Possibility from the Mother (Nature) of Invention – Schedules

DISCLAIMER: This post is merely a “thinking post.” I am NOT announcing a change to the daily schedule at the Westminster Junior High. [That ought to make a few people read on!]

God did not create the school schedule. Administrators did. So…nothing is carved in stone. – Unknown

During this second semester, we have had some significant schedule changes due to weather. In January we missed an entire week of school, and the Junior High has compensated for the lost instructional time by altering what is typically our exam week in the final days of May. Also, because of the severe winds and rains of April, we have had to cancel or delay school on a couple of days. Throughout these disruptions to the expected and well-planned moments of school, our Junior High teachers have demonstrated remarkable flexibility and adaptability. They have modeled those 21st C skills by adapting and readjusting to the necessary changes in schedule thrown at us by Mother Nature. [Thanks, Junior High!] Students and parents have shown great understanding and flexibility, too. [Thanks, students and parents!]

So, by my reckoning, we have altered at least 7-8 days of school. There has been no real wailing or gnashing of teeth. People have adjusted. Perhaps we have been so flexible because you just cannot mess with Mother Nature. Perhaps we realize that there are a number of ways to schedule school. Throughout a typical year, we do have special days for L.E.A.P. (Leadership Experience Advisement Program). So, people must value that various modes and methods of learning require schedules that fit the myriad models of instruction. When we can plan and anticipate in advance, we can also be flexible with our normal 55-minute-class based schedule.

Well, all of this has me thinking a lot. If we can demonstrate flexibility and adaptability during the forces of Mother Nature, and if we can demonstrate flexibility and adaptability during planned, expected schedule changes for different modes of learning…then couldn’t we run a week-long (or a two-week long) experiment with a different schedule in 2011-12? Just to learn by doing?

Why would I even propose such an idea? Our school recently rolled out a vision statement for learning in the 21st century at Westminster. In the vision, among other things, we call for more integrated studies and project-based learning. These modes require longer blocks of time for activity, exploration, experimentation, discovery, and authentic learning. So, couldn’t we experiment with a schedule not too terribly different with our current schedule? Couldn’t we run an experiment and see what we think about one period a week per course being longer in time and function? Wouldn’t we learn immeasurably from having to walk and work in such a schedule?

We’ve shown we can adapt and exercise flexibility. We have the skills. Imagine what we could learn by using those skills to explore a new setting. Anyone game? I have a file of about 50 different school schedules. Below is but one example as a possible week-long experiment. I think some interesting preparations and possible outcomes could be explored and discovered. What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Possibility from the Mother (Nature) of Invention – Schedules

  1. Bo:

    I think the experiment would be an interesting one to try and implement for a few weeks. Looks like I would have two single periods and one double class period. To facilitate PBL and integration of disciplines during that week is there a way to infuse some collaborative planning time the week before or leading up to the experiment. This could get done in PLCs as well. But the idea would be to have a series of goals that teachers try to accomplish during the week of an alternative schedule. For example teachers have to:

    1. Experiment with PBL during this week.
    2. Experiment with integrating some aspect of their curriculum with another discipline. This could be more like team-teaching a unit that has significant overlap, etc.
    3. Experiment with another teaching strategy of their choice.
    4. Collaborative projects, I do something in my science class in collaboration with your economics class. We don’t really integrate but we are collaborating across the two disciplines.

    You might devote some of an adjacent faculty meeting on short presentations from volunteers of what they did during this week. Showcase some projects, etc.

    Sounds like a good plan to try this. Hope you get some good feedback and buy-in.


    Could it be billed as an interim week?

  2. Reverse Chronology of E-mail Thread Used with Permission.

    Sounds like we are on the same page once again: with sporting events and movies, you are wrapping them up rather than starting something new during the last “quarter.” Bill’s point was not the difficulty in sustaining a topic but rather in beginning a new one. You are welcome to put my comments, modified or not, wherever they may help.

    (Just wish I could really help in terms of “research based” 21st century teaching. One can of worms that you probably do NOT want to open is the one about research on sleepy teens and the argument to start school at 10:00! )

    From: Bo Adams
    Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2011 5:42 PM
    To: Sally Finch
    Subject: RE: Schedule

    Thanks, Sally. Part of my research for the past few years has been to start investigations in these areas of scheduling, and I appreciate all the input I can get. Half of the schools I visited during sabbatical run extended classes, and all of them run hybrid blocks of some kind. Also, I am just excited you read the post…I am assuming that’s what prompted this email, at least.

    On an anecdotal note, but one I find fascinating…it is interesting to me that many sporting events last 90-120 minutes. Same with movies. When we are ENGAGED we don’t tend to get as tired. When we are ACTIVE we don’t tend to get as tired. Of course, I would NEVER advocate that we sit in desks for a block of time over 100 minutes…especially not middle schoolers.

    Thanks for the conversation. Can I transfer this exchange to my blog, or would you prefer I keep it right here, just between us? Don’t have to use your name, although the details “yell” the Queen of Econ.


    From: Sally Finch
    Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2011 1:56 PM
    To: Bo Adams
    Subject: Schedule

    I wrote Bill Walstad, at the University of Nebraska, and asked him about his research in economics and whether or not he had any research on the issue of scheduling. He does not have anything specific, but he commented that at the college level, he teaches three regular 55 minute classes on M, W, F and two extended classes of 75 minutes each on Tuesday/Thursday.

    This sounds like a great compromise to me, and your new trial schedule looks almost the same. Bill said however that he finds the students to be very tired at the end of a 75 minute class and that he has learned not to start anything new during that last segment.

    Thanks for all you are doing for us!

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