Saturday, February 24, 2007

Longer School Day

The longer school day debate has started up again. This article references the Knowledge is Power Program (known as KIPP) - which has schools going from 7:30 am - 5:00 pm Monday through Friday and sometimes on Saturdays. Teachers are varied in their opinions on longer school days. I think it's too much.

I think it's too much for students - being at school for almost 50 hours a week plus some Saturdays!?! Maybe if they don't have homework, I don't know. It seems like an awful lot to me. I don't even think adults should be at work that many hours a week! It would be WAY too much for me as a teacher. You have to remember that teachers have to prepare for every hour that they teach. My time sheet says I work 30 hours a week. More accurately, I teach 30 hours a week. That only includes 2 hours a week of prep time. There's a lot more that goes into teaching - preparing, grading, worrying about the kids, cleaning up because there aren't enough janitors, buying stuff... and I'm exhausted. I don't know how I'd do 50 hours a week.

As far as if it's beneficial to the kids - I'm not sure. I'm honestly having trouble thinking past if it's practical. It could be beneficial - there's something to be said for more hours of practice, more electives, more hours of instruction. But we also have to remember that, like teachers, kids are people. And people aren't always more productive with more hours. At some point, all of us become tired, and our productivity (or learning) succumbs to fatigue.

We have full-day kindergarten now, when kindergarten used to be about three hours long. Maybe it was four hours; I can't exactly remember, because I never taught it. The kindergarten teachers got the rest of the day for preparation, which we were all jealous of, but only on the surface. We actually all understood that not only did it take WAY more preparation to be a kindergarten teacher than to teach older kids - they can't cut or write anything, so you have to get everything ready for them - but that the kindergarten teachers couldn't leave their kids long enough to go to the bathroom. They had to be with them every second, including during recess and lunch.

Now the kindergarten teaches get the same prep periods as the rest of us, and the kids stay all day. I haven't watched a kindergarten class yet, but the one thing that every teacher says is that it's too long for the little ones. They put their heads down and fall asleep, they fall asleep with crayons in their hands, they fall asleep on top of their books. There's no nap time scheduled in this, because there's no time - the standards are higher, the stakes are higher, and the pressure on teachers and children is higher. I am not against high expectations, but people are not machines, and we all get tired when we have too much pressure. Maybe if the people making the high-stakes tests, the longer school days, and the higher standards could see the five-year olds falling asleep on their books, they might think differently.


mommm said...

I was shocked when our neighbor's daughter was "recommended" for summer school, because she hadn't mastered reading after

Didn't we learn to read in 1st grade? For centuries?

Remember when K. went from 9-12:30 including circle time and snack?

And it was fun learning the letters and numbers. A...ah, ah was for apple. B...b, b was for bee.

Remember learning to wait in lines, learning songs and sharing?

How about all those handprint projects and making ornaments out of cinnamon sticks?

With global warming, AIDS, nuclear threats and war filling children's consciousness, how about giving the little ones a break!

Jessica said...

Actually, I have experience with this and I really like the idea, so long as it's not a full day of school.

The private school my son went to preK-3 as well as friends' private schools all have "extended day" options which is incredibly handy for parents (particularly single parents or two-earner families), and also is the time where kids can hang out and have supervised play -- and maybe one or two optional structured activities (piano lessons, sports) or semi-structured (arts & crafts areas, playground time).

My son felt like school was "home" because of this. In a few cases, the relationship with after-school teachers carried through when they became full time teachers (often the after-school people were in school getting their certificate). That also gave the school a really good look at the prospective new teachers - they had a lot of team teaching also in the classroom that I thought was great and obviously helpful for the teachers.

Because there was an abrupt "school's out!" change, and then the staff changed to the after-school staff and snacks were brought in and all that, it really felt different. I also think this helped the kids feel generally comfortable in the classrooms because they also played there, built up friendships because the dynamics were different in the afternoon, and got them used to the idea that the same space might be used for work or play -- handy when that space is their room and it's homework!

So long as it's not 7:30-5pm of structured time, I think it's great.

Jessica said...

>There's no nap time scheduled in this, because there's no time

Yes, well, that's idiotic. Many kids don't need naps or even do much better without them, but plenty of kids need to nap at age 5.

>Maybe if the people making the high-stakes tests, the longer school days, and the higher standards could see the five-year olds falling asleep on their books, they might think differently.

I'm guessing, but I think they would respond with denial. In that case, either something's wrong (with the kids, their parents or the teacher), or they'd just be flabbergasted... and probably irritatedly declare that it was just a small detail, an oversight if you will.

Bronwyn said...

I can see how if it's done well, it would be great, especially for working parents. I guess I don't trust our district to do it well! Too much cynicism from working in Oakland too long, maybe! I'm glad it worked so well for your son though, and that the school did it well.