Note: This post is purely my opinion and not a reflection of my employer or district. My evidence is based on observations and conversations with other educators, but mostly comprises of my own feelings and views on education.
This is a very difficult post to write as I fear it could offend fellow educators who feel differently. I’ll just go ahead and say it!
High school needs to function more like high school, and less like college.
It has been 10 years since I graduated high school, and I have only been an educator for 3 years, but I am confident there has been a drastic change in direction for high school education, and I question if it is effective.
With that being said, I’m positive there are a lot of success stories that will negate my following points, and I think that’s great. There is definitely student success, and maybe it’s working across the board, I just don’t think it’s the best approach.
Here are 2 ways that I think high schools are doing a disservice to students:
Block scheduling. 4 classes a semester is cramming a year’s worth of content into 4 months. Additionally, this makes class period lengths at least 90 minutes, which is long for anyone, even in college! This also means that students could essentially take English their fall semester freshmen year, and not again until spring semester their sophomore year. To me, that is scary. Writing skills are invaluable and need to be practiced. There needs to be enough class periods in the day for ALL core classes, along with 2-3 opportunities for electives. 7-9 class periods seems about right to me. This way they are getting all of their core content, and exploring other subjects and fields that may spark their interests in college.
Now, I know some teachers are thinking how that creates more work for them during the day. I would have loved to teach 7-9 classes each day, because then I could offer some more elective courses that I specialize in and have an interest in teaching. More importantly, I could have multiple ensembles throughout the entire year. While it may be creating more work, at least I would get some opportunities to share what I love with students.
Career Academy Models. While this is a great idea in theory, I think this is another way of doing college. Career academies basically requires students to pick a “major” and their elective courses would come out of this field. I think a student’s high school years should be completely exploratory, and the focus should be on foundational skills. Can they write an essay? Can they solve basic math problems? Can they balance a checkbook? Can they intelligently speak about our history? Can they think critically? Do they have strong communication skills? These are the things they need in college in order to develop career knowledge and skills.
16 year olds shouldn’t have to figure out their life in high school. It should be the other way around. High schools should offer opportunities for students to explore several fields and figure out what they like, what they are good at, and what they may want to pursue in college. Sometimes it is hard for college students to figure out what to do with their lives! High school students need experiences and foundational knowledge, and opportunities to further their knowledge and develop career skills. They don’t need to choose a career. If I had to choose a major in high school, I would be doing musical theater, and let’s be real, I can’t memorize lines and feel I am better suited to improv comedy. The world thanks me for not choosing musical theater!
I would love to continue the conversation on this topic. How do you think high schools should be structured? Leave a comment below, or continue the conversation on Twitter @LindsayBrazell. I’d love to hear from you!
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ajc1/