The minutes add up

photo: Jacob Yarborough Photography/ Flickr.com

Story by Daniel Friedman

I saw a newsletter from Paradise Valley School District today about how they are going to add time to the school day. Ten minutes to the high school day and 30 minutes to the elementary school day. Yes, you read that correctly, ten minutes to the high school day. Not sure what that ten minutes will add to the learning environment, aside from not stealing time from an academic period for announcements, or they could 1.67 minutes to every period. That’d be 100 seconds.

The thirty minutes added to an elementary school day is a chunk of time teachers can use. Maybe it’s for recess in the middle of the day. Maybe it’s more time to drill on the AIMS test content. I hope they use it for recess, young kids don’t benefit from more seat time. Recess calms the body and the mind.

I taught in the public schools for ten years. I always found that much of the school day was wasted on behavior management or logistics related to administering a large group. Passing stuff out, collecting things, explaining how to act in the hallways, reminding kids to be quiet, on time, faster, slower or more attentive. In truth, the school day could be half as long. Home schooled kids need far less time out of their day for school.

I sent an email to the Paradise Valley School District governing board asking what they are doing with the 10 extra minutes in the high schools. I know changing the work day is complicated. Teachers have contracts that specify how many hours they work and how much they get paid for those hours. A district can’t just add hours to a contract for the same pay. Changing the school day can get expensive.

When I taught in middle school, the most efficient days were days when the classes were shortened to 25 minutes for some special event. The students knew there wasn’t much time and they found the quick classes more endurable than the hour- long sessions. They were more attentive. More seat time, or school time is not necessarily better.

When I hear back from the PV district I’ll update this post.

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