Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Four Day Week

This is something I've heard is happening, especially in some rural districts...schools are shifting to longer days for four days of the week, and then not having school on the fifth day (typically, Friday).

The stated reason is to save the districts money on things like transportation, heating, cooling, and electricity.

(However, I wonder about those last three - from what I've read, teachers are still told to treat that fifth day as a "prep day," and in some districts they provide "tutoring" - which may be code for "the parents complained so much about having to provide childcare on Fridays")

I don't know. I have mixed feelings about this. (My university does a four-day week in the summer, so I've experienced it, at least at the college level.

There are some good things:
1. You have more class time in a given day - you can spend more time doing certain things. For example, I have double-length labs in the summer, which means I can do bigger and better field trips.

2. It's possible students will forget less with a more-intensive schedule. I always liked taking summer classes because I felt like I really learned the stuff, because it was go-go-go all the time.

3. It does provide a bit of extra flexibility for the instructors...having Fridays off in the summer means that if I want to, I can do the grocery shopping or errands for the week on Friday morning, when the stores are less crowded. Or it's a lot easier to make doctor/dentist appointments when you know you have one entire day free.

There are also downsides:

1. For families with grade-school-age children, if both parents work (or if it's a single-parent household), the children wind up unsupervised for an entire weekday. Or the parents have to shell out for extra childcare. (Which I suspect is why some schools are talking about Friday "tutoring" sessions...and I have to admit, if I were a teacher? And I wasn't being paid for Fridays, but was told to come in and "tutor," I would not be very happy.)

2. It can be an exhausting schedule. I find summer teaching challenging because fitting all my prep and planning and ten hours of office hours into a four-day week means I have to put in longer days.

3. If they are trying to save electricity and cooling or heating, they may turn off climate control on Fridays. Or, as my campus does, midday Thursday. Which means, if you come in to work or "tutor" on Friday, it's gonna be warm in the summer or cold in the winter. (That's one thing that really bugs me about the four-day week. It's kind of miserable by Thursday afternoon, it's sweaty on Friday, and usually intolerable by Saturday...and if they forget to turn the a/c back on Monday morning...)

If it really does save a pile of money and/or if it really does improve the learning of children, then fine. But I admit I'm suspicious of how much money really gets saved. (And I wonder about the burden on families having to have to find someone to watch over the kids every Friday).

I wonder what anyone else involved with education thinks...I don't find having Fridays "off" in the summer benefits me all that greatly, I'm still busy all that day.

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