The traditional fears of the first day of high school many freshman have may soon be history at Chamblee Charter High School. For the 2018-2019 school year, all freshmen will have the majority of their classes on the first or second floor with freshmen-only teachers in so called freshman academy. Additionally, they will all have A-Lunch.
“The main reasons for implementing the freshman academy is to give these freshman a transition into high school,” said assistant principal Clifton Spears.
He, as well as other members of the administration, decided that based on historical trends, a freshman academy would have a positive impact on freshmen.
“We wanted to be able to give them some extra support and through the extra support they have dedicated teachers, they have dedicated space, they’ll have opportunities for more remediation,” said Spears, who believes that these changes will lead to improved academic performance from freshman.
Freshman science teacher Mary Wagner agrees that the freshman academy setup is optimal for a variety of reasons.
“As a teacher, the freshman academy gives us a little better way to really connect with the students and be able to work with the other teachers in the other subjects at the same level. By having us all on the same floor here, it’s easy for me to pop across the way,” said Wagner, who has already discussed her student’s math abilities with their math teacher so that she could understand how prepared they would be for scientific applications.
She teaches both biology and physics and had the idea to teach physics to freshman in a way that could benefit them in other subjects.
“As I looked into the idea of physics [for freshmen], first I thought that it was a really intriguing way to go and I think if we do it right, and I think we’re on our way to doing it right, we can really use the physics to support the math and freshmen that aren’t in geometry already,” said Wagner, who sees it as a productive way to support algebra development.
Additionally, Wagner has found that teaching freshman exclusively has benefits for her planning.
“Having the three science teachers right in a row gives us a really good opportunity to plan together so that we’re on the same page, doing the same things, bouncing ideas off of each other,” said Wagner.
Wagner appreciates that freshman don’t have to battle their way up and down the staircases. Freshmen echoed her appreciation for the new classroom layout.
“I think they [teachers] think it’s [the freshman academy] better because students can get to class faster,” said freshman Milo Sandfort.
However, freshman Tani Blankenship still found herself struggling while navigating and had a different opinion on the class changes.
“I didn’t really know how to get around the building, so that was interesting,” said Blaneknship.
Despite that setback, Blankenship has enjoyed the new arrangement overall.
“It’s nice to have people we know going past the hallways and having the ability to sit with our friends at lunch,” said Blankenship.
Freshman Cameron McKinley has also had a positive experience at Chamblee so far.
“It’s a good school with a lot of different opportunities. But it’s pretty big and can be confusing to get around,” said McKinley.
Freshmen teachers and students alike agreed that certain aspects of the transition process could be improved for next year.
“We have a fair number of teachers in the freshman academy that are new to Chamblee and so they weren’t on board and it was hard to get together with them [during the summer]. That would have been helpful if we had had a little more of a chance to pre-plan before pre-planning,” said Wagner.
Blankenship also has advice for what could be done better next year.
“I know a lot of people were late or tardy for their classes,” said Blankenship, who attributes it to mislabeled classrooms.
Sophomores agree that certain elements of their freshman year could have been better, especially when it came to meeting their teachers.
“At least over there [at Chamblee Middle School], you kind of knew their [teachers’] names, who they were, and then once you got it here, it was like ‘Oh, all these people are random and new to me and I don’t know what to do,’” said sophomore Julia Johnson. However, she doesn’t believe the freshman academy will help with this, mainly because freshmen are separated from other grades during the school day.
“Right now, they’re so segregated from us that once they get here, they’re still aren’t going to know anyone.” said Johnson, “…You feel more a part of of the school, I think, and you get more friends, you get to hear other people’s experiences from high school and know what they thought about classes, just get more help.”
Johnson firmly believes she would not have had a better freshmen year being in the freshman academy.
Fellow sophomore Madeline Gregory echos Johnson’s opinion.
“I feel like since they’re so sheltered this year, their sophomore year is going to end up being like our freshman year, because they’re not going to be able to talk to us and get mixed into the culture of our high school,” said Gregory. “Everything is going to be brand new to them even though they’ve been in the school, they’re not going to actually know what it’s like.”
Sophomore Claire Turney has advice for freshmen looking to meet upperclassmen and have a more genuine high school experience.
“Join clubs, sports, or other activities outside of school, and just get exposed to what being in high school is actually like,” said Turney.
Sophomores are not the only grade level that have advice for freshmen. McKinley already has some advice for his fellow classmates or future classes entering Chamblee.
“Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. We’re all people and it’s human nature, but if you’re lost or something, just ask someone.”