Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Study Period Period

I can't tell you the number of study periods I have observed in which studying was scarce. I have seen study periods held in traditional classrooms, in cafeterias, in libraries, and in the bleachers of a gymnasium while phys. ed. class was in session. I have seen study periods with 6 students and a few with over 50.  Inevitably one or two students seem to be studying, another couple are doing homework, and the majority are sleeping, listening to an iPod, or quietly chatting.  The adult at the front of the room rarely seems to mind. In one study period the teacher and some likeminded students were watching a video about dirt bikes that the teacher had brought in (I am not at all against teachers and students sharing common interests in this way!) In one urban high school, we were told that some seniors had 3 study periods a day because they only need a few classes to graduate. Disruptions seem to be the only unallowable.

I want to make a bold recommendation: Study Period full stop. Let's get rid of it. Let's start by being honest and admit that in most schools it has decayed into a glorified teenager-sitting session (I really can't use "baby-sitting"). The students who are "studying" are either doing homework (which I suppose is fine; that's when my 2 kids said they did their homework) or cramming for a test they have later that day. So much for "home" work and "studying" for tests. But for most kids it is the idlest part of the day. And if kids need idle time let's keep it, but let's not pretend it's anything other than recess for high school students.

What if we trusted kids? What if we said: You are going to have this free period every once in awhile in your schedule and here are some options: You can go to the library to study or read. You can go to the media center to watch an educational video (TED talks!) or look up something you are struggling with in a class (Kahn Academy!). You can go to the computer lab and do anything educational online. You can go to a teacher for extra help. You can form a club. You can help out a secretary, or the librarian, or the media center coordinator, or the cafeteria staff, or the bookstore staff, or the custodian.  No; you don't get paid; it's your school, too. You can take a nap. You can listen to music.

What if instead of pretend study periods we had IEP (Individualized Education Plan) Periods for every student? Every student makes a plan for something they want to learn during that time and are held accountable to learning it.  What if instead of mock study periods we had Portfolio Periods during which each and every student and to work with an advisor on building a portfolio on interests and skills that could be used as part of a college or job entry process?

What if we stopped pretending and ended study periods period?

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