Sydney Stone’s June editorial posits that X block is not serving its intended purpose, though I would disagree. Perhaps we need to delve beyond the schedule to examine deeper practices. X block itself is not necessarily the issue. The greater reality is that there is a tendency for some students to overextend themselves by committing to too many extracurricular activities.
In Upper School, one of the goals for creating X block was to provide more unstructured time during the day for students and teachers. 9th and 10th grade students only enjoy one free period per rotation in their schedules, which I believe is insufficient given the importance of participation in community life beyond academics. Thus, part of the rationale for creating X block was to give 9th and 10th grade students additional free time during the week. That was not the sole purpose, however. We also approved a few select activities to meet during X block including ASB, orchestra, choir, and peer support. These activities were moved from their regularly scheduled after-school or lunch meeting times to reduce overlap and conflicts. While these activities now consumed X block for a small number of students, it opened up time where these activities were once scheduled.
Sydney writes, “students with the most extracurriculars tend to have the most meetings during x-block and the least amount of free time.” I would agree with that statement. I have learned recently that while many students are utilizing X block to work, relax, and collaborate, students who are involved in the greatest number of activities view X block as a time to squeeze more into an already packed schedule. In fact, my understanding is that the students on the Oracle Editorial Board elected to meet during X block and there are other student clubs that have expressed that same desire. While the School could create sweeping policies around the use of X block, we would rather empower students to use the time in a way that serves them best. If students choose to use X block for academic or extracurricular pursuits, I would argue that X block fulfills its purpose as it was presented to students last spring. Sydney’s editorial illuminates a broader question regarding the tendency for students to stretch themselves too thin in their extracurricular pursuits. As a school, we need to support students’ efforts to achieve balance by encouraging further reflection and, ultimately, greater student ownership of their decisions.
Samantha Coyne Donnel
Assistant Head of School for Research and Strategic Partnerships & Upper School Director