A special thank you to Chandana Tetali, Sra. Barcelona, Dr. Dong, and Dr. Kotlarczyk!
As fourth quarter finally dawns, many IMSA students find themselves trying to bring up their grades post-Clash. Clash, though widely supported by IMSA students, certainly takes its toll: lower grades, less sleep, and more stress. Many students will quickly jump to Clash’s defense, and point out the friendship and unity it fosters. But we wondered, what do IMSA teachers think about Clash?
When asked if he saw Clash as a distraction, Dr. Dong said, “Is Clash of the Halls valuable to the IMSA community? Certainly! Is it a distraction? Of course! In fact, its value to the community lies in its distraction – a time to focus on something besides grades, colleges, and papers. As with any constructive distraction, the key is balance – it should be enough to let off steam and help students relax, not burden them with additional work.”
Dr. Kotlarczyk answered our questions on the value of Clash with a question himself: “That’s a question I’d like to pose to the students: taken as a whole (not just the event itself, but the preparation, the pressure, the practices, the participation, the competitiveness, and the inevitable exhaustion during and maybe even after the week itself), does Clash actually do anything to lower your stress level? Or is it just additional stress in different, distracting form?”
Dr. Kotlarczyk also mentioned Clash’s negative effects on some students: “Nothing is true of every student, of course, but they’re generally less prepared and less interested and enthusiastic in what’s going on in the classroom, less likely to engage and participate in discussions or group work or any of the unique types of learning that go on in a normal IMSA class. In short, they’re tired. And not just regular IMSA-tired.”
However, not all teachers saw as much of a negative impact on students in the classroom. As she reflected on her first Clash, Sra. Barcelona said, “I think there was a good balance of regulating how much time can be dedicated to Clash preparations, which is especially valuable to newer students. Students were still able to do a great job with Clash and generally keep up with school work.”
But Dr. Kotlarczyk also discussed this year’s controversy at the Clash Color Reveal: “This year’s social media incident provided hard evidence of a serious negative impact on some students. It would be irresponsible for us as a community to dismiss or overlook both this year’s incident and the possibility of other negative effects on students as we consider the impact and future of Clash.” Furthermore, Dr. Kotlarczyk pointed out a potential student stigma around criticizing Clash: “maybe there are students afraid to speak out about negative aspects of Clash because some of their more outspoken peers might disagree.” Clash clearly has problems, but if we refuse to listen to its criticisms, and if we don’t respect differing opinions, these problems will never be solved.
In spite of these challenges, Clash, or at least it’s purpose, is important to the IMSA community. Sra. Barcelona remarked, “Personally, I’m glad to see students get so excited about working together and showing their pride and school spirit. IMSA can be a very serious place and it was fun to see you all “act your age” at the pep rally. I think it’s valuable for students to make those bonds and friendships and to pass on the traditions of the IMSA experience.”
Dr. Dong ended his response by drawing a comparison: “We have Clash of the Halls for the same reason we have a basketball team: because students need something to do besides homework. The primary question is how to keep the activity fun rather than making it one more burden on already overloaded students.”
Dr. Kotlarczyk concluded with a similar question: “Anyone who knows me knows that I take a serious work-hard/play-hard approach to life. I think it is vital to our state of mind, our physical health, and – not to get poetic about it, but – our happiness that we have “downtime,” time to escape from the demands, the mundane tasks, and the “grind” – the pressures of daily life. At a high-pressure school like this one, the need for that escape is multiplied. The question I would ask is: is there a better way? Can we give students a better release valve to the pressures of the Academy without adding to their stress and exhaustion?”
IMSA students clearly need to have time to unwind from the stresses of school, but Clash seems to be increasing student stress rather than diminishing it. We need to forge a balance between Clash and schoolwork, where we keep our academic standards high, but also find time to enjoy ourselves. Even though Clash has its challenges, its benefits cannot be forgotten. We all must work together to solve these challenges to help ensure a healthy community.