This school year, Punahou School Academy teachers have largely positive views of the Academy’s transition from the 2020-2021 hybrid curriculum model and revised schedule to the 2021-2022 in-person model.
One major change is the complete elimination of the intensive five-week block schedule format. For that reason, all classes are semester long and most meet three times per cycle, in comparison to last year’s mix of block and semester classes with most meeting twice per cycle.
Although certainly a step toward the return to normalcy, classes are nonetheless still meeting one time fewer per cycle than pre-pandemic years. Teachers are feeling the effects of this “missing” class as they have elected different avenues in bid to recoup the lost time. For example, some pre-pandemic sixty-minute classes have lengthened to ninety-minutes; others have assigned work to an asynchronous fourth class that students partake on their own time.
Mr. Daniel Gaudiano, the Academy Science Department Chair, offered a nuanced perspective regarding the elimination of the block schedule format.
Gaudiano commented that as with all change, there are tradeoffs. In particular, he noted that some science teachers miss the block schedule which allowed for a lengthy two-hour block of time that provided extra time to help with lab activities last year.
Furthermore, Gaudiano points out that the loss of the block schedule no longer enables students to be assigned across separate blocks offered over the course of a single semester. This has led to an increase in the caseload of students that a teacher is responsible at any given time, in some cases as much of an increase as from approximately 40 to 100 students. As a result, some teachers have had a harder time adjusting.
On the other hand, Gaudiano noted that many teachers also have found relief in averting the stressful scramble to cram a semester’s worth of teaching material into a five-week span. He commented that teaching his A.P. Environmental Science class feels much steadier this year compared to “like a sprint” last year.
Yet, Gaudiano clarified that the content of what he teaches in his A.P. class has remained largely the same from pre-pandemic, to distance learning last year, to in-person this year. It can be noted that contrary to non-A.P. courses, Punahou teachers do not have complete control over the A.P. curriculum. Instead, they work through the A.P. Course Audit process that provides clear, standardized guidelines on curricular requirements for each A.P. course Punahou chooses to offer.
Another notable change is the complete return to on-campus learning, which is made possible by the high vaccination rates for both faculty and students. For teachers, this means that they do not need to coordinate class activities or discussions between the two mediums of in-person and virtual.
Ms. Wendi Kamiya, Department Chair of the Cooke Learning Commons, said she welcomes this change by citing many benefits of in-person learning. She explained that “While online learning and hybrid learning [have] great flexibility benefits, the in-person experience allows activities, collaborations, discussions that are just more rich and in-depth…It enables so many more ways and paths to engage students in their learning.”
Kamiya added that she now has “more opportunity to read the room of students and incorporate what is going on,” as well as the ability to shape class through “activities that get us moving around the room and doing things in dynamic groups, so being in-person allows more of that to happen.”
“I personally prefer the in-person curriculum model,” Kamiya concluded, expressing a sentiment echoed by many of the Academy faculty.