With the arrival of May, an article such as this more than likely has the appearance of five whiny eighth graders complaining about all the issues of middle school. Though we may be eighth graders—and whiny—there is more to it than that. It is our love for this school that makes us question it, point out its issues, and criticize. As the school creates a new schedule, we find an opportunity to make suggestions that we hope will be implemented.
After three years of middle school, we are well-versed in the faults of our schedule and possible improvements. This is an amazing school which we would like to make better by improving the student experience for those behind us.
The Corner Editorial Board, Germantown Friends School
Students have school for six-and-a-half hours per day. There are a couple moments in the day that are meant to be set aside for free time. There is such a thing as non-academic learning, which is vital for a student’s growth. In our current schedule, we have a 30- to 45-minute lunch, study hall a couple of times a week, a ten-minute homeroom every day, and a 10- to 15-minute snack. In the end, this should come to one to two hours a day of free time. But somehow, this is not the case. This is because Mondays we have assembly, Tuesdays class goes until 12:35 so we only have 30 minutes for lunch, and on Wednesdays and Fridays the whole middle school participates in activities. While it might sound absurd, the only lunch not encroached upon is Thursday, the one lunch period where we are able to converse with our friends and eat our food instead of inhale it.
With short, 15-minute recesses and only one 45-minute lunch period per week, students have little time to socialize with friends. School is a place where students are supposed to have the opportunity to not only learn and grow academically, but to learn lessons regarding social and emotional intelligence, and communication skills. Without sufficient time to socialize, students will not have that opportunity.
Do we really need that 10 minutes before classes? Admittedly it can be nice, and from a scheduling standpoint it means people are late to homeroom and not first period, but in reality how beneficial is it? It’s fair to say not much. Access to advisors can be very helpful, but they are usually sought out individually. So what is the purpose of homeroom? Should we have it? The primary objective seems to be for attendance and daily announcements, but in reality it becomes a time for socializing. Given that there is scant time in the day for this, perhaps those 10 minutes from homeroom can be converted into longer snacks and lunches. Couldn’t those new PA systems be used for announcements?
Ah, Mondays. Every time I look forward to lunch I have to wait 20 minutes until I have an abridged lunch because Obviously Underprepared Seventh Grade Homeroom #7 has their assembly. The assembly is inevitably going to be a fake game show involving five people at the maximum, probably not me. Thanks to this useless presentation of the middle school’s vast knowledge of koala facts, lunch now starts 12:40 rather than at 12:20. However, I could live (albeit irritably) with this were the assemblies not completely and utterly devoid of value. We learn and experience nothing from Obviously Underprepared Seventh Grade Homeroom #7, as we will learn nothing from Obviously Underprepared Sixth Grade Homeroom #3 and Obviously Underprepared Eighth Grade Homeroom #9. We learn nothing about academics, life lessons, or even the minds of our peers.
Monday assemblies are unnecessary, and, in fact, counterproductive to learning. These 20 minutes (count them up—with 26 weeks, that’s 8 hours) could be used for engaging with our peers in a less constraining way and we could get to know the people that we all but live with, instead of twiddling our thumbs until we can bolt out of the Poley. This is a great school in almost all other aspects; we could bear to do away with this one.
Countless studies have shown that middle schoolers are not able to fully function at 8 a.m., yet school starts at 8:10 a.m. Sometimes, we even have tests first period, though studies show that students perform better when school starts later. Doctors and teachers advise students to get at least 8 to 9 hours of sleep per night, but this is impossible with the time we spend on homework, sports, and extracurricular activities. Add to that the fact that we are exhausted because school starts so early in the morning. Starting school around 9:30 a.m. would strengthen students’ abilities to concentrate, allow us to get more sleep, and allow our brains to develop at a faster pace. In the end, many students and teachers would be appreciative if school started later (even if it meant that school would go later).
The topic of study halls is highly debated among both the middle school students and the faculty. Study hall was built into the schedule so students would have a productive 45-minute period to work on their homework and speak with teachers a couple of times a week. This being said, study halls are often used for very different purposes. While some use study halls to do homework, others play games such as slither.io or watch Netflix.
This brings up the question of whether study halls should be mandatory. Having multiple 45-minute blocks where students are not completing work causes teachers to enforce rules more strictly. This somehow leads to kids not wanting to do their work even more.
One option is the to make study halls “frees.” Those who did not wish to do work would not have to and would not distract those who were working. Yet even with this solution there are problems; responsibility is required unless we want complete chaos. Despite these problems the Editorial Board believes this to be the best solution. Some restrictions would be necessary—a certain degree of responsibility and a recommendation or permission slip. The issue is complicated, but what is most important is that each factor is understood and then used to create a solution.
While we understand that the school may not add passing time to the schedule, we want teachers to understand that we can’t teleport to class. Teachers should be more understanding when we are late to class. Especially on days when we have classes on opposite sides of campus, it is unfair to lock students out of classrooms for being two minutes late.
Activities are one of the most enjoyable times of the week. Lunch is one of the most enjoyable times of the day. Yet somehow, combining the two just results in stress. Kids get to their activities late after rushing to wait in line to get their food. Group leaders can’t arrive on time; when at last everyone has arrived, no productive work is done because everyone is eating. As a result, sacrifices have to be made, and activities have to be shortened. In addition, most students arrive late to their subsequent class, resulting in frustration for the teachers.
So the solution? Have activities meet some other time. For example, have study halls be a choice. Every student can have two “electives” a week, replacing the time their study halls would normally be. Students can choose between study halls and activities, and everyone gets the most amount of work possible completed. Otherwise, it forces some kids to do activities which they do not want to (since the normal lunch option has been taken away). So, we must decide what is more important to us—less lunch and less productivity, or more flexible study halls?
The one-hour period
For the seventh grade, it means Project Time. For the eighth grade, it means being stuck in a classroom for 15 extra, pointless, laborious minutes. The reason school is organized into 45-minute periods is to help students focus on their work and interpret information in smaller, more digestible bits. Longer than that, and student performance will suffer. It’s just another useless fifteen minutes sitting in math or language class, while every student begs the teacher to leave fifteen minutes early. If the teacher doesn’t have anything planned, we are forced to sit in the class, not learning anything or doing anything productive.
There is seemingly no middle-school-related reason for this hour period to occur. Those fifteen minutes are taken out of our lunch period, which, for many of us, is already shortened by 15 minutes of waiting in line. This takes away almost all of our time to socialize, which is one of the most important things for a middle schooler to do after he or she has been trapped in a room learning all day. So, it doesn’t benefit the teachers, it doesn’t benefit the students, and it doesn’t teach anyone anything. The solution is simple: give us a normal lunch period, like we’re supposed to have every day anyway.
We hope that these criticisms may at least be heard and that with the creation of the new schedule some of our suggestions may be implemented. These are our views—what do you think? Give us your opinion in the poll below.