Year-long ‘Personal Project’ adds to sophomores’ workload

While utterly pointless in terms of my academic career, Advisory period is a great time for playing on my phone, sleeping or last-minute cramming. This year, I expected much of the same. However, the administration had me (and everyone else) figured out. My adviser began the year by introducing the latest orders from above: The Personal Project.

The Personal Project is a new part of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme, in which sophomores must complete a year-long project on a topic of their choice. But, let’s backtrack for a second: at the end of last year, I chose to take Advanced Placement classes my sophomore year. This year has hit me hard, with a lot more work, plus sports, than I’ve had before.

For a delightful cherry on top, I also now have the Personal Project. I will have to present a finished product and reflection, along with journals that I’ve supposedly been completing throughout the year.

I can see where the district is coming from with this one. The Middle Years Programme, ranging from 6th to 10th grade, has yet to be instituted in the Shaker schools, and the Personal Project is an attempt to move the district closer to that goal. The idea of the project is pretty attractive — students can do basically whatever they want and they have the whole year to do it. However, I would liken the administration to the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution’s failed predecessor, in that they have the power to command the people to do things but not actually enforce these commands.

What I mean is that the Personal Project carries no grade and has no influence on GPA — therefore, for most students, there is no reason to do it. Although students are rewarded with 0.25 independent study credits if they actually turn in the project, this isn’t really enough to motivate kids. If their project was a video of a blank wall, it would have no substantial academic repercussions — so long as they reflected on that wall in their journals.

Also, as previously mentioned, sophomores carry an increased workload this year, plus other responsibilities such as sports, clubs, taking care of siblings or chores. Sophomores also had the 165 minute Aspire test earlier this year.

There’s no way of telling how the Personal Project will work out this year, but it definitely has gotten off on the wrong foot. I think that the project could find its niche — after the administration realizes that sophomores are not superhumans.


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