The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

Two Perspectives – One Family

Ninth grade Zeller and Upper School Head Zeller discuss new schedule
Photo credit: The Parker Weekly

Will it be confusing having to check the schedule every day as it will be different?

Zeller (Owen): I believe that with a new schedule, with so many different days – while there are some similarities in the structure of every day – knowing which block comes after which is going to be difficult for students to understand. Currently, I have a difficult time knowing every day what class I have after the next one and which times I can get work done. It might be even more confusing with the new schedule with so many different days.


Other Zeller (Ms.): We will now have eight different days, which keeps it fresh and leads to more variety and more engagement. There will be many markers of which day it is. We plan to project the day on the TV screens, on signs outside of the school, and on the Portal. I’ve already asked a student to code a calendar to upload to Google calendar, so everybody knows the days. And, the Blue Calendar is listed with the days of the cycle. I actually think this is the best of both worlds. We have a system in place to make it clear, but we’re trying to add variety – some spice – to school.


How will the student body react to a later lunch?

Zeller: At least for me, as of right now, I do get pretty hungry in the mornings. If I’m getting to school a little later, I have less time to get a full breakfast and, so, that means I’m going all the way until lunch. It’s going to be a really long day waiting for that lunchtime to come around because it’s necessary for me to eat, and it’s hard for me to get food in between classes.


Other Zeller: First, there’s a benefit to Upper School students having a later lunch – they will be the only group in the cafeteria. That has never been the case. We have always shared with grades four through eight, which means we can’t sit there and the lines are congested. Now, Upper School students will be the only grades in there. Second, I’d like to add a Snack Shack to the Upper School. One idea is that the Social Committee could run it, and all proceeds would go towards the Homecoming Dance and Winter Formal, so they would be free. The snacks would be sold out of the Humanities Center, so students don’t have to walk all the way down to the cafeteria. We absolutely want students to be well-fed.


Zeller: So, hypothetically, if I wanted to use the Snack Shack, what time would I go there? Let’s say I’m in the science room. It’s gonna be hard for me to go all the way up then and then come back down.


Other Zeller: Students can go to the cafeteria all of the times of day except for 11:40-12because that’s when Middle School students will be going through the lunch line. It’s from 11:40-12 that we will have the Snack Shack in the Upper School, so students have access to food at all times of day.


Will students be drained after longer class periods?

Zeller: So, I believe, that these longer classes – some of them being 75 minutes long – are gonna be a big adjustment from the regular 50 minute class. Because a lot of us aren’t used to a longer format for a lesson. Some people have a harder time focusing for a longer period of time. Some 50-minute classes already feel like there’s too long, so how is that gonna be a positive difference?


Other Zeller: I think our current schedule has a lot of frenzy. There are tons of transitions in a day. You’re just getting settled into a class and then you’re up and moving to the next thing, the next thing up, and the next thing. The whole reason we hired a scheduling consultant is they do all of the research on what is best for students. What our consultant said is that longer classes and less transitions is better for students. We also brought in colleagues from Latin who currently have a long block to give teachers some ideas about how to use it. A lot of them suggested breaking the long block into smaller chunks with breaks in between, so that there’s movement. You’re not sitting for the whole time. This is an opportunity for teachers to really get creative about how to use a long block and will give students less classes per day, less transitions, and more focused time in class.


Zeller: So, if during the class, there’s more movement and there’s more activity-based things, does that mean that the homework load is going to increase from those classes?


Other Zeller: Great question. Out of eight days, the most a class can meet is six, but no teacher can assign homework during the class’s Flex Block, which means out of eight days, teachers can only assign homework for five of them. The other suggestion that came from Latin is when you have a long block – or even a 60-min block – part of that time could be used for starting homework for the next class, so that students can ask questions. We actually want to increase the student-teacher relationship to allow students to be doing work with a teacher present to get immediate feedback. So, during an average 60-minute class, or during a long block, students might begin homework in those last minutes and be able to ask questions about anything that they don’t understand.


How will finals become easier or harder with the addition of the new schedule?

Zeller: So, with the announcement of no more Finals Week, there was a lot of outrage from the student body because of the kind of peace of mind that finals brought you – as in, you have one final and got a big break and could use that to study for the other final. That kind of comfort is now gone because after the final there will be classes. I think there’s a lot of feelings about this difference. In addition – will there be homework from these classes in the afternoon? And, if not, what purpose do those classes serve outside of filler time in between the final and the end of the day?


Other Zeller: Finals Week is a big deal, and I recognize that, so I started by having Senate host a Senate meeting where students got to voice their opinions about Finals Week. It was also included in the Town Hall because I wanted to hear students’ opinions. I also reached out to fellow independent schools through networks. LMAIS is one of them, which is the Lake Michigan Association of Independent Schools and the INDEX group, which is independent schools across the country. Many schools are actually turning away from final exams – or a final exam week – because they take away from learning. What I would like to try next year is what I’m calling the Synthesis Cycle where the last cycle of eight [days] teachers cannot introduce new material, but instead, review, reflect and finalize thoughts on the material presented throughout the semester. Students could then present their learning in a project or presentation. It doesn’t have to be an exam. There are lots of ways that students can demonstrate their learning in a course – we need to think outside of the exam block.


Zeller: But back to the homework conundrum – when we have all these classes and a final exam. Right now it looks like we just have class that will take our minds away from the finals that are happening, and it might feel overwhelming to some.


Other Zeller: There are two solutions to this one: we do away with final exams, so every week is the same and then the synthesis cycle. Or, if we feel that exams are so important, the last three days of the 8-day cycle become our final exam days, and we go back to what we used to do. What I’m trying to question is – how important are exams?

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