School is starting again. I went in on August 1 to get our program up and running after the two month break, and I just kept thinking about the school calendar and what it does for education.
I think it is time for a paradigm shift. We have been trying to teach our young people in 9 months with more and more demands. Teachers are now expanding their roles, not by choice either, to include more roles. Many times we are counselors, we are moms and dads, we are coaches, we are technology specialists, we are mediators, we are social workers, and sometimes even cooks and bottle washers–literally.
Our young people are being so inundated by information that they are not able to absorb it in the nine months a year. Then they are released for the summer which allows the knowledge base to dwindle away because there is no one able to keep them practicing the new information that they had newly introduced to them in the year.
I propose a change in our school calander. I think it is time for a 12-month school calendar, but I do think it needs to offer some breaks. I think hold classes for nine weeks and then breaking for three weeks (for the students and two weeks for the staff) would develop a much more positive learning curve.
If students were involved in their classes for nine solid weeks, meeting each day for 60-75 minutes, students will be able to sustain their motivation to focus on the material. One of the keys is dropping the block scheduling and returning to five days of the same schedule. Each nine weeks would have the potential to earn one-half credit.
The students then would break for three weeks. The three week breaks that would be spread out during the 12 months would allow parents to juggle vacations better, would develop a better childcare scenario, and would prevent loss of new knowledge.
Teachers may wonder about the three week break, but I believe it will give the teachers a better opportunity to manage their stress. They would have a 2-day follow up to clear the nine week grading period out, there would be two weeks available for extended graduate hours, and finally would allow 2-3 days to prepare for the next grading period. If pay could not be increased to manage the additional student contact days, teachers could vary the schedules by taking one nine-week rotation off for additional schooling or extended travels (which is educational when in a new setting, a foreign country, or a mission trip).
I believe a paradigm shift for the school calendar is long overdue. I believe the 9-wwek on, 3-week off rotation would meet the needs of the students much better than our current school calendar of 9 months on and 3 months off does. I think it would benefit the staff and help prevent burn out. Finally I believe that such a paradigm shift would allow our students to learn and perform better on the achievement tests that are driving so much of our curriculum. And if our students are performing better academically, that brings our educational system back up to a competitive state internationally.
So, do you agree? Let’s work towards improving the educational system that really does put the needs of the students first. Let’s shift the school calendar paradigm and move forward.