Beyond Measure was shown to TGS students. Photo courtesy of  IMDB.

Beyond Measure was shown to TGS students. Photo courtesy of IMDB.

Head of School Dr. Julie Sherrill recently decided to cancel afternoon classes and showed Gregory School students “Beyond Measure,” a  new documentary film about a new educational approach on October 26.

After a screening at the Loft Cinema earlier this month, Sherrill decided that students should see this film funded by a TGS donor.

“Beyond Measure” showed a number of schools that have embraced project-based learning, which represents a radical departure from traditional American curricula often grounded in lectures and testing.

Students were shown learning by way of projects, many of which appeared to be  substantial, complex, and even exciting. I was struck by how much time these students were given to work on their projects as I was watching this document.

As a participant in The Gregory School’s own project-based learning program, I’m frustrated by how little time is dedicated to the program.

Gregory School teachers suggested to participants in “Project: Inquiry” that the pilot program is supposed to be a inter-disciplinary experience deeply integrated with the school’s more traditional classes, not just ‘one more thing’ added to an already busy schedule.

I think the idea is great in theory, but in reality, there simply isn’t enough time allotted for those involved to give the project the attention and work that is required and deserved.

Teachers and administrators told students that Friday rotations would be an ideal opportunity to work on Inquiry tasks when the new program and schedule were proposed. (Inquiry is required by certain teachers in regular classes for some participants.)

But there have only been five Friday rotation days since school began in August. At least two of those five days have been completely dedicated to presentations. Some seniors in Inquiry must leave for their required internships and seldom have the opportunity to participate in other Friday rotations.  No regular class time has been dedicated to Inquiry.

Therefore, our group must work on Inquiry in our personal time and huddle in the office conference room during lunches on weekdays for group meetings in order to actually make progress and satisfy Inquiry requirements.

These meetings are tremendously difficult to schedule, since most Inquiry students already have meetings for clubs, Student Council, or Writing Center scheduled for lunches every day. Others are at home physically sick from the crushing workload or hiding in the library trying to finish regular homework.

It is a bit aggravating, then, to see how other students were given entire days to devote to just one project, as was shown in the documentary.

The project alone is not the problem, though. The problem is that students, especially seniors, are expected to be involved in many things, but are not given time to do so.

The result is overstressed, unhappy students. As a senior, I am juggling Inquiry, multiple AP courses, college applications, a required internship (which used to have time allotted for its completion, but is now shoved in wherever possible), extracurriculars, and even a part-time job.

I assure you that my entire group is experiencing the exact same situation every week. We are tired and we are frustrated.

While all these activities are meaningful and important to a successful Gregory School education, there is just not enough time in a day.

When all these activities are forced to coexist in a student’s daily schedule, they become more like chores that simply must be done to graduate or get the grade.

Students have not necessarily been able to achieve the quality of work they are capable of because of all these time constraints and required activities.

How can a student realistically hold an internship during a single free block that occurs twice a week? How can a student feasibly go to practice after a full school day, go to work, and then go home and settle in for hours of AP homework?

How can a student have healthy social experiences when they are completely scheduled with school work? How can a student deal with a schedule that seems to change every single week? How can a student utilize a Friday rotation to meaningfully engage in Inquiry research when they only occur once every blue moon?

We are frustrated because we cannot answer these questions, and the administration has failed to answer them as well.