English frustration, could use some ideas....

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Registered: 05-13-1998
English frustration, could use some ideas....
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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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Avatar for turtletime
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Registered: 05-13-1998
Tue, 03-26-2013 - 11:08am

Thanks so much for the replies. It's always good to have some reassurance that yes, this is a class that would drive a girl crazy lol. 

DD had the opportunity to spend a casual fun day with some classmates yesterday. These are the kids that are very smart but typically mute and they all voiced frustration with the class. I think the fact that these kids are also taking mostly college courses just highlights the immaturity of the English class. Because is it obviously a wide spread problem and because the teacher IS someone who I think really wants to succeed in this program, I'll contact her. Until other kids and families speak up though, I'm afraid DD will be seen as the exception and we may be dealing more with independent study or the like... not ideal as what DD really craves is quality discussion. 

What is your guys take on involving the history teacher? I wouldn't normally but this teacher has been with the program for a decade, has the exact same kids and is challenging them all... DD included. He's not as well-liked generally but DD absolutely adores him. He requires more writing than the English teacher. He grades hard. He pushes them to think, to debate. DD comes home daily bubbling over about the classroom discussion. I'm wondering if he'd be able to give us some support but then, I don't want to freak out the English teacher....

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Registered: 04-16-2001
Mon, 04-01-2013 - 10:16am

It would be great if you could enlist the history teacher, but seems like a delicate balance would be needed to do so without the English teacher feeling she is being criticized or not knowing how to improve things.  It almost seem like going to the supervisor of the program would be the way to go - although unfortunately, that, too, may not help.  But if the program is designed to be at a higher level than regular high school, it seems the class should be as well.  Perhaps the history teacher can help figure out a strategy, especially if you approach him as wanting to elevate the level of the class, yet be respectful and supportive of the English teacher. 

Does your dd think the teacher is capable of providing the kind of leadership needed to spark in-depth discussion? 

I don't envy you or your dd.  It is always difficult to be critical, especially of someone that is trying hard.  Do you know any of the other parents to join forces with?  I agree that a stronger case can be made if other students joined in.  Good luck!

Avatar for turtletime
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Registered: 05-13-1998
Sat, 04-06-2013 - 10:54am

Had a chat with the teacher or I should say DD had a chat and I sat next to her for moral support. It was pretty informal as we were all pressed for time but we established that DD won't be required to sit through read-a-loud any longer. She'll be excused from any repetition due to unpreparedness of her peers. All that, of course, doesn't address DD's need to have real dialogue about the material in class with people who are invested nor her desire for constructive critisism on her written work BUT, it doesn't waste so much of her time and a decent start.

I'm not sure we can turn-around anything else in the last 8 weeks of class especially while the teacher is trying to find her footing with the new district enforced "common core" curriculum. We planned another meeting to discuss more paticulars about what DD needs academically as opposed to enviromentally.

The realities are, this is a very nice, very eager teacher, who is excited to be where she is but lacks the experience needed to work at this level. DD's not going to get her dream English class while she's here but, the benefits of the rest of the program greatly outweigh this issue alone. At least we've discovered some promising courses at the college.

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Registered: 09-13-1999
Fri, 04-12-2013 - 11:10am

I tried to start a new discussion entitled "English frustration rears its ugly head again" but apparently I'm not authorized to access that page, lol.

Anyway, I know that misery doesn't really love company but I think it helps sometimes to know that you are not alone in watching the frustrations your kids encounter.  Dd came home from school yesterday and told me, with a very flat affect, that her latest English paper earned her a 97.  Her complete lack of enthusiasm struck me so I probed further.  This is a kid who manages to find challenge where there's none to be found and who has managed to get through school more smoothly than either of her older sisters.  I gather this was an especially good paper in the eyes of her teacher but dd took no pride in it.  She said that her teacher is very nice, much nicer and more open than the teacher who left mid-year, but that she misses MIDDLE SCHOOL English.   She explained that she misses the detailed sentence corrections and critical feedback she received then.  She also misses peers who understand her thought process and can contribute to discussion, not necessarily broad class discussion but outside of class.  Again, this was a gift she had  in middle school and because she had it once, she knows what she's missing.  This teacher seems not particularly interested in suggesting enrichment for dd or guiding her to enrichment elsewhere.  When she invited kids to do rewrites on a paper, she glanced at dd's and (almost) grimaced, commenting only, "Oh, you're just fine tuning this at a very high level."  DD came away with the impression that the teacher was annoyed at her.  Wasn't her 99 good enough? 

I wonder if this country has become STEM-obsessed to the point where humanities instruction at the high school level is diluted and minimized.  I'm an enthusiastic supporter of STEM instruction and my dd takes courses in higher level math, comp sci, higher level science, and engineering.   On the other hand, I also believe that humanities instruction is important and that those who excel deserve the same sorts of opportunities to develop their talents as the extraordinary math student.

Avatar for turtletime
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Registered: 05-13-1998
Sun, 04-14-2013 - 2:02am

Hmm, so frustrating when you think you post and it never shows up! There is a comfort in a shared misery but I'm certainly sorry your DD's having a bad time with English too. It's just so odd. All through elementary and middle school, it seemed so easy to accomodate DD. I figured high school would be easy and yet, we can't seem to find a decent English class. Like your DD, mine really misses middle school where she had some excellent teachers and a lot of freedom. I don't understand why it's gotten so much harder to find in high school. DD's has been invited to other schools for special wirting seminars and they are great! However, the real classes don't seem that impressive and the rest of the program isn't a good fit. Someday... we will get it ALL won't we lol.

Maybe it's what happens to kids who are historically good at challenging themselves... they eventually hit a point when they really can't progress without some outside instruction. It just seems teachers would be more willing to grade harder than they do. Like your DD, when she's asked for more critique, she's been looked at like a bother.

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Registered: 07-23-2002
Fri, 04-19-2013 - 4:10pm

I felt like I was peeking in from the outside on this issue, but conferences at the school yesterday have made it clear that we're facing something similar here.

For years the English teacher has been telling me how impressed she is with my kids -- but she's a personal friend and I thought she just had some sort of weird teacher-crush on my kids. She resigned from active teaching in December I assumed her replacement would have a more laid-back view of my kids' abilities and needs.

Ds16 (the kid who didn't write at all until he was 12 and doesn't read novels for pleasure, who seemed much more STEM-oriented) is apparently way beyond the Grade 11 English curriculum. He's done the coursework for the school year (which doesn't end until June 29th here) and his writing and analysis are easily at what she considers an A-plus level. This year there are three Grade 12 girls in the same class (it's a combined Grade 10/11/12 classroom) with whom he can hold meaningful literature discussions and that's something, but next year there will be no one like that. He'll be the only academic-stream Grade 12 student and according to her his skills already exceed that level anyway. The teacher asked him point blank what she can do to encourage him to continue to learn and grow: more work? feedback at a deeper level? different work? He's not particularly driven in this area, nor does he want more work since he likes to spend time challenging himself in other areas, but agreed that if she has alternate assignments that encourage more depth he'd be happy for those. The discussion in this thread was helpful for me, because I was able to articulate something about the value of providing more mature, demanding critique of high-level writing even if it's got nothing to do with grades.

Dd14 is in the same classroom, but as the youngest in a class of 15- through 19-year-olds she's got some intellectual peers and the freedom to push herself to the level of mastery and depth expected of the Grade 11 and 12's. With her the problem isn't acute, but I can see it eventually will be. She will probably spend three more years at this school and there's no older, more challenging classroom for her to move to. 

There are changes afoot in the school and the curriculum (quite the opposite of what I think US schools are experiencing with Common Core: more flexibility for schools to reinvent themselves in order to serve their particular needs) and I hope that things here will move towards more extensive digital collaboration with other schools. With luck my kids will find peers and mroe challenge in a bigger pond where they're not the only big fish.

Another thing we have going here is a philosophical belief among the teachers that when supporting the success of every student, success is not defined with respect to standardized benchmarks: it is defined with respect to the student. It was refreshing to hear that English teacher tell my ds that even though he was already an A-plus student, she didn't feel like his learning was optimal and she wanted to know how to serve his educational needs better. Sure, her options are limited, but at least she's motivated to try!

On a related note I was at a "re-inventing our high school curriculum" meeting at the school last night and was blown away by the wisdom, passion and creativity of the social studies teacher. He's going to help lead the school in the right direction, I'm pretty sure. Feeling optimistic...

Miranda

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

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