Monday, September 07, 2015

My first "Back to School" night

No, we have not sent our children to school.

We have a Japanese Exchange student who is in the 10th grade and who is attending our local high school.

It was a bit of an ordeal for me. I admit it.  It creeped me out a bit.  It is a large school with the whole assembly line feeling.

Here is what I learned.

The ESL (English as a second language) track is a joke.  If kid does the homework, he will get an "A."  If the kid doesn't do the homework, but asks for extra credit later, he can still get an "A."   If the kid blows the tests and asks for extra credit, an "A" is still a possibility.  I felt like the teachers were literally begging the students to do something and were offering all sorts of bribes with the promise of not only a passing grade but an "A" if only the student would try just a little (which apparently many of the students are not willing to do).

Don't get me wrong.  I have nothing against extra credit.  But the whole tone was one of low expectations.
I'm also not necessarily a fan of homework either.  I love learning.  This didn't not feel like an "I love learning" kind of place. I got the sense that the "late bloomer" or "late arrival" student felt beaten down by the system.  They knew that they didn't measure up and many had given up trying.  Thus, the teachers tried to help with their constant flow of "do overs" and "second chances."

Only 3 parents of students in the ESL biology and ESL history class showed up. What are teachers to do when there is no support at home?The school does offer after school tutoring.  Even a student from a non-supportive household could get help with homework, if the student took initiative. But, that is a lot to ask of a kid who hasn't been raised to value education in a system that doesn't see them individual.

I learned that teachers are very frustrated.  Many students in the ESL classes won't do homework and are disruptive in class.  The teachers would like to spend more time with the serious students but they haven't got the time or resources.  However, if the school puts the serious ESL students in the regular classroom, they can become overwhelmed and give up.

After "Back to School Night," I spent some time thinking about what to do with public education and how to meet the needs of students on such different levels.  I wished that every student had an "IEP." (Individual Education Plan).  Instead of being placed in a class that was too easy or a class that was too hard, the student could have learning opportunities right at their level.

I know how to do that as a homeschooler.  I don't know how to do that in a large, inflexible institutional setting. 

1 comment:

Shirley said...

Thank you for sharing your insight! I had never thought about IEP's like that before. You're right, every child should have an IEP!