Faculty explore uses of X-block

The Newtonite

by Sam Jones

[media-credit name=”Maliha Ali” align=”alignright” width=”255″]Science teacher Tatyana Osipenko gives extra help to senior Young Guang and sophomore Adam Goffstein[/media-credit]

For students, the end of the school day means that they are now free to do what they please. Some choose to leave, eager to get home to unwind after a hard day of work.
However, many students choose to stick around for a while longer during a period known as X-block. From 2:25 to 3:20 p.m. Mondays and from 2:40 to 3:20 p.m.Thursdays, students can stay after school to see teachers for extra help, to make up tests or to attend educational team meetings to prevent them from struggling. In addition, students can attend club meetings.
There is a wide variety of uses for X-block, which has resulted in mixed messages and conflict for students, according to counselor Matthew Ford.
“X-block is great in theory, but it’s very complicated to put into practice without more established communication about what it is,” he said.
To better define X-block, Ford and Spanish teacher Daniel Fabrizio are facilitating the Use of X-block Vision 2013 Group.
The committee is made up of at least one faculty representative from every department and meets the fourth Tuesday of every month to explore the “diversity of thought about X-block,” Ford said.
Over the last two weeks, the group distributed surveys to students, teachers and administrators asking them to define X-block and to explain their uses of it.
Next, the Vision Group will meet Tuesday and on the professional half day Thursday, Jan. 26 to pool the findings and prepare a presentation for the February faculty meeting.
Ford said that although he does not expect “radical change to come quickly,” he hopes that the Vision Group’s research and discussions will result in  “flexibility of the expectations for X-block.”
Currently, some students use X-block to meet with teachers. During this time, science teacher Tatyana Osipenko’s classroom bustles with students who gather in groups, finishing late assignments and studying for an upcoming test.
Students constantly ask Osipenko questions, and she never fails to answer them. As a result, students return to their desks with a relieved smile and an improved knowledge of what had once confused them.
“A lot of my students take advantage of X-blocks,” she said. “I think it fulfills its goal, but I think we do not have enough time during two X-blocks.”
One of the students who regularly spends X-blocks gathered around a table in Osipenko’s classroom is sophomore Rafi Razzaque.
“I go to chemistry the most for help, as Ms. Osipenko is very open to help students in need of help,” he said. “I try to go to at least one X-block session a week, but I can’t always make it as I do a sport and other after-school activities.”
Sophomore Haberley Kahn’s situation is similar to Razzaque’s. She said, “I usually try to go to X-block at least once a week, but sports sometimes prevent me. I usually go to chemistry to get help myself and to help others,” she said.
While both thought that X-block fulfills its purposes as a time for extra help, they did think there were some flaws.
“While I think that most teachers make themselves available for X-block, sometimes, there are so many kids that some cannot get help because there’s just not enough time,” Kahn said.
She said she thinks the solution might lie in adding more time to X-block.
“I might even add a smaller period of time for a third X-block so that some people who need to get help can always get help in all of their classes. This is because sometimes people need to go to more than one class.”
Osipenko had similar feelings. “I am not sure if it is possible, but I would increase extra-help time: longer X-block and/or additional teachers in the help lab. Right now, we have a few teachers on the help lab schedule,” she said.
Razzaque said, “There are people who do not take the time to use X-block, but others have the time and simply don’t bother to take advantage of it.”
“The big issue is that not enough emphasis is put on X-block as a part of the school day.
“Teachers should put emphasis on the fact that X-block is just as much a part of the day as C-block chemistry, and that taking advantage of it is beneficial to performance at this school,” he said.