[STAFF EDITORIAL] Get your voice in the schedule discussions


Mariam Malik

Students do not want to lose what is working for them in the schedule and are hoping to keep aspects that have worked well in the past.

It’s been nearly a decade since the upper school schedule moved from a seven-period day to a block schedule. Since that time, it’s always had its staples: advisory, tutorial, X-period, and a mandatory free period… but it’s possible that may change as early as next fall.

Starting with small group discussions Oct. 11 and continuing the next two weeks, faculty from both divisions on the Randolph Campus are meeting to discuss aligning upper and middle school schedules.

Students do not want to lose what is working for them in the schedule and are hoping to keep aspects that have worked well in the past. Tutorials and X-periods help students utilize their time with homework and connections with the community. According to a study from Cornell University, taking purposeful breaks (anywhere from 5–60 minutes) from studying to refresh your brain and body increases your energy, productivity, and ability to focus.

Class periods have also had good reviews with enough time to complete work without dragging on the period. The 75- minute block seems to be the right amount of time for teachers to plan more than one activity. This is validated by education researchers: “There’s been a desire to get out of that rut and give teachers a little more flexibility in the instructional strategies they can use in longer periods of time, which allow for deeper thinking and project-based instruction,” said Dr. Michael Rettig, former professor in the College of Education at James Madison University.

The middle school currently has a cycle of six classes, while the high school has a cycle of eight. Losing the eight periods would harm the high school student’s ability to have a variety of classes and electives, and since most departments have spent the time since the seven-period change adding elective offerings, a reduction in blocks would be a step backward for the community.

That is not to say that there are no opportunities for improvement as the school looks to match upper and middle school schedules.

Some things to consider adding are passing time. Passing time will prevent classes from being carved into while students rush to their next class. Teachers plan for the first five minutes of class to be used, so over time students are losing hours of class time.

Additionally, the middle school Winterupt, a two-week period where students come together to work in-depth on non-academic areas of interest would be a fun addition to the upper school that encourages community building and a different kind of intellectual engagement during the darkest and coldest time of the year: January.

Student input has not been invited yet, despite schedule changes affecting students most. To get a voice in the conversation, students can come together in a small group and discuss changes and new opportunities that could be considered by the staff either during tutorial or another scheduled time. A teacher can be present to moderate the request and share them with higher-ups. Using the opinion board is also an option to start a schedule conversation with fellow students.

The important takeaway: add your voice to the conversation. Share opinions about the schedule with USC, Academic Dean Tom Anderson, or a teacher who can bring that perspective into a meeting before decisions are made for next year. It’s our time to learn. Let’s take time to share student perspectives in the decision-making process.