A Call for Rethinking Electives

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Have you ever just taken a class because it was all that was left? Have you ever been in an elective just because you thought it was easy? Have you ever been in one of those electives and complained about having too much work to do? Well, while you are complaining about doing more work that you want and not having enough fun, you are ruining a class for other people who are actually interested in it.

“Why do we have to do this?! This is [insert elective here]!” Why do you have to do it? Because you decided to take that class, and it involves work. So many times in VHS do students take classes just for the sake of taking them. Even though these students aren’t trying to harm anyone, they inadvertently ruin the classroom environment that other students were hoping for.

“It certainly happens. Some students have a difficult time [in art] because they have no motivation,” says art teacher Terry Sherman, “It’s much better when the student has a passion and actually wants to take my class.” Mrs. Sherman has a lot of experience with students who say “guidance just put me here” as if they had no choice. While these students have a point, and guidance does make students choose “backup electives” if they don’t get the electives they want, it isn’t like guidance forces students to take these classes; the students just go with what guidance gives them.

“On the first day of class, I ask if any students can actually define the term journalism, and only about 5% of students usually can,” explains English and Journalism teacher Tom White. Journalism, along with art and graphic design, has long been “one of those classes” that students often end up in just because they need a class to take.

While teachers like Practical Arts teacher Jeremy Smith have worked hard to create more electives this year, such as 3D animation, there still seems to be a problem at VHS. Even though there are more electives, students still end up in classes without an interest in what the class is about. And even though there are more electives, students are still taking classes because they think they are easy, and not because they care about the class’s subject.

So maybe there need to be even more electives at VHS. There still isn’t a huge variety, and many students still don’t find ones they are interested in. And when they don’t they are usually dumped into a study hall.  At other schools, students might take a study hall if they have a lot of work and need the extra period to catch up on AP classes. At VHS, this isn’t the case. Instead of study halls being an extra period for students to work, they are really better described as just random groups of students that didn’t get put into an elective. We don’t treat them as study halls, we treat them as “I don’t have a class right now.”  This is especially true for seniors, who, due to the rotating schedule and senior privileges, are not even required to attend their study hall three out of every four days.  This seems to defeat the purpose of calling something a “study hall.”

Even though VHS would do well to create more diverse electives, you should remember, the next time you are going to take a class without actually caring about it or you are going to start complaining about the work in one of your electives, you are technically there by choice and you are creating a negative classroom environment for people who may be trying to enjoy the class.