May of 11th grade to March of 12th grade; that is how long Senior Exhibition (or Senior Ex for short) is for Oceana students. In that time, they devote what is nearly an entire year to writing a 15 page argumentative paper and giving a 20-30 minute presentation. Part of what makes this assignment so unique is that it is a graduation requirement for Oceana. If a student fails Senior Ex (and fail the revisit they are given after, meaning a second chance to retry) then they do not graduate.
When looking at Senior Ex from start to finish, it is easy to hone in on the student side of the assignment. While the student is crucial in the assignment and its process, as it is their work, they cannot complete the project without their assigned Senior Ex mentor – the teacher or admin they work with from start to finish on their project.
In interviewing Mr. Korp, a Humanities 10 teacher at Oceana and Senior Ex mentor, this article dives into what Senior Ex is like from the perspective of a new mentor and what is important for future mentors.
How was Mr. Korp introduced to Senior Ex? How helpful was that introduction?
As a student teacher for Ms. Schaudel last school year, who taught Humanities 9 and had Senior Ex mentees of her own, Mr. Korp received quite a bit of Senior Ex exposure. When looking back on his time as Ms. Schaudel’s student teacher, he referred to it as, “…listening to the types of things she was saying, questions she was asking, the ways she was pushing her students further…” and “…seeing people practice presentations…or grading.” These are all important parts of the process that he says he wouldn’t really have known beforehand. Witnessing that mentor/mentee work eventually became very important for Mr. Korp, as he could base his own work as a mentor off of his observations of Ms. Schaudel.
Mr. Korp’s time as a student teacher was not the only way that he was introduced to Senior Ex. In fact, that time with Ms. Schaudel went beyond the work of a mentor. He noted, “She was the one who encouraged me to become a community evaluator.” Senior exhibition community evaluators are Pacifica residents who receive special training in order to grade a student’s presentation, alongside their mentor. Looking at important takeaways from being a community evaluator, Mr. Korp emphasized that it was “familiarity with how things would be judged.”
Not only was Mr. Korp learning about Senior Exhibition directly from a mentor and how they worked with their students, but being a community evaluator was also a very valuable experience in learning how to properly grade the presentations.
How was the experience of being a first-time mentor?
Mr. Korp pressed the point that his time as a student teacher and community evaluator only had him seeing parts of the Senior Ex process. Being a full mentor, a notable difference was seeing all of the moving parts within the project. To put it another way, working more deeply with Senior Ex enabled him to see so much more of the overall assignment.
In working with his first mentee this school year, Mr. Korp also mentioned experiencing a sense of pressure. Even though teachers always feel responsible for their students’ achievement, such an involved process like Senior Ex really hammers home a feeling of being responsible for your mentees doing well through the process, and passing in the end. Being a mentor was much more personal and involved than shadowing a mentor. It further raised the stakes for Mr. Korp.
What is important advice for future mentors?
When looking back on his Senior Ex time, from being a student teacher for Ms. Schaudel to being a community evaluator, leading up to his time as a new mentor, one piece of advice stood out to Mr. Korp.
“It could very quickly become the mentor’s paper,” is what he had to say about the nearly year-long process of Senior Ex. In mentioning what could very well become an issue for new mentors, Mr. Korp stressed the importance of mentees keeping themselves in check, and to remember that the assignment is a senior project, not “Mentor Ex.” Essentially, with so much involvement coming from the mentor, they can unintentionally end up inserting themselves into the assignment well beyond the wishes of the student.
From interviewing Mr. Korp on his experiences as a new mentor, it is clear that Senior Ex is an intricate assignment that requires a lot of time and dedication on the mentor’s end. While new mentors learn about the assignment alongside their mentees, it all comes to fruition with the completion of the paper and the presentation.