Graphic by Kristina Chaney '23
My English 10 teacher assigned the sophomore research paper months before any of the other teachers did, and for me, the project spanned the second quarter instead of the traditional third quarter. I asked my friend what a certain class was like and was told that it depends mostly on what teacher I get assigned. It has been impossible to discern what the rest of this year’s coursework will be in any given course because all the teachers are moving through the year differently.
The disparities between different teachers of the same course has negative effects on students and the overall learning environment of Staples High School. It is harmful to students’ organization and preparation abilities because students are unable to seek help from people in the same course. I have been wholly unable to get help in my classes because of the unconventional order in which units and lessons are taught at Staples this year.
I do not fault any individual teachers for their methods of teaching curriculum, as I understand the desire for a creative lesson plan and I recognize that there are many useful ways to approach the curriculum. However, a set progression of topics, shared beforehand for each course, could be extremely beneficial for a number of reasons.
Students who have difficulties with paying attention during class time or require aid with a homework assignment would be able to get help from other students taking the same course. Many students do not feel comfortable speaking with teachers or classmates and would prefer to seek help from other students.
Similar topic progression across courses would also improve the strength of course reputations as a whole, as some students judge course difficulty by the various teachers leading the class rather than the course itself when choosing schedules for the next year.
The grade received in a course, which can affect GPA and college decisions, could be affected by different teacher styles and curriculums. A teacher with a more test-based class that focuses more heavily on regurgitation of facts will create a different learning experience then a teacher who utilizes project-based methods.
Students are not assigned to teachers based on individual learning styles. This, in the case of an unlucky combination, can end badly for the student and their GPA.
Because my English class completed the research paper so early, people in my own grade have begun to ask me for help and advice on their research papers, which they are currently working on. Upon reflection, it is not fair that my classmates and I did not have such a resource when we were working on our papers. As a consequence of this, not all sophomores will receive an equitable chance to do well on the research paper, as some will be able to draw from the experience of their peers, while others could not.
However at least the research paper is a constant, required project for all sophomore students at Staples. In contrast, many projects, tests, and even units have been completely different from teacher to teacher. Even the seemingly unchangeable research paper has had vastly different requirements from class to class. For example, some classes require the topic to relate to civil rights, and some recommend biographical papers.
The learning experience at Staples High School should not be graded in concrete GPA numbers unless the classes taught have a solid curriculum.