Reflections at Dawson: An Experience Worth a Try
By Beatriz Neves
According to the Dawson website, “Reflections is a Special Area of Study dedicated to interdisciplinary explorations of seminal works in literature, philosophy, social sciences, and the arts” and has been a part of this establishment since 1970. The course explores specific topics from two different perspectives. It is taught by an English or French teacher and a Humanities teacher, from the lens of their respective field. As a paired-course, It offers students the chance to get two credits. Reflections is in a seminar-style setting in order to encourage students to engage in in-class discussions.
For such an exceptional class, there is a specific selection process. Originally, the coordinator and administrator of Reflections sent letters to high schools to only invite their top students to attend the course. However, the Reflections administration realized that they were being too selective and many interested students were being left out. Seven years ago, the administration started a new policy where every Dawson student with an average above 75% is sent a letter inviting them to attend an information session to learn more about the course. This has proven to be very successful, according to Michael Duckett, coordinator of the Reflections course. He says, “the information sessions are the magical doors that open us up. We just make an open invitation and they choose us”.
The fact that the students choose to be in the course makes the classes full of energy. Students who feel frustrated in regular classes and who want to be challenged fit the perfect profile for Reflections. The classes are more about what you can get out of the discussions, and less about the assignments themselves. Océane François-Saint Cyr, a Reflections student in the Health Science program, explains that “though it seems long when you see that big block in your schedule, it definitely does not feel like a three hour class.”
Just as Reflections is selective of the students who attend the courses, it is just as selective of the teachers who teach them. This area of study looks for teachers who have a need to innovate and improve as educators. Rebecca Million, a Reflections teacher, says that it’s a “really good opportunity. [...] We can treat it as an experimental kind of venue for teaching so we can try things that we wouldn’t try in other classes downstairs.”
The co-teaching method is also an effective way for teachers to learn from one another. It is also useful for the students as they learn from different perspectives on the same topic. Kayla Blydt-Hansen, a Reflections student, says, “I like the fact that there are two teachers that communicate with each other and we talk about the same thing. [...] It makes me enjoy it a lot more.”
"Reflections is in a seminar-style setting in order to encourage students to engage in in-class discussions."
Every semester, the teachers and the coordinator choose a different topic to explore in the combined classes. The subjects are chosen before the beginning of the semester so that the interested students can choose which course interests them the most from the given options. For example, one of the classes revolves around Homer’s Odyssey, another on the ethics of horror movies.
The Reflections course seems like a great alternative to the standard classes that we all are so tired of. Students should not be scared of the workload and the length of the seminars; they are meant to be enjoyable! As Duckett says, “Don’t be afraid to try it [...] Take a leap of faith.”