How students and teachers view the double block schedule
The shift in the 2021-2022 school year to in-person school has been rough on everyone here at American, especially with a completely different schedule to adjust to. In the 2019-2020 school year, prior to the pandemic, classes would meet more consistently, with one pair of block days somewhere in the middle of the week. This year, however, the schedule is similar to the one online, with students having only one regular, six-period day, and the rest of the week being block.
Ms. Martinez, a member on the site rep team at American, says the double block day schedule is an inspiration from last year. “My understanding from the teachers who were advocating for [block] was that they enjoyed the extended time while we were virtual. They liked having those longer classes where they could break it up, do some more asynchronous work, and they seemed to feel that they were getting through their curriculum a little bit more easily. So that seems to be the push from them.”
Asynchronous time seems to be a huge motivation for the continuation of double block days. Many students feel this was a big plus to the schedule last year. Mehek Bhatnagar (11), who is in favor of double block, attributes her liking to last year.“I liked last year’s schedule where we had an hour of asynchronous time, because that gave us a lot of time to do our homework and I was able to finish all my work on time. This year’s schedule could be better if we had asynchronous time. I would really like that.”
Although asynchronous time is not a term in the vocabulary of in-person school, teachers still do make an effort to make the exceedingly long periods more tolerable. Aarya Patil (9) appreciates her teachers for their consideration and claims their sympathy is what makes the almost two hour classes not too unbearable. “All my teachers are very understanding that we have to sit in class for two hours. A lot of my teachers give breaks in between (like at least a five minute break) so we don’t have to just be working for the full two hours.”
Ms. Martinez, who is also a PE teacher at American, promises that PE teachers do all they can to ensure their students don’t get too exhausted with long classes of exercise. “We’ve scheduled in regular breaks throughout the time, including a longer one in the middle, and then—not every teacher is doing this—but some of us are partnering with others so that we can swap classrooms halfway through. So maybe they’re playing football for the first half of class and in the weight room for the second, or something along those lines,” she details. “This week, we’ve had one class playing half volley tennis and the other class playing spike ball, and then swap part way through. There’s also run days where they have the runs for the first half and then the activity for the second. So, we’re at least trying to make it not be an hour and a half of the same activity.”
FLEX time has been a major asset to the double block schedule, and a significant reason as to why students like this new schedule so much. Harshini Vakkalagadda (12) says “FLEX is so much more helpful this year. I think FLEX is one good thing that came out of four block days because you have more time in school to complete your stuff, and in case you have homework help, you can go to your teachers. I just find having four FLEXs way better than having two.”
Students and teachers alike find block days much more helpful in terms of academics as well as mental health as opposed to six-period days. Some even find it a tool for a more beneficial academic future. “The reality is, this is what college is like. This is what work is like, and so it’s really good training. It kind of gets people used to what they’re going to experience when they go to college. Typically, many college classes will meet once a week and that’s it,” says Ms. Jeung, an econ and sociology teacher.
Alivia Zhang (12) feels that the majority of her stress has been relieved with the change. “During ninth grade and tenth grade, I was given six classes worth of homework and because all of those were going to be due the next day, it really added a lot of pressure on me. Having six period days gives you too little time to learn some concepts. With block days, the teacher gives you time to focus on what you need to learn and you can ask the teacher questions. It really helps me understand the concepts I’m learning.”
Despite having to adjust to a completely new way of things, many students and teachers are in favor of continuing double block in the future. Ms. Jeung thinks that, if possible, even more block days should be incorporated. “I think the more block periods, the better. I absolutely love it. It just makes it a lot more possible for kids to get everything done at school and not really have to take stuff home, and they stay focused. Block, as far as educational research goes, and even how the brain functions, is a much more conducive way, especially at your guys’ age.”
Patil, who is supportive of having four block days with one regular six-period day proposes a minor change to the order of the days. “I personally like the schedule that we have right now, except I’d just like to keep the six period days on Friday because on Monday, nobody’s really that excited to come from the weekend and have to do all the six periods. That’s kind of rough, so I’d probably want to do the schedule that we had [at Thornton] last year where it would be Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday block days and then Friday was the sixth period.”
Zhang, on the other hand, believes Monday is just right for the six-period day. “I think having one six period day [on Monday] is good because it kind of serves as an introduction to the week and also wakes you up for the entire week for class.”
The response to the double block schedule at American has been relatively positive. As Vakkalagadda says, “It’s definitely been a change to adjust to four block days, but it has its pros and cons. I think because the pace goes slower, the quality is better. You might not be able to learn as much as you can if you have a different amount of days, but you learn better.”