During the second semester of my senior year, my high school decided to try something new with our traditional schedule. Since our mascot was a bull, our administration named this addition “Bull Time,” though the premise of the idea was adopted from another school in our county that had implemented a “Power Hour” the year before. While there are a few minor differences, Brad Staley does a great job at describing this concept of a “Power Hour”/working lunch in his article titled, “A Powerful Idea for a Productive Student Lunch.”
When this was first presented to our traditional block schedule, my peers and I expected chaos to entail. And don’t get me wrong, the first trial weeks of this schedule was rather chaotic, although from what I have heard from teachers and students, there has been a lot of added structure enforced within this block period since I graduated. In short, all four of our previously 90-minute class periods were reduced to 75 minutes, wedging two 35 minute blocks (with a 5-minute transition time between sessions) in the middle of third and forth period. During this totaled 75 minutes of “Bull Time,” students are allowed to each lunch, attend tutoring sessions, make-up exams, serve detentions, attend club meetings, sit outside, play basketball or other games in the gym, attend other activities that teachers would host (yoga, coloring, movie screenings, crafts, etc.), and various other happenings. Ultimately, this presented students with a newfound freedom to make smart (ideally) choices about to spend their time leading to more time to complete homework during school hours, opportunities to attend tutoring, and the chance to participate in club/extracurricular activities without having to stay after school.
Initially I was very hesitant about this choice to adapt our schedule that had always been four 90-minute blocks, but I grew to really enjoy this break in the school day. I spent the majority of my “free time” in the Leadership classroom planning student council events and coordinating with our advisors but towards the end of the semester was able to participate in AP exam review sessions that I probably wouldn’t have attended if they had been planned for after school due to my daily commitment to swim practice directly following school. When I didn’t have anything to do during Bull Time, I was able to hang out with friends and catch up on homework, which I valued when I didn’t have so much to do when I got home that evening.
Now, with anything that is good, there were a few bumps in the road. With students dispersed across the school, this required staff to be on duty during this free period, which many teachers were resistant towards as they lost their personal lunch time. Our cafeteria was constantly packed as 1500 students were all trying to eat within two lunch periods (opposed to four), although it was permitted for students to eat in many other locations throughout the school. But with this option, there was also an increase in trash due to students eating school-wide. And with any introduction of freedom to high schoolers, there were always a select few students who didn’t use this time in a responsible way.
Since I graduated in 2015, there has been a lot of growth and structure added to Bull Time. First of all, many more options are presented to students, allowing them to attend guest lectures, play on intramural sports teams, and participate in student lead activities (e.g., gaming sessions, karaoke, and corn hole tournaments). Now it is also required that students sign-in to a classroom, activity, club meeting, etc. for one of the two Bull Time periods each day (encouraging students to avoid sitting around and being unproductive for these 75 minutes). And over the past year, the student body has lost this privilege in a few instances due to excessive trash, tardiness, and an influx of inappropriate behavior resulting from this time where there wasn’t total supervision.
While I was apprehensive to the idea when it was first introduced, I appreciate the strive to give students freedom and choices during the school day. It presents a break in the routine classes and can be an extremely useful time, if used intentionally. Personally speaking, I was able to be extremely productive during this time which allowed me to attend activities for the clubs/organizations I was involved with, review sessions, and meetings during the school day, preventing me from having to come early or stay after the afternoon bell. This introduced a much more flexible schedule and requires responsibility, something that the student body as a whole must adhere to. Overall, I saw this as an extremely effective addition to our traditional school day and would recommend it to any school seeking the opportunity to expand students’ horizons, present students with freedom and responsibility for their learning, and encourage students to get involved with school-wide activities.