High School Narrative Class
We begin the course by talking about how in approximately two years (one, if students are sophomores) students will begin to reflect on their own personal narrative for college admission. From what we have discovered, most students do not even realize what a personal narrative is until they are asked to write one. They also don't necessarily know that it needs to be compelling, authentic and revealing. By the time junior year rolls around with its heavy workload and increased responsibilities, tackling this reality for many of them is daunting. Also, by junior year, their story has essentially been written. Their grades are determined, their extracurricular activities have been chosen, and their relationships with teachers have already been established.
Understanding what lays ahead for students with respect to the college application process actually reduces the stress many of them experience because of our unique approach. We want to take away the "Oh, crap" and the "I wish I had known then what I know now" moments. We do this by encouraging freshmen and sophomores to begin to reflect on their lives, become more self-aware, find out what is important to them, discover where they find community, understand how they create a sense of belonging and purpose within that community and explore how they want to grow their world. When they begin to reflect on these questions, we see more proactive, more thoughtful students emerge. They become more directed and purposeful with respect to their high school experience and the kind of student, friend and community member they want to be. As a result, they have a much more compelling story to share with colleges.
But the truth is, the story they write doesn't begin and end with college admissions. As one student remarked last year, "This isn't a course about college admission; this is a course about becoming the best version of yourself." That is the primary goal of the class. We want to help every student understand and begin to tap into their potential, not just as students, but as human beings. They can do that when they are engaged and driving their choices. That is our goal, and we want it to be theirs.
During the course, we ask students to journal between classes. We discuss things like growing comfortable with feeling awkward and learning how to be less judgmental of themselves and their peers. We talk about what it means to be a healthy risk taker and engaged learner. They do this work in a group setting, often with several kids they don't know and they learn a lot from each other through sharing. It’s magical to watch unfold. This will be our third year running these workshops. Our students come from more than ten different schools in the Bay Area. We are humbled by their willingness to be so open and brave with what they share. They seem especially receptive to having adults in their lives (who are not their parents) take an interest in helping them navigate the tough years of high school. For many of our students the class has been a transformative experience.
We would like to make an important distinction about this class. Despite its name, it is not a writing intensive class. We ask students to write but more importantly we ask them to reflect.
We offer the courses up to three times a year: fall, winter, and spring. We gather at The Ross School from 7 PM to 8:15 PM once a week (usually on a Tuesday or Wednesday) for seven weeks.
Wendy Battey and Alistair Grant