PRO: A new semester means new experiences with new company

By Nil Özdemir

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.