By Hadley Winslow, Staff Writer from Class II
APs? Electives? Precalculus or statistics? Honors or non-honors? These age-old questions swim through every Nobles student’s head when course registration arrives each spring. And with an academic atmosphere that values rigor, it is hard to dispel the rumors about which classes are the hardest, which teachers dole out the toughest grades, and which are “essential.”
While it’s essential to consider which courses are the most valuable and intellectually stimulating, one must also recognize that each student has a different experience in each class. Still, certain factors of a course, like the standard workload and perceived level of difficulty, influence many students.
There is certainly something to be said for the “standard” junior or senior-year course load, which often consists of an AP class, physics, language, English, and some variation of calculus. But many students agree that it is beneficial to branch out and diverge from the conventional academic path. “Don’t feel like you have to take the classes everyone else is taking,” Katie Pyne (Class II) said. “Taking a chance on a class could mean being with a new teacher that you probably would never be with.”
A common misconception is that juniors “have” to take AP European History, or “Euro.” While Euro is an effective preparatory AP class, it is also accompanied by a challenging syllabus and plentiful assessments. “AP Euro is seen to be almost a necessity, and I wouldn’t agree with that. This year I [took Modern America at War]... with a lot of juniors and a sophomore. [The class] was really interesting because first, I got to meet a sophomore and juniors from other classes, and second, they brought interesting perspectives on the topic matter,” Nick Hazard (Class I) said.
Similarly, seniors feel that enrolling in classes that genuinely interested them was more of a priority than adhering to the standardized “core upper school curriculum.” With the benefit of hindsight, Charlie Guerra (Class I) said, “You don’t need to take AP Euro, and you don’t need to take an AP science. I think you should take an AP science, but you should definitely try the science electives, [too].” Delving into the subjects that feel most invigorating and thought-provoking left students feeling more fulfilled. “The curriculum is actually much more free as a senior,” Hazard said.
Because of the requirements, all students will consider the arts courses at some point in their Nobles careers. The Visual Art Department is filled with talented and experienced teachers who possess a passion for their medium. Partaking in an art class is a hallmark of Nobles: whether it’s throwing a pot on the wheel, using the enlargers in the darkroom, or mastering an oil painting technique. Pyne, who has tried all the visual art classes, valued her time in each course. “I took Drawing and Painting because… I decided to branch out… I like to paint, and I like to draw, but I’ve never been serious about it. I absolutely loved it... I got really into painting,” Pyne said.
Once a student has fulfilled all the graduation requirements, another exciting aspect of course registration is perusing all the new electives. Next year, several new humanities classes will be offered, consisting of English options like “The Campus Novel”, a course that takes a deep-dive into different books that take place on high school campuses, and “Who Am I? A Seminar in Family History”, which examines each student’s lineage and culminates in an exhibition of the student’s family tree interlaced with historical context. Every year new electives are offered which gives the student the ultimate opportunity to personalize their schedule.
When asked about what advice they would give younger students, upperclassmen pointed to several universal themes. They stressed the importance of choosing classes for the sake of learning, rather than to fulfill a stereotypical expectation. “I think if you pick classes that you’re interested in, it’s a lot easier to get the work done,” O’Donnell said. Hazard, who enjoyed classes with students from several grades, said, “taking advantage of [unique academic] opportunities is more important than following what is seen to be a ‘necessary’ part of the curriculum.” Abiding by the trends of past students’ choices does not afford the student as much creativity and individualization in their schedule. Ultimately, reaping the benefits of a Nobles education comes from pursuing one’s academic aspirations rather than following in someone else’s footsteps.