The Half-Day: What’s the Point?
Today I was a 7th grade math teacher at Edison Middle School. Today was also what the school district refers to as a “School Improvement Day”–edu-speak for “the teachers need to get grades turned in by Monday, so we’re going to pay them to get it done this afternoon.” [EDIT: This is not the only reason for SIPs. In fact, the teachers attend district-wide seminars to become more effective educators. Please recognise that my description is meant to be tongue-in-cheek commentary.] To the students, it just means that they have an extra few hours tacked on to their weekend. To the substitute, it just means that there is half a school day that I won’t get paid.
In the elementary schools, half-days are still days in which students can be productive. Three and a half hours allow for plenty of time for work, whether it is literacy, math, social studies, science, or social skills development through class celebrations. In the middle schools, though, half-days are days of 20-minute class periods. So, really, what’s the point?
The point is that the students are learning how much they can accomplish in a short period of time. The point is that, in the real world, bosses don’t always give you an entire day to get a project or task completed. The point is that, even in twenty minutes, the students can get into the room, be given an assignment, and, by working together, complete the entire thing. The point is that, in just twenty minutes, the teacher can demonstrate to the students that every minute of every hour of every day can be spent in something worthwhile.
So even though I lost out on $45 dollars this afternoon, today wasn’t as pointless as one may think. And hey, a lot of the students recognised me from the last half-day I spent in their class, and they took time to tell me that they greatly prefer me over the other subs, who are mean and petty (according to them). Also, seeing as I am still losing my voice, it gave me a break from speaking non-stop for seven hours. Finally, half-days give me a chance to share one of my favourite words with students: floccinaucinihilipilification. It is what many, teachers, students, and parents, think of half-days.