At the end of their senior year, students have the opportunity to present a Senior Project–an independent study on a topic of the student’s choosing, guided by a teacher adviser in the subject area. This blog post is from Linda G., one of our graduating seniors at BASIS International School Shenzhen on the role her teacher adviser has played in the success of her Senior Project. This is part 1 of a two part series on the Senior Project.
The teacher was one of the first occupations that I came to know as a little kid. Like all other students, I’m familiar with the duties of the teacher in the classroom: deliver lessons through giving lectures, plan activities that require students to actively search for answers, and offer feedback and guidance in many forms.
I also have always had the impression that teachers usually have the answers to what we are doing. In a lecture, teachers have a thorough understanding of the topic. In certain class activities, they may avoid giving us answers directly, but they still have a clear idea of the intended result. In short, students would normally expect their teachers to have the ultimate answers and to have a plan.
This is not the case when it comes to doing a senior project.
Questions, Uncertainties, and Directions
The senior project is an experience completely different from what I am used to. I have the opportunity to, for the first time, have full control over the topic, approach, and method of my independent exploration. It’s a unique opportunity not just because I have the freedom to delve into a fascinating topic, but also because the teacher who is advising me on the project doesn’t have a clear direction either.
As I was working on my project during the last few weeks, I often approached my teacher adviser, Ms. Harrison, with a lot of questions. And after having discussions with her, I would walk out of her classroom not with answers to my questions, but with new thoughts on how to approach the uncertainties I faced.
When I was unsure about what direction I should take when analyzing the portrayal of a fictional wasp species in a novel (a process that was a part of my project), Ms. Harrison offered ideas on potential aspects I could consider.
While no one has a “right answer” to these questions I have, being able to have the guidance from a teacher has helped me tremendously with finding a direction in the maze-like project with countless paths to take. My project isn’t very typical in that it consists of an unusual topic (looking at the portrayal of invasive species in works of Eco-fiction). I haven’t been receiving many directions on what to do. But the guidance offered by Ms. Harrison has been crucial to the development of this project.
Now that I am approaching the end of this 11 week-long project, I feel increasing gratitude toward my teacher adviser who is so invested in helping. I’m thankful that Ms. Harrison is willing to let me take up her time, and that she has given me so much thought-provoking advice. It is safe to say that this project wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for her help and support. This proves how supportive teachers at BASIS International School Shenzhen are when students ask them for help, even when the things we’re asking about are unrelated to any particular class.
So, basically, we have really amazing teachers! The interactions I’ve had with my teacher adviser have allowed me to form a better understanding of the concept of mentorship. I believe this will be highly beneficial in the future.
Although my project is not yet complete, it has already taught me a number of things. From the challenge of designing an experiment to the complicated nature of conservation, from the habits of parasitoid wasps to the history of the invasive rats problem, this project allows me to delve into a scientific topic in a creative way.
But it’s not just about newly gained science knowledge. This experience has also shown me how valuable it is to have the opportunity to work on a project with an uncertain outcome. It pushes me to be open-minded to change, to expect the unexpected. It makes me realize that it’s perfectly fine when the teacher doesn’t have a definite answer. Unlike an in-class lab, which is similar to navigating a forest with a map and compass, the senior project experience is an adventure on another planet, with the students being free to choose whichever direction they want.
It could be slightly scary, as it is different from most other things we have done. Thankfully, though, the constant guidance and support offered by the teacher adviser makes it less daunting to go on this journey that is full of unknowns and surprises.
Linda G. is a senior at BASIS International School Shenzhen. She is currently completing her Senior Project titled “Intruders in Pandora’s Box: A Literary Exploration of Invasive Species in Eco-fiction.” Her project abstract and updates can be found here, and all of the graduating seniors’ projects at BASIS International School Shenzhen here. Look for part two of this series next week from the teacher’s perspective.