This fall marks the first time MSMS has used the quarter system, also known as a four-by-four block. The principle difference between our quarters and a typical high school’s involves the Academic Support Day, which, ideally, allows students the opportunity to confer with teachers, or to take deep dives into specific topics that interest them. Students are in class approximately seven hours per course each week, which means that they are either in Zoom rooms or working on Canvas about 21 hours each week.
This system differs significantly from the college semester model used at the school for the previous three decades. Last year, students usually took 18-21 hours of classes per week, which equates to six or seven classes a semester. No Academic Support Day existed, but faculty returned to campus one night a week for tutorials.
I’m curious: which model, quarter or semester, seems to be a better fit for classes during the pandemic? Do you think the model should change once we return to face-to-face instruction? Seniors, I’ll be especially attentive to your responses.
Personally, I prefer the quarter system because it allows me to focus all of my attention on only a few subjects at a time, rather than having to prioritize between seven to eight classes at once. Academic Support Day is especially helpful; although my schedule is relatively easy this quarter, I fully believe that I will come to appreciate a whole day dedicated to just tutorials when my course load becomes more rigorous. If I do not need to schedule a Zoom meeting on an ASD, I can simply use that time to study for upcoming tests, work on college applications, or get things done for clubs.
My home school used to be on a block system, so the transition to a semester schedule was a bit difficult at first. However, I do believe that once we return to face-to-face instruction, we should revert to the original system. This will help students become more prepared for college, as most universities do not use the block system.
During this pandemic, the quarter system seems to be the better fit for classes at MSMS. Many students struggle when first coming to MSMS because of the course load. Having three to four classes a semester allows students the chance to divide their focus among four classes instead of six or seven. The Academic Support Day allows the students to catch up on work, get help from their teachers, to catch a break from the block classes. I am often drained during the week from my classes. Being able to study and do work alone on Wednesdays gives me a break.
At my old school, I experienced both the block and semester system, so I am not fazed by either one. I do not think the model should change when we return to school. If that happens, the administration will have to come up with a new plan for schedules., which will take time. Many people think that we should go back to the semester system because most colleges do not use the quarter system. Even though MSMS is a school where students are better prepared for college, it does not mean that the students will not be as prepped as those who came before them. They have an advantage on them. Having to sit almost two hours in one class learning one thing is helping them to adapt to the long lectures they might have in college. We do not even know if we will be able to return to campus. The virus is continuing to change and spread. So, we should continue to stick to what we have now for the rest of this school year and think about changes when the next school year begins to approach.
I believe that the quarter system is a better fit for the pandemic. I struggle with being overwhelmed and tend to procrastinate more while at home so having fewer classes to focus on is better for me personally. A lot of teachers aren’t mindful of the amount of homework they give and I find that being at home trying to tackle all of this without assistance from your peers is a lot harder to deal with. I am especially grateful for academic support day because, on Mondays, I can tell myself that I only have to get through two days before I get a break and I get to sleep in a little later that day. 🙂 I also appreciate having teachers available, should I need help. It is very reassuring and makes me feel a lot more connected with the MSMS community from home.
I believe that the block schedule will be used for the rest of the year because I think it would be hard to schedule the rest of our classes on a normal schedule after devoting nine weeks to the block schedule. I do think it would be possible to switch back to the traditional schedule if we go full time to MSMS. It would better prepare us for college and I would be happy to get the full MSMS experience although I do enjoy MSMS now.
I believe that the quarter system is a better fit during the pandemic. It allows us to only have to focus on four classes at home and if we miss zoom due to internet issues we have less classes to ask for a recording from. Academic Support Day is extremely helpful because the main downside of the quarter system is that homework deadlines tend to be cut in half and ASD allows us some time to catch up with the short deadlines. I think the schedule should stay the same when we return to campus because it is difficult to change a schedule until the year is over if class length changes. I wish that it could go back to the old schedule because it allows for longer deadlines, but it likely cannot be changed due to how different the schedule are until the school year is over.
I know many of my peers might disagree, but I am really enjoying the quarter system. Having 110-minute classes keeps me occupied throughout the day which I find beneficial to overall productivity. When I have a task at hand, there is less room for distraction; in turn, I stay on top of my assignments and get more work done. Additionally, the academic support day has been fantastic! The extra hours of sleep and time away from zoom does wonders for motivation—which dwindles quickly after 17 hours of classes. Though the intensity of classes is greater than I’m used to, I firmly believe the quarter system is the best option for scheduling. The ASD provides time to catch up on homework, or sleep, and makes the more difficult workload manageable. I would continue this system throughout the year, even when we return to campus.
Truthfully, I feel that the quarter system is a much better fit overall for classes during this pandemic. As a junior, I know adding in 3-4 more courses to my schedule would be a significant change for me and my classmates. However, I couldn’t imagine dealing with that and the consequences of COVID-19. From early April until now, staying home has become our lives and school, of course. Still, I know having to have that amount of classes on top of not being able to learn face-to-face, I’d struggle to do my best in every subject. Furthermore, when face-to-face instruction does become available for the school year, I’d say we should look at the possibility of returning to that schedule. Yes, it would be more challenging, but that is the reason students come to MSMS, right? To become the most prepared for college, scholarships, and apart of a family like no other.
To be honest I can’t really take a stance on how I would view the previous scheduling system because even though you describe it above, reading about something and experiencing it can be somewhat of a vast difference. But my experiences with the quarter system has been quite fruitful to say the least. I am not bogged down with trying to maintain 7 classes in one sitting and it can give me more time to just focus on a few classes instead. We are able to devote more time and attention when we have less things on our plate, and with this quarter system we can easily do arguably better in those classes than when it was around focusing on 7 classes at once. Also, in my opinion, I think Academic Support Day is kind of over excessive in some circumstances. In some cases it can be extremely helpful for those students taking rigorous level courses and need further instruction in order to grasp the concept, but I wasn’t faced with this situation this term and treated my Academic Support Days as holidays because my current first term schedule didn’t require me to ask for teacher help that much. I don’t know if other students are in the same situation that I am in or if I am in the minority of students who are in that group, nevertheless, it can be a great mental relaxer from a week of work and college test prep. But in the end, I think this model is helping students a lot more than they realize and should be still kept even when we return to campus.
I think that the quarter system is very beneficial to students, or at least to me, during these times. I only have a few classes to focus on at a time and I think this is better for my grades. Although the longer classes can get tiring, I still prefer this type of schedule while learning virtually. I can organize my time better and I can have Wednesdays off to catch up or get ahead of my scheduled work. The workload is lighter than last year’s schedule. If I were on campus, I would prefer to have the previous schedule. I think the longer classes would really but me to sleep if I were in an actual classroom. When I was actually on campus, having seven classes wasn’t that difficult. I kept up with the work pretty well and I enjoyed the variety of things I learned. The classes in the quarter schedule now are rushed, but the classes before were slower and easier to grasp. In these times, some math classes and even English classes can get rushed and confusing. Despite this, I prefer having the schedule that we have now.