Why A New Schedule?
We dare any of you to shadow a student through the school day and not fall flat on your face by 3:15 p.m. At Friends, we’ve known we want a less hurried, less siloed approach to time for some time now, but we’ve been unsure how to create exactly that.
In 2017 we assembled a group of faculty members to tackle this challenge. Before we launched ourselves into the work we started with what we knew to be true: that real learning takes time. We knew we wanted to minimize the amount of class time lost to transitions and allow students to focus deeply on fewer subjects at a time. Even more importantly, we knew we wanted to structure time here at Friends to allow for the kind of creative teaching and engaged learning that cannot occur in a shorter period: field trips, extended experiments, student-initiated projects, in-class writing and research, thoughtful debates and discussions, design activities, and open-ended projects which require students to persist through setbacks and obstacles. And so, we began our process.
The work of the schedule committee is among the most important things happening “invisibly,” beneath the surface, at Friends. This is about our core mission—about teaching and learning. More specifically, about wrestling with the limitations on our time and space and attempting not to let our time be driven only by concerns, but instead by pedagogical motivations. It’s about reimagining how we use time in order for teachers to work with students in anti-disciplinary ways—to ask questions that don’t have easy, direct answers; to imagine possible ways to problem-solve. There is so much more you can do in an 80-minute block of time than a 40-minute block.”
– Mike Hanas, Head of School
Schedule Project Timeline:
We began our process during the 2017–2018 school year by bringing out scheduling consultant Ross J. Peters to help us launch our work. Ross not only has an informative and entertaining blog about education, music, and travel, he is also the head of school at St. George's Independent School in Tennessee and he has guided a number of independent schools through successful schedule redesigns.
Ross introduced us to a framework to guide our work around the redesign of time at SFFS: TWO, FIVE, and TEN: A Change Management System. The TWO, criteria that the new schedule must accomplish, came from administration. Those items are:
- To deepen student engagement and offer more applied experiences in the interest of enriched understanding, the schedule should offer experiences less hurried and fragmented and more robust in coherence, depth, and application in all aspects of learning.
- In order to create an optimal culture and learning environment for students, the schedule should further support the development and collaborative engagement of the professional community.
The team took the TWO and then then began interviewing teachers, parents, and students, all while visiting schools and companies to look closely at their uses of time.
March–June 2018: The Schedule Team began distilling information from interviews and assembled the list of FIVE, criteria we really want to accomplish with the new schedule, and TEN, things that would be really nice to accomplish with the new schedule
Summer 2018–Present: We are working to build the schedule. We expect to share a schedule with Mike in December, make any necessary adjustments, and then share with teachers, students and parents in January 2019.
In October of 2018, Lower School Head Jennifer Arnest, Academic Dean Tracie Mastronicola (who has been managing the scheduling team), and Art Instructor/schedule team member/frequent cross-disciplinary collaborator Jennifer Stuart traveled together to the MIT Media Lab, home to renowned professor Mitchel Resnick's Lifelong Kindergarten Lab, to learn more about the lab's inspiring approach to integrating disciplines and curricular innovation. The three returned to San Francisco confident that the philosophy behind Resnick's work could serve as foundational for a variety of our strategic initiatives at SFFS, including the work of the scheduling team, who has been diligently working on finding space and opportunity for our faculty and staff to collaborate across departments. You can read more about their trip here.
In September 2019, we will implement a new schedule.