Friday, January 31, 2014

Schooling that Makes Sense! Wahoo!

When I taught at Hutchinson High School for a few years B.K. (before kids), I spent half my day teaching Honors Sophomore English and the other half of the day in the CAI (Computer-Assisted Instruction) room.

This was a program for at-risk students; they were able to take any of their basic required courses in the CAI room. Most of their work was done on computers (an exciting proposition for kids twenty years ago), working at their own pace, with individualized help from the two teachers in the classroom. It was a great program -- turned around the lives of many kids I knew in there.

But there was one hang-up that always bugged me. You see, some of these kids were quite bright -- a few I would have even called brilliant.  (Does that surprise you? I always said that my honors kids and my at-risk kids had more in common than you would think. The two things that set them apart: parental support and a willingness to play the School Game.)

So, because these bright kids were able to work at their own pace, they could have finished all the requirements for credit in the class early -- some of them, in some classes, could have even done a year's worth of work in a semester. They knew that, so they ended up goofing off a lot while they were in there -- which didn't hurt them any, but it distracted the kids that needed all their class time to get their work done.

We had an idea: we wanted to give these students the option that, once they finished the coursework for that class, they could stop coming to class.  They could get out of school an hour early, or come an hour later. Seriously -- how huge of a motivator would that be for kids like this?  HUGE!

But it was a no-go. State law mandated that to get credit for a course, the student had to spend a minimum amount of time actually sitting in the classroom. It was infuriating to me. (My years at Hutch High were the impetus for my incessant dreaming about the ideal school.)

Fast forward to this morning in the car where my eldest is telling me about her friend's new class at Sioux City East. A very similar concept to my old CAI room. He (a bright 19-year-old senior who basically supports himself and wants to go to college next year) is able to take all of his courses in this classroom. He works at his own pace (in fact, she said he's almost done with English for the year). And . . . he gets to leave every day by 11:30am! 

I can't tell you how excited I am about this!!  Not only am I excited for this boy (really, this is the perfect arrangement to meet his life and educational needs -- he's even been able to take a much-needed second job).  But I am so thrilled that somebody was able to get past the butt-in-seat issue and do something that makes sense for the kids!!  Hallelujah!

This gives me a little bit of hope. Maybe I could work in the public schools again without going postal. Just gotta find the right school.

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