Maybe it is Time to Rethink Scheduling
COVID-19 has changed the way the world looks at things but nowhere has the world changed more than in schools. While the plague of this century ravages, educators must step up and change more than just their technology learning platforms. It is time to change that last bastion of learning, the schedule. We should be training young people for the world of work. That training ill fits in a 4 – 6 period day. It is time for project based learning and a new type of scheduling both in person and online that accommodates that learning.
Smart administrators will look at an ever-changing environment in the next year and beyond. This is not just an unusual school year but one that will set the standards and flexibility for the future. An alternative to traditional scheduling would be a catalyst for instructional change and better fit a hybrid teaching environment. We must prepare for a future of online education, hybrid education, and a return to facilities for some, as well as a schedule that can morph between all three without totally disrupting school and life for educators, parents, and teachers.
Distancing is a must if we return to the traditional building. Limiting exposure between and among students and staff is a priority. Crowded hallways, bacteria laced lockers, backpacks and learning materials are all a viral breeding ground just looking to spread. There can be a safer solution at the middle and high school level.
Because teachers from middle school up are subject matter experts, we have attempted to fit many subjects into a day. Instead of this heavy scheduling burden, administrators should look at a one class at a time approach to their scheduling. In a hybrid environment this would allow those students online to participate with those attending bricks and mortar schools.
A class would be all day a month at a time. Because of state time regulations, I would propose a 9:00-3:30 day at the building level and online. Students and teachers could communicate with their online cohorts and work on projects that emulate what those in a real-world work situation are doing at this time. This would include scheduled cohort breaks that could accommodate hallways and the cafeteria schedules that are safer and uncrowded. Lockers would not be necessary as youth would only be carrying materials for one class.
In this scenario, teachers would teach the same students all day for 6.5 hours both online and in person. This time allows the learner to dig deeper into the curriculum, is perfect for project based learning and for students and teachers to develop relationships. Teachers could easily modify lesson plans to fit a week into a day. Students would complete 4 courses per semester just as they do in a block schedule and districts should allow students that transfer out to complete a semester online to get the four credits.
We are asking the impossible for high school teachers to keep up with up to 100 students in an online, hybrid or regular school environment. To get to know the skill levels, personalities, and nuances of up to 30 in an online platform all day for an extended period of time or in person is much more doable. All those arguments we heard years ago for block scheduling are the same for this “ultimate block.” Teacher teaming could also easily combine things like English and Social Studies or math and science for a two-month class and would be perfect for online teaching and learning.
Special education teachers and staff could better integrate their services into this environment both in person and online and the early facilities and class dismissal should allow for necessary required meeting time to occur both online and in person.
Administrators would still be involved in discipline, but the dreaded class changes that wreak havoc in crowded hallways and common areas would be lessened. The hybrid environment should result in smaller class sizes in the building and in some needed instances of isolation due to discipline, students could still access their class online and be closely monitored in the building.
Another variation on this schedule with districts that are struggling to provide transportation funds that supplement their bus owner to sanitize and clean after bus usage could be a 4 day week from 9-3 providing a day for teacher planning and meetings. If state class time regulations would allow a mid-week planning break would allow teachers to breathe for a day between 2-day sessions. While these suggestions are workable, time schedules can vary as class changes would not occur and there would be less “settling down” time. This type of schedule leaves no room for the ill prepared teacher. It is all about maximizing the instructional time.
If flexibility in time is available, a shortened day could provide more time for necessary cleaning and sanitation. Less youth in the hallways together should also make this a better cleaning/disinfectant issue.
This proposal is not one for just today’s problems but could be a solution to the real change in schools utilizing an online environment, transient student issues, discipline problems and better prepare youth for tomorrow’s jobs.
About the author
Christy Martin recently retired with 30 plus years of experience as an educator in K-12 and higher education and another 6 years in social service for foster youth. She considers advocating for at-risk youth a calling. Since retiring in February, she has returned to her love of writing, currently practicing that craft by writing about child welfare and school issues. She lives in East Tennessee, 15 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
This article was originally published by The Learning Counsel, a research institute and news media hub focused on providing context for the shift in education to digital curriculum.