The average school day in America is seven hours. But, I think we can all agree, this year is far from average. The AISD’s plan for all six of its high schools is an A/B block schedule similar to years prior, but this year each class is 100 minutes long split into two 50 minute Asynchronous and Synchronous classes times. During the synchronous time, the student is to work on an assignment (or assignments) independently in preparation for the scheduled class asynchronous session, usually held on Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
This year I think we can all agree, our environment has drastically changed from years prior. Some students’ only workplace could be noisy, they could be having to watch younger siblings, completing housework, having to use slow wifi, etc. So, in my opinion, not everyone is set up with an equal opportunity to succeed. I am extremely lucky in the fact that I have a safe, quiet place to complete school each day. Although I think everyone needs to remember not everyone is set up with this luxury and opportunity.
My class load is that of an average student: I am in three AP/honor courses and five extracurriculars. In prior years, I would go to school for seven hours, then come home and work on homework for an hour or two. Although we are given 50 minutes to work on school work for each class, I think most students can agree, it usually takes longer than the given 50 minutes. Also, working on a computer every day is far less engaging. To put this idea into action, I decided to set a stopwatch every time I worked on schoolwork or was in a Zoom meeting for a week in order to see if we spent longer this year in school than in years prior.
My first A day class is Dual Credit US History. This class is mostly self-paced with either a video to watch or a few essays to write. We typically read the given textbook or watch an educational film during our scheduled class time and write some short essay answer questions proving we absorbed what we watched. This week in Dual Credit We had a movie to watch and four essay questions along with it. The movie was around three hours and the question took me half an hour.
My next Class is Newspaper. During this time we work on our stories and get together for a short Zoom meeting at the end of class. This class has been a blessing all year because Mrs. Regalado truly understands and values our time. This week I worked on my story and attended each Zoom for a total of around an hour.
My next class is Chorale Choir. This is the only class I attend in person at Martin. Each choir period I go up to school and rehearse with Chorale for our upcoming UIL competition. On top of our hour-long rehearsals each period, we are also given an assignment that either tests our sight reading skills or has us record a snippet of our song. Going to the choir and getting to rehearse with a choir, although in mask and six feet apart, brings a much-needed sense of normalcy.
My last A day class is AP English Language. This class is one of those that you work bell to bell and then some. The assignments don’t open until your scheduled time and sometimes even close once your class time ends. This week, we worked on an SAT Vocabulary slideshow, AP multiple-choice practices, timed essay writing, and small breakout room group assignments. Most of the time I can finish most of my work during class time with only about a half-hour of homework that night. Something unusual this week though was the addition of AP Super Saturday. This included attending lecture sessions focused on AP tests from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. In order to receive the extra credit, we had to attend all sessions with our camera on and take handwritten notes.
My First B day class started bright and early with a 7:45 a.m. Microsoft Teams meeting for AP Biology. This week we had a virtual lab, two lectures, and a journal assignment. We also are required to additionally take notes in our Biology Notebooks. I often take around 30 minutes of notes each class period, not including lecture notes from the live session. I typically can complete all of my assignments for biology in the given class time minus the note-taking.
My next B day class is Student Council Class Officers. We typically aim to get together on Zoom once every other week to discuss upcoming events. This year The Student Council class has not been able to be as involved as we normally are because, well, there is nothing to be involved in right now. We are hoping to be able to start planning more events as the end of the year approaches.
My next class is Public Speaking 2. This week we are writing and memorizing our original monologues as well as designing the costume we will wear when we perform these monologues. We also have weekly Zooms that typically last half an hour.
My final class for the day is Precalculus. This class is the only class that I feel we do the same thing each day. Each day we are responsible for watching and filling in video notes, working on homework assignments, attending a Zoom meeting, and completing a quiz or test. The homework assignments typically take me around an hour to two hours to complete and the quiz times range from 30 to 45 minutes. But on test days, be prepared to sit at your computer for a long while. This week when we had a test, and in addition to completing the two-hour test, I also had to watch a Zoom meeting and finish a homework assignment. All of these tasks took me almost 3.5 hours.
School took me around 24 hours in total this week, for an average of about five hours a day. I do feel this time varies each week. Sometimes I feel I can barely breathe during the school day, other times I feel I can relax and enjoy my day.
Last year our school day was from 7:30 to 3, meaning we were at Martin for six and half hours. But, one of those hours was lunch, half an hour in passing periods, not to mention the few minutes it takes in each class to get everyone settled in.
Even though this school year we might have a “shorter” time spent on school, this year has no fluff. Before, school was filled with group projects, pep rallies, class discussions, etc. This year I feel we are more assignment and lecture-based learning without the hands-on aspect, which can make each day feel longer than the school has felt in the past.
Living through these times I will say I have strengthened my “adult life” skills. In years prior, I would rarely have to email a teacher with a question. This year, it is our only mode of communication. We had to learn to be our own I.T. support and iron out any technology troubles we have during the day. We have also had to learn discipline. A teacher wasn’t sitting and watching you during the day to make you stay on task and finish your assignment promptly. So although this school year, and year in general, is not what we have hoped or even foreseen coming, I feel we have not only grown as students but as problem solvers as well.