An Open Letter to Students Skeptical about Expanded Learning Time

Today's blog is written by our summer intern, Abby Cobb, who is heading into her junior year, majoring in Cognitive Science at Yale University.

Dear Skeptical Students,

As a current college student and recent high school graduate, I can assure you no student wants to spend more time in school. When you hear “expanded learning time,” I’m sure all you think about is sitting in front of the same teacher for an extra hour, hearing things explained in the same way they were explained the first time (If you didn’t understand vectors the first time, why does your teacher think you’ll understand it if he/she explains it the same way?). I can empathize with these feelings, because, prior to this summer, they would have been my exact thoughts if someone had told me my school was implementing ELT. But, thankfully, I’ve had the opportunity to intern with NCTL and change my misconceptions about ELT and reevaluate my mindset around education.

At the end of my spring semester, I couldn’t wait for summer and the start of my internship with NCTL, a welcome reprieve from lectures and midterms. When I showed up at the NCTL offices in Boston, there was a lot of talk about ELT and its benefits. As someone who had just finished finals and countless hours in the library, I myself was skeptical about the concept of increasing school time. I wondered why schools needed more time. Couldn’t they improve instruction without changing the time commitment for students and teachers?

After working with the NCTL staff and spending time in ELT schools around the state of Massachusetts, what I’ve realized is that quality instruction and student engagement depend on the added time that an expanded school day allows. With more time comes more personalized academic help, time for enrichment activities, and, in some cases, opportunities for social-emotional curriculum. This ensures that students aren’t spending more time in front of the same teacher, but are being engaged and challenged in many different ways. While “expanded learning time” often has a negative connotation for students, it doesn’t just mean more of the same teaching; it means more time to engage in all aspects of educational and extracurricular interests. In reality, a longer school day/year improves the overall culture of a school and makes the school day more enjoyable, despite having more time.

The opportunity to see the benefits of ELT first-hand also prompted me to start thinking about how we, as students, view school. Unfortunately, we are often waiting for school to end, rather than trying to make the best of the time we are spending in school. So, I would encourage you to adopt the same mindset that I’m going to take with me back to school, which is to stop looking at school time in a negative light, and to start looking it as a tool that can be leveraged to improve our time in school. Stop waiting for the end of the school day, stop waiting for Friday, stop waiting for summer, and start looking to make the most of the time we are spending in school.

Here’s to hoping I convinced you,

Abby Cobb

Ex-skeptical Student

P.S. If you are interested in learning more about how ELT can be utilized to improve the school day, check out NCTL’s publication Time Well Spent