The Updated Schedule: New and Improved?
The start of the new school year has brought many changes for the students and teachers at Derryfield, most notably, the new schedule. The new schedule brings longer class periods, alternating days for class meetings, an hour delayed opening every Wednesday, the new LEAD program (Leadership, Ethics and Development), Visual Foundations, Computer Science, and Exploration Block classes, and the addition of daily academic blocks. Members of Lamplighter were dispatched throughout Derryfield to interview students and faculty to gain insight on the reception of the new schedule.
The most drastic schedule change has been the longer class periods; classes have gone from 50 minutes in prior years, to 75 minutes now. When the new schedule was first revealed at the end of the 2018-2019 school year, many students were especially worried about staying focused throughout the longer class periods. However, student and teacher comments about the longer class periods have been primarily positive.
Senior Caroline Hines shared, “I think personally for me, since I really like all of the classes I’m taking, it doesn’t seem too long for me, but I can understand how if someone, who say, doesn’t like one class in particular could think of it as being too long or boring.”
Most of the teachers and students we reached out to were in agreement on the new length of the classes. “I really like the longer classes for sure so far, like as a science teacher I think it’s awesome to be able to fit more of a lab, and kind of talk more about it after we finish it,” Ms. Llewelyn added. Overall, teachers like the longer class periods because they allow for deeper classroom discussions, but students’ opinions vary based on the class.
Senior Olivia Bollengier shared with Lamplighter staff, “Part of it [the new schedule] is frustrating because it’s our senior year, and to change the schedule so drastically, it feels like I’m new again.”
As a result of the longer class periods, students now have four classes a day, and classes meet every other day.
Some teachers find this break between classes helpful, with Dr. Gauthier saying, “ [A] positive is having [classes] every other day. Similar to college where you are not gonna see the professor everyday. You have the ability to pause or reflect on the material and how it’s going.” Although the time between classes provides a time for reflection, some feel that it makes the classes feel choppy and disconnected.
Senior Olivia Bollengier spoke to this, saying, “I don’t like not seeing my teachers every day … If I have questions I have to wait until I see them again, or try to schedule a free period.” Likewise, student feedback has shown that many students feel teachers are assigning two nights of homework after one class period. Students recently took a survey about the new schedule, and responses showed that 50% of students felt that the homework load was either too much or sometimes too much.
The addition of the new LEAD program this year is meant to build a sense of community and balance among one’s peers. The freshman program focuses on the idea of identity, sophomore year targets belonging, juniors discuss their influence on the community, while seniors center their classes around purpose and transference to their next stage of life. In response to the aforementioned survey, 50% of students said that LEAD classes were only okay overall, while 28% rated it great or amazing. The Visual Foundations and Computer Science classes aim to provide students with basic technological knowledge to help them in college and beyond. Finally, the Exploration block’s objective is to allow students to explore their interests outside the set academic courses, and to go outside their comfort zones. Out of all the students who responded to the survey, an overwhelming 73% voted that the Exploration block was amazing or great.
The last school year had one academic block per week, which made it difficult for students to meet with all their teachers. The new schedule implements an academic block everyday, which allows students more time to meet with teachers and have better one-on-one conversations. The goal of the academic blocks is to give students and teachers a specific time to connect, and it could also be a time to do homework. Even with the addition of the academic block, not everyone has used it to their advantage.
Science teacher Ms. Llewelyn shared her observation that “students I have asked to see during academic block and still have not yet seen them. I think it goes both ways, and that was the same as last year.”
However, Mrs. Russell believes that because students “only have twenty five minutes for extra help, so knowing that they come with more specific questions.” Academic blocks seem to be helping students, as long as they use them.
One of the students, new sophomore MacKenzie McCarthy, who has been using the academic blocks, said, “It [is] really helpful to have time to talk to my teachers and not during my free period.” Overall, this addition to the schedule seems to be helping students who choose to use this new addition to the schedule.
The general consensus from the student survey shows that longer classes provide more opportunities to explore topics in depth, but teachers are assigning more than one night’s worth of homework due to more time between classes. Also, students feel LEAD, Visual Foundations, and Computer Science are unproductive and without a direct objective. The changes at Derryfield have made for an interesting start for the school year, predominantly a good start, shown by 57% of the student body opining that the start of their year was amazing or great. However, it is only October, as the year goes on, there will be more to come with the opinions of teachers and students.
Located in Manchester, NH, The Derryfield School is a private day school for grades 6-12. Students benefit from a challenging academic program, fine and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.