by Phil Petru, Assistant Head of School
I am sure you have thought to yourself, maybe more than once, “I wish I had more hours in the day.” I know I have. While balancing both personal and professional responsibilities, many times I find myself wondering, “Where has this day gone?”
I can tell you from personal experience that teachers are always trying to find new and innovative ways to maximize the instructional minutes during the school day. Excellent schools, like The Langley School, look for ways to balance the academic program (math, language arts, social studies, science, and specials) with our students’ well-being (structured and unstructured times for student interactions such as lunch, breaks, and recess). Though school schedules might look simple, they are really complex road maps that truly impact teachers’ decisions about their instruction. The length of the class period, the time of the class during the day (morning or afternoon), and the sequence of classes (does it come before or after lunch or recess?) during the day are just some of the considerations that teachers think about when planning lessons.
School schedules can have a significant impact on the learning environment, and are an important statement of philosophy that facilitate each school’s program and pedagogy. Four key factors to consider when creating a school’s daily schedule include:
- Program: Subject and special areas being offered and taught, considerations for pedagogical strategies and philosophies
- Time: Start and end of the days, length of classes, frequency of classes per week or cycle
- People: Number of students and faculty, qualifications of personnel, availability of personnel to work in multiple divisions
- Space: Number of classrooms, size of lunchroom and gym, number and availability of specialty rooms (such as art or tech rooms)
In fall 2016, The Langley School set out to create a schedule that would strengthen our commitment to student-centered classrooms. Working with the consulting firm Independent School Management from Wilmington, Delaware, Langley was able to develop a new daily schedule that creates a more balanced and consistent school day for our students beginning in September 2017. The “new” day, which begins and ends at the same time as our current schedule, increases instructional time, creates an even healthier balance to the day, and maintains our current rotation of specials.
How did Langley accomplish this monumental task? Simply by turning the day on its side. This means that rather than having smaller instructional periods over five days, classes are “spread out” over seven days with slightly longer times for student learning during academic classes. The image below depicts this change, showing the move from seven shorter blocks per day over five days to five longer blocks per day over seven days:
This simple change to a seven-day schedule will provide many benefits for our students, including:
- Fewer transitions throughout the day, allowing for more time in classes
- More consistent pace to the school day that allows for breaks
- Greater equity in subjects missed due to holidays or professional development days since classes will no longer meet on the same day and time each week
- Consistent and longer snack and recess times
- Consistent lunch times for each grade level
Head of School Dr. Elinor Scully will be discussing Langley’s new schedule with current parents during her upcoming State of the School presentation.