Students react to Bruin Block, opposition arises

Underclassmen+visit+booths+in+the+Auxiliary+Gym+during+their+Bruin+Block+on+Student+Involvement+Day+earlier+in+the+school+year.+Photo+by+Renata+Poet-Williams

Underclassmen visit booths in the Auxiliary Gym during their Bruin Block on Student Involvement Day earlier in the school year. Photo by Renata Poet-Williams

Brittany Cornelison

Underclassmen visit booths in the Auxiliary Gym during their Bruin Block on Student Involvement Day. Photo by Renata Poet-Williams
Underclassmen visit booths in the Auxiliary Gym during their Bruin Block on Student Involvement Day. Photo by Renata Poet-Williams

The beginning of every school year brings about excitement, but the transition into the 2013-14 school year was one that was bursting with even more new opportunities and experiences for RBHS students. Besides the excitement that encompassed iPads and 68-minute lunches, there was one change that was put into place specifically for freshmen and sophomores at RBHS.

Bruin Block is a four-year school-wide program that was initiated this year for the Class of 2016 and 2017 according to Success Center Counselor, Melissa Coil. At RBHS specifically, all students are enrolled in a Bruin Block, however only underclassmen are required to participate in the program. During this 31-minute period, teachers and senior mentors provide lessons that are specific to the freshmen and sophomore grade levels. These lessons were decided upon by a 14 person committee, a teacher from each department, that Coil assembled to create this structured program.

“We have built the whole program on what we kind of call our four pillars, and those are understanding self, future planning, school preparation and then service and leadership and so all the lessons are designed around that,” Coil said. “Junior and senior years are where we’d really like to see some school-wide service and leadership projects really accumulating everything that they’ve done over the prior years.”

Math teacher and sophomore Bruin Block advisor, Marla Clowe said one of the most beneficial things about this new class for freshmen and sophomores is that students will now have a teacher that they get to know pretty well over the three to four years they are at RBHS.

“It’s going to be a four year thing and it’ll develop,” Clowe said. “We ultimately want to help [students] build a résumé and do student things, but the purpose of Bruin Block … is also a way to provide a support system for kids so that they have a contact every single day that they get to know and have someone to contact at school.”

Bruin Block advisors have lesson plans for each class in hopes that they can help their students grow more acquainted to RBHS. However, students have voiced their opinions that, even though they understand the concept of the class, that this 31-minute period should not be mandatory.

“My teachers said basically that they’re teaching us about RBHS and about life. I don’t think that needs to be a class,” freshman Logan Buster said. “I think that it’s going to get dry really quickly, they’re just going to run out of things to do.”

Sophomore Jamey Jackson said she understands that the purpose of having a Bruin Block is to help orient students to RBHS and build relationships with the kids in their class as well as a specific teacher. However, she also believes being forced to be with the same group of students for four years straight could become problematic.

“I think it [is] beneficial to build relationships with people … but if the other people don’t reach out to become friends or if you don’t reach out [it will not be useful],” Jackson said. “If you have a problem with someone it’ll be an issue since you’re with them all four years.”

Freshman Zach Doster, along with his fellow classmate freshman Ben Howser, created a petition against Bruin Block which is now placed outside of the AP World History classroom. The freshmen have experienced this 31-minute daily program and feel as though it is not a necessary implementation.

“Most people I have talked to about Bruin Block don’t want to have it either, or they are neutral about it … it takes away the chance for us to prove if we can be responsible because we don’t get to manage that time, it’s already managed for us,” Doster said. “I didn’t think by itself it would do anything, but with the petition it just shows that a lot of people agree and that it grabs people’s attention and then most are ecstatic about it. I really just wanted to get the idea out there.”

Though students may not see the purpose of Bruin Block yet, Coil said it will just take time for it to sink in that this new mandatory class is going to remain implemented. In this 31-minute class period students will be taught lessons on topics such as career exploration, creativity, résumé writing, study skills as well as many more. There are a lot of diverse topics in hopes to keep students interested.

“Really the entire purpose of it is to … give students a place and a person they can connect with that they will have, you know, solidly for four years,” Coil said. “But also to provide a comprehensive look at all of the things that we feel are important that we just get little glimpses of, traditionally just in the sophomore year [in advisory} and then we don’t ever touch those things again.

Clowe admits that her first couple of weeks as a Bruin Block advisor were rough and students weren’t keen on the idea of having a shorter lunch than the upperclassmen, but now her students are more into the swing of things.

“In my Bruin Block, it’s getting better every time. It’s taken us awhile to develop that relationship, but I think a 20 to 25 minute conversation usually is [sufficient] because it’s only one little brief topic,” Clowe said. “So, it’s taken awhile to build it up, but this week we’ve had our best conversations because they’re starting to realize that, yeah this [class period] is going to happen.”

The freshmen and sophomores in Bruin Block this year will stay in the class for the remainder of their high school career. Eventually, it will become tradition that every class level at RBHS will take a Bruin Block. Buster said that he thinks the idea of Bruin Block would be more accepted by students if there was an adjustment to the way it was run.

“I’d probably change the amount of time,” Buster said. “Maybe like three out of the five days of the week they have you just come in, do homework, whatever you want and get work done, and the other two days they have something that’s class organized where you do something as a group or a project.”

As students journey through their high school career, the lessons taught in Bruin Block will be more tailored towards future planning. According to Coil, applying to colleges, preparing for the ACT and preparing a portfolio/service project presentation will be some things discussed and prepared. Coil said that she also understands student frustration, however, she hopes that they will give this program a chance. The future plans for this program haven’t been finalized, but she said that changes should be expected.

“In terms of how we present the curriculum and how it’s done, without doubt there’s going to be some changes. I mean we’re only four weeks into the very first year and so all the planning in the world can’t make something perfect when you go to put it into practice and so it’s going to take the whole faculty really, along with student feedback the time to really grow it and make it into what we all really want it to be,” Coil said. “I don’t see the juniors and seniors needing to report every single day. We haven’t gotten to that point yet, but I think there will be some differences so that they may not have a 68-minute lunch every day, but there will be times and opportunities where they will.”

Clowe said the biggest advantage she sees coming from this program is that students will be able to get to know other students who they otherwise might not have reached out to be friends with. RBHS currently has more than 2,000 students, so this period could also be one that unites students with many different personalities this year.

“The main positive is making a smaller community out of a larger one, making a neighborhood within the whole city,” Clowe said. “I think it also gives you a chance meet people you possibly wouldn’t of had the chance to meet because it’s just alphabetical order so you’re getting a chance to meet people that you may not have chosen to hang out with and that allows you to get different views … I think it makes [students] expand their horizons sooner.”
By Brittany Cornelison