By Hannah Kim and Junie Kah
Communities and societies are naturally inclined to criticize and search for the shortcomings of any human effort. While this attitude of wanting improvement has been the key to human development over the past several centuries, it is also often a large barrier to enjoying life. Particularly at SIS, it is common for complaints and criticisms to fill the social atmosphere of students to an extent that does not allow much room for positive reflection. Blinded by the complaints, criticisms, and annoyances, students may be wasting the opportunity to make the best of their only time as high schoolers.
Although the extent of long-term reflection is limited as a student, the “SIS experience” as a student undoubtedly has changed dramatically over the past several years. Such changes impact the small aspects of students’ lives, that they may not necessarily be noticeable without closer inspection. For instance, many students have come to recognize that the so-called Confucian “age hierarchy” that used to be stricter and more distinct has a lessoned to a great extent in the social scene at SIS. These days, friendships among students of different grade levels are not atypical, and it can also be said that in general, sports teams have seen an increase in camaraderie from such a social trend. Although some traditions such as the use of formal Korean language and behavior toward upperclassmen are still prevalent, improvement can be seen in the simple fact that “fear” is no longer the dominant motivator with which underclassmen choose to behave with or view upperclassmen.
Significant changes in the lives of SIS students can also be seen in the more systematic adjustments that have been instituted by the school. This can be seen in the modifications to the Chemistry and Physics grading scale from unscaled to “standards-based”, and the implementation of the policy that allows students to retake a test up to 100 percent in Precalculus, with the tradeoff of having to keep the score of the second test, if taken.
Similarly, various new classes have been added to the school’s curriculum in order to fit the needs of the student body. For instance, Advanced Functions and Mathematics was a course that was added in 2017-’18 in order to allow students the option of not taking AP Calculus while continuing to study math throughout all four years of high school. The option to take this class is given to rising juniors who have completed Algebra II. In addition, there are two new courses being added in the upcoming school year: Advanced Sport and Recreation, and AP Computer Science Principles. All in all, such additions to the curriculum allow for education to be more flexible for each student.
It is important to recognize that change implemented top-down may not necessarily always be for the better. For instance, much controversy has arisen regarding the book “Midnight’s Children” that all juniors had to read for English 11, in replacement for more traditionally-read pieces of literature. Yet what must be emphasized is the existence of an administration and group of faculty who are willing to tailor the education fit for the needs of SIS students.
Too often under-appreciated and unnoticed, SIS is evolving and improving at a pace faster than ever before. This is not to say that voicing student opinion is negative. In fact, in order to ensure that our opinions are respected by the school, we must be willing to voice our opinion when given a channel. This could be in the form of student surveys such as the SIS Student Stress Survey (SISSSS), being implemented by administrative staff for their input, or even discussions in class. Meaningful change can only happen with adequate student input.
However, what will be important moving forward is the amount of student input in determining the school’s direction of change. At SIS in particular, we have seen active engagement by the Leadership Team, but a relative lack of student input in instituting these changes. Despite the fact that grassroots change may be relatively difficult at SIS as there are still too few students willing to express their thoughts in public, and certainly not in front of their own teachers. To be sure, there is certainly more than one way to aspire for improvements within the community. Students not only have the means to voice their visions for change, but their ideas are often actively implemented by the school, regardless of whether the students notice or not.
So as as you walk out of school and pledge to return in August, allow yourself a moment of reflection. Envision what we could be, but also where we are now. We still may have miles ahead of us, but we have come quite a distance.