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What's a Block?

By Montana Bass ’18

First week: “Hi, how are you? What class are you in? How was your block break?”
Second and third week: “Hi, how are you? How’s your class going?”
Fourth week (very concerned voice): “Hi, how are you? How’s your fourth week going? Plans for block break?”
And it repeats.

“When is that lecture you wanted me to see?” “Second Tuesday.”

“When did your sister visit last year?” “Beginning of third block.”

CC students’ situate their lives in relation to the Block Plan schedule. From personal timelines to everyday interactions, it is impossible to be a student at CC without internalizing the rhythm of the Block Plan.

Outside the framework of the CC community, however, the intuitive meaning of the block that comes so naturally to CC students can be hard to convey.

To my somewhat strange uncle at Thanksgiving, the Block Plan induces the “Oh, to be young again,” nostalgia. Big time.

“How were your classes this semester?” he asks as we awkwardly, simultaneously reach for the stuffing.

“Uh, pretty good. Last block I was in a linguistic anthropology class and we went on a field trip to Santa Fe. It was awesome.”

“Block?”

Why’d I have to start that, I think, I just want to eat. “Uh, yeah, a block. We have a Block Plan. So, like, instead of taking four classes at once every semester, we have four blocks a semester. Each block is three and a half weeks and you only take one class during it. Then, you get out on a Wednesday and can go on a trip or something ‘til the next class starts the following Monday.”

“Wow, so you really get to focus on the subject, huh?”

“Yeah.”

“Wow. You must get to ski a lot over those breaks.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty great.”

“Wow. I would’ve loved that.”

He looks longingly into space and I turn gratefully back to my plate.

But when the airplane seatmate skeptic questions its legitimacy, I defend the Block Plan like it’s my job.

“Don’t you just forget the information if you’re learning it for less than a month?” My neighbor asks skeptically after the initial run down of the system.

“No, actually,” I reply, “Not really, because you’re not distracted by other subjects when you’re learning. You can totally immerse yourself in the subject and internalize the information. Even if you start to forget details, classes that are important for your major will keep building upon one another. It’s not like you don’t forget things on the semester system.”

“What happens if you’re in a class you don’t like? Aren’t you stuck in it?”

“You can switch out of a class up to four days in. Plus, that’s one of the best things. If you have to take a required class that’s not really you’re thing, you’re only in it for three and a half weeks. It builds endurance and grit.”

“Ok I see, that actually sounds pretty cool when you put it that way. Especially those breaks…”

“Yeah and it’s not just that you get the breaks. It’s also that when you’re only in one class, the professor can do so much more with the material, and so can students. You can go on weeklong field trips, see shows or performances as a class, and not worry about scheduling conflicts, or take a month off to do some sort of independent project. You can be so much more creative with your education!” I’m getting a little too loud for the airplane…

“Wow,” my neighbor says, matching my uncle’s look of longing, “That’s great.”

“Uh huh” Got ya, I think.

When my high school guidance counselor wants to know what to pass along to her seniors thinking about CC.

Dear Heather,

Please tell your students that if they think the Block Plan could possibly be for them, they should go for it. This is an opportunity completely unlike anything they have experienced before, and completely unlike the colleges that most people from our high school consider. The Block Plan poses more opportunity for exploration than the semester system possibly could. It is an opportunity to stray from self-perceptions, to be creative, engaged, and passionate. It is the core of an intensely interesting and inspiring community that I feel so fortunate to be a part of.

When I think about myself a few years ago, torn between what school to go to, slightly intimidated by the Block Plan, Colorado, and many things CC.

Thank you, me.