New Year, New Schedule

Lakeside’s current schedule is probably the best anyone has yet experienced, but that’s not as good as it sounds. In the same stroke, it has invigorated us all, simplifying the many events we’re subjected to in our daily lives and responding amply to my concerns as voiced in my article from the September issue. Yet, it has fostered an environment of ad-hoc mental math, lopsided timetables, and constant complaint. Seriously: there’s been a lot of complaining. Per my usual style, I’ll try to offer some discursive analysis of the new schedule. As my very first line makes clear, its merits outweigh its demerits—though the situation is complex. Like many things in life, the new schedule (technically, and henceforth, the AB Model) is a double-edged sword. Also, like any topic of Lakeside life, it has ardent defenders and critics alike. I’ve never tried to alienate anyone by giving my opinions, and now that I have a column all my own, I have to keep that up (how lame, right?)—so I’ll meander, discussing the good and the bad all at once.

The new schedule is a double-edged sword.

To begin with an approachable question: how about class periods? They’re situated fairly well, with ample passing periods. I’m a big fan of the later start (at 8:30am), though it does come with some strings attached, which I’ll talk about soon. The actual times (as in, clock times) when classes begin and end are somewhat irregular, and there are practically no “clean” times during the day, which many students have told me has made them adopt an ordinal system to determine where they need to be. That is to say, everything is relative: “my free ends in 40—38, really—minutes, at which time I need to start on the way to Bliss”. The effect is obviously disorienting. It even has ripples, though they’re small: once you’ve lost certainty in what time you need to be somewhere, you also lose certainty in that somewhere. The year has just started, but I already feel like most of my classmates, and definitely I, are “running on autopilot” in getting to our classes. I know the general area of all of my classes, but could I tell you room names? Especially for my advisory? Not a chance.

Now, none of that is a death blow to the current schedule. Another distinguishing feature of it is the long block. We’ve had long blocks at Lakeside for years, but I genuinely believe they’ve never had such a prominent and foundational position as they do now. Gone are cram days, tossed into the dumpster of history. There’s no stress in variation, which can sometimes feel stifling but right now I just consider a welcome change. So long as your teachers give you breaks—and it seems like many have gotten better about this lately—you can reap the benefits of more time, like greater breadth and depth of discussion and even unique types of activities. Since no one has to worry about losing time to the “blurred edges” of a Fast & Furious-styled schedule, there’s a chance for a person to take a breath and redirect their attention almost completely to the topic at hand. While before I had thought I’d lose a lot of productivity during long blocks to boredom, I realize now that pretty much every class I’ve been in at Lakeside has been consistently engaging. If you’re an underclassman and/or don’t have much choice in what courses you take, I can understand feeling crushed by the 70-minute scale of each period. Still, it’s more than possible to set that aside. And if you can’t, you’ll probably be happy to know: the main reason periods can afford to be so long is because there are so few of them per week.

Since no one has to worry about losing time to the “blurred edges” of a Fast & Furious-styled schedule, there’s a chance for a person to take a breath and redirect their attention almost completely to the topic at hand.

I call it “the flip-flop effect”. It’s the barely jarring shift, from week to week, of which day happens thrice versus twice. Everyone has their preferences; de gustibus. But regardless of any of that, there are some things I want to note. First of all, it’s a good way to naturally introduce variety where there’d otherwise be none. It’s not much, especially from the perspective of someone living one day at a time (which I would hope we all do). But it’s something! The story here isn’t all positive, though. There are courses where consistency in the number of meetings is key: language (just ask Mr. Searl) and hard sciences (e.g. Engineering, as a friend told me) first and foremost. And because it’s variable, the flip-flop effect probably does do some small harm to overall retention. This is especially true of classes where frequency is important, since having two meetings in one week is hardly anything! That’s basically two hours a week spent learning something for which an hour a day might be recommended. Speaking of an hour a day…can I hear a “what what” for flex time? Er…Activity Period? I don’t even know what to call it, but I’m talking about the time before the last period of the day.

Let me just ask: what’s the exact point of it? I would be fine with taking the 50 minutes to start the school day later, with advisories and assemblies hamfisted in some other way. One flex day per week is taken up by assemblies (which already run into the next period anyway, compounding the feeling that the last period of the day is way too separate from every other period), and two flex days per week are taken up by advisory. This means that, for two days of the week, there’s not enough time after advisory to run a club (leaving them all to vie for Tuesday), there’s no incentive to remain in advisory unless something special is happening, and the student body is cheated out of two blocks of time. These are blocks of time that have been advertised as flexible. Clearly they’re not entirely flexible. 

Still, the whole schedule, as a lovable oaf, might just make up for that and everything else. Class periods are times of so much greater academic exploration. There’s elegant built-in variation thanks to the flip-flop effect. Most of all: people seem to be getting on fine. When it comes to those of us who are, as I’ve said, living this schedule day by day—isn’t that what matters most?