The school schedule is not only impactful to one’s learning, but when instituted right, it can make everyone's—teachers’ and students’ alike—class experience much more enjoyable. Many teachers as well as students have an opinion on the standing schedule and specifically how often students are able to see their teachers. Whether teachers don't feel like they see their students enough or students feel they see their teachers a little too much, it is hard to make a schedule that fits everyone's needs and wants. Within this article, we will delve deep into student and faculty perspectives on the 2021-2022 schedule for the high school and provide ideas on how to please the masses.
The schedule this year is essentially four class periods a day, either periods 1-4 or periods 5-8, which are one hour and fifteen minutes long. Two years ago, the schedule was five periods a day, each an hour long. The five classes rotated through seven time slots, so it felt as though there was more variety in the weeks that is unmatched to the A or B days we have now. Even though the A and B days rotate, it is not the same amount of rotation as it was before. There are pros and cons to both schedules, and teachers and students have different problems when facing the quandary of which one is necessarily better.
A pattern we have found is that oftentimes teachers do not like the current schedule as they feel they don't get to see their students enough times in a week. Like Mr. Long said, “I would rather see the students more often with less time” and “it feels like you've been on vacation when you see them so little—I forget their names!” He also mentions that at Rowland Hall, there are many short breaks. Every so often there is a random Monday students get off, and with that teachers lose even more time with students: “the momentum gets sucked out if we even have a day off.” Mr. Long believes that with the prior schedule of five-period days, with 1 hour for each period, it was not only easier from a teacher’s perspective to plan for the classes, but he felt that students were more engaged and able to get more done. Ms. Walsh had a similar opinion, and when asked if she feels as though she sees her students enough throughout the week, she replied, “Sometimes yes and sometimes no.” Like Mr. Long, Ms. Walsh references how long weekends sometimes interrupt the flow of the week, because with this schedule, seeing the students two times minimum and three times maximum a week often feels infrequent and erratic, as there are many short breaks for students throughout the school year. Contrasting to Mr. Long's opinion, Ms. Walsh wasn’t too fond of last year's schedule, as she felt it was inconsistent; it was a “little bit of a struggle to be ‘on’ all day with the constant classes.” Last year differed from this year as there were five types of days that could arise, all having a different combination of class periods. However, she also mentioned that her stress and struggles could have been due to COVID-19 as it created a hybrid schedule for most of the year.
Mr. Mellor doesn’t have much of an issue with this year’s schedule. When asked if he feels he sees his students enough throughout the week, he responded, “Yes, but I would prefer to see my AP students more. I don't think my AP students have enough time to work.” However, he feels with his elective classes, his students are on top of it and engaged the whole time. This contrasting opinion with the other teachers could be due to the different curriculums that the teachers teach: the academic teachers’ perspective versus the art teacher. The art classes have to set up and clean up each class, so longer periods are more beneficial because there is more working time.
Students had varying opinions, too. Some were exhausted by the periods as they feel everlasting, but some loved the elongated time they had to do their homework because a class never meets two days in a row. Maile Fukushima, a current junior, has only positive things to say about the current schedule, stating, “I like only having four periods a day. Having classes every other day makes it so much easier to do homework, and I don’t want it to change.” Many students share this opinion as homework is often the only thing on students' minds when it comes to school. As freshman Angus Hickman said, “I like this schedule because I know exactly what is going to happen each day, and I don't have to turn in an assignment the very next day.” Not only do students love the two days to do homework, but they love the consistency, in contrast to the teachers, who believe that the schedule can be erratic. When asked how they feel about the current schedule, freshman Lily Jaffe said, “I like the current schedule because I like the amount of time in class because I feel like we get a lot of time to really focus on what we're doing.” This, although an unpopular opinion, is a great perspective because as some teachers, like Ms. Walsh and Mr. Long, seem to dislike the elongated class time, Lily believes that it helps create more focus on the subject at hand.
As we researched this topic, there were many studies that showed different prospective schedules and different ideas to keep students engaged in their classes. As we sorted through all the different ideas, there were a few main points that were clear: “the typical student’s attention span is about 10 to 15 minutes long,” and “Breaking a course into smaller pieces improves retention.” During the first few minutes of class, students' attention often lapses while they are “settling in”. From this settling-in period to the 10-18 minute mark of class, teachers hold students' attention at its maximum. After this period, students often reported lapses in attention every 3-4 minutes for the rest of the class. These lapses are usually less than a minute long but are frequent enough to make an impact on students' learning. This is why most scientists argue that short bursts of learning are more effective than longer amounts of time.
When your brain is fresh, it can remember lots of information, but as class stretches on, your mind's ability to remember what happens decreases, and you even forget what happened when your mind was still fresh. In a practical sense, classes cannot be only 18 minutes long; they have to be longer than that, but maybe not 75 minutes long. In short, more frequent classes during the week with a shorter time being allotted to them have actually been proven to improve retention and focus among all students.
With information flooding in from teachers, students, and online studies, we have taken away many points of view on the ups and downs of the schedule. Whether next year's schedule will be able to satisfy both groups, we don’t know and will only be able to see. Looking backwards, we have made a ton of progress on adapting to students' needs from previous years. For example, in 2010 there were 8 classes every day, and the classes ended at awkward times like 9:47 and 2:13. Our schedule now, though not perfect, is a step in the right direction. Like Mr. Long said, “for years this school has been about transferring successful skills to help [students] move on and be successful in life.” What matters most is the students' learning and the teachers’ love for the job.