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Reflecting Back on the School Year: New Bell Schedule

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A year after its launch, the new bell schedule has integrated well into ‘Iolani faculty and students’ schedules. Today, finding a student who yearns for the bygone eight-period days is as rare as finding a Trump supporter at `Iolani. Every eight-period day is now met with groans from the student body. After all, doesn’t this new schedule bring us longer passing periods with the malfunctioning bells? Jokes aside, there seems to be a common consensus about the schedule: the changes are beneficial. Even teachers, who were disturbed by the cuts made to course material have reached the conclusion that, for now, the trade off to decrease student stress has been worth it.

“I think it [the new bell schedule] has lowered everybody’s stress levels a huge amount,” said English department head Dr. Peter Webb.  “It gives everybody more time to think, and more of a sense of where they are during the day.”

Despite fears surrounding the apparent decrease in class time and homework, most teachers managed to adapt without much issue. “Let me just say, from a personal standpoint, I really like the new schedule,” says AP physics teacher Mr. Frederick Heyler. ”It allows more time to explore things in depth.” Mr. Heyler also found that the schedule improves efficiency. “The total amount of class time is about the same.  For me, I just had to reconfigure what I covered on what days,” said Heyler. “I also find it more efficient, as you don’t have to start and stop classes so many times.”  

Mrs. Melanie Pfingsten, head of the history department saw a great opportunity as she stepped up to the challenge. “It was a chance for me to ask myself what really is important about this course. I am not convinced that I always made the right choices; it was my first time through AP U.S. History with the new schedule and there are some things I would change if I taught APUSH next year.  Still, overall, I think the changes to the classes — and the deep reflection I had to do to make those changes — definitely resulted in a better course and a quality student experience.”

Although teachers may have weathered the storm of changes, how have the students adjusted?

“I think it’s working out [for the students],” says Precalculus Honors and Trigonomy teacher Mr. Michael Park. “I’ve noticed that, in the first semester, students would get zoned out a lot due to the longer periods, but in the second semester, they didn’t do so as much.”  

Aside from just noticing the surprisingly good attention span of Iolani students, teachers also noticed a dramatic decrease in the stress levels of students thanks to the new schedule.

“I don’t know if it’s better in terms of learning,” says Mr. Park, ”but it’s better in terms of student stress.“

Despite less stressed students, there’s always the big question of how the new schedule affects student learning. As Mr. Park mentioned earlier, it may not. Dr. Webb, however, holds a different perspective. “It’s been challenging for me as a teacher because I have taught the old schedule for 25 years. It’s also important to keep in mind that the new schedule involved a 30% cut in homework, and so, for an English class, that means you have to reduce the reading and writing by 30% and there are some really big choices that have to be made there. So I’m worried that we’re going to have people who, since we are covering less, will know less.”

This may present a problem later down the road. If `Iolani, a school known for its academic rigor were to fall below other schools such as Punahou on standardized tests due to a schedule change, it could pose a serious challenge for the school’s reputation. However, when viewing this potential outcome, what must be kept in mind is that the new schedule only changes how much material is taught. So while the new schedule may only influence the school to a slight degree, it may not have been as favorable as many previously thought.  

However, Mrs. Pfingsten believes differently. “I think the longer class periods have allowed teachers to explore new instructional strategies with students that just didn’t work in 41- to 43-minute periods,” said Mrs. Pfingsten,”I certainly do not speak for every history teacher in my department, but I do believe that the longer class periods serve many of our goals in terms of the kinds of history classroom experiences we want students to have.”

If ‘Iolani is going to stick with the new schedule, some modifications can be made in order to further perfect the schedule. Multiple teachers, like Mrs. Pfingsten, have thoughts on how to change the schedule. “I would have fewer E/F days and more 55-minute period days. I like to have some E/F days to do special things like simulations and roundtable discussion, but I would trade some in to have a few more class periods.” Dr. Webb voices a similar opinion. “When you look at Family Fair, and you look at AP weeks, and you start having extended days during those AP weeks when you’re missing half your students, it’s not fair to the kids who are missing class, and it’s not fair to the kids who aren’t missing class.”

After one year, the schedule seems beneficial in terms of student stress, but the question now under consideration is, was it worth it? As an educational institution know for teaching a variety of great material, is it a wise choice to possibly endanger what may be the biggest selling point that `Iolani has by cutting the learning material of classes? For now, it seems the students think so, and the faculty are also finding this new schedule desireable.

However, nothing has been finalized. “Obviously, this is the first year that we have run this schedule, so of course we are going to tweak it,” said Dr. Webb. That just means more adjustments for everyone. Sure, people who believe the schedule is fine as is may not like it, but as Mr. Heyler says, “Either way, you just make it work.” Who knows, maybe next year, we may even revert to the infamous old schedule(we actually won’t be). Only time will tell, as we gather the results from this year and reexamine the impact of such a momentous change.

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Reflecting Back on the School Year: New Bell Schedule