Rethinking Traditional Curriculum: A Student Can Dream

By Liela Hafshejani

I’m fortunate enough to go to a school that offers my specific major as a class–  Sociology. Was I ever put in that class? No, and it’s all because there aren’t enough teachers that teach it, and there isn’t enough room. There aren’t many classes offered at our school that correlate with students’ majors.  

Some of the most common majors for students are Business Management, Nursing, Psychology, Biology, and Engineering. There are a few classes offered at this school that are semi-related to these majors. There is a Business and Finance class and a Marketing class for Business Management. There’s Biomedical Technology I and II for Nursing. For Engineering, there’s Drafting. Thankfully, our school offers Psychology (only Advanced Placement now, Honors Psychology was cut a few years ago) and Biology (both AP and Honors since it is a required credit to graduate). Lately, there has been a wave of Computer Science and Construction Management college freshmen. It seems to be the new most popular major because of the high demand in this new age of technology. 

I wanted to get other people’s opinions on this topic, so I asked a few of my peers and a couple of our own Heritage High School teachers. 

Alena Edwards, a senior here at Heritage High School, has committed to Appalachian State University ( yay Alena!). She’s majoring in History and Africana Studies in hopes of coming back here, to HHS, and becoming a history teacher. A few of the classes that she took to benefit her perspective on her major were Contemporary Law and Justice, American History, 20th Century Civil Rights and Liberties, and being a teacher cadet for Mrs. Walker. She stated that the teacher that inspired her to follow this path was our very own Mr. Dalton Edwards. When asked what classes would have been better for her for the future, she said “I think there should be an Art History class, a Women’s History Studies class, a class that revolves around the African Diaspora, the World Religions class should be brought back, and more public speaking classes”. 

The same applies to fellow students Ellis Keipper and Olivia Paul. Both students are English majors with Ellis going to UNC Charlotte and Olivia going to UNC-Chapel Hill. Congratulations to both of them! Ellis has the hopes of becoming an English teacher and coming back to Heritage to teach, while Olivia is still deciding between teaching, law, or journalism. Ellis credits Mr. Jeff Schweickert for his career choice and Olivia regards Mr. Jason King. 

Ellis said that taking Newspaper and Cultural Media Literacy, along with the mandatory English classes benefited him in preparing for his major. He stated that he would’ve liked to have more creative writing classes available at school. Oliva also referenced taking Cultural Media Literacy and how it benefited her perspective on her major. She also credited all the AP English classes she took – AP Seminar, AP Lang, and AP Literature, along with Law and Justice under Mr. Hatch. When asking Olivia what classes she thought would possibly better prepare her for her major, she said, “ I wish I had the chance to take an intro to philosophy class in high school. It relates heavily to an English major and having discussions around philosophy in my Cultural Media Literacy class allowed me to appreciate the topic.” She was also vocal about the lack of availability to take a Speech and Debate class. Though it is offered here at HHS, there just isn’t enough space for everyone who wanted the class to be in it– myself included. 

I’m a Sociology/Psychology major. After graduating college, I want to either be a prosecutor or work for the FBI. I have Mr. Kraft to thank for helping me pick my career choice and major. The classes I took were APUSH, Law and Justice, and AP Psychology. I wish I would’ve had the chance to take Sociology with May but there just wasn’t enough room and it wasn’t available. It’s on the lists of regrets I have in my high school career– I really know I would’ve loved it. 

I now saw the view of this topic from the perspective of students, so I knew it was time to ask our educators what they thought of it. 

Our very much beloved Mr. King had a lot to say on the subject. Mr. King – who teaches AP Seminar, Pre-AP English II, Cultural Media Literacy, and Speech and Debate– went to Franklinton High School, not too far from here. He graduated and went to UNC-Chapel Hill and majored in English and Philosophy but didn’t know he wanted to be a teacher until his senior year in high school when his English teacher persistently would tell him how “fine of a teacher he’d be”. When I asked him if there were any classes in high school that related to his major, he said that the closest thing was Composition (without counting mandatory English classes). Mr. King thinks that the entire education system should be altered, and he doesn’t agree with the idea of having mandatory classes and needing to have a certain amount of credits to graduate. 

Rusty May agrees with Mr. King. May teaches Sociology, Conversations of Diversity, and the occasional Civics Class. He went to Prestonsburg High School in Kentucky and went to a plethora of colleges in search of what he wanted to do with his life. He did, however, study Social Sciences. He said that there weren’t any classes that aren’t mandatory offered at his school that related to his major.  He said he wanted the old French system of education when students selected their field of study at the end of middle school. 

Mr. Kraft has a slightly different opinion on it. Studying Social Science and Secondary Education at James Madison University (GO DUKES!), he went to school in hopes of becoming a teacher. He teaches and has taught AP Psychology, Civics, American History I and II, Sociology, and World History. He decided to study Social Sciences because of a Sociology class offered at his high school. I asked Mr. Kraft what his opinion was on the topic at hand. He said that it would be a difficult thing to do because of the lack of availability of teachers, but did agree it was a good idea. A simple way to achieve it would be offering more electives that were a bit more diverse, but it would all depend on the teachers willing and available to teach it–in addition to funding/approval for said classes. 

Mr. Hatch’s perspective was a bit more assertive. He loves the idea and would be completely on board if it wasn’t for the lack of availability because of the required classes that the teachers have to teach. He explained to me that every teacher is required to teach three core classes every year and can have space for three electives. He acknowledged that even if students sign up for a specific elective, there might not be enough teachers available to teach that class or there might not be enough seats open for everyone. I’ll use one of my classes as an example – coincidentally, the class that I have with him. 

Mr. Hatch’s second period in one of the more popular classes at Heritage– Law and Justice.  The class is usually given to upperclassmen first and any space left is given to sophomores. It’s unlikely for anyone to drop the class, but it’s very likely for people to transfer into the class. Since the beginning of the semester, almost five students have transferred into the class. More students equals not enough seats. A kid in our class has to sit on the window sill unless someone is absent. It’s actually hot sometimes in the classroom because of the mass amount of people in a room that wasn’t made for 40 students plus a teacher. Our school was built for about 1,800 students; there’s over 2,100 students enrolled at Heritage. That’s almost the entire senior class over capacity. 

I brought up an observation I made to Mr. Hatch about our Bio-Med II class. Last semester, there were only about 6-10 students enrolled in that class. I felt as if the space could be taken up with another, more popular class. Hatch explained to me that those types of classes are totally separate from our other classes since they’re CTE classes and they are offered by the state. “If three students want to be certified, then there’s three students who want to be certified,” said Hatch. There are also Wake Tech classes. 

The issue with Wake Tech classes is that we have a fault in communication. There aren’t people at our school who can give us a step-by-step guide on how to sign up for classes and the whole works. Through personal experience, I was unable to take the class I wanted at Wake Tech. Don’t worry, I even went to the campus to ask questions. Their main priority isn’t students from high school trying to take their classes– they want to prove to paying students that have already graduated first. 

From the perspective of a counselor, Mr. Walston thinks that having different options for classes is a good idea. He said that “Students will try harder in classes they actually want to be in…Preparing students for the real world and the work field should be the main priority.” 

I asked all the teachers if they felt like they learned more about life and teaching through school or experience. Every single one said that they learned from experience. Not having classes at our school that relate to our majors early on can diminish our chances of getting experience early on. It’ll be somewhat of a shock if we are thrown into the world without having some idea of what we want to do with our lives. The biggest advantage of having classes that correlate is that we have a better idea of what major we might want to pick. The only shot we have right now is that we like bits and pieces of our core classes and go that route. 

I know there probably isn’t a chance we’ll change the classes that are offered, but I hope this will bring light to an issue many students have.

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