Here's How to Make Better Use of the School Day

How much time should children spend in school, and how should that time be arranged? Over the years, Education Week’s opinion contributors—educators, researchers, and policymakers—have plumbed the depths of these questions, not always landing in the same place. In recent weeks, we reached out across our social-media channels to ask our readers, including teachers and school leaders, to describe the ideal school day were it unshackled from time constraints. Whether writing an essay or responding on social media, contributors agree in their excerpts below: Improving time-management practices could give a big boost to students and staff.

“As schools look for an answer to boost student attendance, performance, and engagement, making a change in start times for secondary students is an obvious solution.”

David Polochanin, “We Already Know School Starts Too Early. It’s Time to Do Something About It,” Education Week.

“Quality and not quantity of classroom time is what appears to determine real and meaningful learning. Either block scheduling ... or traditional schedules are well able to deliver quality.”

Patrick F. Gould, “Scheduling Choice,” Education Week.

“Mastering the science and art of teaching guided by my student data.”

Mary Kovari via Twitter

“Kids are built to move. Having more time for unstructured outdoor play is like handing them a reset button. It not only helps to break up their day, but it also allows them to blow off steam, while giving them an opportunity to move and redirect their energy to something more meaningful once they return to the classroom.”

Debbie Rhea, “Give Students Time to Play,” Education Week.

“Constructive play in classroom and exploring surroundings to develop critical thinking for my pre-K students.”

Isidro Rodriguez via Twitter

“More individual conference setting and goal setting with my 5th graders.”

Jennifer Strapac via Twitter

“Play! It’s one of the most important parts of education, and we’re pushing it under the rug.”

Mikayla Lowe via Twitter

“I wouldn’t rush. I would answer all the questions and would ask for more in return.”

Lília Vicente via LinkedIn

“I would focus a little more on soft skills, like having a strong work ethic, being dependable, having the right positive attitude, being self-motivated, being flexible, confident, etc.”

Jennifer DeVore, M.Ed. via LinkedIn

“Often overlooked in gauging the impact of expanded-time schools on student learning is the equally beneficial effect that a longer day and year has on teachers. Within an expanded schedule, teachers typically have many more collaboration and professional-learning opportunities built into their workday. ... They also can augment instructional practice dramatically, and thus make their time with students even more valuable.”

Jennifer Davis, “Give Teachers Time to Collaborate,” Education Week.

“I’d incorporate more reading time in the library with my students. That’s the one thing that gets left behind.”

Ankita Tandon via LinkedIn

“If time were not an issue, I’d let my students design their perfect school day. And then I’d facilitate it.”

Renee Schwartz via LinkedIn

“We teach students many academic subjects, but we do not teach them how to learn. If I had unlimited time at school, I would spend time showing my students how to become independent learners who own their own learning.”

Afsaneh Miller via LinkedIn

“Teaching students life skills like budgeting, paying taxes and bills, understanding the application process for college, jobs, etc. These things are so important but are never taught. Beyond that I would spend more time on topics the kids have a genuine interest in to foster a love of learning and growth.”

Andrea Halvax via LinkedIn

“Having individual conversations with each child about topics unrelated to school.”

Jade-Marie Robinson via LinkedIn

Read More

Best-selling author Daniel Pink breaks down how schools can improve the use of time during a keynote address at Education Week’s 2019 Leaders to Learn From event.
Best-selling author Daniel Pink breaks down how schools can improve the use of time during a keynote address at <i>Education Week</i>’s 2019 Leaders to Learn From event.
T.J. Kirkpatrick for Education Week
Teaching How Schools Can Spend Time More Wisely: 4 Big Tips From Daniel Pink
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Student Well-Being Opinion We Already Know School Starts Too Early. It's Time to Do Something About It
David Polochanin, October 2, 2018
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All comments have been edited for clarity.

Compiled by: Dominique Bander

Design/Visualization: Hyon-Young Kim

A version of this article appeared in the February 26, 2020 edition of Education Week as How Can We Make Better Use of the School Day?