Free Period: The Dilemma


Ella Pasternak, Academics Beat

For Northfield High School, the option of a free period for Freshmen is a new concept. This year administration changed their old rule and Freshmen, including myself, flocked to sign up for a free period. The prospect of having an hour and a half off to do what you wanted was an intriguing idea. For the first few weeks of school free periods included being able to roam the building, stay at home or leave early if you had a free period first or last hour. By the third week, things had changed. The administration had made an assigned room for freshmen to stay in and they were required to show up. While many students were disappointed, the change was not the worst because freshmen were also given the opportunity to work on academics or just relax.

But as we enter the second semester, free period expectations and regulations have drastically changed. Previously, the freshmen had a different supervisor almost every day, but beginning in semester two there will be a set teacher for every off period. Freshmen are no longer able to use their phones and are only able to leave the classroom five times every six weeks. For many Freshmen who frequently visited the bathroom, library, school store, or other teachers, this change was very frustrating. Many freshmen signed up for a free period for exactly that, a FREE period where you could do what you want. Now that they are required to sit in a classroom for 90 minutes, regardless of whether or not they actually have work that needs to be completed, many students are frustrated. If you have no assignments to work on, you are told to read, sleep, or work on Khan Academy. Here are some opinions from freshmen students :  

Anonymous 9th Grade Female – “I think it’s unfair for Freshmen. The new rules are not going to stop students from misbehaving or skipping. Now we are forced to work on assignments even if we don’t have any. It defeats the purpose of a free period and I’d rather take a normal class. We are unable to even go outside now and it’s turned into more of a punishment than a free class.”

Anonymous 9th grade male – “I’m frustrated because it’s not what I signed up for and I signed up to be able to do whatever I wanted, not be forced to do work.”

Overall, many students are saying they would much rather have a normal class where you get a full 5 credits and actually have something to do. However, many are unable to switch out because many electives are full-year courses. Courses that are available may not have a class going on during certain periods when there is a free period happening. 

Though students are upset that they didn’t get the free period they signed up for, they aren’t the only ones. Teachers are also not happy about the changes as well. Now, some teachers are required to come in to watch the study hall classes when they previously had free time where they were able to plan lessons upcoming lessons, grade assignments, etc. Some teachers stated that they never wanted to monitor freshmen with ‘free periods’ in the first place. As freshmen we are not allowed to leave campus, we don’t have cars, and we have relatively little work compared to upperclassmen. Taking all of this into account, a free period for us is useless. Freshmen should not have been given a free period in the first place.

Now, freshmen have to make the best of this situation. Parents are complaining about their children having a free period,  so the school created new rules to satisfy parents. Many students with free periods are still failing some of their classes and this only shows that the new rules are not accomplishing what they were implemented for. There has to be a middle ground to this situation. As students, we need to understand that we should not have been given a free period, but it’s also unfair for us to be forced into a classroom when it is not what we signed up for. A possible solution could be that as long as students maintain a good Grade Point Average (GPA), they are allowed to use devices such as cellphones and have access to other areas of the school besides the designated classroom. Students with lower grades (B- and below) would be required to spend their study hall bringing those grades up.