If there is one lesson students have learned from online learning during the pandemic, it is the importance of community. In August, a study found that a shocking one in three high school students constantly felt sad or hopeless. A large part of the spike in negative emotions was due to social isolation and students blankly staring at a screen, without feeling a part of something.
“Schools can be a refuge for many youths, but also, up to 80% of youth rely on school-based services and resources to address their mental health needs,” Brae Anne McArthur, a clinical child psychologist, told CNN.
Every other Thursday during BAT time, students watch Baron Broadcasting News, a segment put together by FVHS’ student video production crew. The segment covers important events going on around school, sports, student opinion and features people who play a monumental role in FVHS that would otherwise go unrecognized.
“I feel like watching BBN during BAT time allows me to learn about events going on at school that I otherwise would have never known about,” Fountain Valley sophomore Ngan Nguyen said. “BAT time allows me to feel that I’m more connected to the school and provides some commonality with my peers because everyone is watching the same thing.”
It allows students to catch up with the news and get involved in activities that they otherwise would have not known about. This leads to greater social interaction and mutual understanding of where a diverse group of students with all different interests can find something for them. This not only counteracts the harmful effects of social isolation but unifies different high school social cliques through a common theme, Baron for Life.
In its denotation, a Baron is a powerful aristocrat who owns land. The school mascot is a Baron with a crown on his head to symbolize perseverance, strength and pride. FVHS’ motto is “Toujours Avec Fierte” which is French for “always with pride.” Being proud of one’s work, strength and perseverance are part of the FVHS identity and refortified during BAT time. The B4L theme instills that the FVHS identity stays with us for the rest of our lives.
“The B4L culture is demonstrated in the daily lives of students, in course offerings and classroom culture and in interactions with the District office and local community,” the Fountain Valley Visiting Committee Report stated.
High school students need guidance in all elements of their lives, not to just learn how to study and repeat. BAT time is an opportunity for FVHS staff to implement the training they’ve undergone to provide creative ways to support students in other ways than academically. Early in the year, FVHS sent out an Intellispark Survey led by FVHS teachers, Sean Ziebarth and Sheila Bunten that students filled out during BAT Time.
“When students share their interests via the surveys they complete with Intellispark, we learn more about them and it allows us to build stronger relationships. The social-emotional surveys that students are asked to take give staff insight into the well-being of the students,” Bunten said. “I, personally, do hope that we continue to utilize BAT time for what it was intended for, Barons All Together time, allowing us all to be doing the same thing schoolwide.”
This survey gathered data on how students felt about the atmosphere of FVHS, such as the levels of safety, bullying and mental health resources. This utilization of BAT time can help FVHS hit its goals on the Action Plan Summary that is aimed toward “maximizing the learning of all students and providing many pathways to success.”
Furthermore, BAT time allows for teachers to observe students in an unrestrained environment where they’ll be more likely to share personal concerns with their peers, clarify any unclear course material and observe how they’re interacting socially. These are areas often overlooked in our education system and addressing the socioemotional needs of students is a core value of FVHS stakeholders.
BAT time, originally implemented by previous FVHS principal Morgan Smith, is a tradition that current principal Paul Lopez is carrying on.
“BAT stands for Barons All Together and what that means is the time we use for BAT should be utilized to build connections between students and staff. Part of [the] time is being used for BBN but we also have a huge need for connection,” Lopez said. “We can also use the time to create BBN episodes that directly relate to issues we are having on campus. A few extra minutes a day is worthwhile for helping students and staff.”
Some students may have concerns over their typical 13-minute nutrition break being taken away. Some may ask, aren’t I already socially interacting and building school identity when I get to go outside?
The difference between BAT time and nutrition is that BAT time serves a purpose to be constructive to the community of the school. In essence, BAT time is a chance for administrators to give students structured activities with a goal set of a more positive student atmosphere and an identity we can all feel a part of. During the other three weekly nutrition breaks, students are freely able to go outside and hang out with their friends or catch up on homework which they can find enjoyable.
Furthermore, students have 30 minutes of lunch every day of the week, proving that 13 minutes a week is almost nothing in the greater context of time. BAT time is a chance to benefit all of our collective interests.
What we should take away
With this not being an entirely normal year due to missed high school experiences and continuing pandemic restrictions, student mental health has become a key new issue highlighted. BAT time is a valuable and innovative way to combat challenges we are facing as a school while trying to recuperate time and connections lost from last year
As education becomes an increasingly larger and larger part of the social discourse, here at FVHS, BAT time betters the way we interact with school and is something we should all want to keep moving forward.