Course Changes & Fun Facts With Mr. de Grys


Mr. de Grys in his office. (Rishi L. ’24).

This year, the course change period opened on August 12 and ended on September 9. Out of 106 responses to the Tatler Poll, 42.5% said they had requested a course change this year, 58.3% said that they had requested a course change before, and the overwhelming majority of people felt that the course change process went smoothly this year, especially since only one person handles all of them. That one person is Mr. de Grys, Lakeside’s 5-12 Academic Dean. In order to get a better understanding of the course change process, I talked with him about everything that goes on behind the scenes of course changes. 


SW: How many course changes did you get this year?

HG: We had 280 requests come through the form that students sent in, and about 100 additional requests came in by email. Most of those were from teachers regarding level changes for languages or math, or from students who had trouble with the form. I was able to fill about 330, meaning around 50 of them were unfilled, meaning that they were waiting for a class that was full or there was something about their schedule that made that change impossible. From August 12 to today (September 19), I received 761 emails about course changes.

SW: When do you first start receiving course change emails?

HG: When students first get their class lists in June, some of them have concerns. If there’s something egregious in June, like “I don’t have an English class,” we will fix that in June. But for all other requests like, “I’m in this but I’d rather be in that,” we ask them to wait until the second Friday in August when the course change period starts.

SW: Was the number of course change requests more this year compared to other years, or around the same?

HG: I think it’s about average. Every year, there are around 300-400 requests, and there’ll be some more this spring. 

SW: Why can’t people all get their first choice?

HG: It’s because we offer such a rich diversity of courses. Lakeside has something like seventeen different English classes and eighteen or nineteen different history/social science classes; we also have eight or nine different advanced science electives for students to choose from. We have a rich arts program as well, with many courses to choose from. Because our program is so rich, oftentimes students are like, “Aw, I got my third choice,” but it might be their third choice out of ten—which isn’t that bad. And if their second choice or first choice is available, we try to do that too. 

We had 280 requests come through the form that students sent in, and about 100 additional requests came in by email.

SW: Has there ever been a particularly busy year for course changes?

HG: As far as I’ve been doing it, it’s been pretty busy. I can’t really think of a year that was particularly busy or particularly not busy. I do think that students are requesting their changes earlier now. Some of them used to wait until classes started, but now I think the requests are coming in sooner, especially requests to add things. Students who want to drop classes aren’t in quite such a hurry so they will wait, and there was a lot of anxiety this year because a hundred students were waiting to add something but there was no space for it. A lot of those drops did come, but they came later, closer to the time school started.

SW: Around how much time a day do you spend during your busiest days doing course changes?

HG: I intentionally start doing it before I get busy doing other stuff, so there are definitely days where I spend eight or nine hours just doing course changes. I really try to crank through that stuff so that it’ll be done by the time other stuff gears up.

SW: Switching to some more personal questions, do you prefer teaching chemistry or doing course changes? What are your favorite parts of both?

HG: Teaching chemistry is definitely more fun. But I went into administration because I thought I could make an impact on more students. Even in my busy years I only taught 70 students, and in this role I get to really reach out and help the whole student body. It’s really meaningful in that sense.

SW: If you were taking six or seven classes this year, what would they be? Or what classes at Lakeside seem most interesting to you? 

HG: I would definitely take at least one or two art classes, especially drama or ceramics. Since I already know more about chemistry, I would probably take one of the biology or physics electives. I’d definitely take Spanish since I took it as a high school student and really enjoyed it but haven’t studied it since. My Spanish is no bueno. I would also take a math class that would push me, maybe Honors Precalculus? I would take one of the lower level calculus classes where I could survive and still learn a whole bunch of stuff. I would definitely dive into some of those 400-level English and history electives. There are so many good ones; I would just do whatever was available. So yeah, I would have a fun time putting together a schedule for myself. 

SW: How do you come up with the fun facts you put at the end of your course change emails?

HG: I look for them all the time! Whenever I see them, I have a special folder on my computer that I put cartoons in or fun facts. That way, when I’m taking a break and scrolling the internet, if Kai [Bynum] comes by and asks if I’m working or goofing off, I can just say that I’m looking for fun facts and cartoons for my emails! I keep doing this because I feel like students get a lot of emails, and if I’m sending them important stuff and I want them to read it, I feel like I need to make it worth their while.


This interview has been edited for clarity.