It is that time of year when students begin their process of looking ahead to the next year and deciding upon their course selections. Here are some thoughts on York’s process and our philosophy regarding academic planning and course selections. The following resources should be considered:
A video recording of the course planning meeting hosted by the Academic Dean and the College Counselor can be viewed here.
The Academic Dean’s slides from that presentation can be viewed here.
Academic Program - an overview of all courses available in the 2017-2018 school year
Course Planning - an overview of the sequence of graduation requirements and electives available by grade level as well as a ‘4-year Plan’ worksheet
COURSE PLANNING PHILOSOPHY
Building a culture of curiosity and lifelong learning, our academic program focuses on helping students acquire knowledge and skills needed to address 21st century problems and opportunities. Students are encouraged to develop habits of heart and habits of mind that will serve them well in high school, college, and the rest of their lives. Our curriculum is centered on developing what students understand (knowing) and teaching them how to use and construct knowledge (doing). We recognize and we celebrate every student’s diverse interests and needs, and we meet students at the crossroads of their interests and needs.
A student’s experience at York is intended to be one of self-discovery, an opportunity to explore interests, investigate new curricula, participate in myriad activities, and ultimately find the fire of one’s passion. Our academic requirements aim to ensure every student’s ability to write, speak, and think clearly; to apply the scientific method to better understand and analyze real world situations; to have a detailed understanding of past world events and be able to see the similarities and threads that connect history and lead to cause and effect; to utilize mathematical knowledge to solve unfamiliar problems in both concrete and abstract situations; to understand and appreciate culture that is different from your own; to be conversant in a modern foreign language; to locate information sources, evaluate them, and use them efficiently and effectively.
One’s course load, then, is akin to a map. In selecting classes from year to year, a student charts a path, and we want students to take ownership of that passage. It is a personal journey. Students are encouraged, then, to follow their bliss -- select electives for which one finds an interest, boldly explore the unknown, and consider pursuits that will inspire discovery of that which one has yet to know about oneself, others, and the world.
Years 8, 9, and 10 can be viewed as focused on laying the foundation for the one's high school experience, while years 11 and 12 can be seen as both culminating experiences and solidifying the foundation for post-secondary school academics and life. Nevertheless, all years at York are marked by self-discovery and intellectual engagement, and therefore course selections should consider academic, social, and co-curricular exploration. Each year at York sets in motion the shape and quality of the next. We believe that each year comes with its own essential decisions.
As students consider course planning we encourage reflection on the following:
Allow yourself to explore and discover, to try new things with regards to your process of learning, to develop new healthy habits of mind and heart, to develop both academic and co-curricular passions.
TUTORIALS and FREE PERIODS
It is crucial to engage with faculty both in and out of the classroom. We intentionally provide tutorials, so every student has opportunities to meet with teachers outside of class -- to enrich the classroom experience, to find extra help, and to develop relationships. Going to tutorial does not mean you are not smart; going to tutorial is about becoming smarter.
And starting in 10th grade, students are also intentionally given the opportunity to have free periods. We recommend that all students in 10th and 11th grade consider taking between 5 and 6 classes and leaving themselves a minimum of one free period per day, which can be used for completing homework or projects, studying alone, studying with peers, meeting with faculty, or finding either down time or personal time.
While focusing on outcomes -- such as setting GPA goals for the school year-- is a great way to motivate oneself, in looking at the horizon students sometimes lose sight of the process of getting to the destination. Therefore, the essential question students should be asking during their years at York is this: what is my learning process? By that we mean, how do you best learn? How do you go about your learning? And how are you designing a successful approach to learning -- embracing challenges, persisting in the face of setbacks, learning from criticism, finding lessons and inspiration in the success of others, and viewing effort as the path to mastery. A great way, then, to assess one’s learning process is to consider one’s LQ, what Daniel Coyle (author of The Talent Code) refers to as learning quotient.
At York, we are fortunate to attract very bright young people to our school, so we are committed to the value-added of a York education. We believe that students can 'grow their brains' and improve their skills through an engaged, joyful approach to learning; that talent can be developed and that intelligence is not a fixed quantity; that learning emerges from setbacks, challenges, criticism, and response to failure perhaps even more than from success. We want to teach diligence and persistence and resilience, so we emphasize and trust in a process of teaching and learning that supports growth.
York’s educational approach has embodied this philosophy of teaching and learning for decades, and it has recently been reinforced by the neuroscience research of Stanford Professor, Carol Dweck and her book, Mindset. Dweck’s research refers to the fixed mindset (intelligence is static) and the growth mindset (intelligence can be developed owing to neuroplasticity).
PURSUITS AFTER YORK
Students often inquire as to implications of course selections on the college admissions process. There are some who might say, “Don't worry about it. Students should simply focus on being students.” But we recognize when an admissions committee evaluates an applicant, they are looking at four years of high school. So let us consider that there are several things to be aware of during these wonderful years of academic and personal exploration. To begin, let’s ask the same two questions that admission officers will likely ask:
Will this student succeed academically at our school?
What will this student bring to our community?
Embedded in these two questions are the three dimensions of every applicant:
A student’s academic ability
A student’s personal character
A student’s contribution to the community
All three of these will be measured, evaluated, and questioned; all three matter. Thus, our program of study (graduation requirements plus electives) ensures students’ transcripts demonstrate breadth, depth, and rigor. Meanwhile, we encourage students to develop points of excellence while building academic confidence and leadership skills.
With only a few exceptions, all four years of high school count towards college admission. Students should be encouraged to perform to the best of their ability. Although grades count, there can be wonderful lessons learned when students encounter academic challenges. Students should be encouraged to develop skills in self-advocacy. It is not just okay to ask for help, but essential. When presented with options, students should take the most challenging courses available to them. What is challenging for one student will be different for another. Students should pursue rigorous coursework that makes them stretch (not burn out). Selective colleges are excited to see students who push themselves and take risks, even when the result isn't a perfect grade.
If a student shows a particular strength or point of excellence, especially in an area one enjoys, help the student cultivate that talent. This may be within the field of athletics, arts, service learning, research, or a part-time job. A good goal would be to have students discover something they love and stick with it. Leadership will naturally follow if a student fully commits.
We want students to fully engage with the York experience, both in and out of the classroom. When students get older and begin to look at colleges, they will be well served if they have taken advantage of the many opportunities that York affords. Students who navigate the college process successfully are students who are proud of both the transcript they have built and the activities they have joined and stuck with. In addition, they have successfully completed the necessary research to discover the best fit colleges for them based on their personal strengths and attributes. No student is perfect, so when bumps come along, and they will, help students see the life-lessons that come along with setbacks. Encourage them to do the best that they can and the outcomes will naturally fall into place as they should.
COURSE PLANNING AND COURSE SELECTION PROCESS
In February, the Academic Dean and the Director of College Counseling hold Course Planning meetings for each grade level. Following the meetings, each student is encouraged to reflect upon the course offerings for the coming year, observe those courses which are required for graduation, and consider those elective offerings from which the student would like to select requests. Students should consult with the Academic Dean or the College Counselor in advance of making selections.
MAKING COURSE REQUESTS
All course requests are made online by visiting Academic Records, logging in, and ranking selections under “Course Selections.” The portal for course selections opens up during the spring break.
Students are expected to select a minimum of five solid courses each year. A student who wishes to take more than five courses must normally, unless the extra course is needed to fulfill School requirements, have at least a “B” average, and must have the permission of the Academic Dean.
APPROVAL OF SELECTIONS
Before making and submitting selections on-line, students should approve their requests with the following people:
Rising Freshmen - 8th grade class dean and the Academic Dean or the College Counselor
Rising Sophomores - the Academic Dean or the College Counselor
Rising Juniors - the Academic Dean or the College Counselor
Rising Seniors - the Academic Dean or the College Counselor
Students wishing to take more than two Advanced Placement, YAS, or honors classes during a year must receive permission from the Academic Dean.
Courses that are required for graduation are given priority. Seniors receive priority for elective courses. The complexities of scheduling make it impossible to guarantee that every student will be able to take all requested classes. Course requests are reviewed in April and May, course offerings are finalized by the end of May, and the Academic Dean builds the Master Schedule during June.
Student schedules are published online in summer as soon as the Master Schedule is finalized.
After schedules are published online, students may email requests for course changes to the Academic Dean or make an appointment to meet with the Academic Dean or the Director of College Counseling in order to discuss schedule changes.