When I was young there was a proliferation of zany comedies with large ensemble casts and a veritable parade of often outrageous activity and plot twists. The most well known of these is It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, a film that featured an all-star lineup that ran the gamut from Spencer Tracy to the Three Stooges.
That film’s title often comes to my mind at the beginning of each school year, but this year a different title from that era has also invaded my cranium: If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium. Cashing in on the post-World War II travel boom that flew thousands of Americans to Europe for the middle class version of “the grand tour”, this film focused on the whirlwind activity of an 18 day trip throughout the Continent. The title refers to the mental blur produced by moving from country to country at breakneck speed.
We at Saint Ignatius are two days into a new school year, and I can totally sympathize with those tourists as I make almost hourly examinations of my multi-colored serpentine schedule. If it’s Tuesday, this must be first period with my E class, a period off, Freshman Advisory period, lunch, a period off, and fourth period with my A class.
As with all new things, it takes a bit of time to get used to the routine. What seems like a series of random events that will never be worthy of the term “routine” will soon - and my guess is that it will take two 7-day rotations - become so much a part of our lives that we will soon forget our old nine period schedule with its 40-minute classes.
When I began this adventure 41 years ago I taught in an 8 period day where the classes during the three lunch periods were 40 minutes each - five minutes shorter than all the others. In the intervening years since 1981 my colleagues and I have adapted to a variety of schedules, but no one schedule seemed ideal and there were always reasons to revamp after a couple of years.
This new schedule features several twists that solve some of the major problems of the past while maintaining the one sine qua non of a Saint Ignatius education - Sophomore Service. For example, we now start school at 8:30 a.m. (9:05 on Wednesdays) - thus better aligning ourselves with research on early morning adolescent brain function.
We also rotate classes in the aforementioned serpentine progression so that each class section meets at different times throughout a cycle of classes. Thus, my A class, meeting four times in a seven-day cycle, will see me once each during periods 1, 4, 3, 2. This keeps them from being my “1st period class” where lots of guys are not quite awake yet and aren’t necessarily at their best.
All of this may seem a bit confusing, but, just like so many put-the-furniture-together-yourself instructions, it is simpler in the execution than on paper.
So as we dive headlong into this new way of proceeding there is a bit of trepidation to go along with the occasional misstep into a class at the wrong time or the wrong day. But soon this mad, mad, mad, mad world will become our new normal, and Tuesday will seem like just another E Day. Unless it’s not.