Monday, March 1, 2010

Senior Year Options

Many students are not content with the typical 4 years of high school, sitting in class learning lots of theory about the "real world." Some, knowing they don't want to still be sitting in school by the time they are 17-18, plan ahead and graduate early so they can pursue their higher education goals. Some get bogged by senioritis and barely graduate. Regardless of where one is at, senior year is tough - you are on the edge of "real life" and making "real decisions" while still conforming to pre-designed requirements. Things can quickly become meaningless.

Of course there are senior students who are fine with going through the motions of the regular high school life, but that is increasingly becoming less popular. Students today are seeking more choices and opportunities to take charge of their education and direct it towards areas they are interested in.

When I was a senior in high school, I was attending a charter school named CAL (Center for Advanced Learning) which gave me the freedom to pursue my interests and further my professional goals. At the end of my junior year, I came to the principal and told him my situation - I loved CAL and its philosophy, but I was no longer interested in the web design program I was in. I was interested in exploring education and vocational ministry. The principal didn't scold me for being out of the box. He encouraged me and said he will set me up with a mentor. By the time I came back to school that Fall, I had a completely different curriculum that was personally focused on my needs and interest. I had a mentor who met with me weekly and provided opportunities to explore teaching at a local elementary school as well as meeting with professors at local universities. I felt like my senior year was purposeful and by the time I graduated I felt confident and prepared to pursue my interests.

It is a growing trend. According to USA Today, more and more high school seniors are re-inventing their senior year to be more personalized and more applicable. Students are taking advantage of opportunities to simultaneously get college credit while getting their high school diploma, finding internships and other opportunities to explore future careers.

So far, it has been the more "academically advanced" who have taken on these opportunities, but I think the educational system should compare their current method and consider the benefits of allowing all seniors to pursue their interests during their senior year. I know it is much more complex then just giving kids the option of mixing up their senior year - there must be standards and requirements, but there also must be an open opportunity for exploration and choice for students to feel they are in control of their studies and pursuits.

What do you think? Did you feel your senior year of high school prepared you for college? For the real world? Should students have alternative options during their senior year? Please voice!

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