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Re: Planning time


From: Jerry Vilenski (jvilensk_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Thu Sep 06 2001 - 19:10:31 PDT

I guess I need to add my two cents worth here. The issue of block scheduling has hit our district right between the eyes in the last few years. As usual, block scheduling benefits the Administration far more than the teachers who have to deal with it. I teach at the elementary level, and we have the day divided into 40 minute blocks. The classroom teachers love it, because for once they can rely on the same planning time every day. Administrators love it, because "everyone's the same" and they don't
have to construct new schedules every year. Specialists hate it, because it reduces the amount of contact time with our upper elementary students, where more time is critical. The end result is projects taking one third longer than usual, because of the logistical problems encountered with giving demonstrations, distributing materials and cleaning up--probably the biggest time eaters during class. What on paper looks like a 40 minute class then becomes closer to 20-25 minutes when you factor logistics
into the equation. If block scheduling could be flexible (evidently not possible) the division of time periods would be able to take into consideration the developmental age of our various grade levels--40 minutes for lower elementary is developmentally pretty accurate, 50-60 for upper el makes much more sense.

At secondary level, I would welcome 90 minute classes. Problem is, only classes like ours, lab-type classes such as shop, chemistry, art, music, drama, dance, etc., would really benifit from the extra uninterrupted time. Once again, administrators thrive on making everyone the same, so they love it. I would suggest that creeping through a 90 minute geography class would be sheer hell for both the teacher and the student! I personally know several teachers that can barely hold a 50 minute class
together, let alone a 90 minute class!

Block scheduling came about in our district as a result of contract talks that once and for all established a guaranteed planning time for all teachers, including specialists, each day. Block scheduling was the end result, because administrators were not able to distribute the day in any other way (they need a good creative art class). The contract was positive in the respect that it virtually guaranteed that specialists were not going to be pink-slipped anymore, because they had to fill the planning
periods with student supervision some how, right? So this is what they came up with, and we live with it, but it has bred a certain amount of mediocrity into our programs as a result.