To find out which classes seem to be the most challenging at Blair, I interviewed a number of juniors and seniors who had taken courses at varying levels during their time at the school. While the answers varied, there was a definite trend. Honors Physics, AP Chemistry, Honors Chemistry, and AP US History appeared to be some of Blair’s most difficult classes.
Alex Kirby ’20, Ashton Martini ’20, and Jordyn Humphrey ’20 all stated that the most challenging course they had taken thus far is Honors Physics. In addition, Maggie Willard ’19, Gretchen Mayer ’19, and Mia Abromitis ’19 all agreed that Honors Chemistry was their most difficult class at Blair, and Cleary Waldo ’19 similarly stated that AP Chemistry was her’s. Finally, AP U.S. History was deemed by Elizabeth Negvesky ’20 and another senior as their most challenging course.
I also asked some of the students about their motivations behind taking the class, whether they thought that the class was worth it or not, and if they would recommend it to other students.
Alex Kirby ’20 said that part of the reason she took Physics Honors was for her college applications, but it was mostly because she was recommended to take it by her monitor and previous teachers. She stuck with it because of her high expectations and standards for herself. Alex said that although she greatly struggles in Physics Honors, she would still recommend it because she learned a lot from the course. Because of the class, she learned what it means to be passionate about something after witnessing it firsthand from Mr. Wilson, who is very passionate about physics.
Elizabeth Negvesky ’20 had both positive and negative things to say about AP US history. She has learned a variety of information in the course “because it covers a broad period of time, starting from the 1400s to modern day.” She recommends it only to students who feel that they can handle a very heavy workload because the class includes “a ton of studying, reading, memorization, and prep for the AP” The course also improved her work, time management, and organizational skills. Elizabeth’s ultimate motivation behind taking the class was to receive the AP credit, but she has gained more from the class than just that.
Cleary Waldo ’19 enjoyed the atmosphere of her AP Chemistry class, but not the way the material was presented. She recommends it only to people who feel like they have a solid base in chemistry from prior years. Although she did become more independent after having to learn and study much of the material on her own, ultimately, she thought the class was not worth it for her. She did not receive a high enough score on the AP for it to go towards college credits, and does not want to pursue anything in science in the future. She wishes that the time she spent in AP Chemistry was put towards her other classes, or perhaps towards another class that she would have enjoyed more. However, Cleary did note that the course was able to help her in other areas, including the science section of the ACT.
There are a few things to take away from these students’ responses.
One might assume that the most difficult courses would be taken later in a Blair student’s career, but this is not necessarily the case, as Honors Chemistry, which most people take during their sophomore year at Blair, appears to have been many students’ most difficult class.
One important disclaimer is that each student has their own strengths and weaknesses, and a student who feels they are strongest in science classes and weakest in history classes would, of course, find an AP History course challenging.
For instance, both Cleary Waldo ’19 and Alex Kirby ’20 feel that science is a weak point for them academically, and both reported a science course (AP Chemistry and Honors Physics) as the most difficult ones they had taken at Blair. They also both took AP US History, but did not list that as one of their most difficult courses.
That being said, I also found conflicting information from some students, such as Ashton Martini ’20, who found Honors Physics to be her most challenging course despite being typically strong in science. That goes to show that while some students may be strong in a particular subject, that does not necessarily mean that the class they are taking in that subject will be easy for them, as the course may cover exceedingly challenging information that would be difficult for anyone, no matter how intelligent or strong they are in that area.
The teacher of a class also has a significant impact on its quality and difficulty. Students who take the same course with different teachers will have unique experiences from one another.
So, what can you do with this information? If you are someone who does not want to take on some of Blair’s most difficult courses, then you may consider avoiding Honors or AP Chemistry, Honors Physics, or AP U.S. History. On the other hand, if you want to take on a challenge during your time at Blair, then these classes might be exactly what you’re looking for.
(Copyright 2019 Sami Cerami)