Prioritize elective selection

Charlotte Guy

After what seems like hours of meticulously packing snow, hunting for carrots, and attaching buttons, my snowman adorned with a scarf is finally complete. I turn to my audience of 20 peers watching diligently from their seats in the black box and take a bow. 

What seems like some bizarre dream was actually the showpiece I concocted for the final project of the miming unit in my freshman year dramatics class. Though the curriculum was intriguing and dynamic, I knew long before my bumpy performance that I was not destined for the stage, and despite my pleading, I was thrown into the class. 

Due to scheduling conflicts, I missed an opportunity to take an elective that I was interested in pursuing as a career–and I know I’m not alone in this. To remedy this common Jackson-Reed phenomenon we must prioritize deliberate elective selection because electives are hugely important and wildly undervalued.

Electives are a crucial asset to our education as students. As opposed to their core counterparts, electives can teach more niche and career-oriented content. For example, zoology, film studies, hospitality, biomed, JROTC, and–dare I say–journalism to name a few. Early exposure to potential interests can prove pivotal to a student’s future; they can be inspired or turned off—both equally important.

The deliberate approach of the American school system to encourage exploration of many subjects over early specialization should reinforce the importance of electives. DCPS and the student body would do well to remember this and value electives and the broad topics they offer. Electives form a vital component of this explorative approach.

Unfortunately, our school’s culture prioritizes core classes over electives. Every early September counselors are inundated with course request changes creating a scheduling nightmare, and given the school culture, electives are often the sacrificial lamb: students give up a topic of interest and often cannot squeeze it in later.

To solve this issue we need to make a devoted effort to place students in their preferred choice of elective. But of course, this is no simple task. To accomplish this would require top-down changes in DCPS regarding student overcrowding. Too many students, not enough space, and not enough courses are systemic issues in DCPS—specifically at Jackson-Reed—and students not being able to take their top elective choices is one of the many consequences.

Perhaps an interim solution could be polling the student body regarding elective preferences so that the most popular courses could be offered more frequently. This helps reduce the mismatch between the electives students desire and the ones offered. Another alternative could be to hire teachers to exclusively teach elective classes rather than make teachers who currently teach both prioritize one over the other.

Regardless of what the solution is, something needs to change, and next year, with a new name we’re given the opportunity to start fresh. 

My chapter at Jackson-Reed has come to an end and I’ve survived despite my traumatizing experience in dramatics. However, that doesn’t mean younger students should have to go through their own character-building moments while also being robbed of an opportunity to explore a topic of interest. So please, Jackson-Reed administration, change how you view electives for the betterment of your student body. •