By now, most people should be familiar with the new class schedule that was put into effect on Monday. The adaptation consisted of an earlier start, shorter break in between classes, 30 minute courses on Wednesdays, mandatory tutorial attendance on Monday/Tuesday and lastly, mandatory camera use. The remote schedule was revised in response to surveys sent out to parents, students and teachers. In my opinion, the changes made will be beneficial to an extent, but detrimental in other areas.
What I like is the shorter time intervals in between instruction. Fifteen minutes was way too much time, and once you are in school mode, you just want to get your classes done for the day. Ten minutes is more than enough time to use the bathroom, or grab a snack.
In addition, seeing every teacher for 30 minutes on Wednesdays is an obvious enhancement to our learning vs. having no school at all. Many saw the old Wednesday schedule as a day off, since learning labs were optional. Now, students will have to check in with each class. During this time, questions can be addressed and new material can be presented. It has been said that we are getting a much diluted curriculum this year, and in the long run, students might find themselves behind their peers in other districts. We need to set the bar a little higher here in the GPPS district, and give our students the support they need to succeed.
Something I see no point in though is pushing classes an hour earlier. Teenagers need their sleep, and studies have shown that later school start times are associated with improved focus and higher test scores. Many of us are staying up later and having trouble getting to sleep with our normal schedule being hijacked. The pandemic has been hard on everyone mentally, and this only makes it harder on us to be successful academically. Plus, once the day is over at 10:30, what are students supposed to do with themselves, especially now that the weather is cold and dreary? We need a little structure to our days to help the time pass.
Although I think classes on Wednesdays makes sense, mandatory tutorial on Monday or Tuesday does not, unless it has been determined between a teacher and student that they are struggling and need to prove they are using this time wisely.
Finally, forcing students to keep their cameras on the whole class period is annoying, but perhaps necessary if teachers are going to try to connect with their students and make sure everyone is engaged. However, I don’t think we need a “D” marking for being disengaged. That seems punitive when virtual school is hard enough without being judged and labeled. Now more than ever, the relationship between teachers and students is critical. Though it’s more difficult than in person school, teachers need to look at the student as a whole…how are their grades, but also how they are doing mentally? If there is a genuine concern, giving them a “D” is not the best approach to help someone who is struggling. Hopefully we won’t have to deal with this for long and will be back face-to-face in January.