By Sebastian Golden
Open session is a weekly activity taking place during the @d.tech period, during which students discuss issues at d.tech and in their lives by writing on index cards read by the advisor. However, many would agree that it does not fulfill its potential as a discussion setting. I asked students what they thought, and how open session can be improved.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, three of the four students I asked did not feel comfortable sharing personal information when their names were shared with the class. The fourth said she would feel comfortable sharing personal problems, but that chooses not to. When I asked the students how they felt about the teacher knowing that the card was theirs, reactions were mixed. Sophomore Malia Savella said “I trust my teacher enough with open session information.” However, not everyone felt this way. Junior Daniellee Benfica told me “It’s nerve-wracking because you know that the teacher might talk to you about it.”
Reactions were also mixed when I asked about anonymous cards. Some students felt safe sharing personal issues anonymously. Junior Ella Rook told me “I only ever submit anonymous cards”, and Benfica said “An individual can feel safe because they’re sharing something without actually giving their name.” Others felt that this still was not anonymous enough. Sophomore Yoyo Konardi said “When it’s anonymous, I’m too paranoid that people will figure out who wrote the card, so I never get too serious with what I’m sharing.”
I asked school administrator and @d.tech advisor Nicole Cerra how she felt about anonymous cards. “I think it’s sometimes necessary to help people feel comfortable,” she said, “so overall, I think it’s a good norm.” She added “It’s important to avoid judgement. It also takes time to build trust. We used to discuss more superficial things, but now our group is more open and trusting of one another and more important concerns come up.”
The students all agreed that a lot of emphasis is placed on school work, in the discussions. Rook said “There is almost always a card saying something like ‘I’m so stressed’ or ‘I have so much school work’ or ‘procrastination is killing me.’” However, not everybody viewed this as a bad thing; Benfica told me she likes it because, “It’s something everyone relates to.” When I asked how she chooses what cards she reads, Cerra told me: “[I] prioritize any that seem to be part of a pattern or a concern shared by more than one person. I also like the ones that are deeper, more probing topics or questions — really great discussion can come from those.”
Finally, I asked how we could improve open session. “I think my biggest problem with open session is that it always assumes something important is always happening in people’s lives,” Rook said. “I think we should use open session as a time to discuss both personal issues and school wide issues.” Cerra said “I think we could all improve our listening. I think open session is one effective and safe way for some students to discuss their lives and the things that are on their minds. Some students participate more than others, but that’s okay too – as long as everyone is respectful and listens.”