Monday, June 21, 2010

More time for lunch, less of the (between classes) crunch

By Helly Soni

The school’s seven-day rotation schedule may be irregular, but the complaints about it fall into a nice, neat pattern. Students as well as teachers seem to hate three things: long periods that are too long, a lunch period that’s too short, and barely enough time to sprint between classes.

Now, a radical scheduling proposal from a group of students aims to cure the ills of the current schedule. The proposal, by students in Ms. Janovitz’s Leadership and Social Change class, is getting serious attention from Principal Larkin, who passed it out at a faculty meeting. It includes

a longer, 35-minute lunch, more time between classes (4 to 5 minutes), and a special, long period for making up tests and quizzes or getting extra help.

Even more radical is how the new plan does away with rotating long periods. Instead of the seven-day pattern, the proposal makes every week the same. Monday, Tuesday and Friday, every period would be 45 minutes. Wednesday and Thursday, every period would be 81 minutes: 1, 3, 5 and 7 on Wednesday; 2, 4 and 6 on Thursday, plus the special period for make-ups and tutoring.
“It goes to show that change is coming, and change is good,” math teacher Ms. Guerra said, reacting to the proposal. “Very good.”

The once-a-week long blocks are meant to make it easier for teachers to plan labs, debates and other time-intensive projects, said junior Chris LaRocque, a member of the class that came up with the proposal. The weekly “time and opportunity” block is meant to give students a chance to catch up on challenging subjects and possibly give teachers time to collaborate.

Teachers and students love the plan’s longer lunches and longer time between classes. Less popular are the days of all long periods.

“I can’t stand one long period; how am I going to be able to stand three or four of them,” freshman Gabriella Gonzalez said.

The students who designed the schedule looked at other schools with similar plans. The fact that each class only meets four days a week under the proposal is intended to increase focus and provide extra time to complete assignments.

Mr. Larkin said the plan fell short of the 990 classroom hours per year that the government requires, but he said it was full of good ideas that could be used with some adaptation.

English teacher Ms. Scanlon said she would welcome the additional minute or two between classes because it would help remove the excuses students have for being late to class, and allow class to start on time. “Students need to respect class time,” she said.

Students said the longer lunch period would be a big help, allowing them to stop by their locker or a teacher before lunch and still have time to go through the line and eat.

“I think it will help students wind down and get refreshed for the rest of the classes,” history teacher Ms. Carey said.

The current schedule has been in place for about 10 years, according to Ms. DeBellis. Before that, there were no long periods and every class was 50 minutes, every day.

In the discussion of changes to today’s schedule, a number of teachers expressed a desire to return to the old schedule and to do away with long periods altogether. They said long periods don’t work with students because their attention span isn’t long enough.

“My attention span is, like, barely 30 minutes. I can’t pay attention that long,” freshman Holly Brioulette said.

Ms. Carey said the same was true for teachers. “Even teachers don’t have a lot to do during long period,” she said.

Ms. Carey said the long period was originally intended for science labs. It can be used in other subjects for projects, presentations, and tests, she said, but those aren’t that common in all classes. When she was a student, Ms. Carey said science labs were held during a separate lab period.

Science teacher Mr. Wood has his own idea for a school schedule, one with a single, long time slot at the beginning of every day, and only six periods per day. A different class period would take the long slot each day, and a different class period would get skipped each day.

Mr. Wood was with a committee of teachers that talked about schedules, and they liked the students’ idea of a “time and opportunity” segment because it would allow for activities such as mentoring and student council without taking away from class time.

The proposed schedule by Ms. Janovitz’s students was part of a response to a request from the principal for ideas on how to give students more voice in school affairs. Mr. Larkin said he hoped it would get more students talking about the kind of schedule they would like to see.

Ms. Carey said she planned to have some of her students spend time as a group coming up with their own proposals for a school schedule.

1 comment:

  1. It appears that the concept of a 7:30 - 2:00 schedule is hard to erase...
    If I may suggest, as a senior at BHS, I speak only for myself in saying that I wouldn't mind a longer day (8:00 - 3:30). It would allow a long lunch, all 7 periods and 5 minutes in between classes with no long period.
    Concerning long period, some classes that really need extra time could meet 6 days a week like AP science courses. However, I think that with more time between classes, the students would focus better and get more done.
    Speaking from personal experience, three minutes to get across the school as well as shift from Computer science (C++) to health, was impossible in 3 minutes. 5 minutes is nearly double that! making it a lot easier. As well with a more focused class that works more efficiently, the class may not have to work until the last second or through the bell. This allows a minute at the end of class to pack your backpack and clear your mind, nearly tripling the time between classes.
    If these ideas could be worked in, it would make school more enjoyable and might even improve student grades and morale. I would also like peer and faculty feedback.