As a freshman, adapting from a simple, six-class block schedule to a hectic eight-class rotating schedule has been pretty hard to do, even coming from the KO Middle School. To be honest, I prefer the schedule the Middle School has, as they use an A day/B day schedule that incorporates 75 minute classes and sports into their school day. When I got my high school schedule last summer, I immediately pulled up the Academic Planning Schedule that was sent out for the incoming students to fill out. I spent a lot of time scanning the schedule to see if I could somehow understand how it worked or if I could comprehend the disorderly arrangement of the classes each week.
For years, students at KO have been living with the stress of a confusing and disorganized schedule, and it is time for a change. While the current schedule at KO is effective, there are some ways it can be improved: There is a good balance of class time, athletics, and late start/early release days, but the shortcomings of disorganization, no passing time, and few opportunities for students to meet with their teachers outweigh the positive effect that the schedule has at KO.
The KO schedule balances out a student’s day with flex periods and regular hour-long classes. For instance, on a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday, there are three hour-long class periods and two 75-minute classes (Wednesdays have four hour-long classes). This way, teachers have a little extra class time that evens out by the end of the two-week rotation to use in whatever way they would like. For example, a teacher could set up another activity, discuss something further with the class, allow independent work time, or just let their students out early to have a bit of free time.
The early release Wednesdays and late start Thursdays are another example of the schedule’s efficiency and effectiveness. With school getting out at 1:00 on Wednesday, students get more time to complete their work, socialize with friends, or attend an athletic event (either to participate in or watch). On Thursdays, the later start does set the schedule a little out of whack, but it allows teachers to meet with one another for department meetings and professional development. This makes the most sense to benefit the teachers, who would otherwise have to stay after school for these meetings. Plus, as many students would admit, it is nice to be able to sleep in a little longer than you normally would.
The schedule works in a way that allows students to get down to the locker rooms, change, then head to practice 15 to 30 minutes after the last class ends. This allows for athletics to be a part of the school day, but leaves students’ nights open for extracurriculars or free time.
While these aspects of the current schedule are effective, it is important to note a few shortcomings that a scheduling committee in the future should take note of.
Many members of the student body have to check in Blackbaud or the Daily Bulletin (or some other calendar) before every class to make sure they’re going to the right class. Currently, the KO schedule is impossible to understand, and there is little to no consistency, which makes it unnecessarily difficult to follow. Improvements can be made to line the Upper School’s schedule up with the Middle School’s to make it easier for younger students to take high school-level classes, which is something that KO supports and develops. The new schedule would also allow more teachers to get involved in both the Upper School and the Middle School to be able to unite the divisions of KO.
KO could follow the 4 by 4 plan, a layout for two-semester schools (rather than a system with trimesters) where learning is divided into four class periods of about 75 minutes each. With more time for each class of the day, teachers can have more time to implement group work and activities when that was not available before. For example, an English class might use the time to have a longer discussion diving into a text, then have time in class to write and reflect about their ideas, all the while being able to ask questions of the teacher. In a math class, a teacher would be able to cover more material each class, leaving more class time for test/exam review.
Another shortcoming of the current schedule is the lack of passing time. Although students at KO do not stop by their locker after every class, our campus requires a long walk to get between classes, especially if a teacher doesn’t let their students out five minutes early. By adding five minutes in between classes, students wouldn’t have to rush to use the bathroom between classes, and teachers wouldn’t have to worry about students coming into a lesson a few minutes late with extra time built into the schedule. The addition of passing time also allows students and teachers a few minutes to breathe at points in a frantic, hectic school day.
A third issue with the schedule is the lack of time to meet with teachers outside of class. While KO’s schedule does have two lunch periods on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, along with the Personal Learning Block (PLB) that happens on Friday. Although KO does have PLB, it hasn’t been completely free for students throughout the school year (due to assemblies and special events). This makes it hard for students to meet up with teachers and line up free periods. By changing the schedule to include 20 to 30 minutes, three or more days a week as Office Hours, it will be much easier for students to ask for help outside of class. Plus, this will fill up the academic day more with the proposed fewer number of class periods.
Bill Taylor, a Harvard Business Review journalist, wrote a piece in 2009 about office hours and how they benefit both students and teachers. As he writes, “Why not carve out an hour or two a week, tell your colleagues and customers that you have cleared your schedule, that you’ll be sitting in your office, and that you hope to hear what they’re worried about, excited about, or confused about.” The time could be used to ask for advice and get guidance from a teacher or mentor. Taylor interviewed the CEO of 37signals (a web-based project management tool), Jason Fried, for his article. When prompted to talk about Office Hours, Fried seemed to believe that there is a true benefit of setting time aside. “Anything that’s on your mind is fair game,” Fried said. “I’m here to listen, share, and be available to help in any way that I can.”
Another benefit of office hours is the clubs that KO has. Currently, there are only so many times clubs can meet, and with the addition of office hours, clubs can meet on a more regular basis. If students aren’t meeting with clubs during these points in the week, they can spend that time productively. When I hear “office hours,” I am compelled to use my time wisely; I meet with a teacher, ask a peer to help me with an assignment, or even something as simple as catching up on reading a book for English. Psychologically, having office hours promotes the productive use of free time at KO.
At the high school stage of our lives, it is crucial that we balance our schoolwork and extracurricular activities to manage the stress and mental health issues that have become so prevalent in society. With a simpler schedule that’s easier to follow, including passing time between classes, and a common meeting time to individually talk to teachers outside of class time, the educational impact on students at KO is limitless. My hope is to plant an idea in all reading this, so that we may all benefit from student feedback as KO – possibly – rethinks its schedule. The students at KO have a lot to say, and it’s about time that our voices are heard.