Connections at Homestead
Examining the HHS perspective on their wellness curriculum
Mindfulness has been emphasized in a variety of fields like medicine, law enforcement and even professional sports, but it has also found its place in educational institutions across the country. In the past few years, schools in the Fremont Union High School District have attempted to implement wellness programs into their curriculum with varying levels of success. At Homestead High School, the past school year saw the end of the Connections program, intended to promote bonding between students and the faculty.
In Connections, during one Thursday tutorial each month, students remained in their third period classroom. What each class did was dependent on the teacher; some chose to initiate activities to introduce mindfulness while others allowed students to catch up on work.
“I guess it was kind of like a bonding time, but there wasn’t a set curriculum to be followed, so it really differed from teacher to teacher,” HHS junior Teresa Yang said. “Some students had a good time, while others didn’t.”
HHS senior Kevin Ham agrees, adding that a major reason Connections was successful for him was because of his classmates and not so much what the teachers presented.
“A lot of the team building and icebreakers happened during class, so these tutorial periods were just extra,” Ham said. “We easily spent a third of our class time together. I was very lucky with my class because we met every day for a whole block period so we were very close as a class, but I don’t feel that the actual time in the program contributed as much.”
On the other hand, AVID and English teacher Shawnee Rivera felt the program offered an opportunity for her to connect with her students on a deeper level by engaging in conversations beyond the typical curriculum. Rather than having to focus on a set agenda, the program’s flexibility allowed her to have fun with her class.
“In English, we’re lucky we get to dive deep into a lot of different issues, so it was kind of nice just to sit and chat,” Rivera said. “That’s what I felt like I was doing. I didn’t necessarily have to get through the curriculum. If the conversation went sideways, we could just sit and talk about that.”
However, as the program developed, struggles arose in trying to accommodate as many students as possible. The 30-minute sessions were limited to monthly meetings and some students had a free third period, excluding them from participating.
“A lot of people who had empty third periods didn’t really have anything to do because all the teachers were closed off from academic time because of the Connections program,” Yang said. “I think for the most part, people would prefer having a regular tutorial over the program. I’m sure there are people who appreciate getting to know others better, but a large majority of the students see it more as a hassle.”
Rivera posed a solution: have teachers with third period prep work with students with a free third period. According to Rivera, with this system, not only would more students be involved, but they would also be able to build a community with students they may not have known before.
While the program is no longer in operation and HHS now has three regular tutorials a week, there is a no definite response as to whether a similar curriculum will be reintroduced or developed in the future.
“I teach these [skills] anyway, even in my lit[erature] class,” Rivera said. “I teach organization and growth mindset and mindfulness and stuff like that, but I feel like it’s an opportunity missed for other teachers who don’t get to do that or have that flexibility.”