With the school year well underway, most students have adjusted to their classes and formed connections with new teachers. As a senior, something I have particularly enjoyed is the opportunity to take more classes this year tailored to my interests.
Every spring at KO, students meet with their advisor and parents to design their course schedule for the coming year. For underclassmen, most of these choices are made for them aside from varying levels of course difficulty (regular, honors, and a few AP offerings) along with the ability to add one or two electives. When I sat down last year to build my senior year schedule, I found this process to be completely different. Seniors are able to essentially build their own schedule; although they must meet the graduation requirements, there are many ways that this can be accomplished.
For example, take a look at this history department. There are two senior history classes offered at KO: AP Economics and AP Political Science. Seniors can opt to take one of these, both if they really love history, or even neither if they want to double up in another subject. Because English is the only class that is required to be taken for four years, seniors have full rein to develop a schedule that is unique to them. As someone who hopes to study business in the future, I opted for economics along with taking two math classes this year, calculus and statistics, and even adding Ms. Goss’s new finance elective. One of my friend’s who is interested in the pre-med track has been able to take multiple science classes this year including physics, environmental science, anatomy, and biomedical science.
Although we are only two months into the school year, I have already felt the effects of taking a schedule I built myself. First, I have noticed that I truly want to be in all of the classes I am taking, knowing that I chose them based on my interests. Giving students the power of choice allows them to be more engaged in the subject matter they are learning. Instead of forcing students into a rigid curriculum, it empowers them to take ownership over their learning. By saying this, I don’t mean that I think a student should be allowed to take six math classes. Instead, I believe that giving students exposure to multiple different subject areas, while simultaneously allowing them to choose within these areas is beneficial for everyone.
Additionally, this choice-based structure best prepares students for college. Despite most colleges having typical Gen Ed requirements that students must complete, compared to high school, students will have the opportunity to choose a lot of the courses they take. Exposing students early to the process of building their own schedule, with consideration of their workload and various commitments, is an important skill to develop.
Although underclassmen at KO are required to take many classes, electives are an opportunity for all KO students to have choice in what they learn and explore their passions. Typically, KO students add one or two electives to their course load each semester. Many students start by taking creative arts courses to fulfill the graduation requirement of 1.5 creative arts credits. This can be done through taking a wide range of electives offered in this department including digital photography, concert choir, public speaking, painting, and many more. After taking a few of these myself, I quickly discovered I wasn’t meant to be an artist, but thankfully I found fulfillment from taking a broad array of electives offered by various departments. In my freshman year, I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Schieffelin’s journalism elective, and excitedly joined the KO News right after. Over the years, I have also taken advantage of KO’s partnership with Global Online Academy completing two business-focused courses. Taking electives early on allowed me to discover my interests outside of the typical core classes and this has been reflected in the classes I have opted to take this year.
Another draw of electives is that they can help students determine what they may want to do in the future and consider potential career options. KO’s departments have worked hard to add new electives every year that dive into topics not typically covered in the classroom. Like I mentioned earlier, the new addition this year of Ms. Goss’s “Introduction to Finance” elective has drawn many students like myself who hope to enter the financial field giving them a background in banking, financial decision-making, investing, asset classes, and much more. Other notable electives include “Introduction to Engineering,” “Introduction to Biomedical Science,” “Introduction to Computer Science,” and “American Law.” These electives offer exposure to unique topics that many students desire to study in college and beyond. With this in consideration, I encourage all of you to take advantage of the times when you are given choice in your curriculum. Even as an underclassmen, taking electives can open your eyes to new topics of discovery and perhaps lead you to something you hope to study in the future. I propose that KO continue to give students as many opportunities as possible for self-selection within their schedule as it enables students to take control over their own learning and build meaningful interest in the classroom.