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IN AN effort to maximize class time and forge stronger relationships between students and teachers, elective classes are now annualized between the fall and spring semesters. This change allows students’ schedules to remain the same for the entire school year.
“Technically classes have been annualized for a few years now, but schedules would still change in the spring,” stated Assistant Principal of Guidance and Pupil Personnel Services Veronica York. “Students would have to be reprogrammed again and again, and it took away about a week of class time. Now everything will stay the same.”
Regarding the people behind the decision, she added, “Decisions like this aren’t made by a single person. They’re controlled by a School Leadership Team, but I had a fairly large say.”
Ms. York also cited the importance of strong relationships between students and teachers as motivation for the change. This is especially important during junior year, when students ask their teachers for college recommendation letters.
“When teachers and students know each other on a deeper level, it makes for a better letter,” she said.
The annualization policy primarily affects sophomores and juniors. Sophomores who switched between a Health class and a Physical Education class and vice versa would often have the rest of their schedules changed as well between semesters. In turn, juniors who were enrolled in Physical Education classes with sophomores were transferred in and out to accommodate the sophomores.
Physical Education and Health teacher Keith Hanson commented, “It used to be horrific in the spring term. I would have 70 or 80 kids in my physical education class, which is way over the maximum I should have. It would take one, two, sometimes three weeks to get everything sorted out.”
Michelle Pao, a sophomore currently enrolled in a Physical Education class, added, “I don’t see any downside [to annualized electives]. We’ll know most of our classmates and our schedule isn’t going to change at all.”
Senior Jacky Teoh added, “Sometimes, the schedule changes are really random. Even if your elective doesn’t change, they might change your schedule to compensate for someone else whose schedule did change. Last year, I changed between two teachers with different styles, even though both classes were the same band. Annualizing should help the underclassmen avoid similar problems.”
Sophomores and juniors also faced issues when they switched electives between semesters. Since many electives have prerequisites that most underclassmen are not able to meet until their junior or senior years, some students opt to take half-year courses instead. Because these courses do not all meet at the same time, programming a new elective in the spring brings about more scheduling issues.
Among the more popular half-year electives were Forensics, Genetics, Biomedical Ethics, and Anatomy and Physiology. Students in these classes had the liberty of choosing another class with the same teacher, switching between the teachers, or taking completely different electives.
Last spring, students could sign up for either Forensics/Biomedical Ethics or Anatomy and Physiology/Genetics, both full-year classes, combining all of the half-year ones. Rather than students switching the bands they took the classes, Ms. Cooper and Mr. Porzio would switch the bands they teach.
Recently, students in both classes took a poll and voted overwhelmingly to change this order; the students in Anatomy and Physiology are now slated to take Biomedical Ethics and the students in Forensics are now slated to take Genetics.
Having full-year electives not only intensifies the relationship between the students and teacher, but also allows for a teacher to delve in-depth into the material. Some teachers of electives that were usually one semester had to expand the curriculums to cover the whole year.
Assistant Principal of Humanities Rafal Olechowski also feels doing so wasn’t difficult for electives like Russian Literature and the Psychology of Fairy Tales, which could potentially cover plenty of material.
Social Studies teacher John O’Malley believes that “the benefit of having annualized electives is that we can explore topics more in-depth [in the classroom], instead of starting a topic and then dropping it to start something else.”
In his class, Middle Eastern Studies, he believes the annualized schedule will be beneficial.
“For an elective dealing with contemporary issues, it is good to have time to analyze the fickleness of human events,” he said.
However, some feel that annualization is detrimental. Junior Nadia Khan stated, “In general, I don’t like that electives are annualized because of other electives like gym or other classes. If it weren’t annualized, I probably would have changed my elective, Student Leadership, to a humanities-related elective—something closer to the profession I have in mind.”
Similarly, though Mr. Olechowski understands that annualization facilitates programming, he prefers keeping such electives half-year.
“The benefits of having semester long electives is that you get to pick more variety, as a student, and I support that,” he said. “Whenever a student has more choices and therefore more opportunity to be excited by something, I’m a big fan of that, even if it’s a nightmare for us. But I think it’s hard for younger students especially to think in the spring semester of Townsend 2015, what they’ll be doing in the spring semester of 2016. They’re not even realizing: will I want to do it a year from now?”
Senior Vijay Sookai, currently enrolled in Anatomy and Physiology, voted to take Genetics against the majority. He commented, “Since everything is annualized, the scheduling system doesn’t want to change many peoples’ schedules for Genetics. If not annualizing gives students more freedom and a higher chance of getting classes they want, maybe we shouldn’t annualize.”
“The point of an elective is to try something new,” stated Social Studies Adam Stonehill. “Students have fewer options to explore electives with this new system.”
English teacher and Programming Chair Raquel Chung said that although annualization makes her job as programmer easier, as a teacher, she dislikes it.
“With the new policy, I only get to know the ninety students I have in the fall, rather than being able to meet other students in the spring,” she said.
Ms. Chung feels the mixed reception is a result of varying preferences. She stated, “I think it really depends on who you ask. Some people like variety, but others like continuity.”
Junior Gabrielle Avancena commented, “I think it’s efficient and convenient that students are guaranteed the same schedule. It’s difficult to adjust to a new teacher halfway through the year. For example, I got switched into a new English class and I didn’t read a book they read so I was lost for the rest of the year.”
Senior Meraldina Ziljkic disagrees, seeing the benefit in annualized courses. “When courses were not annualized, students had more options and did not have to fully commit to one elective for the entire year. For example, during my junior year, I took Philosophy and then was able to switch electives during the second term to try something new.”
Ms. York is also strongly supportive of the policy, saying “Every decision I make is for the students.” According to her, in previous years, “all the elective classes took place during two bands, but we still had problems. I think with the current policy, the good outweighs the bad.”