“Free” time can be costly

Editorial Board

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Free time at Malvern can be abundant. As students, we are told to use this time wisely but often fall short.

As a college preparatory school, Malvern strives to prepare its students in the best way possible. One critical area of preparation is time management.

The schedule allows for 55 total minutes of free time per day, not including study halls. Though Community Time and break are meant for studying, meeting with teachers, or working on projects, students often end up hanging out with friends or playing games on phones. According to a survey of 168 students, only 35% of students primarily use their free time for doing work or meeting with teachers.

 

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Currently, free time is unstructured. No one is telling students exactly what to do and it is up to them to decide how they are going to use their time. While we agree that this strongly replicates a college environment when students have hours of spare time each day, we feel that it can be a bit overwhelming to some students, especially freshmen.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]There is no way to force students to use their free time effectively. That is for students to decide. However, there should be better options for quiet working spaces during free time.[/perfectpullquote]

It can be difficult for some students to know how to use all of this unstructured time after coming from middle schools where there might be no free time at all. Students who are used to having a teacher looking over their shoulder at all times may not have the necessary time management skills to use free time effectively.

High school students shouldn’t need an adult to order them around, but if we ease students into how “free” their free time is, students may be able to learn how they should effectively use their time.

We also agree that Community Time and break do help build bonds between classmates. Whether it is through intramural sports, club meetings, or just hanging out and relaxing, these moments strengthen the brotherhood.  

So, free time should stay. However, when students are always hanging out with their friends and seldom meeting with their teachers or doing work, that’s where the issue occurs.

The problem begins when students consider where they should go during free time. The Learning Commons is a great place to go during an open period or study hall, but during Community Time and break, it is far too loud and chaotic to sit down and focus.

Former Head of School Mr. Christian Talbot explained the rationale for having a Learning Commons in his blog, Teaching Excellence: “Our old library served well as a traditional space for quiet work, silent reading, and individual research. Those activities still matter, but they’re subordinate to the noisy, collaborative work of an authentically 21st century education,” he stated.

While having a space for collaboration on projects is important, students still have to do individual work. Malvern needs to accommodate for different learning styles. Some students work best when others are around them, but others work best in a silent area.

Other rooms on campus are supposedly “quiet rooms,” but they are also often overtaken by students and have quickly turned into hang out areas. There is no designated room on Malvern’s campus that is quiet the entire school day.

Oftentimes, students intend to get work done and be productive during Community Time and break, but when they walk inside the Learning Commons, they see their friends and are tempted to distraction.

There isn’t an easy solution to this. There is no way to force students to use their free time effectively. That is for students to decide. However, there should be better options for quiet working spaces during free time.

Our proposal is to create a space on campus that is strictly reserved for quiet work. Similar to how certain levels of libraries in college get quieter and quieter, this room should get a reputation of being strictly intended for quiet work only. A way to keep this room consistently quiet could be by having a teacher or faculty member moderate it during Community Time, just as they chaperone the cafeteria during Community Time and break.

This is not to mean the Learning Commons is obsolete. It is still an effective space to collaborate with other students on school work and to use all of the technology in the room.

It is up to students to figure out how to use free time effectively, but Malvern has to provide the assistance to do so.

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