Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Back to Class Day

Tomorrow we troop back to Class Day, our private study program's version of a home school co-op. We meet twice a month at the East County site which takes place at Del Cerro Baptist Church on the second and fourth Thursdays. Last year was our first year back at Class Day after several years away due to my illnesses, and I'll be teaching the same classes as last year: first period: Advanced High School Expository Writing (honors), for only juniors and seniors with only three students registered this year, one of them being E. I have second period free for grading or lesson prep, and then lunch. Third period is my "big" class, Intermediate Writing -- again expository writing for high schoolers, college prep this time, and right now I have 11 students registered which may change tomorrow. Many registration changes take place on the first Class Day, so who knows how many students I will have in each class by the end of the day.

As mentioned above, E in 11th grade this year is in my Advanced Writing class, and then she is taking chess and cooking. T, an 8th grader, will be taking volleyball first semester and basketball second, chess, and cooking, so my two oldest will be in two classes together as the 7th-12th grades are grouped together in several of the electives. In 6th grade, J is taking "Grossology," a science class dealing with all kinds of icky experiments that are far beyond my comfort level, plus PE and cooking (again). And B, in 3rd this year, will be taking art, math games, and PE. He is quite upset about the math class tonight and has come out to the sofa three times in tears, asking me to change his class. If he still feels like that after trying out the class tomorrow, I'll see what other classes are available for him.

Class Days are rather exhausting. The venue is 35 miles from our home, so tomorrow morning, after watering the garden, dressing "teacherly" (which definitely means make up and the whole "shebang"), packing five lunches, we'll leave at 8:30 at the latest so we can be at the site just after 9 AM so we can get the kids' name tags made (with all their classes and classroom assignments on the back), locate their classrooms, and get them settled before "Opening" (homeroom) starts at 9:30. First period lasts from 10 AM to 11 AM, and second period from 11 AM to noon. Lunch is from noon to 12:30, and hot lunches can be ordered, a certain lunch available each class: burritos, pizza, sub sandwiches, etc., plus snacks. The third period starts at 12:30 and ends at 1:30, with the last 10 minutes for cleaning up our rooms. Then we have to finish with our assigned clean up, gather up the kids, and drive home. As long as we are in the city, we usually run an errand or three before driving back up the mountain, getting home in time for J and T's piano lessons at 4:30-5:30. Then I can collapse. :)

We'll be leaving a bit later on this first Class Day as the writing teachers have asked the parents of all writing students (Joyful Writing grades 4-6, Beginning Writing grades 7-12, Intermediate Writing grades 10-12, and Advanced Writing grades 11-12) to stay behind for ten minutes or so. We teachers had a great deal of trouble last year with both writing students and their parents: substandard work turned in (not even spell-checked), late work turned in or work not turned in at all, resulting in low grades that several parents did not factor into their final English grades, absent students giving no notice and not getting the next assignments, students missing class to go to work rather than to class, and parents not keeping on top of their students and blocking out time for them to work on their homework. I had parents withdrawing students from the class mid-semester but not accepting the grade I gave for the missed work because my grade would lower their GPA's.

Every single one of these issues was completely NEW to me after taking several years off from teaching Class Day; I have NEVER, EVER dealt with irresponsibility from students and parents in my home school writing classes before, and I and the other three writing teachers are hoping that by talking to the parents we'll help avoid some if not most of these problems this year. If the parents don't want to support their students in the writing classes, then they should withdraw their students NOW so that we teachers don't end up having to do a lot of extra work for no reason.

I put my whole self into these writing classes: 30 hours a month of grading and lesson prep plus answering questions via e-mail is not unusual, and to have students and parents who don't take these classes seriously is very upsetting. This year I am not going to accept ANY late papers (they'll receive a ZERO) unless a family emergency comes up and the parent alerts me of the fact before the Class Day. I am also distributing a "contract" with my expectations that both the students and a parent must sign with all of this information. And I hope that the meeting will help to clarify the teachers' expectations to the parents and help them to realize that these homework assignments are SERIOUS and that these courses are NOT electives but require commitment. Real commitment.

So off to bed I go so I can stay awake while driving and be fresh and ready for teaching classes tomorrow....

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