One of the differences between the UC in the next town with which I am most familiar and the CSU where I am now working is that a 4-unit 1-quarter class at the UC was 3 contact hours whereas at the CSU it is 4 contact hours. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around a new time frame: 110 minutes for a Tu/Th class instead of 80. It’s a long class. My first college teaching were 4 and 1/2 hour accelerated classes, but aside from that, I’ve mostly manage MWF classes. I most decidedly did NOT have an “in” with the scheduler at the UC, and while they claimed to try to make it even with alternating 2-day and 3-day classes, I had many many more 3-day 50 minute classes, but that’s a different story (but I’m not bitter or anything).
I was on the third session of the classes when I gently (I hope) reminded my students that they needed to be on time and not be checking their electronic devices on class time. One of the students stayed to speak with me. I moved us to the hallway so the next class could come in. He said, very gently and respectfully, “Professor, 2 hour classes are really only supposed to be 100 minutes long. Professors do different things. You can have a break in the middle or you can end class early and let them get to their next class and then you have time to answer questions and so on at the end of class. Or you could start late. Most professors end class early.”
I was completely taken aback. It NEVER occurred to me that on a regular Tuesday/Thursday class I would be expected to not have the full contact/instructional hours listed on the schedule. In a 3-hour class or a 4-hour class one expects a break (it makes up for the 10 minutes less each day of a 50 or 80 minute class and it’s just necessary), but I never even thought about it in a regular weekday class.
So I asked my friend who referred me for the job, and she said that, indeed, there are only 100 instructional minutes in a Tu/Th 110 minute class. She said that most teachers simply end early.
I actually think this makes a lot of sense: 110 minutes is too long not to have a break, and it makes for a whole lot of contact hours. I just wish I’d been told about it ahead of time. I’ve been thinking about that. The coordinator for these classes is a graduate of the University. She has probably had this system her entire college life. Just as it never occurred to me that there would be a discrepancy between schedule and instructional minutes, it probably never occurred to her there wouldn’t be. We know what we have experienced.
I’m also intrigued that it took 3 days for any of my students to say anything. Are they that respectful? Were they giving me a break because I’m new? Do most of them not get why classes end early, they just go with the flow? I was kind of irritated the first couple days that they seemed to be packing up early, but I think they think class ends at 20 ’til instead of 10 ’til. Yet none of them ever whined about staying the entire time or, for that matter, got up and walked out.
So my question is, what do I do? I believe in breaks. In those 4 and 1/2 hour classes I taught, many students would have preferred to skip the break and get out early. I think breaks are important. I think the second half of class is a lot more meaningful after a chance to stretch, use the restroom, check those electronic devices. But there are advantages to getting out early, talking to those who need some extra time, letting them have 20 minutes to make their way across campus. I can see where I’m leaning, but we’ll see how it goes.