As my school is in the year-long process of trying to figure out how to best change our whole schedule for next year, I am giddy with excitement about the endless amount of possibilities that exist. What will next year’s schedule look like? Will we have block scheduling? Will I have more time with my students? Will we still have Saturday classes? It’s hard to tell if I am so thrilled because the holidays are upon us or because we are piloting a few schedule change possibilities this week. Either way, it’s hard to contain my enthusiasm for what is to come.
In the 11 years I have worked at this institution, the schedule has undergone many changes. We used to have different schedules for each of the three seasons. In the spring and fall, classes were 40 minutes in length and most days were the same. In the winter schedule, classes were 37 minutes in length and Thursday offered a sleep-in for the boys with a later start to the day and longer classes. It was so hard to follow. Just when you thought you had it memorized, the next season and term began. It wasn’t helpful for the students and did not promote a sense of learning and togetherness. It went against what most of the brain-based research tells us about how to educate middle-school aged boys.
So, we changed the schedule. We found a way for the schedule to stay the same throughout the whole year. We had 40 minute classes all year. We finished all classes prior to lunch. Three days a week, after lunch, we had an advisory period for advisors to meet with their advisees. We also offered a conference period for students to receive extra help from their teachers. It is very similar to office hours in college. Things seemed to work well for several years. However, 40 minutes is just not enough time to really educate and prepare our boys for meaningful lives in a global society.
Back to the drawing board we go. This is where we are currently. We are trying to figure out, what we can do to make our schedule best serve the needs of our students. We know they need more sleep and more free time. So, let’s start and end our day later. But, our sixth graders need to go to bed earlier. Let’s make the schedule for each grade different. We can organize the dorms according to grade and assign their team of teachers to work with them. This way, we can provide our sixth graders with the unique experience they need without impacting the ninth graders. The sixth graders need a shortened and early study hall. The evening, following dinner, needs to be used for group building activities and free time. They need the opportunity to be boys and have some fun. If each grade had the flexibility to design their own schedule based on what the scientific research tells us about how to best educate that grade-level, we could become an even more outstanding institution.
As of now, windows and doors of possibility are wide open. I’m throwing in my ideas regularly in hopes of creating a schedule which will best meet the needs our all of our students, but especially our sixth graders. The time for change has come once again. Let’s move and redesign.