The path to awesome

Posted by Brent Bell - 02 February, 2013

When I first moved to Huntsville, I was intrigued by the number of people who displayed their love of gold (AU) on their license plates. It was only after the football season started that I realized these were Auburn fans and only perhaps, but not necessarily, fans of gold as well.

Why mention this? It is a simple example of knowing a fact, the symbol for gold is AU, but not being able to use the information correctly until there was context. Bringing meaning to content, supporting a point of view, reading critically, working with others, and communicating effectively allow us to bring meaning to our learning and our lives. Being able to better provide this in our learning environment was a goal for the School as we redesigned our schedule and as we seek to most effectively assess student learning.

On Tuesday during Community Time we introduced our new daily schedule and the beginning of “our path to awesome.”


Personally, I love Community Time and the opportunity for the entire Upper School community, students and adults, to spend time together. Tuesday was especially important because the daily schedule defines, more than anything, else our time together.

Almost immediately, we got off to a great start. After presenting the the proposed 9th grade schedule for 2013-2014, with fewer classes per day meeting in longer blocks in an 8-day cycle, I asked the students to text in their votes to say which schedule they preferred. An overwhelming majority liked the proposed 9th grade schedule for 2013-2014 more than they liked the current one. (Author’s note - they may have also liked getting to use their cell phones to answer the question.)

The most significant differences in our schedule for next year have to deal with time. The length of a class period, the number of times a class meets, the numbers of classes that meet on any given day, the length of the school day and the amount of uninterrupted time outside of class that a student has during a school day will all change.

Longer class periods with fewer transitions during a day provide opportunity for deeper engagement with the material, the opportunity to commit more fully to learning, and the chance for students to guide and develop their thinking. Teachers and students both must commit fully to the learning environment, as one faculty member has noted, “You can’t fake your way through a 75-minute class period.”

Each day, a student will have no more than five classes. On most days, they will have fewer. When looking at the proposed schedule above, read two of the letter blocks as periods for frees and labs. As a result, there should be more opportunities during the day to use time wisely for extra help, out of class work or exercise. (Author’s note #2 – I am amazed at how some can waste a 45-minute free period, I sure hope they won’t waste a 60- or 75-minute one.) In-season athletes will have opportunities to lift weights during the day when free from classes.

Fewer classes meeting each day, means that students can prepare more purposefully and deeply for those classes that they do have. At the same time, less to prepare for will also mean less need to rush and get things done simply for the sake of completion. We believe that all of these factors will help us maintain our culture of high expectations while making the day just a little less stressful.

Each day we have the pleasure, and the challenge, of working with teenagers. Randolph is fortunate to be full of dedicated, hard working, and multitalented students. We must do our best to support them in all of their endeavors. To this end, we will end the school day in the Upper School at 3:10 PM rather than 3:30 PM. We will also start school each Wednesday at 9:30 AM. This “late start” day was chosen purposefully because Tuesday afternoon and evening is our busiest time for extracurricular activities. (Author’s note #3 - I will be most happy to hear on Wednesday morning that a student is feeling more rested or that they had the chance to have breakfast with their mom or dad).

I hope you will talk a few minutes to watch the “Pep Talk” above. It challenges us to be our very best. We believe that this schedule challenges all of us in the Upper School to be our very best. It is our framework for helping Randolph students prepare for their future, in college and beyond.

To learn more please join us at 6:30 PM (for rising 9th grade parents) or at 7:30 PM (for rising 10th to 12th grade parents), this Wednesday, February 6, in the Thurber Arts Center.

Topics: Academics, Arts, Athletics, community, curriculum, schedule, strategic plan, teachers, Upper School

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