Besides the handbooks, we also obtained the DepEd mandate on Conduct Ratings so we can see if we are fully adhering to it, if not up with a much more improved version of it.

We also specified the school uniform for the students, including the specific way of wearing the school uniform, and whether students will be allowed to come in their PE uniform on certain days, etc. The committee has done so much research on this, and scheduled visits and interviews with girl schools and coed schools.   We have surveyed several designs, fabrics, and meanings of colors and cuts. We have to consider the equality of the male and female uniforms, especially in terms of comfort, security and aesthetics.

We also had to conceptualize the Student Activities program and the appropriate Social Events for each level of the Senior High School. We had to consider the psychological maturity, developmental nature of social events (When will your sons have prom now that Junior High School is from Grade 7 to 10?), even the set-up of the Senior High School by academic strands (Will student council need a batch rep or an academic strands rep?).

All of these concerns have been addressed. We are not yet done but I would consider the work “at the last lap of the marathon” instead of just the usual “work in progress”. We are seeing the finish line of our efforts and more and more, the excitement is overtaking the discomfort.

And please join us in perfecting our preparations by being involved. Please feel free to send in your suggestions for Student Affairs and even for the other areas anytime in the coming school year. We’d be happy to have them in time for when your sons become Grade 11 Senior High School students.

But for this coming year that they’ll be Grade 10, it will continue to seem calm for our boys, at least in terms of Student Affairs; they’ll deal with new things in the areas of Academic Affairs and Formation. However, some baby steps towards Student Affairs of Senior High School will already be experienced by our sons while they are in Grade 10.

1. They will witness new disciplinary interventions that the office will try to experiment applying to Grade 11 and 12 this coming school year. They will just witness these interventions; it’s not them who shall go through these. The new disciplinary interventions will be in the form of Community Service, and we thought these interventions are age-appropriate; they will only be for Grade 11 and Grade 12, or perhaps for Grade 10 too, during the last term.

2. Early in the school year, the Grade 10 student leaders, and eventually the Grade 10 parents too, will be consulted if they wish to have a yearbook, being the first Junior High School graduates. As the eldest level of the Junior High School, they will have this opportunity to decide and perhaps design what only our 4th year and Grade 12 students only have been doing in the past years.

3. The Social Event for 2nd year Sophomores used to be scheduled in August, and it’s usually a class-oriented open party for beneficiaries. For your Grade 10 sons, however, their social event is calendared in the weekend of Valentine’s Day in February 2016. That date is closer to the Grade 11 year or what used to be 3rd year, the year level of the Prom. Can our boys already do Prom or something similar to Prom if the event is held by the end part of their Grade 10 year? Thus, we have that schedule provision; but the decision to have a Prom or a Dance-event-with-a-date or any event in mid-February will also depend on the Grade 10 student leaders. It is possible, depending on which proposal of theirs will get approved, that you will have to help your sons this school year, dress up for Prom, have a date, and arrange for transportation to fetch and to bring home their dates, by the latter part of their Grade 10 year. They are the first to have this provision, and the provisions for the succeeding Grade 10 will be based on what will happen to this Grade 10 batch. Let’s see.

And so, those are the preparations that have been happening for your sons’ journey to Grade 11; some are invisible, some are a little visible. Some will be implemented in SY 2016-2017; a few will be tried this coming SY 2015-2016 to ensure efficacy by 2016-2017. Again, I wish to assure the parents that we are much more confident about Senior High School Student Affairs now compared to two years ago when your sons turned Grade 8, which turned out really well, anyway. Now they are about to graduate Junior High School.

What can I say? Good luck and advance congratulations!

Good afternoon, once again, dear Grade 10 parents.

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