Welcome to the fall of 2016! As darkness descends earlier in the evening and the nights turn colder, I am reminded that all of New England will be awash in gorgeous fall colors soon. As we adjust to the change in temperatures and daylight, the academic year will begin to emerge in its own varying shades: recognition that decisions to sustain a balanced course load are helpful; awareness that the relationship-building and content review that began with the start of school will shift toward a deeper dive into curricula; reduced anxiety as students rekindle friendships and form new ones; and increasing familiarity with daily life at LHS. For most students and families, all of these ‘shades’ of school life occur at some point, albeit at varying times. No matter when you and your student(s) begin to notice the highlighted shifts, please remember that we are here to support areas of accomplishment and growth.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of your students for the amazing individual and collective attitude the student body displayed in the month of September. It is a monumental task to shift to flexible support/enrichment blocks in which every student must be present and engaged, yet we were able to employ a measured and purposeful approach to I Block because we had the full cooperation of our faculty and students. As the implementation unfolds, it is important that everyone not be in a rush - that we continue to approach the scheduling process and I Block implementation slowly. In doing so, we will be able to receive feedback along the way and make adjustments in increments.
I am incredibly excited about this change in school culture. If we take our time and listen carefully to the needs of students and faculty, I believe these flexible blocks have the potential to ease unhealthy stress and anxiety. Most importantly, they provide time during the school week for students to complete work, meet with educators, and manage personal time. We had our first scheduled I Block last week, and I would like to highlight several positive aspects I observed:
- We preserved instructional time by conducting various drills and training during I Block.
- The scheduling software worked well.
- Students had 3 forty-five minute chunks of time to complete class work and homework.
- In my scheduled I Blocks, students worked on a variety of subjects and spontaneously reviewed for assessments with peers.
- Students shared with me the ways in which they have started to think about how best to use study halls/free blocks and I Block to complete academic work.
- One student scheduled time in the Fitness Center and told me that it saved him 2 hours of time when he got home (he didn’t have to take the bus to the gym, work out, and return on the bus).
- Students are beginning to recognize the goals of I Block and to share ideas for its use.
We recognize that the I Block scheduling system is not perfect – that there will continue to be bumps along the way. Having said that, the first week of scheduling did not contain a large number of educator requests to meet with students (an educator request takes priority over a student request). As the volume of educator requests increases, we will see many of the bumps ironed out and the large number of students placed in common Guided Learning spaces will diminish. (Guided Learning refers to a space in which students must be actively doing work, studying, or reading. Students can read for academic purposes or for pleasure.)
What can you do to support this culture shift? 1) Be patient. The implementation of I Block is in direct response to conversations the school and community are having about the time students need to complete work. (It was a thrill to see so many students completing work last week during the school day!) 2) Talk with your student(s) about time management. Encourage thought, appropriate decisions, and self-advocacy by asking: “What do you have coming up this week? How will you use your study halls? I Block? Free time? What teachers (or educators) do you need to see? Don’t forget to ask them to schedule you for I Block.” 3) Celebrate positive choices. If you notice that your student is getting more done during the week, celebrate! 4) Do not allow your student(s) to add something else to his or her schedule because work is completed during I Block. It is my hope that work completion during the week will lead to increased family time and more sleep for our students.
As the year unfolds and the seasons come-and-go, I Block will take on various forms. We will seek feedback along the way, so please be on the lookout for brief surveys that will be posted. We look forward to students, faculty, and parents/guardians bringing forward ideas that help us to shape this critical culture shift.