It’s this time of year when students and parents turn their thoughts to next year’s classes. A common question we get is whether or not to pursue Honors level work in those classes. The Department has spent a lot of time pondering this question, and we’d like to offer some basic guidelines to help families to make these decisions.
Qualities of an Honors student include:
- Being in school. Our analysis tells us that students who find success at the Honors level are absent no more than 3 times per semester at the most.
- Doing homework independently. Successful Honors students complete 95% or more of their homework without being nagged by parents or teachers to do so.
- Being an active participant. Successful Honors students contribute to class discussion regularly and without the teacher prompting them to do so.
- Being opinionated but with evidence. Successful Honors students are able to form and articulate an opinion and back it up with evidence. They can do this both orally and in writing.
- Being curious about the world. Successful Honors students are interested in the world around them. They follow current events, consume news items on their own and are interested in talking about them. They have an ambition to see the places they hear and read about.
- Being a reader. Successful Honors students see reading as enjoyable, not as a burden or a chore. They regularly spend time with books, magazines, newspapers, web articles, etc.
- Being motivated for their own success. Successful Honors students are self-motivated to: master material; improve their performance; and to work hard every day.
- Being resilient. Successful Honors students are able to bounce back from set-backs. They have a growth mindset about improving themselves and their performance. They believe in their ability to improve, and they take feedback constructively.
- Being strong students. Successful Honors students know how to be a student. They are adept at note-taking, test preparation and organization.
- Being passionate about the social sciences. If there isn’t an interest in the subject matter, why bother taking Honors? Successful Honors students want to know more about the subject and are passionate about the topics the course covers. Of course, not all topics will inspire the same level of passion, but Honors requires a higher level of interest overall.
We’d expect to see an Honors student demonstrate a high level of achievement in his or her classes, but we don’t make our recommendations solely on the basis of the grade the student earned in our classes. So if you or your child is contemplating Honors work in the Social Studies, go through the above 10 items and have an honest conversation about them. If you can answer yes to all 10, coupled with strong marks this year, then this seems like an easy choice. If the answer is no to some and yes to others, then include the teacher in the conversation and ask his or her opinion! And if the answer is no to the majority, then Honors is not going to be the path to take next year.