Besides the masks, sanitization, and other strict guidelines, another significant change in our school life is the new quarter-block schedule. Despite hearing mostly grievances from my peers, I believe the current schedule has benefits along with downsides.
A significant benefit of the new schedule is that it allows me to better focus on the current classes I’m taking. I find that fewer classes allow me to understand the material taught much better. Processing information from three subjects a day is significantly easier than processing information from six classes, especially when it is always the same three classes every day. New concepts learned on Monday are reinforced with homework, then immediately connected and applied to other concepts on Tuesday; the cycle then continues.
Fewer classes also mean fewer quizzes, tests, and essays. Less travel between classes also means that students and teachers are safer.
While I feared that my teachers would bombard me with information and give me no room to breathe, I often forget that they are human too; they recognize that it is neither interesting nor effective for students if they spend the entirety of class talking in front of a whiteboard. With longer class periods, my experience is that teachers are more willing to supplement lectures of raw information with activities such as discussions and collaborative classwork, which makes learning more engaging, enjoyable, and effective.
Fewer classes also mean fewer quizzes, tests, and essays. Less travel between classes also means that students and teachers are safer, something I believe we often overlook. Another smaller benefit of the quarter-block system is how it plays into what subjects you enjoy. If your favorite subject is in any quarter, you always have something to look forward to every school day.
However, this can also be a detriment; if you don’t enjoy a class, having it for one and a half hours every school day will be especially tiresome. Furthermore, there is no balance of class difficulty. For quarters one and three, your schedule may only have one honors course. Then for quarters two and four, all three classes may be honors courses.
Additionally, I worry about the gap between classes. In math and science courses, where topics almost endlessly build upon or relate to each other, a two-month hiatus between them seems questionable; the same can be said for any other subject. Students won’t forget everything they’ve learned throughout the first quarter in the second quarter, but they definitely will be impacted by this gap.
Most noticeable, however, is the increased workload every night. Fewer classes does not mean less homework. On the contrary, it seems like teachers, knowing we only have three classes, assign more homework each night than they usually would. Reading a history textbook for one hour, followed by a science textbook for another hour can be extremely draining.
The current schedule has potential. It has clear learning benefits, but also clear downsides. If shortcomings such as the imbalance of classes and sometimes overwhelming homework can be solved, I believe that it can be adopted not just for the 2020-2021 school year but for future years as well.