Contributing Author, Sinead Keating
Teachers are working on a new style of classes for next year called J-term.
According to Professional Development Coordinator Jonas Sherr and Assistant Superintendent Emily Parks, J-term stands for June of 2018.
During this time, students and staff will take four or five days that would be more traditional school time and turn it into a time to really get engaged in subjects unavailable in the traditional curriculum by removing some of the external types of things that often control education here.
Sherr said, “The overall philosophy is that if you offer kids a chance to learn about something they are truly interested in that real learning can be authentically engaging for students.”
The idea for J-Term materialized last year when Parks shadowed a student for the day. She said, “I spent a day going to classes with a student. One thing that struck me was the pace. It felt non-stop with the bell ringing every forty seven minutes. You were doing history and four minutes later you’re doing math.”
Parks said, “It would be interesting to see what would it be like when you don’t have to stop doing what you’re doing every forty seven minutes.”
Sherr added, “It would be a chance for students to explore some deep part of an academic subject they’re interested in, or it is a chance for them to learn about something that is completely outside of the types of courses that we offer here.”
Freshmen, sophomores, and juniors will get the opportunity to choose one class out of thirty to forty courses to participate in. The current course list includes titles ranging from “Debunking Disney” to “Exploring the Development of Truth from Socrates to Snapchat” to “Scuba Diving.”
Prior to December break, two student focus groups met to discover student interest and to gather input. Students in these groups were asked what they wanted J-Term to be like, and they ranked a list of possible course titles based on interest level.
Student focus group member, senior Jordan Jud, said, “J-term is a really neat opportunity for future students and I wish we had had the chance to participate in it; however, I think the success of J-term will depend on the teacher’s ability to think outside the box and think of some really fun and engaging courses to offer since most students are zoned out in June.”
Parks said, “My hope is that everyone will be enrolled in a course that they’re thinking, ‘This is going to be great!’””
One teacher knows it’s going to be great. English Department Chair, Kate Holmes, expressed her excitement when she said, “I’m really excited for J-Term. I think that it presents both teachers and students with an opportunity to try something new. To spend a long period of time with a new group that is interesting and exciting would be an adventure.”
J-term will be a required course that students must take for pass or fail credit.
Teachers are still creating their courses during professional development time.