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X Block? I thought it was an Xbox!

G.P. Vanier Secondary’s cafeteria is packed with students doing their homework during an optional work time on Friday afternoon called X Block.  - Photo by Renee Andor
G.P. Vanier Secondary’s cafeteria is packed with students doing their homework during an optional work time on Friday afternoon called X Block.
— image credit: Photo by Renee Andor

Would you choose to stay at school during an optional work time on a Friday afternoon?

Well, G.P. Vanier Secondary School principal Charlie Schellinck says about half or more of the students at his school choose to do just that during the school’s X Block each Friday afternoon.

“What we find is there’ll be 60-plus kids in the library, there’ll be probably 60-plus kids doing math, there’ll be say 30 or so doing science, the gym, we have the open gym with an EA (educational assistant), there’ll be couple hundred in there, you know, it can be quite full,” says Schellinck.

Of the school’s 1,200 students, he estimates 600 or more choose to stay.

“The kids seem to like it, some of them are really taking advantage of the extra help that we’re giving them and then the kids that need the extra help.

“We’ve got lots of kid that are so active with jobs and sports and dance that they can get their homework done. It gives them a good solid hour so that they don’t have homework for the weekend.”

After seeing fellow Courtenay secondary school Mark R. Isfeld implement an X Block last year, Vanier decided to follow suit this year. At 2:15 p.m. — rather than the regular time of 3:15 p.m. — students are free to go home Fridays if they choose.

If they decide to stay at school, they can get extra help in math, science and humanities/languages in tutorials with a teacher. Or, they can get some extra help from an EA or study in one of the ‘quiet spaces’ like the library.

According to librarian Shannon Dillman, the library is so quiet, “You can hear a paperback book drop.” She hears students talking positively about the work time as they are leaving.

“When the students leave, I hear comments like, ‘I won’t have any homework this weekend; I got it all done,’” she told Schellinck in an e-mail a few weeks ago. “Everyone is co-operative, focused and appreciative of the quiet environment. In my opinion, it is a wonderful thing.”

The gym is also open to students who want to get some exercise with their friends, the shops are open on a rotating basis and the cafeteria is available for group project work.

Schellinck notes extracurricular activities like choir, clubs and destination imagination happen during X Block, too.

EAs help students who are behind on assignments during student support; student support is mandatory if a student is behind on their work.

While Schellinck says X Block is useful for students, he says the time is very important for school staff, too. Staff break into teams to discuss various topics such as, online language, social responsibility, oracy in English, peer support, and gifted.

In total, there’s 41 different topics, and Schellinck says they’re all designed to improve student learning, whether that’s through something like developing new course work, learning about new teaching tools or coming up with new teaching strategies.

Teachers offer student tutorials on a rotating basis so that they all participate in the staff groups.

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