(This post may not make sense to those who have not been part of the planning process at BLS for our inaugural senior year next fall. This conversation can be observed at our 12th Grade Experience Blog).
I had the chance to observe both a senior English class and a senior History class. I talked briefly to about a dozen students about their senior experiences, and in depth to a young man named Dan for a good fifteen minutes. Thanks to him for that time and the insight he gave. First the good news: When I asked Dan what is the one thing he wished he could change about his senior year, it is that he had started earlier really thinking about the college (in his junior year). The fact that BLS juniors are taking a college course seems to address this very issue. Now onto some random thoughts and observations:
- Seniors at Beacon have options for both senior History and English classes. Dan said this was probably the best part of senior year. I think we have already decided against this for our core, but something to keep in mind as we design the seminar option.
- Seniors at Beacon have a lot of free time built into their schedules (Dan has 14 hours free each week second semester, though I believe that includes lunch). Right now, the tentative plan is for Bronx Lab students to have 12 periods of the core, and 11 period of "Seminar". Maybe 2-4 of those "seminar" periods should officially be some sort of study hall (this of course could be more structured for some students). I think this could have a few benefits for our students: a) it will scaffold the transition to college where they have TONS of free time; b) it allows for some flexibility in teaching loads; c) it gives our students a tangible reward for making it to senior year; and d) it would give students the opportunity to spend time with teachers from whom they need/want extra help. (This time can always be claimed for field trips as well).
- Students said senior year at Beacon is not significantly different from their first three years, and this isn't a bad thing. We're designing a senior year significantly different from 9th-11th grade at BLS. I'm not insinuating we should rethink the path we're going for 12th grade, but rather that maybe some of the great things we're trying to implement for 12th grade should trickle down to the earlier grades.
- Seniors seem to have lots of leadership opportunities in Beacon's clubs and sports teams. I talked about extra-curricular activities in general in a previous post, but I think we need to give our seniors opportunities to be leaders for the school.
- Students at Beacon are allowed to leave the building. I don't know if this is even an option given the shared space and scanning at Evander, but should we consider giving seniors open campus privileges as another tangible reward for making it to senior year.