Photo credit: Maddy Leja
More or Less School?
How Often Should Each Academic Class Be Held?
I think Parker’s remote learning schedule for this year — to hold each (A-F) academic class three times per week instead of four, makes as much sense as a remote learning plan in the middle of a global pandemic possibly could. Of course, this situation is not ideal, but I do think that the plan is fairly solid. Although I think that this plan is “fairly solid,” I know that there is always room for improvement and this scheduling design could always be enhanced.
By making the switch to having class less frequently, Parker is allowing extra time for students to take much-needed screen breaks. According to The Mayo Clinic, adults and teens shouldn’t be spending more than two hours per day on a screen. On Mondays, which for me has the most asynchronous class time, I will spend nearly five hours on Zoom.
In addition to this time, I will also be spending an extra hour and a half or so working on my homework. Adding on to all of this time spent working on a computer, I will also occasionally be checking my phone and scrolling through Instagram, sending and opening Snapchats, and utilizing other forms of social media to replace the inter-personal time that I would be having in school.
On top of all of this research that says that students need breaks for physical and mental health reasons, I can speak from personal experience when I tell you that students need a chance to feel like they can talk to their friends in an unstructured environment and just relax for a bit.
Additionally, Parker’s plan to have fewer academic class periods per week, which then equates to students being finished with classes earlier and less homework per week will likely allow students more time to sleep. According to the Harvard Business Review, Zoom classes are more tiring than in-person classes for a few reasons. One reason that Zoom classes are more exhausting is, “because they (Zoom Meetings) force us to focus more intently on conversations in order to absorb information.” What this means is that in-person, I may be able to let my attention wander briefly, and if I do this, I can just ask a friend to clarify what the assignment was or what was just discussed. You can’t, however, do this in Zoom classes.
Another benefit of having fewer academic classes per week is that we have more much needed passing time (a concept that is foreign to many Parker students). The passing time between classes is incredibly helpful for most students. For me, it provides a chance to check my phone (even though I know I shouldn’t be spending more time on a screen), use the bathroom, and take a walk around my house. This passing time helps to replicate the feeling of getting up from one class in-person and walking to another.
Although passing periods aren’t included in Parker’s typical in-person schedule, the time obviously does exist and it shouldn’t disappear just because our commute between Zoom meetings is the click of a button. I have to give kudos to the administration for adding in these five-minute breaks to the schedule. I really hope that when we do return to in-person learning, these breaks get incorporated into the schedule so that they can formalize a process that has already been in practice for many years. This unwritten five-minute break will always have to exist until students gain the ability to teleport from an Art or History classroom on the fourth floor all the way to a Science or Math room on the first floor.
In order to offer the most effective remote learning environment with a combination of rigorous academic offerings and consideration for the emotional and physical well-being of its students, Parker implemented the change of only having each academic class three times a week, and I 100% support this schedule modification.