Scheduling is a contentious topic at Andover. With students taking part in multiple extracurricular activities, and faculty & staff having limited time to meet with each other and their pupils, finding a schedule that pleases everyone is a near-impossible task. Within the variety of complaints that arise, a few common threads persist. First, a common sentiment among students is a desire for more Conference time and increased opportunities to connect with teachers outside of class time. Second, reports of constant busyness and burnout as a result of overscheduling and overcommitment are typical.
In particular, the Monday schedule has taken heat for its hectic pacing, where the 40-minute periods mean students rush to their classes and teachers whiz through material (with promises to “pick up where we left off next class”). But our grievances over Mondays represent more than just an inconvenience—they are symptomatic of a broader issue in our scheduling and how we structure our time at Andover.
Indeed, there is hardly an Andover student who would not identify with the word “overscheduled.” Our fast-paced academics, plethora of extracurriculars, and the ups and downs that come with adolescence mean that our schedules are tight; we are caught in the rush and left dreaming of a break.
But our desire for a rest from Andover’s busy pace is not isolated to campus. In recent years, discussion of burnout has become more common. Accelerated by the pandemic, rising costs of living, and growing efforts to promote self-care, the importance of rest has taken a larger role in conversations we have about productivity and work. More and more, we are stressing the importance of rest in a healthy work-life balance—-the logic being, if you keep working without a break, you’ll burn out, and if you’re burnt out, you’ll be in no shape to work.
One proposed method to address workplace burnout is a four-day work week of sorts. Having long been a talking point in labour advocacy, the number of companies, schools, and organizations that have embraced the abridged work week has increased in recent years. Proponents of the four day work week cite the appeal of a healthier work-life balance, and in turn, increased productivity.
Flexible work schedules do indeed increase workers’ productivity. Google, which allows employees to structure their work on their own terms, found that giving employees control over their schedules has boosted productivity by 12 percent. Similarly, companies that use the four-day work week often report that employee happiness results in better work, more engagement, and an overall corporate gain.
But successful four-day weeks are not restricted to the workplace. For many schools in the U.S. that have instituted them, four-day weeks have shown an improvement in attendance, discipline, and most importantly, academics. In Melstone, Montana, attendance grew around 20 percent over a two-year period in a school that implemented four-day weeks. Chattooga County District, Georgia reported that discipline referral dropped by a whopping 73 percent since implementing the schedule. Lastly, as reported by Oakridge School District in Oregon, both test scores and graduation rate increased after implementing a four-day school week over a two-year period. Our very own four-day special schedule last week, with Wednesday free and classes on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, makes us wonder—what would a four-day week at Andover look like?
Certainly, stress levels would decrease. Students would appreciate an extra day of rest—not only as an opportunity to catch up on homework, but to pursue those things we don’t have time for during the regular week. We would have another day to strengthen bonds with our peers outside of class, explore new passions we always “meant to pick up,” or simply to sit back, relax, and reflect. After all, we come to Andover not only for intellectual growth, but for social and emotional growth as well. A break would help facilitate this growth immensely, from time management (a whole day, free!), to encouraging us to build healthier relationships with work, to cultivating more sustainable long-term work habits.
However, we acknowledge that this schedule would come with its own challenges. While teachers would have an extra opportunity to rest or grade on Wednesdays off, the shortened schedule would also create obstacles, forcing teachers to craft cohesive but significantly abridged syllabi. With three class meetings per week already, a reduction to two periods a week would mean that students may miss out on key material in their classes.
We recognize that, at this point in Andover’s history, a four day class schedule may not be realistic for our school. However, we stand by the assertion that incorporating more time for rest and out-of-class growth and learning is important. To this end, we suggest that Andover make one small, but significant change: return to holding biweekly All-School Meetings (ASMs) on Fridays and replace our current Thursday ASM block with an extra Conference period.
With this change, students would have an additional opportunity to digest class material, connect with teachers out of class, and hopefully learn more effectively and efficiently, ultimately reducing academic stress and freeing up time in our woefully busy schedules. We hope that Andover will take this step on a long road towards helping students achieve healthier work-life balances.
This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian, Vol. CXLV.