BHS Insight

The Dirt on Semesterization

Greta Shaughnessy, Staff Writer

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As a senior in high school now I have endured the ever changing climate of BHS for five years. Most changes good, but not all. For the first time in years, BHS decided the senior English and psychology credit would be split into halves, creating semesterised classes. I understand the thought process behind a decision like this and what the projected outcome was to be, but in my experience it was not all rainbows and sunshine.

In the program of studies, a long list of English classes lay in front of us seniors to choose from. While all of the classes looked interesting, it was somewhat daunting to choose just two classes. Many sparked interest, but if there isn’t a certain amount of people who sign up for the class then it doesn’t happen, narrowing our classes to choose from. The psychology credit however, is only broken into two halves based on the elements of psychology being taught in that half of the year. If you chose not to take one half or the other, you must look to find another half credit course to make up the whole credit, which can be a bit stressful to do.

Like every other year in my Barnstable High School career, we started class off full of shy people who eventually become like a small family. Because both my English and psychology classes are semesterised, after midterms I will not see many of the people I have come to enjoy seeing four times a week (English in particular). This year I was fortunate enough to be able to stay with the same class and psychology teacher, unlike my English class.

Because there are full year English and psychology classes being split into essentially  five months, it means there is a rushed education in subjects that take time and focus. I have seen my teachers scramble this year to fit an entire year’s worth of curriculum into the very short time we have together. While this is not only highly stressful for our teachers to endure, it is stressful for us.

Unlike my previous experiences in English, where we took time to discuss and evaluate literature and grammar, this year we have had only a couple of weeks to finish a book, discuss, and write a composition or test on it before jumping right into the next one. I have never taken a class like psychology before so I can only compare it to any other social science classes I have taken. Psychology is based off of many terms and requires a lot of in depth conversations to truly understand concepts. If having to crunch that much information into five VERY short months seemed beneficial, I believe semesterisation would have been occurring from the start. Seniors also leave their second semester classes early because their term is shorter due to prom and graduation. So unlike the five months in the first semester class, they are losing out even more because of these events.

These senior classes are also mixed levels. Depending on whether we’re in  CP or honors, our teachers must find a way to accommodate for our differences in learning, teaching us the same materials, but in a way applicable to those differences. Before semesterisation, teachers could choose which levels they wanted to teach, and were able to teach to our needs. While it is very inspiring to see many of my peers push themselves, and perhaps jump up to honors, I have also seen peers drop a level because of the workload.

It is human nature to fall into the same patterns you have for many years before, and I have seen teachers choose to teach a class based on one level even though they may have students who, educationally, need a slower paced class. These students eventually fail out because they had a hard time keeping up.

If classes continue to be semesterised, I think split levels of these classes will best suit the students. There is no point in having to take a class if you’re going to struggle in it, or be bored until the end. While I see the idea that splitting these courses in two will allow students to have a choice in their education, I do not think it is the best solution. In the end, maybe adding another class or block to the schedule may best solve this after all.

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The Dirt on Semesterization