Positive Parley in Principal’s Press Conference
By Kristina Ching
Sitting at the head of a table reminiscent of a board room meeting, Tustin High School’s principal, Mrs. Christine Matos, sat with arms crossed, students encircling in orange, yellow, and blue plastic desk chairs, laptops poised and ready, fingers hovering over the keys.
It was strange, to say the least, to see a figure usually spotted at important events, behind a desk in the office, representing Tustin in the face of the public, to be sitting so casually in a chair that seemed almost too small and insignificant for an adult, especially one in her position.
Mrs. Kim Robinson’s journalism class had worked diligently the day prior, preparing questions for the press conference, a rare opportunity for students to communicate directly with school administration, which can often feel so far away. It is not common for students to be able to voice their concerns and to have those concerns be heard with certainty. There is generally a disconnect between students and those who have been placed in charge of our educations. Administrations can be as unreachable as if they were physically on top of a hill, ever growing with their authority, even if they are only a building away in reality.
The journalism program was extremely privileged to be able to have this direct dialogue, and the students took full advantage of the opportunity. Questions about the quality of facilities, schedules, curriculum (or lack of), staffing of educators, and various programs around campus were raised, punctuated by the occasional question for the sole purpose of getting to know the principal as more of a person. It is easy to forget that our teachers and administrators are people too, who went to high school just like us, with families, interests, favorite movies and books, and aspirations that don’t involve Tustin High.
Personally, I was extremely impressed with Mrs.Matos’ willingness to share her personal thoughts and opinions on some of the more difficult topics we presented. She remained professional, yet was still able to communicate her own impressions, allowing us as students to better understand the perspective of the administration and her own. As the discussion went on, she began to open up even more, literally as well, her arms unfolded. She straightened up as if a fear of what we would ask her had dissipated.
The entire experience, without exaggeration, was eye-opening. I completely felt that after, I better understood the decisions that the administration and Mrs.Matos had made. So many things were out of their control, issues that were handled on a district or even state level. They really do only want the best for us, and it was surprising to see how much we agreed on, when it seems that our high school experience is a constant battle between us and them. There seems to be a perpetual tension between the authority and those who are under their jurisdiction, and this kind of dialogue challenged that. I know it was not only me that benefited, but the entire journalism class as well.
Mrs.Matos left with words of thanks, and what I think was a better understanding of her students. All of us gained an appreciation of each other that for some was even new found. The discussion sparked ideas and talk of greater student representation in the decision making process. So often in schools, the disconnect between administration and student body goes unaddressed, and these journalists are hoping that this conference was the first step of many to an improved communication between the two at Tustin High. Both the journalism students and Mrs.Matos herself are extremely excited to begin working to better this connection.
What we’d learned from just 45 minutes of discussion was already so beneficial, and it is obvious this kind of communication and relation can only help to improve the high school experience for everyone involved. We hope to continue the discussion with the establishment of a student led council for the purpose of providing better representation and closing the gap between administration and students. This press conference was only the beginning to improving that connection within our school.
We are enormously thankful to Mrs. Christine Matos for taking the time out of her day to have these kinds of conversations with us, and we hope to have many more in the future.