Time. Each of us has a love/hate relationship with this concept. Not enough time, too much time, downtime, wasted time, making the most of time… the list could go on and on. In the world of education, our relationship with time is a complex one. Each school year is a finite number of days. Within those days, we have an obligation to our students to teach the skills necessary to set them up for success as they grow into adults who contribute to their communities and the world.
Last year, leaders in the field of education were faced with many challenges, with the most obvious one involving educating children amidst a pandemic. As an institution, we looked to see what others were doing, knowing that ultimately, we had to do what was best for Graland students. Time, in this instance, was a hostile partner in this endeavor. Yes, we knew how long the school year needed to be, but we were uncertain about the number of days we’d be in school. Our time in person with students was at the mercy of COVID-19. In an effort to embrace this challenge, we had to rethink our relationship with time, and more specifically, the schedule.
It was our work with World Leadership School (WLS) and discussions about purpose that led us to examine how we use our time at Graland. Stimulate Innovation is one of Graland’s Guiding Principles, and this principle extends beyond the classroom. This year’s Middle School schedule has been designed to maximize our time with students. Although field trips, service learning, and the creation of special schedules break down the four walls of the classroom, having a reliable “space” to plan them lessens the tension teachers, at times, feel when planning experiential opportunities. As educators, we see the value in both and work to achieve a balance every year. This year’s schedule gives faculty and students the opportunity to extend their classrooms and learning experiences on Wednesdays, something we are calling Flex Wednesdays. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays are regular academic days. In other words, students rotate through their classes, seeing each of their teachers. This is a structure that is familiar to all. Wednesdays, however, are where the days get interesting.
If we go back to the playroom of our childhood and think about Legos, we may remember these simple building blocks that were different shapes, colors, and sizes. These blocks allowed us to creatively construct towers, structures, animals, and even people. Similar to Legos, Flex Wednesdays can be constructed with creativity and flexibility in this same way. As a grade-level team, faculty can choose MESH classes, field trips, service learning, community time, and project-based learning to build a Wednesday schedule. By building out a schedule in this way, teachers are able to consistently augment their curriculum in predictable ways, knowing their scheduled time in the classroom will not be interrupted.
It is no accident that we are “flexing” on Wednesdays. In addition to enhancing the curriculum, it also provides a nice break in the middle of the week. While taking this innovative approach with the schedule impacts the tangible - lessons and the class time - students benefit from the enriched lessons. Our expectation is that as the year progresses, we will be able to offer various community activities where students choose enrichment experiences that further their learning while also creating a space for them to develop skills and character competencies like agency that will help them grow as people.