Bring back office hours

Last year the school took on a block schedule due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but when students came back this fall it was like the Covid-friendly, hybrid schedule never happened; the 2021-2022 school year started out just like the 2019-2020 school year.

If you ask any VHHS student, they will tell you the benefits and drawbacks of a hybrid schedule. Those who loved it: “I could eat during class,” and “I could turn off my camera and leave the room.”

Those who hated it: “I can’t focus for that long,” “I didn’t learn anything,” and “Zoom is so boring.” But there’s one aspect of the hybrid schedule that didn’t have drawbacks, at least for students: office hours.

Dr. Fischer, the Assistant Superintend for Curriculum and Instruction for District 128, was a member of the School Reopening task force. She explained why thirty minute periods of office hours were added to the schedule for the 2020-2021 school year.

“[The Scheduling and Teaching and Learning Work Groups] began to study the implications of returning to school after Covid from a teaching and learning perspective, but also from understanding that there would be definitely some remote learning,” Fischer said.

To accommodate for the struggles of learning from home during the second semester of the 2019-2020 school year, and the remote learning that would occur for the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year, the Task Force concluded office hours would be beneficial to students.

“It was recognized that the schedule should include time for students and teachers to connect that was regularly scheduled time that everyone had that time available,” Fischer said.
Office hours offered something the previous schedule couldn’t offer, the near guarantee a student and teacher could meet, outside of class.

“But it wasn’t pulling someone out of an existing course” Dr. Fischer added.

Approximately 30% of surveyed VHHS students reported they are not able to meet with their teachers as needed with the current schedule. While 30% is not the majority, those students deserve help from teachers as much as all other students.

Without office hours, the schedule limits students who pack their schedules from meeting with their teachers, more than it does those who have study halls. While one could argue that those students choose to take on that work load themselves, and have the option to take a study hall, that notion demonstrates an unfair priority of teacher-help to students who take fewer classes.

From 8:35 to 3:25 our schedules are packed, and in 45 minute periods, there is not much time for teachers to give one-on-one help to their students. In addition to that, learning for every student is different. Some students need more support than others. In class lecture settings, it can be hard to stay focused or you might not get the opportunity to ask every question you have. By giving every student the opportunity to have one-on-one time with their teachers, I believe office hours can help assuage this, and help allow students to learn at a deeper level than our current system allows.

And students agree. In a survey of 118 students 56.7% said they believed they would benefit from office hours.

When I asked Dr. Fischer about why the committee did not include office hours in the schedule this year, she told me their decision was based on the fact the 45 minute period contract teachers made with the school district ended with the 2021-2022 school year.

“If we were to change that workday, it would require changing the contract. And we were already in a period where we were going in to talk about potential changes to the contract,” she explained.

As of now, the committee Dr. Fischer is a part of is discussing the schedule for next year.

“Everything is on the table now” she said.

The D128 website lists the characteristics of the DARING mission statement. Under the I for Inquisitive it says “We ponder problems, question convention, and propose solutions.” Office hours seems to support this mission. The question is if the district will follow through on this claim and make office hours a part of the schedule in the future.