French teacher Richard Day is thrilled to be teaching in a newly renovated classroom. But the large windows, new cabinetry and fresh paint job accompany another change that is less noticeable, but even more welcomed by Day: more students in the seats.
A look into the sixth-period French III class reveals 15 students, making it one of the largest French classes in Day’s 15-year tenure at the school, as well as one of the youngest.
Four freshmen are enrolled in French III, a more advanced level than usual. Middle-school students have traditionally enrolled in French I in seventh and eighth grades, before moving to French II their first year of high school.
But three years ago, Melissa Albrand, middle-school French teacher, changed her curriculum so that French I began in sixth grade and eighth graders took French II.
“The lower-school French program has gained so much momentum since the arrival of Madame (Patricia) Naylor five years ago,” Albrand said. “By the time students come to sixth grade, they have the necessary foundation and background to begin a more rigorous program.”
While the high-school French program saw no change in the number of overall students this year, the uptick in students taking higher level French classes has Day optimistic that more will continue on to AP French.
“We’ve averaged between eight and 10 students (in French III) the last few years,” Day said. “I’m obviously hoping to have larger AP classes (in the future).”
Sue Nellis, head of high school, said that the unusual enrollment figures in French III didn’t cause any more problems than what advanced students in math and other world languages usually do.
“Because students will take the AP a year before they ‘normally’ would, it might affect what other AP classes they will and won’t be able to take,” Nellis said.
This has historically not been an issue for the French program, which has not had as many students enrolled compared to the Spanish or Latin programs.
The disparity still exists—there are 27 French students in the high school compared to the 37 students in Latin and 49 in Spanish.
But even given the gap between students enrolling in French and the other languages, AP French in particular has suffered from low enrollment.
Just four students have taken AP French in the past five years, although more than 40 took at least French II. There are currently eight students in AP Spanish.
At the very least, “this is the first year that I’ve been concerned about space in my classroom,” Day said.
One thing Day is not concerned about, however, is a different classroom dynamic, even with a mix of older and younger students.
“(Day and I) have been working side by side so that we’re at the same place with our students,” Albrand said.
“The students have really met the challenge,” she said.
Freshman Jenny Kerbs admitted to being a little intimidated initially in a French III class that is usually just for sophomores, but said, “Now that I realize that they’re all nice and welcoming I feel that it’s going to be a good year.”
Day said he expects his now small French II class to also benefit from the shift in enrollment.
“There are three very lucky students who will get my undivided attention!” he said.