Hump day hiatus: new 4×4 schedule includes asynchronous Wednesdays


Graphic by Emily Mulderig

Amelia Bergeron

Sleeping in and not being swamped with work may seem like a dream during the school week, but with Wilson’s newly adopted 4×4 system for the 2020-21 school year, that dream has become a reality. In the new schedule, Wednesdays have become asynchronous learning days, meaning students are not required to attend live lectures on Microsoft Teams. Although they must log on to Canvas for daily attendance, students can use Wednesdays to catch up on work, meet with teachers, or just take a break from screens.

In Principal Kimberly Martin’s weekly newsletter for the second week of this school year’s distance learning, she defined the schedule for Wednesdays. She described the day as a time for “independent study for students.” The schedule outlined office hours with teachers during usual class time. Wilson has also decided to use Wednesday mornings for staff and department meetings.

Aaron Besser, a Wilson social studies teacher, wants Wednesdays to serve as a day of practice and enrichment for students based on concepts they learned earlier in the week. “If I introduce and we practice a skill on Tuesday, then Wednesday I would provide another short chance for them to practice and reinforce that skill,” he said. 

Although Besser wants the activities to reinforce the concepts learned in class, he does not want the activities to take the full 80 minute usual lecture period. “My goal is for my students to work for about 30 minutes on my class on Wednesdays,” he said. 

English teacher Lauren Hartshorn explained that she is extremely busy on Wednesdays responding to emails, creating modules on Canvas, meeting with students and other teachers, and grading student work. She also explained that being able to make her own schedule on Wednesdays helps part of the week seem less stressful. “Virtual school feels so much harder than in-person school, and it makes me more stressed and tired than going to school ever did—I imagine that students feel the same way. Even just knowing that you can sleep in a little and make your own schedule on Wednesdays makes the week less stressful,” she said.

Freshman Simon Holland is thankful for the new schedule because it gives him a chance to get off his computer. “I think part of it’s just going to be taking a break from using a screen all day, but also getting some studying in and knocking out assignments that are due,” he said. Holland is also excited to not be on camera for a few hours and be able to relax for a time during the school week. 

Senior Mia Heyward was happy about having asynchronous Wednesdays because it avoided a scheduling conflict. “I take dual enrollment classes at [George Washington University] and I have a class on Wednesdays and it was overlapping with the [4×4] schedule,” she said. Heyward is also using Wednesdays to attend college webinars and sleep in. 

Holland is also grateful for the structure that the new schedule provides and believes that with Wednesdays off, online learning can be more tolerable long term. “We don’t know how long [distance learning] is going to last, so I think that it’s helpful that we are getting into a good routine that could last a while,” he said. 

Heyward finds the schedule more manageable than distance learning in the spring. “I think [the new schedule] is a lot easier than last year because last year with 8 classes it was kind of a lot… but, I think with the four I can focus more on my classes and my work,” she said. With asynchronous Wednesdays she also finds she can spread her work load out and meet deadlines more easily.

Besser is also a fan of DCPS giving students a day where they are not expected to be constantly online. “The nice part about asynchronous Wednesdays is that students can choose when they want to log onto Canvas and complete work and can chunk their screen time a lot more.” He hopes that it can give students and teachers a chance to rejuvenate and be ready for the rest of the week. 

As DCPS continues to formulate plans for students to return the building, it is unknown if asynchronous Wednesdays will remain, but Besser hopes that his plans will remain useful to students if it does. “If we still have it, I’m hoping that my current strategy is still possible and effective,” he said.