Significance Over Inconvenience

A student perspective on one of HM's newest courses, SOI

Eric Ohakam

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As September rolled around, I was not looking forward to my classes. The incoming school year indicated that our summer break was coming to a close. I dreaded the increase in work and the beginning of the college process that accompany junior year. I had two block frees, D & H, and I would use these to study. When I realized that one of my frees would be taken away by a class called “SOI,” I was annoyed and wished I could just get my free back. I felt that the school was trying to take time away from us. I thought of HMO (Horace Mann Orientation) in ninth grade, and how I felt it was a waste of time. A whole free, gone due to some class trying to teach me something I thought I already knew. This “Seminar On Identity” sounded like a repeat of HMO and a waste of a perfectly good free. 

But it wasn’t. 

SOI was a great class. We learned topics based on race, socioeconomic status, and the identity behind our names. The discussion behind the identity of names was fascinating, though, at first, felt strange to discuss with the rest of the class. It was informative nonetheless. When I think about my identity, I usually don’t associate it with my name. It opened me up to another facet of my being that I never thought about. I felt comfortable enough to express my ideas with fear of humiliation from my peers, something that plagued me in ninth and tenth grade. It showed me how I could improve myself as both a student and a member of the school community. I saw how I could effectively create a safer space for my classmates and better express my appreciation for others. 

I saw how I could effectively create a safer space for my classmates and better express my appreciation for others.”

However, I understand why this class wasn’t popular with other students. No one enjoys their free being taken away. Or maybe it was just how my class was structured. Having differing voices in one room can be difficult so while some students were aware of current events and had a better grasp on the terms, others struggled to understand. A lack of understanding creates frustration, something some of my friends felt, which ultimately led to students giving up on the class. I had an advisor who knew how to lead a discussion and create a safe environment for self-expression. Having it at the end of Tuesday served as a calm end to a chaotic day. 

The main issue I find with the class is its scheduling. We lose a free after the first trimester, but the problem is that the second and third trimesters are the ones where homework and the stress of college start to accumulate. While I understand that SOI in the third trimester focuses primarily on the college process, which helps to relieve stress and answer questions students might have, the class should have taken place during 1st and 2nd trimester so the juniors would have 3rd trimester with a “new free.” The mentality behind this is that instead of a free being taken away from us, it would be given (similar to HMO). I think that students would react positively to it and love the extra time at the end of the school year. Consequently, my peers would likely be able to appreciate more fully what SOI has to offer. 

The fact that students have an issue with SOI due to the space it takes up is understandable. However, it seems that another reason students dislike the class is the subject matter. Students who don’t experience some of the topics covered tend to be unappreciative of the class, saying, “…I don’t see why this this is prevalent…” or that “….it is so boring…” They blatantly ignore what the class tries to teach. Overall, I feel that SOI helps students learn about issues in our community and beyond. It helped promote sensitive ideas about race and culture that I rarely encounter in other classes. Until these topics are addressed in our regular classes, SOI remains a necessary part of junior year.