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2004-2005 Essay Contest Finalists

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The essays on this page are the finalists in the 2005 South Middle School Essay Contest. Names of the writers will be added after the judging is completed.

   Middle schools across America are "effective' as schools and places for children/students to learn, but there is always room for improvement.
   Middle schools have a philosophy- unlike junior high schools- and many middle schools have a "mission statement" for their schools. But do the middle schools use the philosophy? Do they live up to their mission statements? Or, are schools across America making empty promises to the students and their parents? That is something that needs to change.
   Schools- in their mission statements- almost seem to promise things to the students (by the way that they word it), but call the statements "goals." They mention things like helping each student "understand and get along well with other people," "respect the rights and feelings of others," "develop new interests and pursue one's talents." And say that their school's goals are for all students are to "become problem-solvers and decision makers," "contribute as team players in situations requiring collaboration, cooperation, and leadership," and "accept personal accountability for good health, positive attitudes, and responsible behavior." I seriously doubt that all students become or develop all of these things. The reason, though, is partly because these statements become forgotten or are ignored- when they really need to be enforced.
   More teachers in the middle schools need to use "hands-on learning." When hands-on learning is used in the classroom, it sticks in the students' minds better and longer- which will benefit them (the students) later. Also, when hands-on learning is used, students actually enjoy learning in class.
   Another thing American middle schools should do is hire qualified and enthusiastic teachers. Of course, the teachers hired should be properly educated (and their "history" should probably be checked- just in case). But the teachers hired should also enjoy their job and what they do. They should want to be teaching and helping children grow into adults- no matter how terrible their classes may be. For when a teacher loves coming to teach his or her students everyday, eventually the students will also enjoy or, at least, not dread going to that class everyday.
   So, to improve America's middle schools the way to do it is not so much based on how new the building and everything is, but the atmosphere set up by the school and the teachers. The schools need to live up to their mission statements. The teachers need to actually want to teach and help the students grow and learn. And the classes need to be fun and efficient by using hands-on learning. By doing all of these things, America's middle schools will definitely be improved.
   What can we do, as ordinary citizens, parents, and students to improve middle schools in America today? As we look at the public school system across the country, we see too many issues that go unaddressed. Lack of discipline among the students. Decaying buildings that crumble at the foundations. Inadequate and outdated technology. In this essay, I will discuss some steps that our society should take to improve the middle school program across America.
   First, we need to make sure that modern technology is made available to all the schools across the country, regardless of income levels or quality of the neighborhood. The internet provides a tremendous tool for learning, but is basically useless if the computers are old, slow and unreliable. New, state-of-the-art equipment needs to be available to make sure that all middle schools are on the same playing field, and provide students with the same quality of education.
   The curriculum that the students are taught needs to be closely examined. In many cases, textbooks that the students use are literally falling apart at the seams. However, the answer doesn't just lie with buying new books. School officials need to make sure that today's students get the newest information available, so that they can keep pace with recent discoveries, theories, and history.
   The physical state of many of America's middle schools in in a sad state of disrepair. In many locations, the buildings are structurally unsound and actually represent a hazard for the students and teachers who are in the buildings. A major investment needs to be made to renovate and repair existing buildings, whenever possible, and to construct new buildings. This will not only eliminate the hazards that old buildings present, but also ease the overcrowding experienced by many schools across the country.
   "Ah, do I have to go to school today? I don't want to!" That is a statement heard all too often by parents of middle school children. There seems to be an overall lack of pride in the school system, where apathy, laziness, and outright corruption often prevail. Students are promoted from grade to grade even though they don't meet established standards of achievement. As a country, we need to instill a sense of pride back into students and teachers alike to help eliminate the lack of interest and "business as usual" attitudes.
   The next subject is a little touchy. I think a big part of the problems that middle schools face is an overall lack of discipline among the students, who feel that they can behave any way that they choose, dress however they choose, and say whatever they want, whenever they want, to whomever they want. Public schools must become a haven for respect and learning, not a hangout of punks and thugs. Old-fashioned Old Testament discipline needs to be brought back nito the picture to radically change the behavior of young students who seem to have no respect for learning.
   The whole philosophy behind the middle school is to be a transition from the elementary years to high school. They are meant to be environments that meet the intellectual, social, emotional, moral, and physical development in young adults in this stage of life. These junior high alternatives are meant to help these kids smoothly move from stage to stage without becoming overwhelmed.
   If this idea is to work, everyone has to work together. In this stage of transition if a teacher believes that a student may be having educational problems or anything else all of this student's teachers should discuss it to investigate the problem. The teachers should really care about the students they teach, not just be in it for the school holidays off.
   Also, a variety of teaching methods should be introduced so that constant change won't be overwhelming to the students. One teacher  shouldn't do all lecturing and another do all note taking and videos. Not only will this prevent mediocrity, it will prepare the students for the many different styles that they will encounter later in life.
   A good middle school should also offer a variety of exploratory programs to assist students to discover what they truly enjoy and what they are good at. These programs should also include skills that will really help them pursue the career that they may want to do.
   Basically, a good middle school helps students prepare for their high school and adult years by guiding them educationally, as well as emotionally. It is meant to keep them from becoming overwhelmed by the new experiences that are coming their way. All of these things should be added to help kids succeed in the future, and isn't that what school is all about?
   Middle schools in America are faced with many problems. These problems range from lack of technology to lack of equipment, all the way down to lack of respect.
   Most of the problems in American middle schools can be changed and fixed for the better.
   One improvement our middle schools should consider would be for more or better technology. Middle schools should provide a laptop for every student attending the school. If the school cannot afford one for every student, then it should still consider providing one for each student with no access to a computer or a ride to the local library.
   We also lack some equipment, equipment such as desks. The desks we have in our middle schools today are literally falling apart and are also being torn apart. Our schools need better, sturdier desks so that they can't fall apart as easily as they do now.
   Problems with schools today also include leaky roofs, busted lockers, rooms that are too small, and crowded school buses.
   In American middle schools, we also lack life skills. Some of these life skills include respect, cooperation, and responsibility. Respect is one of the most important. One of the most commonly unused life skills is respect.
   Respect is shown in our American middle schools, but not always and not always appropriately. In a lot of middle schools, there will be several referrals handed out because of disrespect to teachers and to fellow students.
   In conclusion, our schools lack equipment, technology, and last, but certainly not least, respect. For American middle schools to be improved, these problems must be addressed.
   George wakes up in the morning, wiping the sleep from his eyes, only to a find a rat scurrying out from under his bed. He gets up and begins his day by getting ready for school. At 7:30 a.m. he gets on his bus, with both it and his stomach rumbling.
   About 10 minutes later, he arrives at school, and proceeds to the breakfast line, where he is served a healthy, hot meal.
   George begins his school day with the first 20 minutes being in a positive home room, where he is taught basic life skills, such as respect, responsibiilty, compassion, and honesty.
   Throughout his school day, he is taught the required curricular subjects, math, science, social studies, communication arts, reading, physical education, and health, and his elective choice of band. He is taught all of these, but he is not the only one getting the type of education to better prepare him for life. Thousands of American middle schools around our nation provide this type of education.
   To have an efficient middle school such as the one George attends, you would need to have all curricular subjects taught, but also taught efficiently. To do so, you need the right teachers. Teachers that students feel safe around and can communicate with. Teachers who show respect to their students, and in turn gain their students' respect. Teachers play a vital role in the lives of students, and therefore, must set good examples for the students to follow to help them develop into successful human beings and better prepare them for the real world ahead of them.
   Also, schools need the right materials and equipment for learning. For example, you need technology such as computers, printers, etc., for multimedia projects, research, and much more. Desks, physical education equipment, cafeteria furnishings such as tables, seats, recess area equipment, music department equipment, and other needed supplies such as chalkboards, whiteboards, projectors, and central heat and air are all things supplies needed to have fine teaching and a positive atmosphere for learning.
   Extracurricular activities can also help spark imagination, and give students a chance to get involved in activities that interest them and motivate them to try new things and develop their value systems, also teaching them not to give up on their goals and dreams. Activities such as sports, drama club, journalism, choral groups, Art Club, Math Clubs, and things falling into the club or performing arts categories are all examples of what every school should have. For students who have no special activities in their homelives, and also for students who would just like to get involved, these are needed, because they, too, develop students into the future adults they are to become.
   The condition of the school is also very important. Schools should be well maintained and only have positive surroundings. There should be spacious classrooms, sanitary supplies and facilities, and be well furnished. This will give the students a positive area to learn and encourage them to learn and will do the same for teachers, as well.
   The environment a student is surrounded by depicts their future. Also, their teachers become their role models. Therefore, it is very important that they are brought up and taught appropriate ways to act, and the basic skills they need to know.
   In middle schools, students go through adolescence and open their minds to a bigger view of the world. The education they receive at this time will be their example of what is to be in the future. It is for that reason that middle schools in America need to do everything to provide all and even more of the items listed previously in this essay to better educate their growing students, and help carry through with their responsibility to help them choose the right paths for their future. To make a better community and even a better world, this is where to start, and now is the time to start.
   There are many different things that can be done to improve education in American middle schools. For one, the minorities in schools are forgotten. How many middle schools celebrate any black holidays? Not that many. There are not enough books about black, Hispanic, or any foreign history in libraries. Sometimes people forget that black history is the basis of many different things.
   Music came from black history, but how many students know that? Also, one of America's favorite foods, the hamburger, was from Spain.
   It's not just blacks and Latinos who are forgotten in middle schools. Asians and Native Americans are overlooked in the middle schools. One example is they teacher that Christopher Columbus was the founder of America, but Native Americans were there long before he was. Another thing that they can do is have more one-on-one teacher-student lessons, but before we do that we need to pay teachers more because they put up with a lot of mouthy kids. If a teacher can have one-on-one lessons with the mouthy ones, then the mouthy kids would stop because they would not have anyone to show off in front of.
    Schools also should make kids wear uniforms. The reason why they should make kids wear uniforms is because poorer kids get looked down on and treated differently. It's not just the kids who treat poorer kids unfairly. Teachers and parents treat poorer kids differently, as well.
   Have you ever wondered what could be done to improve education in American middle schools? Well, I have and I think that we could fix a lot of things to improve the education in American middle schools. Some of those things are more funding, teachers, and new materials.
   One thing that could be fixed to improve education in American middle schools is the funds that go toward the schools and teachers.
   If we put more money toward the schools and teachers, there would be better supplies, better faciilties, and then more learning would be done. Some of the funds come from the Missouri Lottery, but if you really think about it, how many lottery tickets are sold monthly? Billions! So how much of the Lotto goes toward schools? About $230.3 million out of about $4 billion. But is the way we spend it smart? We buy fancy computers. Do we really need new computers when the computers that we have now are fine?
   Another way to improve American middle schools is to get better textbooks. Sometimes we have to go through two to three different books to find one answer to a question. So if we got one book that could tell us more information then it would be quicker and easier to find answers. Sometimes, too many posters in the classroom can be distracting. So if there weren't so many posters then we could probably stay on task easier.
   The education part of it could be improved by separating the kids who need help more by the more advanced classes. The teachers don't need to spend four weeks on something that we have learned last year, and the teachers could try to get more hands-on activities.
   The school buildings can be an issue, too. If we had smaller schools then we could get more individual learning with kids who need help with one subject or another. So that would enable teachers to find that weak subject.
   But are there enough teachers? If we paid teachers more there would probably be more one-on-one time with the students. Some students think that they cant take advantage of the teacher just because he/she is nice, so if the teachers were a little bit harsher, then the students would not be able to disrupt the whole class from learning.
   So if you want to start thinking how you can come up with some ideas on what can be done to improve American middle schools, these would offer a good start.
   The curriculum in American middle schools today does not offer us the best education possible. So many things could be done to improve the science, reading, multi-media, and even band classes.
   Don't get me wrong. I love school> But shouldn't we be pushed to learn, not only how to do algebraic equations, but also how to deal with the consequences of our actions in life.
   I will only tell you a few ways that we could improve American middle schools.
   First of all, our TA is at the beginning of the day, right before first hour. It should be at the end of teh day so we can do our homework then, and wehn we get home, it will be fresh on our brains.
   Our science classes, advanced and eighth grade, do the same thing. The people who are in advanced classes are not learning all of the things they need to know to succeed in biology next year as freshmen.
   Our reading classes are great, but we should have a lot more time to read books of our choosing.
   Four our multi-media classes, we should be assigned a computer to heep with us all throughout our middle school years. That teaches us t be responsible.
   Our band classes should all practice together so we can be better prepared for concerts. We should also perform in front of the school like the choir and orchestra do.
   In conclusion, there are many things that could be done to improve American middle schools; I only named a few. I personally love school, and I want to get the best education possible so my future will hold many great accomplishments.
   I walk into my reading class with white, chipped walls and spit wads all over the ceiling. Starburst wrappers lay around all of the desks. Kids are screaming and yelling while the teacher tries to get everyone settled down. But she fails...After about 15 minutes, she finally managed to quiet us down so she can begin our lesson. But it doesn't end there. There are many more interruptions during class time.
   This is a problem in many of my classes. A lot of the teachers do not know how to control their classes and the students. Teachers to not enforce the rules and they let the kids get by with a lot of the bad things they do. We need to have teachers that will be assertive and not be pushed around. If they could make sure and enforce the rules then this would not be a problem. But if that does not fix the problem then American teachers only need to be allowed to teach. If they are assertive, they will be able to control their classes.
   Another problem in American schools is the technology. Everytime we go into the computer lab, a lot of us students have to share computers. Our school needs more computers. If we have more computers, then that won't be a problem any more.
   A lot of the middle schools that I have seen are in pretty bad shape. The desks are falling apart, the paint is chipping off of the walls, and there are even holes in the walls. Either we need to buy new buildings or we need to hire someone to come and fix everything. Our school is in pretty bad shape and I have been told that it was in better shape than other schools in our city.
   In conclusion, we need a lot of work done in American schools. From teachers to technology, there are a lot of problems. If we would just fix the problems then America would have some of the best school systems in the world.
   Middle-school years are the hardest and most difficult times in a teenager's life. So many things could go wrong that would affect their high school years and even maybe their entire lives.
   If middle schools took some of the following steps, teenagers at all middle schools could be provided with a productive education.
   All kids need to have parents who are involved and care about them and their education.
  That will be addressed in this essay, as well as two other problems that American middle schools have. Middle schools need to have hands-on teachers, also teachers who have a sense of humor, and who honestly care about us. Also, what could help is for the middle schools to have updated technology to help the students get a better education.
   Good parenting is probably one of the biggest keys for good middle school years and a successful education. I know this because my mom and dad have always cared about me and my education. Everyday when I get into the car my mom asks me if I have homework and offers to help me. It always helps inside to know that they care about me and my education. Knowing that helps me strive harder and it would help all kids if they all had awesome parents like mine.
   There are all different kinds of teachers. There are nice teachers, funny teachers, and teachers who will take the time to help us one-on-one with work we don't understand. But there are also teachers who are mean, spend the whole class period yelling and really just want the day to end so they can get away from us. These teachers also do not take the time to explain the lessons to where we understand them.
   A teacher who is mean just makes us, the students, wawnt to get out of class, and sometimes skip class. To learn better, we need teachers who care about us and will take time for our education.
   Another problem is technology. Do you think that technology from 1994 would help the students get better education for 2005? We can't learn what we need to if our middle schools have more outdated equipment than others.
   If schools can't afford new and better technology, then find a way to get the students to understand why we need more modern technology and raise money. Middle school students in Joplin, for instance, need to have the same equipment at each middle school, so that when we go to the high school together we are on the same level.
   So, in conclusion, we all need to work on improving our middle schools in many ways. We need awesome parents and outstanding teachers to care about us and our education. Also our schools need to get newer and better technology. If we all work together, these things can be accomplished.