Beyond The Desk: What Penn Manor’s Really Thinking

By Lauren Pironis –

Have you ever looked over at a classmate and seen a trail of slobber dribbling down their face?

Maybe it’s not that unusual.  In a survey of 35 students at Penn Manor High School, every student admitted to being off task in one or more of their classes.

Many said that they have mastered the art of looking like they are paying attention while actually being so far from topic it’s hard to believe. Depending on the student, there are evidently many ways not to pay attention.

However, not every student at Penn Manor is in the clouds. They just have an occasional lapse in focus.

“Well in chemistry, I just get out my calculator, graph functions and study them,” said student Ellen Blazer.

Lunch, on the other hand, is a major distraction to most students.

Juniors Amanda Nolt and Kayla Bixler searching for clothes and playing Harry Potter Sporcle. Photo by Lauren Pironis.

Trying to pay attention without eating breakfast or having to wait until C lunch is rather difficult.

“When I’m not paying attention, I’m usually daydreaming about plans I have later that day or wondering what I’m getting for lunch,” said junior Sara Bennis.

“I think about gym class and lunch. Also if I have a game that day, I’ll think about that a lot,” said Jaquan Presbery.

The majority of students think of future plans. If something exciting is going to happen, especially if the class isn’t necessarily entertaining, a mind may wander far beyond the walls of the classroom.

“I find myself thinking about what I’m doing over the weekend or even that night. Sporting events or shows are probably also a pretty big distraction,” said Michelle Dempsey.

Distractions are probably the reason behind the lack of focus kids have these days. Everything from cell phones to a stressful project can be a distraction.

Students lose attention in class by texting the truth. Photo by Lindsey Ostrum.

So what are kids really thinking about during class?

“My girlfriend and soccer,” said Andrew Herr.

“I usually am paying attention, but if I have a lot on my mind or if I’m stressed out about something, I tend to lose focus and think about other things,” said Kelly Lenahan.

“Honestly my mind is usually on the things more that are bothering me, I have to really be into the lesson or topic in the class to concentrate,” said Kimberly Drennen.

“I think about what I’m going to do after school, about my weekend, but then a couple minutes later I realize what I’m doing and listen to what my teacher is saying,” said Alicia Ygarza.

Other distractions, although common, are far less talked about such as sexual activities and addictions.

Some unnamed students have admitted to pondering mid-class about where they are going to get their next cigarette or if they are going to smoke, or drink, or both with their friends that weekend. Many young men are thinking, of course, about young women.

In contrast, there are some students that daydream without guilt, but they still manage to do well in the class.

“I honestly think of absolutely nothing,” said Alec O’Rourke.

“I try not to be in class whenever possible. When I am, I daydream about odd things to do and adventures to have. Also, I doodle sometimes,” said Jesse Graham.

“Once, I thought of my teacher’s head replaced with a sea urchin. Probably because I was thinking of this time, when I was on vacation and snorkeling, and all of a sudden, I was about a foot above a bed of sea urchins,” said a student who doesn’t want to be named, about a rather interesting in-class experience.

“I think mostly about how to get other people to shut up,” said another student.

Erick Dutchess checking out a cool website during third block. Photo by Lauren Pironis

“When class becomes really boring, I just start to stare at the teacher. I look at what they are wearing and the way their mouth moves when they talk. It’s really annoying actually,” said Janelle Musser.

However, students aren’t the only ones who are off task these days.

“Dodgeball, Call of Duty and tacos,” is what math teacher, Jarod Staub, thinks about.

“Trying to get students not to bug me,” said science teacher, David Bender about his off-task thoughts.

History teacher, Cynthia Lonergan, said,”Trips I want to take, and how much they will cost and if I can afford them.”

Sallie Bookman often thinks of recipes.

She said,”I could be a cook. I am constantly thinking of what I’m going to cook for dinner that night.”

Astheimer enjoying her cup of coffee. Photo by Lauren Pironis

“I think of where I’m going to get my next cup of coffee,” said English teacher Holly Astheimer.

Science teacher Erick Dutchess said,”I often get off task but I mostly think of things I’m going to do that night. When the class gets off task though it’s usually informational or educational.”

The minds of the students and teachers at Penn Manor are rather amusing. They think of a variety of topics depending on their own perspective. Overall, kids can’t focus for seven hours straight without needing an escape. That is why a large amount of class time is spent on different subjects.

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