Is the Belmont Hill schedule too busy? This is a question that I ponder constantly as I face my daily struggles: Did I do my chemistry homework? What time does football practice start? When’s the next debate meeting? How can I squeeze in some extra help time for Latin? Hoping that I wasn’t alone in these dilemmas, I reached out to a number of students to gauge their opinions on the matter. Student #1 is a freshman, Student #2 is a sophomore, and students #3 and #4 are both juniors.
I first asked students to identify the favorite part of their days. I did this in order to see if there was any overlap between busyness and leisure. Personally, I think that the best parts of the day are free blocks, especially those in which there are clubs taking place, like X-block or the afternoon study halls. They allow me to reduce my workload and let me participate in extracurricular activities. Students #1, #2, and #4 shared the same point of view. Student #4 mentioned that free blocks “provides a unique opportunity to get to know your teachers, take part in extracurriculars, and finish as much homework as possible.” Student #2 also agreed as he was able to save time for sports in the afternoon and participate in extracurricular activities whenever he wanted.
In a different facet of the school’s schedule, Student #3 mentioned that he appreciated the athletic time that the school offers. While it may be in itself a few-hour-long activity, it is typically more fun and does not require outside work as academics do. Sport, he explained, “take[s] my mind off the challenging school day and allow[s] me to compete with my teammates.” Whether it be a fun environment like athletics or extracurriculars or a work- reducing opportunity like study time, students typically favor the parts of their schedule that do not add to their homework.
I also questioned students as to their least favorite parts of the day. Personally, I find the scarcity of extra help to be most frustrating, as it is always tough to squeeze in the time. Most of my free blocks are spent in clubs or other commitments, so I can’t give up my responsibilities to find extra help. Additionally, when teachers coach middle school sports, their extra help times are reduced to X-block alone, making it even harder to find the time. Identifying the biggest contributor to workload at Belmont Hill, Student #1 found his classes to be the least exciting part of his schedule, as “it’s a lot of work and I often find myself stressed about projects or other pieces of homework.” Especially as students age into more advanced and rigorous classes, the workload begins to increase, further straining not merely academic, but also extracurricular and athletic time. Both Students #2 and #3 observed that, due to scheduling logistics, it can be hard to participate in extracurricular clubs. Student #2 expressed annoyance that numerous “clubs are stacked at Friday X block, because there are multiple clubs I would like to do at times that collide.” Currently, there are 10 clubs scheduled on Fridays at X, and it is frustrating when the opportunity to attend one club is rendered impossible by another. In general, students disliked those parts of their schedule that restrict their freedom and choice.
I wanted to explore whether the busyness in student schedules can be attributed to their choices or to the overall school schedule. My schedule, for example, is full of obligations I chose; APs, varsity sports, and time-consuming extracurriculars all require outside work and when combined together, can be tougher to manage. Compounding this, my schedule also faces challenges due to the unfortunate scheduling of study blocks. During these blocks, I either have filled it with a commitment, have to get other work done, or the teacher isn’t there. This trend was similar to the responses of the students. Students #1 and #4 commented on their academic workloads. While no one is happy to get homework, they both recognized that they set it upon themselves to choose hard classes. Student #4 added a good point, stating that “I think the more academically inclined students feel a certain pressure to take all of the most difficult classes.” There are certainly many other pressures as well that could contribute to a student picking a more demanding roster of classes. Students #2 and #3 talked about the schedule itself, and how it may contribute to fewer opportunities for outside activities. Student #2 noted that the long block schedule can lead to homework piling up on Thursday night, leading to a night that may be more hectic than usual. Student #3 talked specifically about X-blocks and how they usually are filled with things to do: “X-blocks are the busiest area of my schedule because there are so many different things that you might need to do during them, such as eat lunch, meet with a teacher, go to a club, or work on homework.” The Belmont Hill schedule is one that promotes taking advantage of opportunities and exploring new activities. However, it is also one that demands a lot from students and so it can result in a workload that strains students as the week progresses.
Seeking solutions, I asked students to share their strategies for contending with full schedules and conflicts. Each heavily emphasized a purposeful usage of free blocks and extra help times. Student #2 said, “I have used my time during my free block and study hall to do homework which helps my workload a lot when I get home.” Student #4 also brought up the idea of using weekends to do extra work or even get work done that would be due during the week. This year he has started, “over the weekends, doing my homework due Monday and due Tuesday.” He said that it allowed him to then have more time to study for tests, and it would also allow for more availability at free blocks. They overwhelmingly agreed that utilizing time wisely, whether on or off campus, was key to staying on top of a demanding schedule.
After conducting these interviews and reviewing the perspectives of the students, I think that the Belmont Hill schedule is not “too busy.” Since students have the ability to choose their course levels, it is in part their choice to decide how demanding their schedule will be. Additionally, they can use their free blocks however they want. But, I do believe that there could be a better system for scheduling extracurriculars and extra help availability. A serious fix to the problem would require a full revamp of the schedule, resulting in intense conversations and dedication. Barring that, advisors could emphasize that students could make better use of time before school, when students can finish homework, meet with teachers, or study for any upcoming quizzes or tests. If teacher availability at this time is high, it may help students gain extra help time they lose from attending clubs during X blocks. In the end, one doesn’t enter Belmont Hill for the free time it offers. That said, there are many ways that students and administration could improve the “daily grind,” through personal tenacity and improved time management or through administrative support, like improved course selection advising or communication with teachers.