Math and Science changes fail to add up

It’s the third week of school, in the early phases of the second semester, and students of every grade are working hard and preparing for the final and AP exams in the next couple of months.

However, some students are doing better than others. For Woodstock’s Precalculus, AP Calculus, and Advanced and AP Chemistry students, it has been a turbulent semester. With the unexpected losses (at least as far as students were concerned) of Mrs. Sonya Crider (in the capacity of a teacher) and Mr. John Paulraj, students of these quite rigorous and difficult courses are forced to adapt to different teaching styles in the middle of the school year.

With the AP exams looming on the horizon, this has never been a more poignant issue.

The Math Department in particular has suffered, with Mr. David Raju’s unexpected loss at the beginning of the school year, and now the departure of Mr. Paulraj, causing teachers to be moved around a lot, and having to take up and give up different classes.

On the one hand, teachers seem to be taking the blow in their stride.

“Of course it’s sad that teachers have left,” said Mr. Tarun Seth, Head of the Math Department. “But in international schools, hiring happens once or twice a year, so one has to deal with it. Though I miss my previous classes, I have confidence they’ll do well, and are very understanding about the shift, even though they are disappointed.”

Ms. Malcolm, who has recently been pushed up to teaching precalculus after teaching only ninth grade last semester, said, “I was overwhelmed at first, getting four new advanced classes halfway through the year. But after the first week, it’s been going really well. I’ve been enjoying the challenge and liking my new students.”

This is in line with what Mr. Seth had said, which was: “If a math teacher is good at teaching math and good at management, they shouldn’t have too much of a problem adjusting.”

However, for the most part, students don’t seem to share their positive outlook on the issue.

Apoorv Garg, class of 2019, (and a Precalculus student) said, “I’m not so happy about the transition, because it’s hard to keep up with new changing styles this late in the year.” While he also said that things were not “too difficult,” he did express that the school should’ve “thought through the decision and maybe held onto [Mr. Paulraj] for the semester, for the sake of students.”

Chemistry students, who have also had to switch teachers mid-year, are also unhappy. “My previous chemistry teacher was better for me,” said Jaideep Grover, Class of 2019. “She had a nice, practical teaching style. I’m unsure if my new teacher will work as well for me.”

“I was used to Mrs. Crider and liked her a lot so I’m sad she left,” said Khaled Bagh, Class of 2018. Though he also said that his new teacher was “good” so the change wasn’t “too bad.”

This dissatisfaction among students grows deeper with students of higher math, including those taking AP Calculus, who had to change teachers twice in the course of the year.

“We are screwed,” said Daeyoung Kim, Class of 2019. “Paulraj didn’t teach us [expletive]. When Mr. Seth came in, we realized that Paulraj hadn’t even taught us the second fundamental theorem of calculus. No one would like change in a tough course like AP Calculus where you have to take an external exam, and Paulraj was the worst choice.”

His unhappiness is echoed by his classmates (though perhaps not as harshly). “There’s been a huge problem for us AP Calculus students,” said Jay Yunas, Class of 2018. “It’s one of the only two AP math courses the school offers, and we have had to change and adjust to three different teachers in the course of six months! It’s really confusing, since we don’t know who to go to when we need help.The impermanence is really frustrating.”

Woodstock prides itself on being able to fulfill student needs and aspirations. So when students feel that they don’t know where to turn to for help, it seems clear to many students that the school needs to step up. And this situation of having to constantly adapt to different teaching styles would have a similar effect on anyone.

While some students are doing well with the change, like Ismail Elainain, who said that, although he was sad at losing Mr. Seth, it was “good to find new ways to understand the concepts,” and while he liked his new teacher, he appears to be in the minority, with most others affected by the change frustrated and dissatisfied.

“Each teacher has different styles and requirements,” said Nikunj Damia, Class of 2018. “It’s hard, once you get used to one teacher to get used to another in the middle of the course. Eventually, students stop wanting to learn, and just do the bare minimum required for the grades they want.”

This hardship is even affecting students’ decisions to take the AP exam.

Yunas said, “I’m really confused about whether or not to take the exam because of the constant changes this year. And the advice I’ve had from family and friends has been to ‘wait and see if this teacher will stick around’, and then make my decision.”

Damia said he chose not to take the AP exam because he didn’t feel “adequately prepared for it” due to the frequent transitions.

However, despite preparation inadequacies, some students, like Kim, have no choice but to take the difficult external exam. “I’m applying for universities and majors that require AP Calculus, so I can’t choose not to take it. But if I had the option, with this turbulent year, I would choose not to take it,” he said.

AP exams being central to the school’s curriculum (at least for the next couple of years), it is an issue when students feel that they have not been set up well enough to take the exam.

As Kim said, “If students fail the AP exam, it’s partly the school’s fault for not preparing us adequately, or keeping things stable for the sake of students.”


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