Students and teachers question whether students put more effort into core or fine arts elective classes
This past April, the Fine Arts Network board hosted the Student Art Week, where music and art were displayed around the school.
Many of the students who displayed their art throughout the week were excited about their peers noticing their dedication to their electives. To these student artists, elective courses hold value.
Some students take electives so seriously that they take any opportunity to showcase their work with the community.
“I gave my advisory’s chapel talk during Fine Arts Week without really planning to, and some friends and I created our own arrangement of ‘The Rainbow Connection’ by the Muppets and spent a lot of time rehearsing and perfecting it,” senior Sumner Wooldridge said. “I’m glad our performance was sandwiched in between so many other fantastic arts-based chapels because it really forced me to realize how much I missed celebrating the arts as a community through live performances.
But not all students take their elective courses as seriously. In a recent upper school student poll sent out on April 12, 55 percent of respondents said that they only put “some” effort into their elective classes and nine percent went a step further to say that they put zero effort into their elective classes. Some of these students said that they only take elective classes because they are required to do so as part of their upper school credit requirements.
“Core classes are more important to one’s future because one needs to use those courses in real life,” freshman Houston Jones said. “Electives are generally easier and core classes require more work.”
Elective classes, however, are required and hold weight when it comes to a student’s GPA. Electives allow students to explore, open up and show their hidden talents. According to Academic Dean Eric Boberg, elective and core classes have the same potential for one’s future.
“Elective courses are those that students select, whether it be Computer Science or AP Art History,” Boberg said. “Many students spend a considerable amount of time in elective courses, and many elective courses are very rigorous and include AP courses and courses that require considerable time outside of the school day.”
Even so, some students are still more dedicated to core courses.
“I try harder in my core classes because I will use them in my life, and they matter more towards my GPA,” freshman Baker Madans said. “Even if it’s an easy A, I’ll still try harder in it compared to an art class.”
Opinions from students vary, but the majority of students believe that they need to try harder in their core classes because it may help them more later down the road. Thirty-four percent of students try just as hard in their fine arts classes as their core classes.
“These [fine arts] classes get students that are curious about art, other students are very into it because they like creating and many other students that take the class for many reasons,” upper school drawing, art history, and studio art teacher Juan Negroni said. “Sometimes this will determine the amount of effort they put on it.”
Regarding grades, some students say that their electives are easy. A May 10 poll of 158 students showed that 35 percent of students think electives are easy A’s. And some teachers think there is a reason for that.
“I think people assume electives classes are an “easy A”…but generally the students take elective classes that interest them, and they feel a connection to, which usually equates to success,” middle school 3D art teacher and Fine Arts Department Chair Brenda Hatter said. “My course, for example, requires students to do research, proposals, and written reflection, on top of the actual task involved in the project.”
However, 56 percent of students polled believe that electives are challenging and evoke their emotions. Especially during this time of isolation, students showed an increased lack of effort in their elective classes because of increased stress and complications. Also, with the year coming to an end and exams coming up, students are thinking about their electives less.
“This year has presented so many challenges—especially when students must unexpectedly quarantine,” Hatter said.
And this sentiment permeates into the lower grades. Middle school English teachers Jill Remaud, Adina Richman and a teacher who asked to remain anonymous agreed that students have invested less effort into their elective classes.
“In my opinion, students try harder in their core classes, probably because they’re more demanding in terms of weight—amount of grades taken, the weight some grades have over others, like ‘major’ and ‘minor’ and the weight of core classes on the GPA [honors vs. regular],” Remaud said.
But she also said that “fine art elective classes, by definition, are to encourage the creative side of the brain; therefore, they’re more laid back and less stressful.”
But some students underestimate the difficulty of elective classes, according to another teacher who asked to remain anonymous, and they believe elective classes are solely a requirement for graduation.
Although students’ opinions spread across the charts, teachers, mainly those in the arts, agreed that their electives are meant to be challenging and fun at the same time. They all said students should try because they care, not because they are required.
“My students learn quickly that the photography classes at ESD are fun and interesting, but also require discipline and time involvement,” photography teacher George Fiala said. “My students have to put lots of critical thinking, time and effort into their work to get a good score.”