We've had a huge change at The School this year with an implementation of a new schedule.
There were several reasons behind the change. To start with, the State has implemented a requirement that all middle school students receive 90 minutes of physical activity a week. This means that more kids need to be taking gym, but at the same time we didn't want them to lose out on their arts, computers, and other classes that are necessary as well. In addition, those of us who've slogged it out trying to do the GPA (Greater Potential for Achievement) binders without time dedicated to it were really hoping we'd get a modified study hall or advisory so we could work with the kids on their binders, study skills and what not. Trust me, if you don't work daily with middle school kids on organizational skills, they just aren't going to get organized.
So The Principal, Guidance Goober, and a few others went to a conference on scheduling and came up with a really kick-butt schedule. We moved from six periods a day to seven, with no split lunch, and 25 minutes of organizational and skills training. We also ended up with a personal planning time and a team/department planning time every day.
Split lunch, by the way, was this creation from the depths of hell where you taught about 20-25 minutes of your fourth period class, then went to lunch, only to have them return to finish up the remaining 30 minutes or so of class. This meant labs were interrupted, tests were interrupted, and you lost time just getting the little ninnies back on track. We despised it.
In order to accomplish this seven period schedule, we went from a 55 minute class period down to a 45 minute class period. This means that Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Robin and I, when we have our meeting every Thursday to do our plans - yes, we finally have actual time blocked out and set aside to collaborate! - are sitting there asking each other, "so, how are we going to cut out ten minutes every day?" We're cutting out some things (no more journals, we're adding writing into our tests and no more day long test reviews which didn't help anyway), and speeding up other things. The end result is that so far, we feel like we're on warp speed getting through the day. Amazingly enough, after three weeks we haven't slipped too far off the pacing guide, so I guess we're getting it done.
Honestly, I love this schedule...I just wished it allowed me time to breathe!