How we can improve HMO

Josh Underberg, Staff Writer

Josh Underberg

I recently completed Horace Mann Orientation (HMO), a required first trimester class for ninth graders. One teacher and multiple upperclassmen mentors lead HMO class discussions in a variety of different topics from stress management to interactions with parents to parties.

The class was very productive for the first few weeks, but was unnecessary to take an entire trimester. By the end, students stopped paying attention in class because they lost interest in the topics that seemed increasingly less relevant as the trimester progressed.

Parties, stress relief exercises, study habits, and a tour of the high school were the most important topics. The discussion about parties, for example, was very relevant to the lives of freshman students. There are not many parties in the middle school and if there were, they were completely unlike those in high school. In regards to stress management, it was very helpful to discuss different strategies that help acclimate us to the new high school curriculum and take our minds off the increasing number of tests, quizzes, and papers. The mentors are easy to relate to because they have all been in our position and work hard to create a stress-free environment. The tour helped all students navigate the multiple halls of the upper school. I’ve attended our school since I was three years old and still didn’t know certain areas of the school like the location of the main office.

Other topics like relationships with parents at home are not as important especially in an orientation class. We have multiple guidance offices at the school that students can go to if they want to discuss their relationships at home. Additionally, the ninth grade already had an entire mandatory evening program at the beginning of the year dedicated to parent-children relationships. Within that night we covered a lot of what we already spent time discussing in HMO, such as what makes and doesn’t make for positive conversations with parents.

The HMO curriculum should only discuss stress management, parties, and study skills in addition to the upper division tour. These topics relate to ninth graders the most and would be the best use of time. This would also shorten the class, meeting for only a month or a month and a half leaving extra free periods for students throughout the first trimester. These free periods could provide time to meet with teachers to review for tests. My biology teacher has a busy schedule, and an extra free period would have been helpful for scheduling meetings. By the end of the trimester I felt like I was dragging myself to the class, and talking about highs and lows, something we already do in advisory, became mundane. If the length of the class were shortened I, along with other classmates, would have the motivation to be more involved in class and the actual conversations would be richer and more meaningful.

HMO is an important class, especially to new students. For this reason HMO should be continued. I am not suggesting terminating the class, just shortening it.