English frustration, could use some ideas....

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Registered: 05-13-1998
English frustration, could use some ideas....
16
Sun, 03-24-2013 - 1:39pm

I could use some ideas about bettering DD's English situation. DD 16 really does love her school and it's such an improvement over the last 2 years that she was quite forgiving of any faults 1st semester. It's a college/high school hybrid. DD takes honors English and Social Studies at the high school level with about 30 high school classmates. Everything else she takes at the community college. The English teacher is new to the program. She's really a lovely person. She's present in the class, engages with the students and from our local research, is teaching a class comparable to honors English in most high schools. The reading material is good stuff that DD has thoroughly enjoyed (she'd read most of it before but was happy to re-read.) The vocab, largely obsure SAT words DD doesn't know and since there is no work required with them, only a test end of the week, not an issue. The writing, a problem. DD has already asked not to be graded against her peers but she still gets perfect scores. She doesn't feel like she's growing. The unforgivable part for DD is the discussion. It's either basic or not there. There are several highly gifted kids in the class (all older males) but they tuned out years ago it seems. They are entirely mute in class, don't press for more like she does and resist her trying to pull them out. This last book, they've taken to doing a lot of read aloud because a chunk of kids simply aren't keeping up with the reading at home.... it's just so painful for DD and unlike the college classes, it's everyday!

So, how to fix this? DD can take English classes at the college and is planning on doing so this summer. However, because of the difference in subject matter packaging, she can't REPLACE the high school English classes with college ones like she's doing with her other subjects.... well, unless she just tests out of high school and moves to the college full time and thus losing the gift of priority registration and waived fees (a little too golden to give up at this point.)

So, any ideas? We're at a loss. DD's talked to the teacher several times and she's clearly trying but it's not enough. I could talk to the teacher too but I hate to go in with no ideas. If the issue is her peer performance, what can we possibly do about that? It could very well be DD needs to suck it up for an otherwise great schooling fit but I know she's already dreading next year when they are going to be focusing on Shakespeare and British lit. DD routinely holds her own with professionals, professors and masters students on the subject. DD might just explode or worse, withdraw emotionally like she did at her last school.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2006
Sun, 03-24-2013 - 7:33pm

This cannot be taking up much time?  If her college registration is contingent on taking this class, if there are no other English options, I'd say, live with it.  And look for an English enrichment option that is nearer her level that she can do in addition.  (Part of the difference between high school and college is the compulsory nature of high school...the college kids are there because they want to be.  Mostly.)

Deborah

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Registered: 09-13-1999
Mon, 03-25-2013 - 12:28am

You have my sympathies.  My oldest dd lived with this throughout high school--and she attended a competitive private school--and my youngest is on track to follow the same path.  I take it there are no choices in the high school English classes in this program?  Some schools offer electives that focus on either British Literature, American Literature, or Russian Literature and word on the street can clue you in on which class is (unofficially of course) taught at a higher level. 

My only suggestion would be to foster a relationship with the teacher, either this year or next, and try to create an independent study, either formal or informal, as an extension of the class.   My eldest had a formal independent study in writing at one point and a bunch of informal ones--she ran two publications at school and ended up spending all her free time hanging around the English Department office.  The teachers edited her work and she edited theirs.  Her teacher was once looking for a sub and told dd she wished she could ask her to fill in.   It doesn't solve the problem but it makes getting through more manageable.  At least it's just one more year for her.  

Avatar for turtletime
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Registered: 05-13-1998
Mon, 03-25-2013 - 11:09am
Unfortunately, no other options. There are only 2 high school teachers in the program. Plus, this district is very specific as to 12th grade being British Literature period. DD can take alternative English classes at the college and be part of the college publication (when it will work with her schedule) but they will only be credited as electives in the eyes of the school district. The history teacher is fantastic and does stretch DD. She does a lot of writing for that class and only twice this school year has he given her back a perfect paper. The English teacher knows DD needs more and I have no doubt she'd give it if she had any idea what to do. What did your DD's independent study in writing look like? If we could come up with something for next Fall, I think they'd be open to trying. The rest of this year... I just need to get her out of that stupid read aloud. The teacher already knows she hates it but her suggestion was "don't read ahead in the book and it'll be more interesting." Sorry, no novel is interesting when hacked through in monotone voice under florescent lights lol.
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Registered: 05-13-1998
Mon, 03-25-2013 - 11:50am
It takes up enough time. DD can handle frustration in other subjects but in English, boredom makes her angry and elicits a physical reaction. She actually starts rocking in her chair and has to fight her body not to run... and she doesn't always win. She's been known to grab a bathroom pass and do a couple laps to calm herself down. No doubt she has to live with this class through next Spring but there has got to be some way to make it better. The teacher is open... we just have to help her figure out some alternatives and it's not so easy to do at this stage of the game.
iVillage Member
Registered: 09-13-1999
Mon, 03-25-2013 - 12:04pm

Read aloud is deadly when done at such a basic level.   Yuck.  The teacher could let her out of it and give her a more sophisticated project to work on instead.  I remember even in 1st grade that dd would put her finger in the place where her "advanced" reading group was reading, and blaze through the book on her own until it was her turn to read.  Imagine doing this to a high school kid!

My dd's independent study was put together by the head of the English department and dd.  They chose a collection of works to read and discuss and then dd wrote pieces, both creative and analytical, based on that reading.   Some of it was playing with the genre on her own, some analyzing the text, some entirely creative work.  This class did not confer any credit, was not graded, and it did not replace a required high school class, it just served as a necessary outlet.     It's encouraging that your dd's teacher wants to try and is willing to consider ideas.  Do you know why hasn't she been able to provide the editing and feedback your dd wants?  Is she stretched too thin with too many papers to crrect?  I know that my dd 15 was enormously frustrated last year when she received perfect papers back with no feedback.  She too felt that she wasn't growing and worried that she might be regressing.  Having a teacher this year who is (more) willing to critique her writing and stretch her makes all the difference in the world.  She still gets high/perfect scores but at least there's greater feedback and direction. 

 Is your dd the kind of person who would enjoy teaching the class on a mini unit on Shakespeare?  She could make that read aloud a lot more fun and instructive for everyone, lol.  I'm not sure if this is something that would help her personally but I'm thinking more about ways to minimize the drudgery.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Mon, 03-25-2013 - 12:36pm

This sounds deadly! I second the opinion of those who said to ask for some kind of independent study. This won't address the main issue, the lack of engaging discussions in class (and to me, that is the core of a good English class!), but it might get your D out of there a few days a week so she doesn't go nuts.

I know you can't change the teacher, but she really isn't doing all she can. It is unacceptable to allow students to slack off, not do the reading at home, and then dumb down the entire class so they can catch up. She could solve a lot of this by downgrading them for not doing the reading and for not participating in a meaningful way in class, but I'm guessing she doesn't hand out anything less than a B to anyone. Since a lot of kids only take the higher level classes because of the boost to their GPA, she'd get a lot more participation if she gave a few Cs and Ds as disincentives for not doing the work. I know it's her job to teach all the students, but lowering her standards isn't going to help anyone.

Perhaps your D could rebel passively by either acting out the book when it's her turn to read, or reading aloud in a variety of accents, or, if she knows another language well enough, attempt a simultaneous translation whatever she's reading. Not to cause trouble, just to alleviate some of the soul-crushing boredom.

Avatar for turtletime
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Registered: 05-13-1998
Mon, 03-25-2013 - 1:04pm
I believe the root of the problem is this teacher's bulk of experience has been working with remedial and average students. So, what she's doing now already seems so much more advanced than what she's been doing.... and she loves it. The grading, I'm not really sure what is going on. DD's already asked for more feedback and not to be graded against her peers but it hasn't yet happened. I can tell this teacher is going to grow but not in time to really help DD. I do like your idea of DD putting together a Shakespeare unit next year. I'm pretty sure the staff would be open especially as it could be her required internship for that semester (and both DD's internships this year have been Shakespeare with different companies and she's been guiding teens in both situations.) Additional reading might be an option too. I have to say, as odd as it sounds, it's nice to hear DD complaining. 9th and 10th were so horrible that she just gave up and locked herself in her room. If she's complaining, then she's feeling some hope that things can change at least!
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-06-2010
Mon, 03-25-2013 - 1:49pm
Reading aloud in eleventh grade because the kids aren't reading at home doesn't seem right to me. Not at this stage. That doesn't sound like a situation that even fits an eleventh-grade curriculum, never mind the needs of a gifted student in her class. No wonder your dd is frustrated. I'd go for independent study. It sounds like she'd be better off using her class time just reading on her own at this rate.
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Registered: 07-23-2002
Mon, 03-25-2013 - 11:43pm

That sounds really rough, and really inappropriate for 11th grade. Is there anywhere else she could take next year's course? Could she do it on-line? My 9th-grader is taking 10th grade English in a cohort where the academic motivation is fairly negligible. Her teacher has buddied her cohort up with classes at three other tiny rural schools, and they do their discussion on-line via a Moodle interface with those other kids. The engaged students find each other in the forums and have some very in-depth discussions, so my dd doesn't suffer because the three boys in her local class still haven't finished the first of three novels when she's on track and is ready to discuss all three. The teacher reads the forums and then spends occasional time with her students asking them orally defend or flesh out what they've written (just so there is some oral component to "class discussion). Occasionally the students from the different schools have met face to face. Not so far this year but I know elder dd met a few of them on a poetry fest trip one year. It works pretty well for my kids. So if you have the option of an on-line course *with on-line discussions*, it can work quite well.

Miranda

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

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Registered: 04-16-2001
Tue, 03-26-2013 - 9:50am

So sorry she is faced with this level of frustration!  As others said, is it possible to turn the British literature into an Independent Study or add in an online component?  She may still have to sit through class, but if she had different assignments or an interactive online group for higher level discussions, perhaps it would be easier to take the class itself.  At least the teacher seems open to trying, even if she is unable to figure out how to meet your dd's needs.  

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