By Shannon Bentley – Do you love basketball, kickball and jump rope with a hint of dancing? The students surely enjoyed themselves in one of these activities during the Third Friday event held at the middle school where I am spending my service year with City Year. Third Friday sounds like a festive event where students engage themselves in an activity of some sort during school. However, Third Friday is actually when schools have to count the number of students who attended school that day. The count determines how much funding the school will receive for the rest of the year. It is extremely important that students are present in school that day so that every students needs can be matched with the funding they receive.
On September 18th, my fellow corps members and I organized a field day for the students in all grade levels. The sixth grade students enjoyed the field to themselves, while the seventh and eighth graders shared the moment for the rest of the school day. It was awesome to see the students engaged in some form of activity after a tough three weeks of school. “Who knew school could be so fun?” A sixth grade female student stated after two energizing and competitive games of capture the flag.
The highlight of the day was when a sixth grade math teacher brought her speaker out on to the playground to create a dance. The dance livened the students who were not engaged in a sport/activity. A sixth grade history teacher and a few corps members, including myself, joined students in a round of dances such as “Watch Me Whip,” “Wobble,” “Cha-Cha Slide Casper Remix” and “Hit the Quan.” The dance on the playground was the best way to see the students have fun and relax outside of the educational setting.
Even though the students had a blast on Third Friday, the worst news was given to teachers a week after the event. Due to the absence of about 30 students, a sixth grade teacher was cut and more than 30 students were divided in to the remaining teachers’ homerooms. As the students were divided, class sizes increased from 20 students to a total of 35 students. I watched the class sizes increase, which made the classroom louder, more cramped, and more challenging to teach. The worst part about the situation is that teachers and students are affected by the change. However, teachers must adjust to the changes and help their students understand that they must adjust as well.
It is undeniable that it is not fair to the students to suffer through these budget cuts. Cuts should not happen based on attendance. Some students had forgotten to drop their enrollment, some had no transportation to school, and others were sick from constant weather changes. Another MPS middle school suffered worst by cutting five teachers after Third Friday.
At the end of the day, who knows how many other MPS schools were dramatically affected by the harsh realities of Third Friday? I am still happy to have been able to give the students a chance to see school as a place of fun outside of their work. However, it saddens me that there are still some issues in the world of education that are beyond anyone’s control.