Revealing the mysteries behind the creation of Blazers’ schedules
There comes that time in August when every student opens up StudentVUE in anticipation of looking at their schedules for the upcoming school year. It is a moment of both excitement and fear; excitement that you may share the same classes with your friends but fear of that one teacher who is known to ruin GPAs. Although this is a moment that every student has experienced multiple times in their life, what goes on behind the scenes is not common knowledge.
Students are the center focus of scheduling, yet are only aware of the parts where they are active participants. Most students know that they sign up for classes in February and then receive their schedule sometime in mid-August. However, what appears to be a simple schedule, is actually the product of tedious work done by the counseling department.
If the whole scheduling process was a machine with students, parents, and teachers acting as the cogs, the counseling department would be the people on the outside making sure that the machine does not break down from the inside out.
Laying down the foundation
The event that kicks off the scheduling process is the course requests made by students – a process that many feel is overly confusing. Students are given a long list of course names and are forced to make decisions with no other information.
Junior Ivy Guo laments that it is not made clear which classes require prerequisites and which classes can be even requested in the first place. “It says the prerequisite is this…you have it but it doesn’t let you take that [class], like there are glitches in there,” she says.
Regardless, once students make their choices, the course requests start to trickle in. At this point, students are completely out of the loop of the scheduling process.
Makeyda Soriano has been at Blair for the past four years and as the resource Counselor, she oversees the entire department, supporting students, parents, and counselors alike. Soriano provides insight into the whole process and what really happens between February and August.
The first step in scheduling is the question of staffing. Essentially, the counseling department has to look through the class requests and decide which classes need to be prioritized and which need to be cut entirely. “[If] 50 kids selected that one elective and only five selected that one….[then] we are going to need to break that 50 group smaller and that five one is going to disappear,” Soriano explains. It is a complicated yet important task that, unfortunately, is bound to disappoint someone.
After counselors decide which classes are prioritized, a computer system takes over. The schedule of each student is created with a click of a button, but it is not without mistakes.
Trial and Error
Soriano estimates that 5 to 10% of all schedules have mistakes made by the system, affecting around 160 to 320 students at Blair each year. These mistakes have to be manually fixed by the Counseling department over the summer.
It would be more convenient for the schedule to be released earlier but, unfortunately, that is just not possible. There is no point in releasing incomplete schedules. “We don't want to give you access to see that [you] don't have a period two right now. You're gonna get a period two, we just need to fix it,” Soriano says.
Fixing the mistakes of the computer system is a tedious task but that still does not mark the end of the scheduling process. In fact, it is the opposite—the real complications start after August. During this time, long lines of students accumulate outside the counselors’ offices.
Despite the lengthy lines you see today, it was even worse when Soriano started at Blair four years ago. “The line used to be from the college career center wrapped all the way around to the main hallway, that’s how long it was,” Soriano recounts. To put that into perspective, lines got up to over 100 students sometimes.
The line has gotten better ever since they switched to the current Google Form system where students file issues with their schedule electronically, a more efficient alternative allowing students to meet with their counselor without having to physically go down to the office.
Most students prefer the electronic approach to contacting their counselors as it makes the whole process more straightforward. Ivy Guo shares that she has not gone down to her counselor’s office at all in the last two years as it is just more efficient online.“I usually just email my counselor instead of just walking up in person… it’s just [simpler]” she says.
Soriano finds that the most common reason why students have issues with their schedule is because of their teacher. Often, students want to take a class, but they want – or in some cases, don’t want – a specific teacher.
Although it may seem like a simple fix, the truth is that one change can easily off-balance the delicate act of scheduling. Therefore, counselors are the ones who have to take on the role of breaking the bad news to countless students. Soriano expresses that sometimes getting told “no” is just something you have to accept. “That's just life…I understand…I can feel it's frustrating,” she says.
At the end of the day, counselors are on the side of the students: they want their students to succeed. Soriano expresses that even when counselors deny students’ requests, they are still listening to them. If multiple students request to be moved away from a certain teacher, counselors will look for ways to resolve the greater issue other than just changing schedules. “Every counselor…[is] the same in that we hear you, we understand and we will take these concerns,” she explains.
Blair offers so many great courses which can make the process of selecting classes quite daunting. However, it is important to remember that these classes are valuable experiences for growth and thorough research could make the selection process a lot easier. The non-existent descriptions of classes certainly make it difficult, but there are still other ways to learn about a class that pique your interest. Junior Meru Gopalan encourages underclassmen to learn about classes from former students. “I mostly hear [information] from the upperclassman…I don’t use the online stuff too much,” he says.
Soriano’s advice to students is to take full advantage of the chance to choose the classes that you are interested in. “[Be] confident in your decisions…and make sure you're really selecting the best thing for yourself,” she says. After all, the classes in Blair are so diverse that there is something made for everyone—the only job left for students is to truly seize that opportunity.
Angelina Cao. Hi, my name is Angelina and I am a writer! I like animation and crocheting :) More »