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Joplin students & teachers discuss possible changes to class times

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Time is the topic of discussion for teachers and high school students in Joplin.  It was a school conference called Joplin High School Dream Session.

The first JHS Dream session meeting was shortly after last year's tornado.  School district officials say the tornado isn't necessarily the reason for these meetings, but it did offer more of a fresh start for ideas.

"We just attended a national conference and visited with some consultants there and they said, nobody is doing this, and they want to keep up with us," says Dr. Angie Besendorfer, assistant superintendent for Joplin Schools.

The fresh, direct approach from the Joplin School District begins with decisions having to be made based on what's best for students, not adults - and that includes schedules.

For years the norm in high schools across the country has been formal class Monday through Friday, roughly from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"I feel that a lot of our time as students is spent just sitting there and running out the clock," says Lane Freeborn, a senior at Joplin High School.  "Why should I need to be there, if I'm not doing anything in that class, or if my teacher says 'ok, here's your assignment, do it' - why do I have to be sitting in that classroom to be doing it?"

Freeborn, other students and teachers are brainstorming ways to reinvent time in the classroom.

Teachers in Joplin say some days their curriculum only requires part of class time.  The rest of the time is spent coming up with ways to keep both the students and teachers entertained.

One idea being discussed is shortening and lengthening different classes. 

"A science teacher said 'it's hard right now the way that I have 50 minutes every day to plan labs but if I could have a three hour lab every once in a while, we could really dig deep,'" says Dr. Besendorfer.  "If you can study a book and pass a test to drive a car, then why don't we allow you to study a book to pass art appreciation?  Why can we not offer more of that, so that students can then spend their high school time in internships?"

"If I'm a marketing guy, well I'm going to take marketing classes and I'm going to advertise," says Freeborn.  "I'm going to advertise for the school, I'm going to actually do posters and commercials and stuff that goes along with what I'm going to be doing, instead of just taking tests or reading books."

Many higher education workers say they see these proposals as a benefit to improve incoming student readiness.

"We see students now who come to college and they have that freedom to take an online class, but maybe aren't as prepared as they should be," says Cyndie Adamson of Crowder College-Webb City.

The ideas may be new but not the goal of success.

Another suggestion was to make the school year long.  Students would choose classes much like in college.

"First I was like, you know, especially with sports, three months in the summer is when we use a lot of our time to prep for our football season and stuff like that so we might lose that," says Freeborn.  "But then hearing some ideas today, I'm like, well that might actually be better for me.  We can find ways and you might learn more."

The idea was well received by many students at today's meeting, but again, they are only ideas for the time being.

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