The Warm Weather Problem

Winter temperatures reach record highs in Michigan, but residents should fear its implications of severe climate change

By Tessa Kipke

 

First things first: I hate winter. Truly, I do. In the dead of winter in Michigan, when the sun is a mere distant memory, and the cold is so deep, so complete, that it burrows into your fingertips, toes, and ears, threatening to numb them forever, I find solace in daydreaming about the beach, about green grass and leaves on trees and leaving the house without 20 layers on.
When the first hints of spring come after long months of ferocious cold, it’s like the world is finally waking up. It’s exhilarating and makes me remember that there are parts of Michigan weather that aren’t torturous. However, the winter of early 2017 was different. It was slightly anticlimactic, as though the world had tensed up for a hard blow that just never came.
In the fall, I had been dreading winter, as always, but then November rolled around and the weather barely shifted. In fact, the last two days of November 2016 reached nearly 60 degrees, which, for someone native to Michigan, barely warrants a light jacket. December and January got a bit cooler – we even got a few snow days – but the winter never reached the frigid magnitude of my memory. There was even a day in December that was over 50 degrees, which is practically unheard of. Now, in February and March, when winter traditionally begins fade away very, very slowly, spring seems to already have sprung. The high in February of 2017 was 45.2 degrees; the normal high is only 35.
All of this culminates in the fact that creeping shift of global climate change is starting to feel less sluggish. We can feel it, in the air and on our skin, and it feels real. But it’s also easy to be conflicted because, living in Michigan, where we’re accustomed to lengthy, brutal winters, this feels like a reprieve. The thought of warmer winters in coming years is welcome, even celebrated. Being able to go outside during the winter months and not want to immediately die is kind of great.
But the greater implications are far from positive. As the global climate increases, our polar ice caps melt, sea levels rise, and droughts, heat waves, hurricanes, and other natural disasters increase in frequency and intensity. In the past, these consequences seemed like a worrisome-but-distant threat, but now they hit a little too close to home. Ecosystems worldwide are shifting, unsure how to react to an unprecedented wave of heat, and humans are not excluded. We don’t quite know what to do with ourselves in a world transforming like never before.
A couple of weeks ago, a weekend in mid-February hit 68 degrees (the average normal temperature in February is 27 degrees) and scores of people fled outdoors to enjoy the warmth. Instagram pictures and Snapchat stories were filled with views from picnics and park benches, showing people gleefully donning sunglasses and short sleeves. It was wonderful and terrifying.
I love warm weather, but I don’t love the unnatural reality that’s been causing it lately. I don’t think we need to actively feel guilty about liking this early spring, but it’s imperative that we’re aware of the changing world around us. Though gentler weather is unbelievably nice, we must understand the underlying consequences of climate change.

Mrs. Burgess moves back to Mill Creek

The beloved math teacher spent the past four years at DHS

By Tessa Kipke

This year, a lot changed at Dexter High School. Teachers and students came and went, to other schools, college, and beyond. Though we gained several new teachers, we also lost some to Mill Creek Middle School, and schools in other districts. Lisa Burgess, who has been in Dexter for 14 years, made a change this year.

Burgess began her career at Ypsilanti High School, teaching there for two years before moving to Dexter to teach math. She had always envisioned herself teaching high schoolers, but when it came time to teach eighth graders at Mill Creek, she said, “that worked well for me.”

As a teacher, Burgess doesn’t necessarily prefer one age group to another. Despite the perceived difference in maturity level, she simply enjoys “being with young people anywhere from 13-14 years on up.”

Additionally, says Burgess, “I like the teaming aspect of Mill Creek, working with teachers on a team to develop and track the whole student.”

Despite this, Burgess was moved to the high school four years ago (in what is called an involuntary transfer) because of her specific math certifications.

However, Burgess enjoys the different environments, students, and curriculum of both DHS and Mill Creek. In particular, she enjoys the experience of seeing students grow and change.

“I really enjoyed watching students grow, mature, and develop interests from ninth graders to seniors over the years,” Burgess said about her high school experience.

But back in Mill Creek, she’s excited for how eighth graders “often come into eighth grade really young and goofy, and I watch them grow into young adults throughout the year.”

“I would love to give a shout out to many of the repeat students I would have had this year; it was a tough decision to leave knowing I wouldn’t get to teach you again,” Burgess said. “I am confident that all my former students with be in great hands with the rest of the staff at the high school.”

New Tech for a New Year

An influx of new technology for DCS is meant to give students and faculty an advantage, but it may come with a cost

By Tessa Kipke

In the 2016-17 school year, Dexter Community Schools can boast that it “officially has 1:1 technology” for its students, meaning that for every child enrolled, there is a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet available to them in school for educational use.

The administration is beyond thrilled because, of course, this pushes Dexter farther and farther down the road to superior education, and we as a community are extremely invested in our schools and our children.

However, it must be asked whether this development was truly necessary. Thousands of dollars were spent on new devices (including iPads for K-2 students, Chromebooks for third-eighth graders, and laptops for high schoolers) meant to help teachers teach and students learn, but how effective are they really? A high school student who has grown up watching Dexter become more and more technologically advanced can vouch for the fact that these devices change how we learn, from lesson plans to classroom dynamics, but not all would agree that this change is for the better.

A  lot of this deals with the way our schools spend money. Of course, some of the money came in the form of grants and donations meant specifically for technology, but the fact that we are so very rich in expensive and not entirely necessary computers, but poor in so many other ways, is a bit hard to swallow.

Personally, I’d rather eat higher-quality meals in the school cafeteria than have an abundance of computers at my disposal (or, while we’re at it, maybe not run out paper in classrooms part way through second semester for the third year running).

In a classroom, there are different ways to use technology. One is as a tool, to assist students and teachers doing projects online, writing papers, researching, or presenting Powerpoints. Obviously, computers are super useful in this respect, and nobody would argue that they shouldn’t be used this way.

Another way is as kind of a teaching substitute, wherein instead of explaining a concept or vocab term themselves, teachers let students loose on the Internet, or even show videos of other teachers giving a demonstration. Don’t get me wrong – this is a totally understandable practice, and it’s often quite effective. But if it’s done constantly, consistently, classes and curriculum become a confusing mash of vague Internet content and other teachers’ words.

As useful as the Internet can be, it simply isn’t the same as having a real person in front of you, teaching, learning, absorbing.

In many cases, instead of helping teachers and students work together, technology creates a bigger divide. Less focus on buying things for our schools and more on quality and human-to-human interaction could bring about more cohesive learning environments, benefiting everyone.

Mrs. Fyke Makes the Switch

After a four-year stretch of teaching at DHS, the beloved English teacher is moving back to Mill Creek

 

By Tessa Kipke

Jill Fyke has always loved teaching middle schoolers. She started in Dexter as an English teacher at Mill Creek, where she found the students and community of team teachers to be “pretty magical, actually.” For the next 11 years, Fyke’s signature passion was for what she was teaching, and the students she taught, became a staple in the middle school.

Then, in the fall of 2012, Fyke underwent an “involuntary transfer,” or a switch brought on by a decrease of students in the eighth grade, that sent her up to the high school.

“I didn’t really decide; it was kind of decided for me,” Fyke said of the change. Nevertheless, her impact has been huge among high schoolers.

“I really liked being in Mrs. Fyke’s classroom, because you could tell she cared so much about her students and the subject,” said Vivian Culp, an exchange student who took Fyke’s creative writing class last year.

Fyke had a good time at the high school, too, stating the impact of going with her middle schoolers and watching them flourish into young adults (“or ‘real people’ I would call them,” Fyke joked).

“Some of the deeper conversations we would have at the high school were awesome,” Fyke continued. “It’s a trade-off, for sure.”

Now, Fyke is making another change, this time voluntary. This September, a teacher many students have grown to see as an integral part of their high school careers will be taking her leave of DHS and moving back to Mill Creek.

Though many high schoolers will mourn the loss of Fyke in the halls of DHS, her former students are happy to see her return to her original post; for many, she remains a beloved middle school teacher entrenched in memories from those adolescent years.

“Mrs. Fyke was a really good teacher in the high school, but I think she was the best teacher in eighth grade. You learned from her less because she was your teacher and more because she was someone you were in a room spending time with,” said Lucas Bell, a Dexter alum who originally had Fyke in middle school.

Fyke is incredibly excited for her return to Mill Creek, where she will resume teaching middle school English.

“The only reason I took the opportunity to go back to Mill Creek is I’ve simply always considered myself a middle school teacher,” Fyke said. “I remember how hard the middle school years were for me when I was at that awkward age, and I always thought if I can make it a little easier for one or two other kids coming through, it would have been worth it.

“I’m definitely excited to be back in my old room, with my old teammates; working on my old curriculum to make it even better than it was before, and getting those eighth graders ready for DHS.”