the Superintendent's Seat
Can Be Enlightening
Dr. Carole G. Hankin with Randi T. Sachs
great deal of pressure is placed on high school students to take
the most challenging courses available to them in order to impress
college admissions officers. The advice is valid, but if taken
too literally it can restrict students from taking elective courses
that just may have a strong impact on their lives.
At a Board of Education meeting in Syosset, we recently had a
demonstration of student work in architecture, which is a three-year
sequence in our high school's Technology Department. We were very
impressed with the spectacular model homes the students had created,
and the computer-aided design programs that they had mastered.
When one of the students announced that he would be attending
the United States Naval Academy in September and that as a result
of his taking this course that he had chosen naval architecture
as his field of study, I felt truly proud. Look at what participation
in an "elective" course had done for this young man. It was incredible.
High school is certainly a time for experimentation and growth
and if your child is fortunate enough to attend a school that
provides a wide range of electives, you should encourage him or
her to explore courses other than AP and Honors classes. Elective
classes can be found in such departments as Business, Technology,
Family and Consumer Science, Health, Physical Education, Music,
Art, Language, and others. A course in American Sign Language
could spark an interest in working with hearing impaired individuals.
A course in nutrition or cooking could bring out a student's "inner
chef" or restaurateur. A Health class in Peer Leadership can provide
a unique opportunity for a student's social growth and to experience
working with peers and younger students as a mentor or advisor.
Of course, elective classes can benefit all students, not just
those hoping for acceptance to the Ivy League schools. Taking
a sequence (three, four, or five years) can be a way to learn
about a subject in depth. It can also serve as an outlet for creative
or artistic students who choose sequences in art, music, or theater.
And by completing a sequence in an elective rather than taking
a number of very different courses, you are demonstrating a true
interest in achieving a proficiency in that subject—another
factor that is looked upon favorably by admissions officers at
all types of colleges.
If your child insists that there is no room in his or her schedule
urge him or her to look again. Go through your high school's course
catalog together and read beyond the titles to see what the classes
really cover. Consider also, that finding a course that engages
your high school senior can be a great way to cure "senioritis"
and keep him or her involved in school. Your child may discover
new interests that can take him or her in an exciting and rewarding
direction in life. #
Hankin is the Superintendent of the Syosset School District in
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