Guidance Department steps into the shoes of a Harrisite

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Ms. Skoda and Ms. Singer  experienced the typical day of a Harrisite.
Ms. Skoda and Ms. Singer experienced the typical day of a Harrisite.
Photo by Fran Horowitz.

From December 9-13, the guidance counselors of THHS could be found roaming the hallways as students as part of their efforts to experience a Harrisite’s typical day.  Each counselor chose a student they were particularly close with and accompanied them to all of their classes, including gym and zero band, for one day during that week. Once in the classroom, they observed the class and spoke with teachers.

When posing as a student, guidance counselor Justine Singer described herself as a “fly on the wall, not interacting,” with no expectations previously given to her.

The idea was introduced to the counselors for the first time by Assistant Principal of Guidance Veronica York during a meeting last November.

“It is important for guidance counselors to feel what it’s like to be a Townsend Harris student and to know that we are fully supporting you,” Ms. York explained.

Upon reflection, most of the guidance counselors said that although the experience was insightful, it merely reflected their prior expectations about the life of a Harrisite, such as the daily challenge of demanding classes.

“I believe it just opened my eyes and affirmed my expectations of a THHS student,” said Ms. Singer. “It gave me confirmation to see how hard it was.”

Guidance counselor Adrienne Nasser said the experience made her realize how, for students, missing one day of school becomes a disaster because of the large amount of work covered in class.

“It was a very long day [with] a lot of material,” agreed Ms. Singer.

However, there was one factor preventing the guidance staff from experiencing the complete life of a Harrisite.

“[Ms. Singer] might have had a more authentic Harrisite experience if she had to do our homework as well,” said junior Jennifer Urgilez, whom Ms. Singer chose to follow around for classes.

Stress aside, the Guidance Department liked what they saw in the classroom.

“In every class, students were engaged, doing group work, not goofing off, and were very disciplined,” recalled Ms. Singer.

Ms. Nasser and guidance counselor Sara Skoda were particularly surprised by the high level of student participation in each class. Based on her classes, however, Ms. Singer said that “not many people participated.”

In addition, the guidance counselors found the classes themselves to be interesting, with Ms. Skoda and Ms. Nasser particularly enjoying Latin, having never taken the subject before.

“I didn’t know that you also learned history and geography [in that class],” said Ms. Nasser.

Ms. Skoda commented on how her favorite class was Photography because she could be creative and work hands-on in the dark room.

Jennifer said that “it was fun seeing all the confused faces of my peers,” who wondered why Ms. Singer was following her.

“Townsend, like any high school, has its ups and downs,” she added. “Not every day is the same, but I do think [the experience] gave her insight to the daily lives of [Ms. Singer’s] students.”

When asked what would be done with their observations, Ms. Skoda said that nothing concrete was planned since the purpose was mainly to gain insight, but  she would love to express their observations to the rest of the faculty.

Although her observations mainly confirmed what she knew about the academic life of a Harrisite, Ms. Skoda did note one discrepancy between her expectations and her actual experience: “The walk from the gym to the 6th floor is not as bad as students say it is. It only took me four minutes.”