Anyone who religiously reads my articles or listens to me talk hears me, inevitably, talking about school. I'm deep within my junior year in high school, and the stress of 5 AP classes, studying for the SAT/ACT as well as subject tests and AP exams, extracurricular activities, playing lacrosse and working part time is really hitting me hard. Time, it seems, is the biggest crunch, especially when I come home exhausted with an agenda full of assignments that I absolutely cannot put off one more night. I'm frequently found at Starbucks at around nine at night, walking out with an iced coffee to help me check off my to-do list.
And I truly doubt that I am alone in always feeling like it's a struggle to keep my head above the water, so to speak.
The solution, I believe, is a built-in study hall, a time when we are forced to sit and review everything. The schedual logistics could be worked out, but there would never be a time when the study hall was a waste. Kids can catch up on their homework, work on projects, catch up on absent work or study for tests. Seniors could work on college apps and underclassmen or juniors can prep for standardized tests. Almost every literature class is reading a book concurrently to class lessons, so kids could catch up on reading. Now that we have devices, kids can re-review their lessons or read ahead. They can work on club projects or competition entries, or they can work on art projects or practice lines for an upcoming play.
Society and its pressures have done an amazing job of making sure that high schoolers always feel like they should be doing something (and those who do not feel this way usually have outstanding work that they could be doing anyway, which almost certainly would help their grades). Working a specific scheduled time into the daily routine to allow them a bit of a life raft would be completely invaluable to kids' grades, sleep cycles and flexibility in afterschool activities. There are many times in which opportunities have gone passed up because there is simply no time to attend another meeting and complete my homework in time to still receive a functional amount of sleep.
And okay, we have lunch, but there are still commitments during lunch - time to make up assessments, or, if one of my clubs is in the midst of a project, time to meet and catch up on the project. An academic support program meets twice a week at lunch, and many people either attend to catch up on their work or go to help others catch up for service hours. People even attend help sessions at lunch. And there is an extremely valuable social aspect to being around peers and just talking and interacting out of the classroom, whether it is playing games together on one's phones or catching up. Not to mention that most people spend lunch catching up on work anyway.
Homework is a necessary evil. The workloads of certain classes, especially AP or honors classes, cannot be abbreviated or cut short; students accept this. However, if we are going to sit and champion how the health of our students is our greatest priority, we need to actually act on this. Receiving tea at lunch is nice, but I would much rather have some time during the school day to catch up on all of the classwork that I am assigned every day, given that I probably could not completely be up to date and feel adequately prepared for the next day if I worked, uninterrupted, for 24 hours.
Study hall periods are invaluable and extremely necessary. Having them would help students plan their own study schedules more effectively as well as giving them some time to work together and ask each other questions, a group approach that has been praised and advocated for for the entire time that I have been in school. It would also give students more time at home to sleep, follow their own passions and spend time with their families.
I'm looking at you, Fulton County.