What Outweighs Instructional Time
As DeKalb and other Atlanta school districts sort out missed school days, the question of what makes instructional time remains. Experience gained from extracurriculars and fieldtrips prepare students to excel in their field of study and future career. Using time at home, or uninstructed at school during study hall allows us to reflect and learn in our own way so when we do come to school ready to learn.
Through homework and extracurriculars, students participate in learning environments outside the classroom. Learning and instruction do not constrain themselves within the walls of Lakeside.
As a student in the Fernbank Science Tools and Techniques (STT) program, I spent classes replicating DNA in my hair using electrophoresis and using microscopes to examine protists or visiting Emory to bird watch under the supervision of trained biologists, chemists, and geologists. The program left me-if not a future biology major, someone interested in science and who I consider a “life-long learner,” and DeKalb accepts it as instructional time. Mock trial, by comparison, coached by two Georgia Bar attorneys, gives students experience working a case and competing against other high schools in the DeKalb County Courthouse, but not count as instructional time.
School programs and extracurriculars that don’t work within the restraints of a class period give students the opportunity to practice real-world skills. Student Government members meet after school or on weekends act as a catalyst for other clubs in the school whether in recognizing our sports teams’ hard work during pep rallies or organizing the Sadie Hawkins dance to raise money for Children’s Hospital of Atlanta, building organizational and collaborative skills to aid them in their future educational and professional careers.
From February 15th - 19th the band, chorus, and orchestra will visit Orlando Florida to perform scores from Disney Movies letting students see what the work of a professional musician consists of. During a workshop, orchestra students will work with a Disney conductor to play and record a song from a Disney soundtrack, something we can’t replicate in our high school orchestra class. “It gives people the chance to experience actual music production-like, Hans Zimmer,” said junior Ben Murkison, who hopes to continue playing the trombone after high school.
In the classroom itself, teachers don’t constrain instructional time to teaching students new material. They give students a chance to try out problems to absorb the information and ask questions if need be. Our fourth-period study hall allows us homework and work through things we need to do at home. “I like the guided study period because it’s a mature way to get ahead on things that we need to instead of being told what to do or told to be quiet,” said senior Amanda Mcauley,”It helps me study for quizzes.”
Lakeside’s internship class includes no traditional “instructional time,” but while students don’t have class in the traditional sense, they learn from their experiences how to interact with the public and speak clearly enough to help explain something to a parent and have their work reviewed. “I translate for a lot of the Spanish speaking parents,” said senior Yessica Lopez. Lopez also goes to a dental class Cross Keys from 9:00-10: 30 am. “It’s more career-based, so you get a feel for what it may be like as a dentist.
Teachers still feel the strain of adapting classes to accommodate absences and attaining meaningful instructional time. “50 percent of my two morning classes,” said physics teacher Naoman Malik referring to the 8th Grade Visit Day, “You have to do a limited amount of instruction, because is it really fair to teach to a class that’s half empty.”
Field trips, clubs, and sports teams work outside of or interrupt school hours but still teach students life skills and give context to ideas displayed in textbooks and powerpoints. Completing homework and projects spans across weeks whether they attend school or a sudden snow day keeps them warm at home. Instructional time and learning can take place in any environment. DeKalb should focus on encouraging students to take extracurricular opportunities and use time outside of the classroom to gain experience in subjects that interest them rather than counting minutes spent inside the walls of Lakeside.