Pro/Con: Should we continue to change teachers for the second semester?
March 31, 2021
PRO: A new semester means new experiences with new company
The first semester ends. Without wasting a moment, I rush to Synergy — MCPS’ grading and course registration website — to check my second semester schedule, eager to find out who my teachers are and if any of my classes overlap with my friends.
The intrigue of discovering my reorganized classes always energizes me for the semester to come. Schedule changes between semesters give students new opportunities for friendship and growth — there’s no reason for Whitman to get rid of them.
In 7th grade, I moved to the U.S. from Turkey. I barely knew anyone in Maryland, let alone at Thomas W. Pyle Middle School. I had attended a small private school all my life, which made the transition into a building with over a thousand people intimidating. Though I made friends easily in classes, I felt as if keeping the same schedule all year stifled me socially. When I came to Whitman, changing classes each semester doubled my potential social circle, increasing the amount of friendships I formed. Although I only spent a single semester with each set of my peers, I found myself able to maintain my original connections while creating new ones.
When our schedules change each semester, we encounter new classmates with varied perspectives. Each class has the opportunity to bring new backgrounds and cultures together; collaboration with diverse groups of students encourages open-mindedness and personal growth.
Semester switches also expose students to different teachers and learning styles. These changes are especially important in the first years of high school, when students may still be figuring out what type of academic approach suits them best. Starting off the second semester with new teachers and different learning environments offers students unique angles on their subjects, while having a wider array of teachers helps foster educational development and allows more opportunities for student-teacher relationships to form.
“Schedule changes have the possibility of introducing a new classroom dynamic, which can be beneficial to a student’s learning,” junior Diego Quijada said. “In my case, a teacher changed the way I used to enjoy literature and writing.”
Semester schedule changes also allow for flexibility in scheduling. For some students, having an especially challenging class in the morning can decrease productivity, while for others, an early start may be beneficial. Although the guidance office does their best to accommodate schedule change requests, students can’t always rely on the counselor’s ability to switch their schedule. Semester-long schedules help decrease students’ chances of enduring an undesirable — and even detrimental — schedule order for the entire year.
If Whitman changed to a rigid, year-long schedule, students would also have fewer opportunities to take half-year classes and electives. Schedule shifts allow for counselors to tailor specific schedules for students based on their preferences. Taking a half-year course on philosophy or media becomes even more challenging with set year-long schedules, potentially restraining students’ academic exploration.
Although students may need a week or two to adjust to their new classes each semester, teachers who run the same courses discuss curriculum planning, ensuring a smooth transition. Year-long courses might make students more comfortable in class, but semester-based schedule changes have a much greater advantage: they push students out of their comfort zone, encouraging them to develop adaptability and communication skills.
Having the same schedule all year is not only impractical, but undesirable. I owe semester schedule changes for providing me opportunities to build new connections with peers and teachers, while also facilitating part of my personal development at Whitman.
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CON: Familiar teachers lead to a productive environment
When I was but a scrawny freshman, the scariest day of the school year was the first Monday of the second semester. Just when I thought I was used to my schedule, I found myself aimlessly wandering the halls in search of all my new classes. Between my reconfigured course load and batch of unfamiliar teachers, I felt as if the school year was starting over. Meeting new teachers excited me, but being thrown into all new classes was terrifying. With an entirely different set of teachers and classmates from the first semester, it took the remaining two marking periods for me to feel comfortable around my peers; and by that time, we had already reached the end of the school year.
Whitman administration should strive to ensure that students keep their same teachers and classmates through both semesters in order to promote a productive and collaborative learning experience. Doing so will allow students to build long-term relationships with their teachers and establish strong, comfortable connections with their peers.
An abrupt switch of schedule halfway through the year makes it impossible for students and teachers to forge long-standing relationships.
“If you could make year-long bonds with different teachers, they’re going to get to know you on a much deeper level,” sophomore William Hallward-Driemieier said. “You’re having a much bigger, better connection.”
Student-teacher relationships form the basis of a beinficial education. Students’ comfort with teachers is crucial; it makes them feel safe and through that sense of security, encourages them to participate in class. Relationships which develop over an entire year rather than a few months help students view teachers as more than lecturers. Students begin to view them as mentors and even friends. However, these bonds are difficult to form when students and teachers only spend a single semester together.
A semester switch is just as problematic for teachers as it is for students. Teachers, just like high schoolers, need time to adapt to their classes. It is much more difficult to know which students have certain learning preferences when relationships begin and end over an 18-week period.
“It just disrupts things,” math teacher Michelle Holloway said. “After the first semester, you get used to your teacher.”
Changing teachers each semester also undermines collaborative learning, as students are forced to find new classmates for academic partnerships. By the second semester, students have to begin the process of networking with their classmates again.
“After a semester, I feel comfortable with my classmates” said Hallward-Driemieier. “I’m willing to share and if we go into groups, there’s no awkward silence. Now that we’re in the second semester, because we have different different classes, when we are put in breakout rooms, a lot of people are just sitting there, silent.”
The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated this problem. The reduced number of weekly classes for any given subject — a mere two, down from the typical five of in-person years — has already made it extremely difficult for students to build connections with their peers. But by the end of first semester, I knew which of my peers in each class to reach out to with questions about homework or in-class material. However, the recent change in teachers and class periods meant that, in some classes, I have been unable to find the help I need from peers.
Some argue that switching classes each semester gives students an opportunity to meet new people and encounter new teaching styles. Yet even without changing teachers, students are still able to interact with dozens of educators and hundreds of peers, regardless of whether or not they share a classroom. Allowing students to stay with the same teachers for an entire year gives them a way to grow and build helpful year-long relationships.
The beginning of the school year is when we should be figuring out how to learn best in each of our classes; the second semester shouldn’t be the same way. We waste valuable learning time by essentially having two beginnings of the year.
“It’s really important for success in a class,” Hallward-Driemieier said. “Once a teacher knows you, they know what you are good at and when you need help.”
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