Students often look forward to electives as an exciting part of their school day, as they are not required core courses, but are instead optional courses that students choose due to their interest in the subject of the course. However, as course catalog descriptions can be very brief, and not all students take the same electives, it can be difficult for a student to gauge what a course entails and to get an accurate idea of how an elective course will impact their schedule for their upcoming school year. Thus, in order to better help students select their elective courses, The Campanile believes that there should be a variety of opportunities for students to gain information on elective courses when deciding on their schedules for future years.
One option that would allow for students to preview elective courses would be an event in which students visit the classrooms of different elective courses and meet with teachers and current students to discuss the content and style of the course. This preview day would take place in late January to early February, the time that students are in the preliminary stages of deciding their schedule for the upcoming year.
Students would travel from elective to elective as they please, similar to the style of Club Day. Through this preview day, students get the chance to know the teacher of the course, hear the workload and requirements of the course from both teacher and student perspectives, and have any of their questions or concerns about the course resolved.
Additionally, providing a chance for students to shadow one class of an elective would allow students to gain more familiarity with a course. Students from other schools often use shadowing as a way tobecome more familiar with the atmosphere and the classes offered at Palo Alto High School — and similarly, students who are looking to explore new classes should have the same option. With teacher permission or during prep periods, students should be able to more deeply explore elective options and more clearly see classroom dynamics and teacher-student interactions. These kinds of intangible aspects of courses are something that can only be seen by directly visiting classrooms, and yet are extremely important in terms of fitting students’ needs and showing students more realistically what courses are like.
Ultimately, it is crucial that students can more clearly see what occurs in the classroom so they can choose the correct courses thatfit them — and because electives act as a way in which students branch away from pure academics, it is imperative that students select these courses with more information in hand. By allowing students time to explore classes before they actually enroll in courses, Paly would prevent the scrambling that often occurs once students begin classes and realize they do not fit with the course’s content, dynamics or structure. Previewing courses would help guidance counselors as well — allowing for students to test out electives before course selection would avoid the whole scenario of enrolling in courses they do not end up liking. This makes for a less hectic guidance office in the beginning of the school year, as many students may sometimes have to wait lengthy periods of time to switch their schedules.
As a whole, The Campanile believes that the entire process of course selection would be made easier for students, teachers and counselors if students were given more opportunities to explore elective courses before enrolling in them.