Academic dean encourages teachers to propose potential classes
In her first year as academic dean, Rebecca Brady has implemented a new system for adding classes to the curriculum, and teachers have taken advantage and suggested new courses.
But, according to Brady, everyone who wants to propose a course needs to connect it somehow to the school’s mission.
“They must think about what we need and really have some sort of value offered by the course,” Brady said. “So [the new class] should add something to the current offerings that we don’t currently have, and maybe even something students would be interested in studying in the future.”
In order for a teacher to introduce a new course, they first need to meet with the department members and the head of the department that the class falls into. The department makes sure that there is no overlap in the purpose of a class. After receiving approval, the teacher will fill out a form and present it to the department committee and Brady. Finally, if the new course is approved, the class will be offered, and if at least six to eight students sign up for the course, it will be added to that year’s curriculum.
“If we think it would be something that we should offer for students to select, we add it to the list of classes that students can choose from,” Brady said. “Then, at that point, it’s up to the students. So we base whether a class is going to make or not make based on student requests, so as long as a class has a good number of students who have requested it, we work it into our master schedule.”
Nine new classes will be added to the 2023-24 school year: Compassion Science and Literature, Financial Literacy, Philosophy of Religion, Intro to Law, Science of Wellness, Spanish for Professionals, Intermediate Acting, Digital Art & Design, Elements of Creation: 2D & 3D. Some teachers proposed classes that were rejected because the department committee thought it was too similar to a class already offered or wouldn’t enhance the ESD curriculum.
“I think because [now] people see what they have to do to propose a course has definitely made it so that more classes are being suggested and offered,” Brady said. “[Teachers know] what they’re interested in, what their students are interested in and the gift they have to offer to students. I don’t think that we’re going to be able to have ten new classes every year.”
One of the new classes, Intro to Law, which will be taught by Adam Walsh, will be a new spring English elective. The class will be structured to have four units reflecting what real law students learn in the first year of law school.
“There are a number of kids who I think are potentially interested in going to law school at some point,” Walsh said. “I think it’s useful to get an overview of what that process looks like. I think that part of our mission is to try to establish equity in different ways in social justice, and one of the number one professions where you can do that effectively in a hands-on way is by being an attorney, by being a lawyer.”
Before teaching at ESD, Walsh worked as a federal prosecutor in New York for seven years.
“I wish I would have had [a class like pre-law] in high school to give me a sense of what you would do on a day-to-day basis as a lawyer,” Walsh said. “I can use those skills I learned [while working as a lawyer] to talk about [aspects of law] that may be helpful to people in the future. I think it is something that there is a demonstrated need for. It’s also a rigorous class.”
New classes are offered to make sure students have options to fulfill all of their graduation requirements. In order to graduate, students need to have a religion credit and one art credit spanning two semesters which can be more difficult for some students to complete.
“Sometimes it’s more difficult for students to get in those electives, so they have to make a choice,” History Department Chair Mary Hansell said. “That’s one of the reasons we tried to offer some other options for the ethics requirement for graduation, so if the religion class they pick didn’t fit in their schedule, they still have some other courses that they’d like to take and wouldn’t be forced to take a course just because it fits in their schedule.”
The past religion options included Biblical Theology, Ethics and World Religions.
“We added Race in America and Immigration in America,” Hansell said. “They seem to be very popular with students and very topical, more focused on social justice, so, over the years, we have tried to offer different classes.”
However, not all loved classes are returning. Due to several reasons, Culinary Chemistry, a class that combines chemistry and cooking typically for upperclassmen, will no longer be offered at ESD.
“[Culinary Chemistry] has been a popular course in the past, but we have to make decisions based on staffing that we have to use to cover our classes in the sciences,” Brady said. “We also are thinking about how colleges are viewing courses. For example, a new science selection called the Science of Wellness we’re hoping is going to be viewed in the eyes of colleges in a positive light. We think about the rigor that we’re offering and what we will set our students up well for success.”
With the new system of adding classes, there will likely be an increase in classes added.
“I don’t think the curriculum should be static but fluid,” Brady said. “I think it should grow and change according to the needs of students. If you stay student-driven, students centered and you’re offering what appeals to your student population, then I think you won’t have much trouble.”