English and Social Studies Core program continues

By Sophia Ellingson

This fall marks the second year of Tam’s Core Program for freshmen and sophomores.

Core is a system that teams up one English teacher and one Social Studies teacher for two consecutive years. The objective is to decrease stress and increase learning by connecting the two subjects and teachers.

Although there are basic requirements for each class, sophomores are able to pick from regular world history or honors world history, both integrated into the same classroom. Students typically have most of the same kids in each section of their core classes and are assigned only one pair of teachers, without mixing and matching. Core, which is similar to the structure of primary and middle school classes, has made an impact on students and teachers alike.

“I like [Core],” said history teacher David Rice, who teaches sophomores this year. “Some [students] stepped up. It was nice to see the growth in them as individuals… usually when you only have one year [with a student], you don’t get to see that.”

Last year, Rice had freshmen and taught a Social Issues first semester and World Cultures and Geography second semester. This year, he teaches World History, with the integrated honors option. Rice stated he also likes getting to know students better as another positive aspect of the Core program.

Cella Wright, a sophomore in Rice’s class agreed. “It develops a really good bond between students and teachers,” she said. Wright is taking Honors World History, with Rice and English 3-4, taught by Rice’s teaching partner, David Tarpinian. “I think that I’m going to learn a lot more because they know how I learn and they understand me better than the teachers who only have you for one year will,” Wright said.

However, Wright claims her satisfaction with the program is based partly on luck, as she is pleased with her teachers. “If somebody didn’t like their teachers and they were stuck with them for two years, I can understand how that would be pretty tough,” she said. “I wish we could have them for four years instead of just two,” she added with a laugh.

Like most things, however, Core is not for everyone. Sophomore, Sarah Berman acknowledges both the positives and negatives of the program by saying “Yes, we can make a better bond with [our teachers], but I like meeting new people, having different kids in my classes, and having different teachers for each subject every year.”

Berman, who currently has Sharilyn Scharf for World History and Jonah Steinhart, who is also advisor to the Tam News, for English 3-4, sees inconsistencies within the program because of the range of teaching styles across all eight sophomore Core teachers. She said, “Some teachers do nothing and it’s an easy A… Others are pushing us so hard we have lost all interest in the subject and are just focusing on grades.”

Sophomore Gabe Bouchard, another student in the Steinhart/Scharf Core said, “I’ll be happy that I won’t have [Core] anymore [junior year], but I think I will have learned a lot after this year and will have gained good studying and learning habits.”

Written by Sophia Ellingson. This article originally appeared in the October 2011 issue.