AP Language of Composition Students Write Calendar Letters


Grace Frascati

Junior Joseph Sailor looks at the final draft for the 2019-2020 calendar.

Grace Frascati, Assistant Managing Editor

The Rockbridge County Public Schools (RCPS) school board recently decided upon a new calendar for the 2019-2020 school year. Before the final calendar was decided on, faculty members voted on four calendar drafts. In AP Language of Composition, students were assigned an essay where they chose the calendar which they preferred and explained why. The assignment was written as a letter, and the letters were then sent off to the RCPS school board in the hopes that they were considered in the final calendar decision. English teacher Susan Petriella chose the project for her students to get them more involved in school decisions. 

“I feel that students are the number one stakeholders, and they are mature enough and old enough to look at the topic in its complexity and fullness,” said Petriella. “Stakeholders should have a say if they are capable, and they are.”

Petriella also asked Assistant Superintendent Mr. Hand and Superintendent Dr. Thompson to come into the classrooms to speak with students while they worked on their projects, so that they could ask them questions about the different drafts. 

“I wanted Mr. Hand and Dr.Thompson to come in to make them aware that students are thoughtful, critical thinkers, who have opinions and care about what happens,” said Petriella. “I wanted them to hear the students’ voices.”

Hand and Thompson also told Petriella and her students that the calendars influenced the final draft of the calendar.  

“Their response, both in email and in person, was that they were grateful for the experience because they got to see the issue through the student lense, and it helped them think about some considerations they had not thought about,” said Petriella. “It broadened their perspective.”

Petriella also conferenced with the students after reading their first drafts, so that they could revise and edit before sending the finals off to Hand and Thompson.

“Ideally, for writers to grow, they need conferencing, because every writer is different. It is not like solving a math problem, where everyone is looking for the same answer. People brought different perspectives and different ideas to this topic, and they need help getting that from the brain to the paper,” said Petriella. “For some people it is organization. For some people it is word choice. For some people it is formulating the idea in the first place. Every kid is different, which is great, but that means it is not a blanket instructional issue, but a one on one.”

Junior Joseph Sailor is one of Petriella’s students who participated in the calendar project.

“I chose my calendar because it had the most frequent and consistent breaks,” said Sailor. “At the end of every nine weeks, we got a four day break, and there were breaks thrown in in between those.”

Sailor thought his calendar draft was the best fit because these breaks allowed for students to relax and rewind. 

“These breaks give kids time to rest,” said Sailor. “A lot of the times, especially the first semester, can be really monotonous. You spend about 11 weeks fully in school before you get one day off. I think it is important to give students a mental break consistently, where they can use it to get their mind away from school.”

As Petriella had aimed for, the project gave students such as Sailor the feeling that they were involved and considered in school decisions. 

“I think it was cool that we had a say in the decision because it was more interactive,  and we have a choice to make school how we want it,” said Sailor. “Maybe by changing how the calendar works and what our schedules are like, we can make it more manageable.”

By the implementation of student participation in decision-making, RCHS upheld its mottos such as those outlined in the RCPS Comprehensive Plan. 

“The school’s motto and mission plan is to support the students and their learning, so considering student opinions in important decisions such as the school calendar should be the main thing,” said Sailor.