Saturday Classes: A Different Kind of Pain

It is Friday morning. You managed to get eight hours of sleep last night because you didn’t have physics and Rel/Phil homework, which are third and fourth periods respectively. Today, after first and second period, you have a massive block of free time—until 1:05—during which you can relax a little bit. Tonight, homework is light, and you have a chance to get ahead in your work. What’s wrong with this? As Andover students, we burn, not rust, and even though—theoretically—Saturday classes might spread out our homework burdens, it manages to be more pain than panacea. By Friday, on even a mild week, most students are so drained that they instantly seize any opportunity to recover. The worst case scenario of Saturday classes is also the most likely: ease out of some of Thursday’s homework, do work for Saturday on Friday night and then after Saturday classes start working on all your homework for the weekend. This serves no relief; it just prolongs exertion and is compounded by any commitments on the weekends like sports games and community service. The only students bound to use the extra time to work have the stamina and the motivation to work on Friday nights anyway, so the “gift” of Saturday is unnecessary. The rest of us, less organized and motivated, have our Friday nights seized from us. The underlying theme behind our academic calendar is something we can call the “compression-decompression” cycle. We take fewer classes than public schools and sometimes even our peer preparatory schools. We spend less time in class on a yearly basis, even with the additional days added to our academic calendar. However, while in class and in school, we work our proverbial butts off. For this system to work—which it clearly does, if you judge our academic achievements by everything from AP scores to college placement—one needs the “decompression” element, just as badly as the “compression” part. A Saturday class, though seemingly innocuous, actually cuts our weekend down time virtually in half, as the first of two primary “decompression” periods—Friday and Saturday night—is eliminated. Everyone claims that Saturday classes make the weekends feel shorter, but few consider the serious implications. The more we have Saturday classes, the more we risk rusting out our students by protracting downtime, prolonging the homework grind and creating hellish Sunday nights. Saturday classes do work as a principle. If a school has a drawn-out academic year, where information is doled out rather than shoved down our throats, then Saturday classes make sense. A persistent, steady diet of small daily homework assignments and lots of review fosters a school environment conducive to Saturday classes. Because our school runs under such an extreme “compression-decompression” cycle, it is actually negatively impacted by even small intrusions into our decompression. Though some may argue that it helps ease the hectic pace of life, I would posit, for the reasons above, that a partial “ease” in the pace of life is extremely counter-productive. Either expand the school year to accommodate the protracted rusting of our work ethics or ascribe to our burn mentality. There is no partial surrender.