Opinion | Block periods should have been implemented long ago

Almost two years ago, students all around the world were sent home for an “extended spring break” in hopes of eradicating a new virus, COVID-19. Panic spread like a virus itself, those early days were just the beginning. Soon enough, we were told only a few more months, which then turned into nearly half a school year of isolation and lost education. 

Starting my freshman year, while sitting at my dining room table, asking my grandma to turn down the TV in case I have to unmute myself and staring blankly at my computer screen while on Zoom, was not what I had imagined for my first day of high school. 

We’ve definitely gone through our fair share of changes throughout the school year, but who’s to say it’s for the worst? Personally, I couldn’t have asked for a better, more improved schedule. I was in 8th grade when COVID-19 began, meaning I never got to truly experience ETHS’ original 9-period schedule but, to be completely honest, I’m glad I didn’t have to. 

ETHS’ original nine-period schedule had been around for the longest time and is what many high schools are accustomed to. At the start of the 2020-21 school year, for e-learning, we were first introduced to something similar to the block schedules we now have. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we had “Orange Days” which consisted of periods 1-5, and our school day began at 9 am, and ended at 3:40 pm. On Wednesdays and Fridays, we had “Blue Days” which then included periods 6-9, and our school day beginning at 9 am, and ending at 2:25 pm. Confusing and abnormal at first, it then quickly became the new normal for ETHS students. 

Now, for our 2021-22 school year, our days look pretty similar to last year’s e-learning schedule. We’ve kept the “Orange” and “Blue” days, but the periods we have on these days have certainly changed.

Now, for Orange Days which are still Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have periods 1, 3, 5 and 7. Each period is 85 minutes long, with 10-minute passing periods. On Blue Days, which are Wednesdays and Fridays, we go through periods 2, 4, 6 and 8, so the “even periods.” On Mondays, which are still early dismissal days, we have our full eight-period schedule with 33-minute periods, and our former five-minute passing periods. 

So far, with the help of the block-schedules, I’ve had the opportunity to complete homework in class and have more opportunities to ask questions. I’ve also had a lot less homework, and an extra day to complete assignments due to the fact that I don’t see the same classes everyday. I feel as if teachers have the time they need to go in-depth for lessons and have the time they need in class. 

“I’ve taught on the block schedule for almost nine years. At the block schedule schools, it’s similar to an A-B schedule, similar to our Orange and Blue days” History and Social Sciences Teacher Carly Crittendon explains. “I think ETHS’ block schedule is pretty comparable to the other schools I’ve taught at.”

Block scheduling dates back all the way to the 1920s. ETHS and its administration was not making decisions without any sort of evidence to back up these new schedules and their effectiveness. The administration has seen the efficacy of other schools and their own block schedules. Our school was not trying out something completely new and never done before just for the sake of it. In a time like this, it would’ve been extremely heedless to do so. 

Other educators have already been introduced to block schedules due to previous jobs at other schools. Block schedules are not a new concept, which is why we should not be worried about trying out a new schedule for students and staff. Those who are used to the old schedule may need to acclimate to these changes; it’s simply all you can do at times. 

Over the last year and a half, it’s really all ETHS students and staff have done. We were all told it was only a two-week break which then turned into the rest of the school year and before we knew it, all of us were learning right at home for the entire 2021-22 school year. It was all extremely arduous as well as just all so new and everyone understands that. I’m confident that with even more time and patience, those who still struggle with understanding the block schedule will soon realize how much a new adjusted schedule like this could really help them academically as well as emotionally. 

Now, I can also completely understand how other students may be very opposed to the new schedule. “I just feel like it’s too long for someone to stay in one class, and you forget information because of the fact that you’re gone for a day,” says junior Leonie Bahanuzi. 

85-minute classes are definitely not ideal, especially for teens who are still adjusting to fully coming back to school. We may feel restless and that could definitely affect the way some of us are learning due to it being a huge distraction. I would be lying if I said I didn’t experience this as well. But, I do think certain teachers have been able ease these struggles with the help of breaks throughout the blocks. 

“At one school I worked at, where they had 90-minute classes, they provided a school-wide four minute break during the block”… “ I try to replicate that within my own classroom providing a five-minute break because it’s needed” states Crittendon 

Teachers are well aware of the energy all throughout their classroom during the 85-minute classes. How could you not? The clear boredom on the faces of students, or should I say half faces of students, is more than visible. Teachers want their students to stay attentive throughout lessons and, without a break, this would be nearly impossible. We also seem to forget that teachers are humans too! They understand the struggles of adjusting to a new year with new struggles and schedules. Most teachers here at ETHS are more than willing to let their students take the breaks they may need as an entire class if it helps further their success within the classroom. 

Once again, as a sophomore, I’ve personally never experienced the nine-period schedule here at ETHS, but we always did have something similar throughout middle school. From my recollection, I always felt as if we simply never had enough time in class to learn the material. Teachers would sigh out of frustration at the end of each class because they simply ran out of time for their lesson. 

When you add in the questions being asked, diversions from students, and the reconvenings of classrooms due to nearly any distractions, it’s easy to lose some class time. Every day and every class, teachers struggle with using up every single second of their class time. No matter what you do right, not even the best teacher can help but lose time in class from their lessons. But, with this much extended time for each period, teachers may have the time they need to make sure new lessons stick into the heads of students. Teachers can also check in with all students to ensure comprehension of certain lessons. 

As Crittendon explains, “The blocks allow us, especially as sophomores and juniors, to really dig into some content a little more in depth during those block days because we have the time to do so.” 

Though most of our original schedule has been taken from E-Town, Wildkit Mondays have never left schedules here at ETHS, even during our full year of e-learning. For e-learning, they definitely looked different. During the 2020-21 school year, for Wildkit Mondays, we had no mandatory classes or Zooms to attend. These were days where teachers still assigned work via Google Classroom, or some decided to make those days “catch-up days”. Either way, we had no Zooms to attend unless for some form of academic support. These days were honestly such a great way to catch up on missing work, since it was very hard for some of us to even count that school year as a “real one”. 

Now, our Wildkit Mondays look like 33-minute periods and our school day ending at 2:07 pm. Mondays have always looked like this at ETHS but frankly, I’ve seriously never understood why? Going to each class for only 30 minutes is definitely not enough time to begin an entire lesson and even teachers understand that and feel rushed, once again, in their classroo I’ve always thought that the way Wildkit Mondays operated all throughout e-learning was a really great way to help students, and their academic status. I’m a strong believer in switching out our current Wildkit Mondays for something very similar to the old e-learning Mondays.

Only if students are in need of it, they may arrange a time to come into the high school and meet with the teacher or teachers they need support from. Those who have been able to keep steady grades and have zero missing assignments may have a day to themselves. This wouldn’t be an official “Asynchronous Monday” like how we had during e-learning last year, because we would not be receiving new work for the day. We would only ask and receive the help we need on these days. Take it as a recovery day in other words. 

In all honesty, if this is what school days were to look like, I really don’t believe it would even seem like a change in our academics considering we’re not able to learn much on those Wildkit Mondays anyways. 

Contrasting a teacher’s point of view with a student’s point of view, I feel as if I could come up with the ultimate conclusion that block schedules really are more beneficial than harmful. Block schedules seem to be more fitting for students, especially students who are coming back from a pretty much entirely lost school year. COVID has forced many of us to make abrupt and complex decisions in a very time sensitive manner. Block schedules were definitely one of these sorts of decisions, but they seem to have been thought thoroughly and made with very good intentions. I’m a big supporter of block schedules and their visible advantages/benefits. I simply wish these schedules were seen as the “normal” so many others could experience it for themselves.