COURTESY PHOTO / SACRED HEARTS ACADEMY
Cindie Ogata's junior homeroom enjoys Circle Time as students can learn more about each other in a friendly environment. Circle Time is also the perfect opportunity for students to celebrate birthdays, academic accomplishments and sports victories in a small group.
‘Circle Time’ brings pupils together
The girls and faculty sit down and really communicate together
At a time when technology is in the fast lane, today's teens often have little face-to-face interaction, instead spending hours instant-messaging friends and adding comments on others' MySpace pages.
Sacred Hearts Academy
3253 Waialae Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
Orare et la borare
After becoming concerned about teens' relationships with classmates, and sometimes faculty, the academy responded by creating Circle Time for the entire school.
"Circle Time is our new term for homeroom. We are now in smaller homerooms of 12 to 14 students which meet every morning where we all actually sit in a circle. Although we may have informal sharing daily in our circles after homeroom business, Wednesdays are dedicated to 30 minutes of Circle Time," senior class adviser Lurline Choy said. "Topics of discussion vary from concerns with boys to students' goals for the year."
Theology teacher Leilani Asuncion-Tagupa is seeing relationships grow as a result of Circle Time.
"As the freshman class adviser, I see friendships blossoming between new and returning students. Circle Time gives us the means to bond our division together. Most importantly, students not only learn to support and trust one another, but also respect each other's differences," she said.
During Circle Time each person has the opportunity to share and discover more about herself and classmates.
"I think that Circle Time creates a friendlier atmosphere in school. People express greater kindness and concern for one another in their groups," Campus Minister Sister Katherine Francis Miller said. "I'm usually prepared with a topic for the girls to discuss. It can be as simple as a television program or a movie."
Sophomore Kylee Thiim said: "I am getting to know people in my homeroom circle because I don't always have class with them or see them outside of school.
"Often, they aren't the people that I hang out with. I like Circle Time because we talk about a lot of stuff, mostly not school stuff. I like when we celebrate each other's birthdays or sports victories," she said.
"When this Circle Time started, I was upset because I sometimes used homeroom time to finish homework," senior Sherry Mae Ravago said, "but now I think it's cool to listen and share with each other."
"Circle Time gives me an opportunity to relate to my students in areas that aren't disciplinary or academic. We enjoy celebrating their successes and talking about activities of the weekend or the activities in which they are involved. In Circle Time, I think of myself as their mentor and not their expert teacher. Studies have shown that students who have friends and teachers to whom they can relate do better in school," Director of Student Life Toni Normand said.
"As the school grew in numbers, we needed to find a way to make sure that teachers and students experience a sense of belonging. An adolescent counselor, Emma Pavich, who works with teenagers in Circle programs, helped us to develop Circle Time for the academy. Circles help us to fulfill the mission of the school, which is to be a community bonded in the love of Jesus and Mary," Sister Katherine Francis concluded.
Technology brings change
Students, instead of being handed information, have to go online and download it themselves
In early August, Sacred Hearts Academy students expected their traditional thick manila envelope with back-to-school letters, schedules and forms for the new school year. Instead, a single sheet of paper, delivered by the postal service, alerted students and parents that all materials for the 2007-2008 year were ready to be downloaded from Edline, the school Web site for information and grades.
Edline is a comprehensive Web hosting service Sacred Hearts uses for its school home page with up-to-date daily information to supplement the school site with class, team and club home pages,
"By posting all forms online, the information is immediately accessible, and if students lose them, they can simply print out a new copy from Edline," Vice Principal Linda Debo explained.
"Although there was a bit of resistance from some families, the academy believes it is time to further use the capabilities of online services to communicate more efficiently and quickly with our students and families," Head of School Betty White said.
"The decision to move to online access was not only an efficient move, but also an eco-friendly one. In past years the academy printed at least 15 to 20 forms per student. With students printing only the forms they need, the school is moving toward a paperless system, one that will save time, money and resources," Technology Coordinator Randall Pong said.
Like all changes, however, there were complaints as well as accolades from students and parents.
"The task of printing out our own forms was an unexpected change. I found it annoying to use my own ink and paper to print out forms for school," senior Ariel Takata-Vasquez said. "I enjoyed getting that big packet in the mail every August."
However, senior Justine Pascual disagreed. "Having the school post our forms on Edline was convenient for me because I only had to print out the forms that pertained to me and not have a stack of papers that I didn't need. Also, just because we're paying a lot for tuition doesn't mean the school has to be wasteful with our money."
Despite some annoyances with the capabilities of Edline, one feature that students are finding useful is the Student Lockers.
"The Student Lockers allow students to transfer work from any computer with Internet access without having to carry around floppy disks, CDs or jump drives. By using this Edline feature, students are able to upload and download work they do at school from home or vice versa," Pong said.
With the opening of the 2007-2008 school year, another change for students involved ordering books online or picking them up in person at a local book distributor.
Junior Brittany Cezar admits that she was not thrilled with some of the school's technology moves.
"For the first time, we had to order our books online or pick them up at a local company. Before, we used to get our books from the teacher on the first day of class. Still, that's what my sisters in college have to do, so maybe it's good for me," she said.
An additional service, this one for parents, is the option of paying tuition online without the hassle of envelopes, stamps and finding a mailbox.
"Since most private schools have switched the collection of tuition to online companies because it is more efficient and saves on costs in manually processing payments, academy parents can create online accounts, make payments that are deducted from their checking accounts and check the status of their balance 24 hours a day," Business Manager Randy Iwashita said.
Why the changes?
"We are trying to prepare our students for life after Sacred Hearts. When they go to college, their books will not be handed to them in class. Instead, they will need to take responsibility to go to a bookstore or order online," White said. "It has never been economically feasible for our small school to have its own bookstore, and it became an unmanageable situation for teachers to handle."
Senior Mai Oseto said, "Although I've adjusted to the changes, this year was just such a surprise. Teachers used to pass out summer reading books on the last day of the school year, but this time we had to buy them online or pick them up in Kakaako. Then, we had to download our own forms. Who knows what the school will come up with next!"
"What's the difference between boys and girls?"
"The biggest difference is their communication skills. Girls just love to talk, while many boys are silent."
"The biggest difference is the way they display their emotions. Girls are not afraid to show their emotions, while boys try to appear tough."
"Girls have a sense of reality and time. Boys sometimes focus on what is happening right now, while girls look to the future."
"The biggest difference is that girls can multitask. My mom can cook, clean and do the laundry at the same time and make it look like it's nothing."
"Boys and girls have different ideas about friendships. Boys think they can leave a friendship alone for weeks and still be cool. Girls think they need to talk to friends constantly, or else there is something wrong."