By Sarah Swenson, editor-in-chief
Imagine this. You sign into Aspen and pick out classes for the year to come. Algebra II, Latin II, Woodshop… and you get to your science requirement and decide you want to take AP Biology. After all, you did well in Honors Biology and want to continue to challenge yourself. You also know that colleges look for AP classes and want to make yourself an appealing candidate. But when you show up for classes next year, you find yourself swamped by the pace of the course, struggling to balance homework and a weekly quiz on top of your other classes. You switch out of AP Bio in the drop period, but now you’re two weeks behind in Chemistry, and you wish you had known what the class was going to be like from the start.
This is a scenario that many people find themselves in. It is easy to sign up for the wrong class for you if you have never experienced the class before. Though the Nantucket High School does its best to make knowledge about courses available, on its website, through guidance counselors, and through its new program, where your teacher from this year recommends you for a course for next year after talking with you one on one if you would like to, nothing compares to actually being in a class. Many students still drop classes, switching up or down difficulty levels, or from one elective to another, in the first few weeks of school. Not only is this an extra thing for guidance counselors to juggle at the start of school, but it puts students who choose to switch courses at a disadvantage from the start.
The solution? A Jump Up Day, where students could sit in on classes that they are thinking about taking next year. Staggering the “Jump Ups” to allow students to see what the class they are thinking about taking next year would give kids more confidence in their class selection, and vastly lessen the number of kids dropping courses at the beginning of the year. Allowing students to participate in Jump Up Day before selecting their courses for the next year would give them a better idea of what classes they want to take and which they do not.
NHS has done this in the past, for incoming freshmen, but the program stopped after the 2019-2020 school year, due to COVID restrictions. According to members of the guidance department, the high school hopes to return to this in the future, as it was beneficial to students and teachers alike.
In the time that this program did run, the incoming freshmen benefited greatly from the experience. I remember two classes distinctly from my Jump Up Day: Spanish and Chorus. The first I was nervous for. Students incoming from the public schools knew which Spanish section they should matriculate into because the high school is simply a step up from middle school. If you were taking Spanish 1 in middle school, you should enter Spanish 2 in high school. For me, coming from the Nantucket New School, I had no idea which Spanish level I should be in. I was lucky in that my brother experienced high school before me, so I could guess which level I should be in. However, I was still scared that the work would be too much. After meeting Mrs. Surprenant and sitting through a faux class, I knew that I had chosen the right Spanish level.
The second was Chorus, in which I had the opposite experience. I was nervous about Chorus as well, but was willing to take the class and give it a shot. I ended up dropping Chorus for Studio Art I instead, and it was definitely the right decision for me. Though Ms. MacIver was a fun and welcoming teacher, I knew after the trial run that this was not the class for me: I could not imagine singing every day in a room with that many students. These are the kinds of decisions that a Jump Up Day would allow all students to make.
This program would not only be helpful for freshmen, but for all students, and I think that all students should get the chance to participate in it. For rising sophomores, considering their first AP class(es), for rising juniors, selecting the courses which colleges will be examining as they begin to apply, and even for rising seniors, who only have one more chance to take classes within these walls.
A Jump Up Day would allow students to see the pace of their classes for next year, and get an idea of the workload. Students would be able to see if a class would be too overwhelming for them, and they would also be able to soothe fears. A student on the fence between AP Language and Composition and Honors English III may experience a day in AP Lang and realize that it is not as intimidating as they thought. After observing each class they intend to take next year, students would also have an idea of how much homework they could have on a nightly basis. Maybe they would feel like they could handle an individual class, but combined with other classes they intend to take, that extra hour of homework would be too much.
Students would also get a feel for the environment of a class. I know from my own experience that the environment of classes has shocked me in the past. Sometimes you could handle the work for a class, but you can’t handle the teacher. On the other hand, the idea of taking a class can be a lot more appealing if the teacher fits your learning style. You would also see what other students are thinking about taking the class.
Teachers too would benefit from seeing their prospective students. They would be able to get a feel for personalities before they actually have to start teaching these kids, and they could ask students questions or answer questions that the students might have. Though I have only seen it from the student perspective, I am sure that teachers feel just as much anticipation as students do about their classes when each new year begins. This would help take some of that unknown factor out of the discussion. They would also benefit because if less students are dropping or switching classes at the beginning of the school year, this means less work for teachers trying to catch students up or guide them into the class that they are best suited for.
Having a Jump Up Day would make me more certain about my choices this year, and would have helped in the past as well. I think that teachers as well as all students would benefit from at least having the chance. Though it would be difficult, with COVID restrictions and coordinating schedules to make sure that teachers who would be losing students for a block would understand and teachers who would be gaining students would not accidentally have a test or a similar activity on the Jump Up Day, I think that it would be doable in the future, especially when we break free from the grasp of COVID. I look forward to seeing Jump Up Day return, if only for freshmen!