As we enter into a new school year, one cannot help but notice a new trend that has appeared among young adults that has forced Nantucket High School to modify it’s rules and guidelines. This new trend is “juuling.”
A Juul is a small, black vaping device that emits a nicotine-infused vapor that comes from a pod inserted into the front. What makes Juuls different from other vapes is that they are inexpensive, small, light, and look like a USB flash drive (meaning they are easily overlooked by parents/teachers). Measuring only a few inches in length, they are easily hidden because they fit into the pockets of the user and the exhaled smoke is almost invisible, meaning you can use it basically anywhere. The Juul pods come in varying flavors, including mango, mint, fruit medley, creme brulee and tobacco. It’s use of nicotine salts rather than free base nicotine also distinguishes it as different among other brands. Though Juul will say they cater only to adults over 21, they have become increasingly popular amongst young adults because they are not hard to buy. All you need is a signature when the device is delivered, so many ask older siblings or friends to sign for them. Juul pods are also bought and sold between teens for those who can’t buy them on their own.
What makes a Juul bad for you is that a single pod (which measures about half an inch in length) carries the nicotine equivalent to an entire pack of cigarettes, or 200 puffs. More specifically the 0.7 mL pod is five percent nicotine, and a user might go through two pods in one night. A Juul also has a long battery life, and can be recharged in just one hour. Aside from its nicotine content and battery life, the device is simply easy and comfortable to hold, making it easy to continue to use it throughout a night without really noticing you are. The overall effect of a Juul is different depending on the person. Some will say it makes them feel light headed and others will say it makes them dizzy and relaxed, all symptoms similar to smoking a cigarette minus the smoke smell and taste (juulvapor.com).
Because of its smallness and invisible smoke, Juuls have become a problem in schools. Students find no problem in bringing them into the building in their pockets and juuling in the bathroom without setting off alarms. The smell of the vapor can easily be mistaken for a scented hand sanitizer or perfume. However, after some students were caught in the bathrooms during the beginning of the year, the school was prompted to emphasize its concern. Signs were placed on the doors of the bathrooms saying “no vaping” and Athletic Director Chris Maury went around to sports teams to emphasize the dangers of smoking and the use of vaping devices such as Juuls. Many students felt that because the student handbook does not directly ban the use of vapes, they should be allowed on school property. Maury and NHS Principal Dr. John Buckey maintained that vapes fall under the category of nicotine, and are therefore not allowed on school grounds.
The school handbook itself, under its Substance Abuse policy section, restricts the usage of “tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs,” and maintains the right to prohibit students in violation of their policy from participating in athletics or extracurriculars. By the student handbook, after the first violation students will face “loss of 4 weeks of club activities + up to 5 day school suspension + up to 5 week social probation,” which includes Senior Ball/Junior Prom, dances, graduation, and social assemblies. By the third violation, the consequences increase to loss of further club activities for the remainder of the school year, up to a 15 day suspension and up to a 20 week social probation.
“I am deeply concerned and disappointed at the breadth of this problem,” said Buckey. “I would like to see more self-regulation happening in terms of students expressing their opinions about the dangers of vaping, and I am saddened at the fact that we have to monitor it as much as we do… at a recent assembly, the lights had to be turned on because a student was vaping.”
It seems that technology has reached the world of cigarettes and nicotine, and the results are small vaping devices like the Juul that cater to teenagers. It is clear the existing rules should be amended in order to prepare for this transition.
This most recent year, the results for the exams were varied, and there were both minor and drastic changes to the average scores on the exams. A large portion of what accounts for the perhaps underpreparedness felt by students during the exam is the extensive course material. Many other schools take advantage of their early starting dates to get an early start on the immense amount of curriculum to be covered in early or mid August. However, Nantucket High Schools’ relatively late start in September serves as a setback, as other schools can be a month ahead in terms of AP curriculum. Even with a late or early start in the school year, AP level-material is difficult to fully cover.
“You can never get through it all. You never do,” AP Spanish teacher Kate Hickson said. “You just have to cherry pick and hit the high spots. In AP Spanish, there are six global themes, but they overlap each other. You don’t finish one theme and start the next, each topic has to do with another. You have to hit the high spots and cover what you can,” she reiterated.
This is a problem faced by both teachers and students, having such a condensed period of time to cover immense curriculum. On another note, students coming into AP classes may feel nervous or anxious, not knowing what to expect from a college-level course.
“I think, in the past few years,” AP English Language and Composition teacher Stacey Edzwald said, “We as a school have made a push to encourage people to try an AP, possibly when they didn’t necessarily think of that, so I think more people are taking APs that had not taken honors or had not been as prepared, so I think that does contribute to the scores. However, I think those people are better prepared for college, and I think they did as well as they could in previous years.”
Students often have trouble transitioning from an honors or CP level course into one of these challenging courses, and will certainly find the AP exam much different from what they have experienced in the past. In particular, sophomores or juniors trying AP classes for the first time can have a tough transition, with a substantial change in workload, pace, and the style of the class.
“The tests, for me, are hard because it is more application based,” said first-time AP Biology student Nischal Khatri. “Honors Biology was a lot of memorization and switching to application-based questions is difficult, but I feel that overtime, by quarter two or three, you will adapt to it.”
Of course, the process of getting used to the difficulty of an AP course proves to be tough for students, but will eventually benefit them, as they will be more prepared for classes in institutions of higher education. “There is no one simple answer as to what will impact an average score on an AP exam, because we are a small and diverse population,” said AP Calculus teacher Dr. Jedediyah Williams, “and no large-scale generalization can be made.”
For example, the average for the AP Calculus exam underwent a major change, going from 1.88 (2016) to 3.00 (2017), but no one factor defines this change. Each class has different students who all have different backgrounds, so they are not suitable for comparison. Every AP class’ students are dedicated workers who are uniquely brilliant, and predicting how each class will perform on the exam is virtually impossible. This philosophy can be applied to any change in scores: AP History’s average score went from a 3.75 (2016) to a 2.64 (2017), decreasing by a margin of 1.11, while contrastly, AP Environmental Sciences’s average score increased from 2.64 (2016) to 4.65 (2017). It is a slippery slope to judge the student body on scores for specific tests, then.
Similar to the SAT, a student’s performance on a 3-4 hour test does not exhibit how well they received the curriculum. It comes down to how comfortable students are with the test format, and what happens on the test day, not necessarily how much information they absorbed over the course of the year. The AP exams are designed to assess knowledge gained from the course, but they measure much more than that.
“It’s a dangerous pressure to apply stats before students.” Dr. Williams said. “How a student’s performance will affect the average score should not be a factor in a teacher recommending whether or not a student should take an AP course. If you offer criticism on a single number every year, you’re encouraging that their potential impact on the average score on the exam should be a factor in their enrollment in the course.”
Students should focus on the test because it will ultimately help them with future tests with similar style, but should not exclusively stress that this exam will indicate mastery of the course and will define part of themselves as students.
This year, like any other, there are an abundance of new students enrolled in AP courses, and NHS hopes to see quality scores that demonstrate the AP students’ dedication to the curriculum, but to encourage eagerness to succeed in these types of courses regardless of a final number as well.