Today is the Day: I drop down


Credit: Olivia Harvey

In the first installment of her new blog, guest writer Emma Marton describes her experience dropping out of Honors Chemistry.

Emma Marton

It’s week two of my sophomore year, and I’m already near tears. I don’t belong here, I think as I flip through the test. “Skip the hard ones,” they tell you. But what if they’re all hard ones? I had taken honors biology the year before and done well in it, getting a pretty solid A. I knew honors chemistry was hard, but I had a strong math background. I thought I would be okay. I wasn’t.

The first thing I did after that test was to go to my mom. “Switch to quantitative chemistry,” my mother told me almost immediately. “Your brother struggled a lot too. Don’t wait till you’re failing and miserable.” She told me to visit my guidance counselor, Mr. Doherty, to discuss options. Mr. Doherty told me changing my schedule wasn’t too hard. I’d have to change when a couple of my classes met, but I wouldn’t lose any classes, not even my electives. But how was I to make this choice?

My mom and dad were supportive either way, but my brother’s experience had made them wary. They leaned toward me switching levels. My mom explained to me that, “It’s your first year of honors history and honors English – something you’ve struggled with in the past.” That was true. I had struggled with English in the past, but I had worked very hard so I could be in honors English my sophomore year.

In the end, I dropped down to quantitative. And I still struggled with chemistry – a lot, actually. It was a good decision, and I am grateful I made it early. But what went into that decision? What factors should you consider before making your move? Here are the main things you must consider when you think you should switch levels:

First, talk to your teacher. Listen to what they have to say, and ask them questions. “Will the pace always be this fast, or will it get faster?” That’s a good one to ask because if you’re already struggling with the pace, you’re not going to handle it being faster. If you noticed a particular weakness you have existing within the course, such as math or writing, ask if that’s a constant. Perhaps this first topic was heavy in an area you’re not good at, and the course will get better as you move away from that topic. However, if the course is going to cover that topic year-round, factor that into your decision.

Talk to your guidance counselor. See how this change would affect your schedule, or if you can even do it. Sometimes classes are filled, and you can’t move. Changing it early in the year means you’d get a new teacher (whether you this is a positive or negative thing is for you to decide), could make room for an elective you want to take and mean losing an elective you’re currently taking. All of this is important information. You might be on the fence until you learn you can take a certain elective if you change levels.

Talk to people. Don’t be ashamed if you have to drop down. It happens, and gaining more info from you older siblings, parents, teachers and upperclassmen will inform your decision.

Ask yourself why you took that class/level in the first place. Did you want to challenge yourself? Did you feel pressure to? There are good reasons and bad reasons to take a hard course. Your ego is a bad reason. I took Honors Chemistry because I wanted to challenge myself (which is a good reason), but I was also egotistical. Let it go. It’s one course, and you can find something else you’re better at.

And finally, think of your schedule as a whole. Maybe you’re taking several other hard classes, playing a sport and working a job. The last thing you need is a class that’s too hard. Or maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe you stopped playing soccer and dropped your language class. Now you have more time to commit the effort that will be required. Your schedule as a whole matters.

I’m going to leave you with one last note on switching down a level. You’re not a failure, but if you’re someone like me, you’re going to feel like one. You’re going to ask yourself, “Why could my siblings do it, and why can all my friends do it, yet I couldn’t?” It’s going to be hard, and you may feel crummy for a bit. But think of it this way: we all have strengths and weaknesses. Just because this one subject isn’t your strength, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure, stupid or lazy. It’s better if you put effort into what you’re good at and enjoy it rather than be miserable in a class that’s too hard and that draws your attention away from the things you like. It’s only high school after all, and this should be a time when we can explore things we like!

Opinion articles written by staff members represent their personal views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent WSPN as a publication.