Five Steps to a Better Stuy

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When we heard last summer that each school day would be five periods instead of the usual 10, even the most hardcore students feared the worst. Was Stuyvesant easing up? Giving kids two days to do homework? Allowing students to sleep long enough to experience basic functionality the next day? The plan seemed to be the antithesis of the brink-of-collapse academic rigor that gives Stuyvesant its hallowed name.

But Stuyvesant, in all its excellence, has not collapsed or crumbled during this pandemic. It has simply changed and, in some ways, changed for the better. When students return in the fall (presumably to our usual, 1-10 schedule), here are some of these changes from remote learning to keep for good.

Later Start Time

One of the most appealing aspects of remote learning has been the later start time. The new 9:10 a.m. start time, rather than the traditional 8:00 a.m. start time, has provided students with an extra hour and 10 minutes every day to sleep, commute, or eat. This extra hour has also provided more flexibility for students to ease into first period, especially for remote learners who no longer face the issue of chaotic commutes. While a 9:00 a.m. start time may be too extreme in combination with the ten-period, in-person schedule, a 30 to 40-minute push could optimize students’ health and readiness to learn for the next school year. It would be especially helpful for the current freshmen who have never experienced Stuyvesant’s rigorous schedule in their transition to acclimate to a new environment. With the drastic shift from remote to in-person learning, a later start time would aid in the transition back to in-person learning after having spent three semesters online.

Longer Passing Periods

The 1-5 schedule provided a 10-minute break between periods. As sitting through 55 minutes of online class can be exhausting, these extended breaks provided some much-needed time to rest and recharge before our next class. Upon returning in person, extending the passing periods can be equally beneficial. Students often struggled racing up eight, nine, or even 10 flights of stairs in under five minutes to make it to their next class on time. With just a bit more time, students can arrive at their classes on time more easily. Students could also go to their locker or the bathroom, briefly interact with friends, or grab a quick snack before class, reducing the stress often accompanied by rushing to the next class.

More Time to Do Homework

Another benefit of the 1-5 schedule was having two days to complete homework assignments for each class. Rather than rushing homework the night before, students are able to digest the information learned in class more thoroughly and complete assignments more thoughtfully.

Though a strict two-day homework deadline may not be possible for all teachers to implement next year, more time for projects and homework in general could help ease the stress (and perfunctory work) caused by rushed deadlines. One way to do so is to assign homework in advance, allowing students to complete assignments at a more comfortable and thoughtful pace.

For classes that rely heavily on reading, most notably English and history courses, adopting this two-day deadline could involve assigning readings in advance. This would allow students to allocate appropriate time to complete these readings without feeling the anxiety of completing them at the last minute; outlining homework ahead of time enables students to complete work on weekends or free periods, thus, lessening their workload during the week. In courses where homework acts as a reinforcement of the lesson, homework can be assigned every other day to span the content of two class periods instead of one. With this system, students would be able to practice the same number of concepts while accommodating personal time constraints.

Required Office Hours

During remote learning, the school also implemented a policy of mandated office hours after school. With an extra 20-minute after school, students could drop by for a quick question regardless of their schedules. Traditionally, teachers could hold office hours for two of their 10 periods, but there were no mandated office hours after school. Though teachers could usually make themselves available after school upon request, there was little consistency in terms of meeting times. If a student didn’t have a free period or lunch during his or her teacher’s office hours, then the student would be unable to meet up with the teacher. Even if office hours are not held every day, providing students easier access to teachers is vital in helping them learn the material and answer remaining questions from class.

More Online Resources

Teachers’ use of online resources has helped students enormously in keeping track of their work. With individual Google Classrooms for all classes, it was far simpler to track assigned work with its clear due dates and calendar feature in comparison to in-person learning. Additionally, more teachers started using online services such as AP Classroom or Desmos, which largely improved students’ understanding of the material and made class more interactive. Once in-person schooling restarts, consistently posting assignments on Google Classroom and incorporating online resources into lessons would enhance both the teachers’ and students’ experience.

For far too long, the Stuyvesant name has been used to warrant unreasonable amounts of work and pressure. In the name of “rigor,” students are assigned a copious number of assignments, resulting in a lack of sleep, poor mental health, and high levels of stress. While a rigorous environment has long been the hallmark of Stuyvesant, rigorous learning is often conflated with overworking students. If there is anything remote learning has taught us, it is that quality takes precedence over quantity. More than anything, the administration should recognize students’ experiences both on and offline to better the Stuyvesant school day.

Those at Stuyvesant who take pleasure in the ceaseless grind have nothing to fear. Stuyvesant must and will remain as rigorous as it has always been. Yet there is a chance in this pandemic for Stuyvesant to become better. If a pandemic does anything good for anybody, it is this: after a period of sickness, the body returns to what it was before. But stronger.