Twelfth Grades Humanities Structural Change – Was it Effective?

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This year we have seen big shifts in Northwest School’s twelfth grade humanities structure. Senior humanities classes are now one trimester. Students take six humanities classes in their senior year, five of which are electives. Seniors got the opportunity to have more of a voice in humanities electives they are taking. Since these classes are now trimester electives they are shorter, quicker, and in some ways more intense. This is a big change compared to last year, when seniors were only taking two humanities classes over the course of the school year.

Earlier in the year, I got the opportunity to write about this humanities structural change and what it was going to look like for seniors this year. Now that we are ending the year, I decided to make a follow up to this article to see if this structural change was effective for students and teachers.

I had the chance to have a follow up conversation with Humanities Department Chair Curtis Hisayasu who  provided a deep dive from his perspective on how these structural changes have affected students and faculty this year. 

Curtis Started out our conversation by  mentioning to me that he is in the process of sending out surveys to Seniors and Humanities teachers so that they have the opportunity to share what the humanities change has been like for them. With that being said, Curtis did tell me to note that his perspective on how this change was effective for students and teachers is more from his own administrator perspective since he is not able to give statistical responses yet as the data has not been collected from the surveys sent out.

Curtis told me that as far as disadvantages, “There have been a number of disruptions to the schedule this year. Mainly in the form of Faculty who have been out on leave. These teachers were all out on leave for very good reasons but this did create a disruption especially because we want faculty to be teaching things that they themselves have particular expertise and passion for. Curtis goes on to say,“This has been a challenge just at the administrative level and I guarantee you this has affected the student experience. We have had to cancel some classes, and shift students around, or had to fill in with long-term Subs.”Because of this, it makes it hard  to replace these people when and if they are not available to teach the class anymore. 

Curtis went on to tell me some of the positive outcomes he has seen saying, “Some of the students I have talked to throughout the year have appreciated the variety.” Having the opportunity to change classes and keep things fresh is important. So far, seniors this year have expressed their joy regarding that.”Curtis then told me, “There have always been popular humanities classes throughout the senior class, but this year three  times the amount of students from last year were able to experience the popular classes that they wanted.”

I also had the chance to talk with Kate Boyd who is a twelfth and eleventh grade humanities teacher here at The Northwest School. Kate told me how she had more experience teaching trimester semester or quarter-long classes rather than year long classes because she came to this school after teaching at University and Community College. Because of this she actually had more of a habit of lesson planning in smaller chunks rather than longer ones. Kate mentioned her personal experience with this humanities change saying, “Something from this change that has brought me a lot of joy is hearing students talk about the things they learned from other classes when they bring that knowledge into my classes. For instance, I heard people talk about things they learned  in law and society class from last trimester. I’ve heard people talk about things that they learned in Isaac’s class or Sam’s class. When we were teaching the year long senior classes we didn’t get to see that as much because we were all in our little bubbles.”

Kate went on to tell me how much she enjoyed watching students’ skills develop inside the classroom saying, “In a program like ours that is really connected to Interdisciplinary it’s been wonderful to actually see that come alive in my classroom this year.” I have also seen a lot of skill development within our seniors this year. From students getting to work around different teachers with different skill sets.”

When wrapping up my conversation with Curtis he told me his plans so far for next year saying, “I would hope for next year that there would be less disruptions in the schedule but it is something that we have to make a plan for. I also think it is reasonable to assume that life is going to happen and things are going to change, but what is our strategy going to be when and if we have disruptions to the schedule?” 

I have seen, heard, and experienced how this change has affected and benefited students. If you are a twelfth grade student or faculty reading this article, make sure to keep an eye out in your inbox for a survey you can fill out to share your own thoughts and opinions on this structural change in senior humanities classes.

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