One of the things that I love most about my High School experience at the Green School is the fact that we get to choose what classes we take. We are not tied up in being stuck within our class group, or even the “correct” level we should be studying. We can challenge ourselves freely, and are usually only in a class with other kids that want to be there as well. Everyone is passionate and ready to learn. Of course, there are some boundaries with this said “passionate freedom.” Most grades are “locked” into certain proficiency subjects. Grade nine: English, Math, and Science. Grade ten: History and Math. Grade eleven: English. Twelfth grade has often completed all their needed credits, and thus are not locked into anything for their final year.
To me, it is shocking to see the difference in enthusiasm when comparing required subjects versus classes we choose freely. Though I am all for the system we have and place, and see the need for taking a subject for the entire year, the level of passion that ranges within the classes is astounding. To give an example, in grade nine I chose to be in an English class about the Shakespeare play, Richard III. Naturally, that topic does not appeal to everybody. The class ended up with only about six kids in it. It was a great class, though. Everybody wanted to be there, and the discussions were engaging and enthusiastic. On the contrary, this year I am locked into an English class with almost the entire grade eleven: twenty-two students. It is obvious that there are some students who would simply like to be elsewhere. It is painful to me when the teacher asks a question and less than half of the class is engaged in the discussion. The level of creativity and effort is so much lower than what I have seen in previous classes. Personally, I love English and there are students, like me, that want to be there and participate and learn. I feel it is very limiting when not everyone is on the same page, especially with a discussion based subject. The level of energy has dropped. However, I do see the need for this class, as we all need the English experience.
In all of my previous schools before Green School, every single class I had was required. The engagement, and contribution in those classes always followed a similar structure. It is so interesting to me to see this pattern repeated at Green School now. In a way it highlights how well our system works, and the importance of passionate, student-centered learning with choice and variety.