High School placing importance on ‘Opportunity Ready’

High School placing importance on ‘Opportunity Ready’
Posted on 03/06/2018

High school should offer opportunity. Plenty of it.

As Lynden High School plans courses in the new scheduling design that allows increased occasion for classes and credits, principal Ian Freeman and assistant principal Michele Nilsen have placed an intense focus on making sure all students remain “opportunity ready,” able to pivot toward whatever they want to pursue after high school, whether college, career or otherwise.

“It is not about picking one of those things and then not developing in the other areas,” Freeman says. “It is so important to have all the areas and have students really developing in their ability to be citizens, in their career skills in their ability to attend post-secondary school.”

With it difficult for a 13-year-old to have enough life experience to understand all the options they have, Freeman wants to ensure LHS offers courses that expose students to a variety of interest areas. While a few freshmen may know what they want to do with their life and remain laser-focused on that goal, most don’t. And the worst-case scenario for the bulk of students has them choosing one path and closing the doors on everything else.

Freeman says a healthcare ethics principle resonated with him in terms of leading high school students. The wording was brief, but impactful enough he shared it with the entire staff: “The principle of not choosing an irreversible path when facing uncertainty.”

That means encouraging students to not close off opportunities prematurely. Maybe that means taking a CTE course early on to understand the options. Maybe that means enrolling in math for all four years to keep post-secondary school options available. The list goes on. “If parents or students choose to not have a student take a fourth year of math, that is irreversible,” Nilsen says as an example. “It limits your ability for opportunities that present themselves.”

The concept remains that a student really doesn’t know what opportunities will come at them in the future and if they aren’t ready for them when they arrive they will miss out. “We want students to be opportunity ready,” Freeman says.

To take this concept into the practical side of LHS, staff already updated the schedule to ensure students weren’t making final choices on their life path simply because they couldn’t fit courses into their schedule. Now they can. The coursework effort will continue to expand in the future, with “opportunity ready” at the forefront of designing the future of LHS.

LHS is also changing out they support students, trying to help them through a difficult concept, course or path so they can move on to the next step and keep the door open instead of stepping away from that choice and closing a door. “We are figuring out ways to support students,” Freeman says, “whether academics, social or emotional.”

Opportunities come at a variety of times and from a mix of places. LHS staff wants students to remain ready.