Response to X block Op-Ed

Oracle Staff October 6, 2015 1

Dear Editors,

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

One Comment »

  1. Sydney Stone October 7, 2015 at 1:47 PM -

    Thanks so much for your response, Ms. Coyne. I am thrilled that you have chosen to express your opinions on the Oracle.

    I agree that we should not create sweeping policies around the use of X block. In my original Op-Ed, I acknowledged that it would be impractical to prohibit teachers and clubs from holding meetings during X block. Instead, I suggested that the administration have a meaningful conversation with students and faculty members in order to make x-block fulfill its role of encouraging and aiding in joyful, ambitious learning.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful that X-block has allowed me to explore my passions. I thoroughly enjoy my Tuesday Editorial Board meetings and my Thursday orchestra sessions and I am so happy that they have been built into my school day.

    Additionally, I agree that Archer girls tend to be overachievers — especially when it comes to our extracurriculars. However, I do not think that is the root of the problem. While I agree that students should need to reflect on how we spend our time, I think that the students, faculty and administration should discuss the best ways to move forward in order to ensure that we get the most out of x-block.

    I think it would be very beneficial for a committee of students and teachers to discuss where to go from here. The online survey that Ms. Warner just sent to all upper schoolers about x-block and productivity is a great step in the right direction.