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A student’s perspective
May 1, 2009
by Brandon Azoulai
At the start of this year, 45 minute “mod” classes were replaced by 60 to 80 minute long blocks, which met less frequently. Both teachers and students were apprehensive about the change and many were overtly opposed to the concept.
The rationale behind the modification was to reduce student’s stress while still providing teachers with the same amount of class time. So has it worked?
Discussions among students in the cafeteria before mid-terms in January and now conversations in the classrooms that include teachers indicate that the general consensus is no. During mid-terms this year, a significant number of students were stressed out to levels unseen in prior years under the “mod” schedule. As Advance Placement exams approach next week, teachers are feeling more rushed than ever to fit in all the material on which students will be tested.
Being upper-class students inherently means taking harder courses, and every year the difficulty of work increases respective to grade. But this year there was another contributor to the level of stress: the new schedule.
In years past, most seasoned teachers have had the curriculum well budgeted for the year and have set aside the last few classes before the major exams for review. This year it has been a constant struggle for even the most veteran teachers to get in all the information.
A social studies teacher said that, due to time constraints, he was forced to cut a large amount of peripheral topics that added dimension to an otherwise dry textbook subject, and that have in the past helped students on the AP exam..
These sentiments were felt in other departments as well. A math teacher who has been at Greeley for over a decade said that she was not able to use the 80 minute blocks in creative ways, as intended, and still cover all the material. Math teachers are cutting entire units and feel that less information is being retained. As even my most brilliant math friends have told me, it is too difficult to remember the important nuances when you are being bombarded for an hour and 20 minutes.
One math teacher found the most detrimental element of the new schedule to be the reduced frequency of classes. She feels that students need constant practice with the material and saw a difference this year when exams came. With stretches of three days between classes and review sessions drastically reduced, time that is so key to tying math concepts together was lost, and this lack of closure lead to greater uneasiness.
Even previous supporters of the shift to longer periods, for example, English teachers, are not as fond of it as they thought they would be. They are forced to give longer reading assignments, which, they found, inhibited in-depth discussions around specific events in a book. Overall, there is a building consensus amongst teachers on two points: under the new schedule, there is not enough class time to fit in all the material historically covered; and contact between teachers and students is too infrequent. Interestingly, on these two points, most teachers and students are in agreement.
A paradox of stress
What has resulted is a paradox of stress. On a day-to-day basis tensions have been reduced. There are fewer classes to run around to and fewer things to juggle in your mind at once. We have longer stretches of free time, which accommodates doing work right before class or the day before. However, it has been replaced by less information and increased boredom from have nothing do to for eighty minutes or being trapped in an 85 degree room for over an hour discussing the same topic or material.
Additionally, since huge numbers of students are free at the same time for lunch, the cafeteria has become standing-room-only and assistant principles block the doors to the library because no more bodies can fit. Ultimately it seems the new schedule has led to less enthusiasm towards class and more anxiety around exams.
What price will the students pay for this experiment? Administrators imposed the schedule change without heeding input from students and teachers. There are rumors now that administrators will change the schedule yet again, but as far as I can tell they have still not shown any willingness to apply their own mission statement to this topic. How about encouraging some deep and critical thinking in the Greeley community about the problems of the new schedule?
Brandon Azoulai is a junior at Horace Greeley High School.
For a full review of all the articles written and letters to the editor received by NewCastleNOW.org last year about the schedule change, click here.