The New Class Day

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Bea Parr

Historically, Class Day has been a ceremony held to celebrate the seniors and all of the work that they have done as their time at Latin comes to an end. For those who have not attended the ceremony before, it has included a teacher speech, a student speech, and subject specific awards. Among several other changes that are being made, this year, instead of just one award per subject, department heads were given the option of awarding up to five seniors in each subject. As with many changes, this has brought controversy, as students and teachers alike are unsure of the reasoning behind this decision, and feel that the previous system worked best for everyone.

The change was presented as an option for departments to partake in rather than a mandatory shift. Mr. Greer explains that “some departments were interested in adding some flexibility instead of being forced to narrow it down to one particular student, because that leads to comparing students in a way that’s not terribly productive when we want to be celebrating students’ strengths.” The number five was not meant to seem rigid or mandatory: “there wasn’t really a particular number in mind and some of the chairs raised that question and we’ve been talking about this for over a year.”

Unfortunately, this sense of flexibility was not initially made clear, and many students took this shift to mean that all departments were required or strongly urged to give five awards. Mr. Greer acknowledges this: “I understand it was a big change and I think that as rumors floated out about what it was, there was probably a little bit of misinformation.” He admits, “we could’ve done a better job of easing concerns at the outset because it did get a little intense early that week.”

A main concern was that while the sentiment of inclusivity is there, an increase in awards would have the opposite effect. Senior Amanda Aprati believes that “the increase in awards was really well-intentioned – to be more inclusive … [and to] be able to give hard earned recognition to more members of our class that excelled in a subject – but it could easily have the opposite effect. When there’s five or more awards, it might actually be a little bit harder on the kids that felt like they were super dedicated to that subject but weren’t recognized than if just one individual was awarded.”

Sophomore Marianne Mihas agrees that an increase in awards could actually make people feel worse: “It doesn’t achieve making people feel better and frankly it just makes people feel worse if you don’t get one because now if you’ve got five awards, that’s . . . fifty kids with awards, so it’s going to be like half the grade has an award and half of the grade doesn’t.” This increase could also increase stress leading up to the presentations, as sophomore Macy Krambeck points out that “It makes there more pressure to get one. Instead of just a couple of people getting one, now that it’s more people it’s a little more competitive.”

While it seemed like the administration did not consider these opinions at first, they were quick to respond to concerns after the idea was introduced. Mr Greer explains, “We created an opportunity in advisory for seniors a few weeks ago to give feedback, we heard that feedback loud and clear, and that feedback is largely why we ended up pretty much back where we have been before, perhaps a little more flexibility. The feedback mattered.”

Mr. Greer reveals that having heard the students’ concerns and holding some of the same concerns themselves, “the department chairs decided to keep the awards the same in almost every case maybe a couple more cases where students will share the individual award.” The only major shift was in the English department: “The English department did decide to go with more of a distinguished scholars as they will call it so you will see that announced at a gathering later this year.”

Ultimately, Class Day and department awards are about celebrating the senior class, and the goal should be to ensure that the seniors get the most out of their final days at Latin. In making decisions, it is important to take the opinions of those that the decisions are affecting into account, which is ultimately what Latin did. According to Mr. Greer, in listening to feedback while trying a new idea, “I think we have ended up in a spot where there will be a lot of seniors up there being celebrated for their talents and I think we’ll still get a chance to honor all of the award winners spaced out over the next month or so.” Whether there’s one or five awards, the senior class has accomplished a lot in their time at Latin, and deserves to be heard and celebrated as they get ready to move on to the next chapter of their lives.

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