Friday, November 13, 2009

Teaching in the Block

I've taught on various schedules. In Iowa, when I was first a classroom teacher, we had daily 45-minute classes. I'm assuming (although I don't recall) that we had a 180-day school year. So, I spent 8100 minutes with my students, or 135 hours of instruction, just in English.

At the school where I most recently taught, we slowly switched to a Block Schedule, the kind of schedule used in colleges now for a long time. Teaching in the block is now standard for high schools. The assumption is that high schoolers have a longer attention span, and that they benefit from longer classes. Block classes are usually 1 hour and 20 minutes, sometimes a bit longer or shorter.

However, the classes only last one semester. So, in the block, I would teach a student for 90 days, and his class would be complete. I would have him in the classroom for a total of 120 hours of instruction. So, in the semester block, each student in my classroom just lost 15 hours of instruction, even though he is still in school for 180 days during the year.

At this same school, we first used a modified block schedule, in which students still took the full year to take the course, but only had a particular class (like American Literature) every other day. So, they'd still only get 120 hours. However, they do get the benefit of having more time between classes, i.e., they would have American Lit on Monday, but not have it again until Wednesday, and they'd have 2 nights to get the work done. Of course, the teacher must assign 2 days of work, in order to cover the material.

In the block schedule, I usually found myself covering less material. It was just too hard to cram it in one semester, and high school students just CAN'T do 2 nights worth of work, in one night, in the semester block. We always lagged behind.

This year? Thankfully I set my own schedule. I teach literature to Anna and Peter for one hour each day. I'm planning on a 160-day school year. (Do you realize, that means we get an EXTRA MONTH OFF? Yippee!) So, I'll get 160 hours of instruction with them. 20 days less of school, but 20 hours more of instruction. Amazing.

And the teacher/student ratio is 1:2.

Here's all I'm saying, folks. If you really care about the quality of instruction your child receives in school, do it yourself and do it well. If you can't do it well yourself, then send them to a school that you KNOW WILL do it well. Don't assume. Check into your child's school. All the trendy "modern education" choices that your administration is doing might not actually be good for your child. Even extending the school year by 20 days (!!!) doesn't necessarily add to the volume or quality of the education, if you look into the actual class hours.

How much of your child's school time is just FLUFF?

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