Don't follow proposed student schedule

This letter is in support of Robert Leary’s Jan. 9 letter that provides valid evidence against changing the Rogers High School schedule to a 4x4 schedule (four periods of 82 minutes). He cites the impact of student absences, student daily biological cycles whereby learning is better at certain times during the day, and the annual reduction in total class time. From another lifelong educator, I say he is absolutely correct.

There are also other considerations, among them the ability to absorb nuggets of learning, the critical thinking skill to make them meaningful, the ability to internalize the knowledge, and the consistency needed to make the learning meaningful.

A student absorbs nuggets of learning best by interaction within a classroom. A skillful teacher doesn’t just present knowledge. Rather an experienced teacher asks questions designed to elicit answers generated by the students through critical thinking. Discussion is the heart of teaching — talking about the topic with students, varying the ideas and perspectives, stirring the thought processes until the students come to the desired conclusions. This is the process that results in the retention of learning.

But students are not machines that record everything they hear. They are bombarded with multiple ideas and images as they go through their day that interfere with each other so that, by the next day, they have retained only bits and pieces of the whole and lost much of the context.

Constant and consistent repetition of the previous learning as the new is presented builds a solid base of knowledge that helps students to internalize what they have learned on the surface, to reinforce the learning, to build on it and make it meaningful.

This is the process of learning that is most effective when it comes in small bits and pieces day after day until it becomes solid and strong and close to permanent.

Leary is correct in his analysis that seven shorter rotating periods every day are better than four boringly long rotating blocks every other day where teachers use their skills for the first half of the period and have students work on assignments the second half — much easier on the teacher but much less effective teaching.

So I support Leary's contentions with actions, not just words. After 47 years as an educator at many levels, I still prefer to teach Monday, Wednesday, Friday classes of 50 minutes at Roger Williams University to my college students than Tuesday, Thursday classes of 80 minutes because I know students learn best in more frequent smaller doses.

And it’s even more true for the younger ones.

Barbara A. VonVillas, Middletown