With such long periods in block scheduling, teachers work hard to make sure that there is no minute wasted.
The block schedule was introduced to Keller ISD at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. The 90 minute block classes that meet every other day were implemented in response to the rapid student population growth Keller faces.
The thought process behind planning a 90 minute class is somewhat tedious. Teachers needed to think of a way to meet all of the required Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), which are standards of what must be taught in the classroom set by the state. Likewise, teachers must think of a way to keep a group of at least 20 teenagers who sometimes just don’t want to be there engaged for over an hour.
“90 minute classes offer a good opportunity for some subjects like science and even some of the stuff we do in journalism fits well into 90 minutes. Having to also deal with 45 minute classes makes it difficult when we want to keep everyone on the same page,” commented journalism teacher Greg Janda.
There are drawbacks to both the 90 minute classes and 45 minute classes. With students not seeing some of their teachers everyday, it can be difficult to make sure the teacher isn’t getting one class too far ahead of the others. On the contrary, 45 minute classes have the added benefit of meeting together everyday and building a deeper student teacher relationship.
“I like that the classes meet everyday allow [us teachers] to build a relationship with students to figure out who they are because you see them day after day,” Janda said. “However, it’s a bit difficult because it’s cut up between taking attendance, dismissal or students getting there late. The instructional time feels less even though it ends up equaling the same amount.”
When the idea of the block schedule was proposed, many teachers were worried that it would affect student performance across the board because the instruction was not drilled into their brains everyday and there would be even more time for students to forget the information due to factors such as absences and the weekend.
“I think it depends on the student performance one is trying to look for. For tests, traditional quizzes, and things like that, students have worked really well in my block schedule classes. I think writing everyday is better than every other day,” said Janda.
Principal Donnie Bartlett has popularized the phrase, “bell to bell” throughout Timber Creek. Bartlett encourages teachers to make the best use of their time in the classroom, whether it be instruction or building a deeper student teacher relationship. The expectation set is that teachers are using all the time provided for them wisely rather than wasting it.
“Bell to bell is a great target. I think all teachers should be looking to teach bell to bell. The reality of the situation is more complex especially for first and fifth period, which have some issues with timing. Teaching bell to bell makes a whole lot of sense for our 90 minute classes as an educator. The reality of the situation just stands in the way sometime of the ultimate goal,” Janda continued.
The main goal with block scheduling is to make sure that students are not in over crowded classrooms and still receive their personal one-on-one instruction time if need be. Block scheduling allows teachers to do more hands on lessons, but with the drawback that they’re not meeting everyday. Some subjects with the block scheduling work better, however some deter teachers from teaching the best lesson possible.
“I think everyday 45 minute classes are more consistent for [writing], however I feel that 90 minute classes have an added benefit for things like Timber Creek Television, doing a lab in a science class or a band period,” Janda said. “Those things make a lot of sense. It does put pressure on us as educators to make sure we don’t have an off day on a 90 minute block day because we will lose so much time.”