As the year comes to a close, next year’s J-Term becomes more concrete.
Many students and parents have questions or concerns about the J-Term, which will be implemented next year. Faculty continue to meet to plan for the J-Term during some professional development schedules.
First, what is the J-Term? According to current Head of the Middle School and next year’s Assistant Head of School for Academics Mr. Patrick Sillup, the J-Term is an eight day term during the four day weeks before and after Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.
The days during the J-Term will be split into two sections, morning and afternoon. Students will take one class in the morning session, and one class in the afternoon session.
Many students are curious about the types of classes that will be offered during the J-Term. With the contributions of faculty, Sillup is working on putting together the course selection list.
“I’m not yet comfortable publishing the document, but you guys would get it by Halloween this upcoming fall,” Sillup said.
Although this guide has not been published yet, Sillup assures that it is in the works.
“One option we discussed was constructing a separate AP Institute in which students and teachers would focus on AP material only during these 8 days. While it would eliminate these teachers and students from exciting J-Term coursework, it would also provide important contact time for AP coursework.”
-Mr. Patrick Sillup
“Faculty has already pitched their ideas, and they’ve gone back and edited those ideas. We’ll then use the summer to collect more feedback. [The faculty] will fine tune course description and then we’ll begin to upload those into our system,” Sillup said.
Ninth grade English teacher Mrs. Susan Giordani would like to see more unique classes.
“I like the idea of something that’s out of the norm. I think [all of the classes] are out of the norm, they’re not like your typical academic class,” Giordani said. “I’d like to see something where the students are fully engaged, where they’re hands on, they’re moving, they’re learning by doing.”
Unfortunately, everyone getting their first choice of class may not be possible.
“I don’t think it’s feasible that everyone will get their first choice. That’s just the reality. I do think that we can collect data in such a way that guys can get a choice they would be happy with. I think that that’s important,” Sillup said.
Some students and teachers are concerned about how AP courses will be affected. Sillup met with a group of AP teachers on May 17, and the group came to a consensus that AP classes need to live during the J-Term time.
“One option we discussed was constructing a separate AP Institute in which students and teachers would focus on AP material only during these 8 days,” Sillup stated in an email. “While it would eliminate these teachers and students from exciting J-Term coursework, it would also provide important contact time for AP coursework.”
Sillup stated that he plans to solidify the approach to APs during the summer months, and having a working draft to share when Malvern returns to school in late August.
Since J-Term is during winter break, some students may regard it as optional school. Sillup states this will not be the case.
“No, we take attendance every morning, just like we do in homeroom. By choosing not to come to J-Term, you’d be choosing to opt out of classes for eight days. This becomes part of your permanent transcript,” Sillup said.
J-Term instructors could include alumni and even members of the Malvern staff.
“Mr. Duane, who works in IT, has been developing a J-Term course. He’s been doing a lot of developing regarding what that would be,” Sillup said. “Is it tech specific? Is it virtual reality or programming? I think that would be awesome.”
Regarding feedback from parents, Sillup hasn’t heard much.
“Quiet, really quiet,” Sillup said. “I think in part because we’re coming to the time where we are closing the academic year. I think parents are thinking about summer camps, things we’re getting involved with, vacations, a home project, and not necessarily next January.”
Sillup does believe that J-Term will help to prepare students for the future.
“‘Malvern’ is followed by ‘preparatory school’, right? So if you look at a lot of the institutions you guys will aspire to go to, where some of your brothers are going to, these are all colleges that run J-Term,” Sillup said.
Sillup said that some colleges run what is known as a 4-1-4, where students take four credit courses in the fall and spring semesters then during J-Term they take one credit classes.
“Then you can walk into a college saying ‘I’ve done this before, I’ve tried this before. It’s gone really well for me.’ I feel like we owe that experience to you as a college prep school,” Sillup said.