Tête à Tête

MAPPING IT OUT Steve Kramer uses a textbook map as a visual to explain the battles of the Civil War to senior Kate. Photo by Caitlin

Senior Kate discovers the benefits of Hockaday’s Independent Study Program

What was the name of the first battle of the Civil War? Normally, a class full of students would be anxiously waiting to respond to the question, hands held high in the air. For senior Kate, raising her hand is not necessary; she is the only student in the semester course, History of the Civil War.

This is not how Kate pictured her class when she enrolled last year. Eager to learn more about one of her favorite topics, she signed up, envisioning a riveting class discussions led by History Department Chair Steve Kramer. But soon, she realized the discussion would be held solely between Kramer and herself.

Kate learned that the class did not make due to lack of interest and went to Kramer to discuss her options. That was when she discovered the independent study program at Hockaday.

“I had never heard of an independent study,” Kate said. “But it sounded interesting, especially since Mr. Kramer is really interested in the Civil War, and I think any class with an engaged teacher will be good.”

Kramer had been excited to teach the course, which originally included a class trip to Gettysburg and Antietam. So, when the class did not fill and Kate came to him, he agreed to an independent study “in the hopes that next year, more kids would want to take it, and we’d still have the travel component.”

This year, Kramer has structured the class like a college seminar, testing the course in preparation for next year and tailoring the curriculum to Kate’s personal interests and the topics he views as important.

This “seminar style” introduces a whole new classroom environment.

“Instead of answering [questions] as a class, it’s just me,” she said. “It definitely puts me more on the spot. In class if you don’t know the answer you can just wait for someone else to answer, but here you need to come up with something.”

Challenges aside, Kate is thrilled to have gotten the opportunity to pursue her individual interests. Having the ability to navigate a course guided by topics of her choice has given her a unique and beneficial opportunity. “I’m excited to be taking advantage of the opportunities at Hockaday,” she said. “This is definitely something that you couldn’t do somewhere else.”

– Caitlin