The Smoke Signal

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Freshman Seminar receives negative feedback from majority of surveyed students

Freshman+Brendan+Falconer+works+on+his+homework+during+Freshman+Seminar.
Freshman Brendan Falconer works on his homework during Freshman Seminar.

Freshman Brendan Falconer works on his homework during Freshman Seminar.

Curstine Guevarra

Curstine Guevarra

Freshman Brendan Falconer works on his homework during Freshman Seminar.

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Despite being revamped prior to the start of this school year, Freshman Seminar is still not receiving stellar reviews from PV’s freshmen. Although some students had positive things to say about the class, an overwhelming majority of freshmen responded negatively in a recent Smoke Signal survey.

Of the 186 freshmen that took part in the survey, only 40 percent of them indicated that they learned something that will help them in their high school career. Additionally, 75 percent of freshmen surveyed said that Freshman Seminar was “boring.” Only 15.6 percent described the class as “educational.”

“I disliked how sometimes [Freshman Seminar] was boring, and we didn’t really do anything,” freshman Brendan Falconer said.

Another freshman, Arianna Quevedo, felt that after the first couple of classes, which had consisted mostly of icebreakers, the lessons were “pretty repetitive.” As a Hillsdale resident, she enjoyed early sessions of the class where she was able to “get to know new people from River Vale.”  

This year, Freshman Seminar met twice a month for a total of nine, 47 minute sessions. Each class was intentionally randomized with approximately 28 students per class. After the initial classes, lessons were focused on digital citizenship, stress, time management, drugs, alcohol, prejudice, and communication. 

Students took Freshman Seminar as a joke, and they just used it as a free period.”

— Freshman Peyton Lutz

The semester-long course finished up with three sessions centered around advice for succeeding in high school. Quevedo said that these lessons were not valuable, as “people already knew what they were trying to teach.”  

Her thoughts mainly reflect those of the rest of her grade, as about 85 percent of freshmen surveyed felt that the class was not “informative.” In addition, 81 percent of freshmen did not agree with the statement that “the lessons in Freshman Seminar are interesting, thought-provoking, and keep my interest for the entire period.”

As for next year, Quevedo proposed making the first session of Freshman Seminar mandatory “so that people can get to know new people.” However, after the first class, she thinks that the class should be optional.

This school year marks the second year of Freshman Seminar.  At its inception, the course was scheduled to be a full-year program that would meet twice a month: once for Pascack Period A and once for both Pascack Periods A and B. The curriculum focused on practical matters such as learning to write lab reports, use Excel spreadsheets, and create PowerPoint presentations. Although both students and teachers felt that the class had good intentions, many felt that too much class time had been dedicated to the course.

Therefore, in January of last year, members of the then Freshman Council convinced Dr. Barry Bachenheimer, the district’s director of curriculum, assessment, and instruction, to cut back on the class to only Pascack Period A.

Towards the end of last year, students and teachers provided additional feedback regarding their experiences with the course. The curriculum was then completely redone last spring. Bachenheimer worked with two seniors from the class of 2015 to revamp the class. 

According to Bachenheimer, he met with these two seniors over the course of several months. They first approached Bachenheimer about the issue to tell him that they wanted to rewrite the Freshman Seminar curriculum as their public policy project for Mr. Jeff Jasper’s SUPA (Syracuse University Project Advance) class. 

Bachenheimer said that they “came up with a lot of ideas,” including shortening the class, and changing the curriculum from academic lessons to “survival skills for high school.”

“On their suggestions, and then talking to some teachers, we redid it and made it just two meetings per month for half a year,” Bachenheimer said. Changes were also made to the curriculum.

However, based on the survey’s results, Freshman Seminar didn’t help 80 percent of freshmen make the transition into high school. Also, 60 percent of freshmen stated that they didn’t learn something that will help them in their high school career. Although freshmen did appear to appreciate the shortened class length, 89 percent of them would still rather be doing something other than Freshman Seminar during Pascack Period A.

Another freshman, Peyton Lutz, said that “students took Freshman Seminar as a joke, and they just used it as a free period.”  

The survey showed that 90 percent of freshmen would have rather been doing something else during the class.

“We should just not have Freshman Seminar at all,” Lutz added.

These sentiments echo the thoughts of the majority of her peers, as 53 percent of freshmen said that Freshman Seminar should not exist next year. 

While it is still uncertain as to what is next for Freshman Seminar, most freshmen agree that, at the very least, further adjustments need to be made; only 7.5 percent of the students said that the course should be continued with no changes. 40 percent agreed that the class should exist next year, but with some alterations.  

While the students this year are required to take the class, the teachers volunteer to teach Freshman Seminar classes, and work in teams of two.

“We encourage them to apply as a pair, [because] we want them to work with someone who they’re comfortable working with,” Bachenheimer said.

Before the beginning of the year, all of the Freshman Seminar teachers met with Bachenheimer and went through the curriculum. However, once the teachers received the objectives of the course, it was up to them to create their own lesson plans.

What’s next for Freshman Seminar? Well, that remains to be seen. According to Bachenheimer, any freshman who has constructive feedback on the class should “shoot him an email” to set up a meeting.

“The topics themselves and how we teach it, based on feedback, might change,” Bachenheimer said.

FInal Frosh Seminar Infograph

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Pascack Valley High School's Official News Site: Where there's smoke, there's fire.
Freshman Seminar receives negative feedback from majority of surveyed students