Class rigor - when is too much?

Community Leader
Registered: 07-26-1999
Class rigor - when is too much?
24
Mon, 09-19-2011 - 10:10pm
I know we've had this discussion on the boards and I know I've seen varying opinions on it. I am wondering when you decide enough is enough, or you need to either step into things or let your h/s'er deal with it.

Bit of background, ODD is a junior, straight A's up til last year taking gifted and talented, honors, Pre-AP and AP courses. Last year she got a B+ in Algebra 2 and was okay with it because she put her all into it. She was on the JV cheer team, photography club, and officer of Latin club. She started getting tension headaches mid-way through the year, partly due to stress and we learned her dad's maternal side of the family is extremely prone to migraines also. We talked last year about the headaches, tried to work on strategies to combat the stress, but she is very ambitious, a perfectionist, and tends to get OCD about things. This year, I reminded her when she picked up an outside competitive team, made varsity cheerleading, added a job at the cheer gym, and took 3 AP classes, 2 Pre-AP classes, and elected to do an independent study, self-directed class to study and work towards taking the AP art history test in the spring. She dropped Latin and Latin club after a teacher change at the end of last year. I let her make the decisions, but gently reminded her several times that I thought she was taking on too much.

Its now a month into the school year, she has 1 night a week she is home before 8:30, is only working 7 hours a week at the gym which are times she is already to be at the gym for cheer practices, and the tension headaches are already starting. She came home tonight in tears over her AP English 3 class, the teacher, the testing and course structure. I asked her about dropping into core English 3 and she said no right away, she doesn't want to "go into a class where nobody cares about the work". I told her i wasn't going to make her do anything right one, but gave her some things to think about, like is one class that is making you this upset a month into school, and in tears, worth a whole year of stress and it sounds like a drop in GPA if it's as bad as she's saying it is? I told her to think about things, go in and talk to a counselor if she needs to, but it's her decision. HOWEVER, the first time we land in the urgent care again this year because the headaches are that unbearable, I will make decisions for her and she may not like them.

But seriously, I don't know what to do, she loves school, I know she likes being challenged, but this is ridiculous, I want her to enjoy high school, have fun, etc.., and I know she does, she has some great friends and loves the activities she's in, I don't want her overwhelming drive and ambition to make herself miserable. I would love thoughts, questions, BTDT advise, etc.
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iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Tue, 09-20-2011 - 8:21am

Tracy, I have BTDT. My daughter sounds a lot like yours, driven, self-motivated, and with a huge capacity for work. She decided on her own to transfer to another school this year because the work load was killing her and sucking all the joy out of learning. She got very sick with depression last year and was so physically exhausted there were days when she could not get out of bed. If she hadn't done something, I would definitely have pulled the mom card and pulled her out of that school myself.

It is a great school, academically, but there *is* something wrong there. Many kids are on psych meds and a lot of others should be. I know they're all trying--the teachers, the staff, the parents--but when the first thing you hear on the playing field is complaint-brags about how much homework the kids have, you have to wonder if people are there for the education or just the prestige, KWIM?

If I were you, I'd watch DD carefully. If she is not enjoying what she's doing, then step in. She is too young to know that it doesn't have to be this way. I do understand her concern about dropping into a core class. She will be bored there and the class discussions won't be interesting to her. The problem is that with the more challenging material comes a lot more homework. This is the main reason DD switched to a Christian school that values family time and life balance. They still have AP classes, but they don't believe in too much HW. I really do think it's possible to provide material that is intellectually engaging without giving hours of HW every single night, but a lot of schools haven't figured this out.

The one thing I wouldn't do is make her drop her extracurriculars, like cheerleading. She needs this to balance out the other stuff.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-30-2003
Tue, 09-20-2011 - 9:03am

{{hugs}] Tracy. And Jordyn.

As I said before- Kristen is type A when it comes to schoolwork.

Community Leader
Registered: 07-26-1999
Tue, 09-20-2011 - 11:51am
Cheryl, I did ask her about moving to the other teacher that teaches it. But apparently since he's the head of the English division, and the only other teacher for AP English 3, his classes are already overcrowded and they are actually moving kids out of his class. I asked her about moving to core with the teacher she had for Pre-AP English 2 last year because she really liked him, and another of her friends moved into that class from the AP class, but it would require a complete revision of her schedule to accomplish, something she refuses to do. She also said last night that part of her reason for continuing is the college she's planning on attending takes either AP English 3 or AP English 4 for credit, but not both (apparently she's done a lot more research than I knew) and if she did it this way, if she did well enough on the English 3 test, she doesn't have to stress in English 4 about her AP test score, or the other way around, if she doesn't do as well on the 3 test, she can substitute in the 4 test. She also doesn't think she can take AP English 4 without having had 3 and doesn't want to lose that opportunity, since its the teacher that she had for English 2 (and AP European History which she wants to take senior year) and she really likes him. It seems like its getting more and more complicated. She said last night also that the teacher doesn't even tell them when tests are, the teacher told them yesterday in class when asked when the next vocab test was since she gave out the words, her response was "I don't know, whenever Mr. xx gives me the test, since its his test, then that is the day I give out the test to you guys." How is that for planning?? I also asked if her BFF was in the other teacher's class (which she is) and asked if they could plan a weekly study session together so she could get some of the notes from her to study from. She said she'd try, but they have no other classes or lunch together and her evening schedules and a lot of her weekend is already swamped. I offered a saturday morning study session at starbucks before cheer practice, or a sunday morning session... I am trying to give her as many options, thoughts, anything that might make this easier on her. I told her she needs to take up yoga to learn to destress, all she did was yell at me "when the heck do I have time to take a yoga class!!"
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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-30-2003
Tue, 09-20-2011 - 12:12pm

Sounds like the teacher has problems.

Community Leader
Registered: 07-26-1999
Tue, 09-20-2011 - 1:11pm
She handed out a syllabus, but it doesn't have test dates and apparently isn't up to revision at all, since it is the other teacher's syllabus and schedule... I almost wish she had taken the dual credit college class now, then she'd have a college teacher...
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iVillage Member
Registered: 05-13-1998
Tue, 09-20-2011 - 2:22pm

I can't offer much in ways of long term perspective as we're in the thick of it all right now ourselves. Our DD is 14 and in 10th grade.

Community Leader
Registered: 07-26-1999
Tue, 09-20-2011 - 3:37pm
I agree with you on how it amazes me how micromanaged they are. Apparently she said that their quiz grades are timed writing, and the teacher said that she HOPED that the grades would be up to a 6 by christmas time, out of 8. A 6 being an 85. Jordyn said she got a 4 on the first one, so while she thought that sounded good by the "hopefully get a 6 by christmas" standard, she's also taking that as an indication that the expectation is everyone will be having sub 85's on all quizzes for the first half of hte year. And they haven't gotten an answer to how exactly time writing quizzes will work if they are based on their outside reading assignment since ecveryone's is different, and its not done when everyone is finished with their book, its set on a specific date, when the syllabus says you only have to have 5/8 of the book read by that timeframe. Its just those little things. Jordyn tends to like a very structured class, she likes to know what's happening, what's coming up, etc., but is plenty able to work with the freedom of here's the end of the course goal, you figure out how to get there. But this in between of I have a set schedule, but I'm not telling you the expectations sort of thing just stresses her out.

She's planning on taking Speech as a college course over the summer so she doesn't ahve to take it as a h/s class next fall since its required. I may encourage her to take one more on top of that and then take a full year off period next year, just to give her a bit more breathing room, because I already know some of the courses she wants to take next year, and its not looking a whole lot easier.
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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-30-2003
Tue, 09-20-2011 - 3:45pm

I think it depends at our school.

Kristen's dual enrollment teacher is a high school English

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-05-2005
Wed, 09-21-2011 - 1:40pm

I think your idea of taking two classes over the summer is a good one. Both my dds did some summer classes, both online and in person. I wish we had pushed dd18 to take a study hall, but she wanted the summer classes to fit in additional classes (at least they were relatively "fun" ones like choir-although she even took that as a weighted grade). I would definitely encourage your dd to sit down and really look at what the college she wants to attend requires. Looking back (dd is in her second year of college now), she has repeatedly said that college is SO much easier than high school - and she's in an honors program, at a good school, taking 18 credits (and high level, since she is technically a junior). It's sad really... she was popular, had a great friend group, was very successful in academics and extra-curriculars, and yet she has said that she really doesn't miss high school at all because of the stress and the lack of sleep... the constant, constant lack of sleep. The thing is, I know now that she could have slacked off a bit and still gotten into her chosen school, still gotten scholarships, but maybe her GPA would have been a few tenths of a point lower, maybe she wouldn't have taken that one extra AP class, maybe she would have had one fewer extra-curricular.

I think that the pressure on them is so great and they are inundated from middle school on with messages about preparing themselves for college. Dd truly believed that it would be a disaster if she didn't get straight As, didn't get in the 30s on her ACT, didn't have numerous extracurriculars. I don't think that she was just trying to one-up other kids or be full of herself or anything... she truly, really believed it. The first thing that she said to ds11 when he started 6th grade this year was "btw, sweetie... when they start telling

Community Leader
Registered: 07-26-1999
Wed, 09-21-2011 - 8:29pm
Thanks a ton Theresa! She actually wanted to take a study period this year, had planned it in her schedule and the school made the decision to not allow juniors to have an off period. K don't know why and right now it really Annoys me because she is using her independent study class, that she has a full syllabus and self directed deadlines to actually study and work on other classes instead right now. She already has her school and college major picked out, I wish she had been able to do a guided tour and stuff this past summer, but didn't have the time to. Honestly, I know for a fact if she just coasted these last 2 years, she'd still likely get into the school. Monday night before this English issue came up she came home and was upset, she dropped in class ranking, she went from 23 to 29. I told her it was nothing to be upset about, there are almost 750 kids in her class, it is amazing to be that highly ranked! Apparently her goal is to be in the top 20 before graduation, and while I am glad she is soo ambitious, I am worried about the pressure she puts on herself.

She did come home last night in better spirits, she had went and talked to her teacher after class, there was one wrong grade in the system and she wanted to question it. She said she did find out that the teacher had just got both tests from the other teacher, and the rhetoric quiz was tomorrow and the vocabulary test not til next Monday. Jordyn asked about the timing of the stats and just said she really needed to plan her study time out. She said overall the teacher is nice, but when teaching the class, is much different. She also said she has never taught AP English 3. I assume it must have been because of the budget cuts and moving teachers around. So, we'll see how the next little bit goes. Luckily, they don't start school til 8:45, so she leaves for school a little after 8 and usually sleeps til 7:30, so if she is up til midnight, which is almost every night, she is still getting a decent amount of sleep.
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