Now, more than ever, students need to harness self-esteem, character, and vision to beat tremendous obstacles that stand before them. Education plays a critical role in facilitating that growth and putting it at the forefront of the school experience. In order to do this, many schools are modernizing their approach to help students answer the question that so many of us, young and old, ask ourselves throughout our lives: “Who am I, and who do I want to be?”
Educators are making middle and high school the essential time to build students’ self-awareness and self-esteem. Through elective programming, students are given an invitation to learn about themselves deeply, explore the world and examine society.
Traditional electives, such as student council and student debate, build students’ leadership and courage. Students are challenged to work together to form solutions to problems they care about. By developing their own goals and tracking their progress, students learn to work for the spirit of their team and not simply as an individual.
Many schools are taking a more holistic approach to electives, offering courses like yoga and painting, which present the need to practice kindness and awareness amidst the chaos of being a student and give students space to express their deep feelings.
Regardless of what course a student may choose, electives allow students to identify their own strengths, weaknesses, interests, non-interests, passions and outlook for the future. “The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action,” said John Dewey, an early 20th-century educational philosopher and founder of the modern elective.
Experiential, instinctual, team-based, culture driven, and self-motivated, modernized electives push students to think critically about themselves and their communities. Students at DSST: Conservatory Green High School affirm this.
“You can’t pick one side that you are comfortable with, you have to argue both sides,” says a ninth-grader about his involvement in Speech and Debate.
Electives push students out of their comfort zone; through this, direction toward a better future is fostered and passion for life is nurtured.