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.