Thursday, March 13, 2008

School Blues

I spent the afternoon at the high school for parent-teacher conferences. Last time I did this, back in October, I left feeling like The Dark Lord was doing well with his high school experiment and that overall it was a positive thing. Not so today. Without exception I heard from each teacher about how clearly bright he is and then most went on to indicate their confusion over his very poor performance this semester. He's missing more assignments than I can count, he shows up late to his first period classes, he rarely seems to have a handle on what's coming due, and he very clearly just doesn't care anymore.

He's told me some crazy stories about this term's classes: the required "Future Focus" class in which they "set goals and learn to use technology" but nothing he doesn't already know, he piano class in which 30 students are set loose to go practice somewhere in the building unsupervised (but they can't take the music books home), the Spanish class in which the teacher speaks French and two entire class periods were spent watching Pirates of the Caribbean. Had the teacher just turned on the Spanish subtitles I would have been OK with it. I know what it is to have a hard day teaching. But no subtitles. OK, I guess the main characters end up on the island of Tortuga but that's the extent of the curricular link I could identify.

What was clear from many of these teachers is how overwhelmed they were with behavior problems, testing requirements, and sheer numbers. Meanwhile my sweet boy, who's never been all that good at speaking up on his own behalf, is getting lost, falling behind, and losing interest.

Many years ago, when he was just four years old and finishing preschool, his teacher suggested that maybe a busy, crowded kindergarten wasn't an environment where he was likely to thrive. Fast forward to today when I was speaking with his animation teacher whose class seems to be the only thing keeping him interested. When I mentioned that he was thinking about leaving school this woman, bless her, looked at me, shook her head, and said "I don't know how he can make it here for three more years". She thought maybe he'd be better off away from the high school environment. On the other hand, she said he was welcome to take her class, any class, as many times as he wished because she so enjoyed working with him.

I left the school with a very heavy heart, not sure, once again, whether it was better to stick it out or move on. That seems to be an ongoing issue right now with two of my kids and I find myself completely unsure of how to help them.


redmolly said...

Oh, Melisa, I'm so sorry. I know how determined you are to do right by your kids and how tough it can be to sort through all the options... and I'm sure all that current garbage on the orsig list is the lastest thing you need right now.

Thanks for sharing this story with us step by step. It's wonderful to be able to learn from other homeschoolers' experiences, both positive and negative.

Hugs to the Dark Lord too. I'd love to see some of what he's doing in his animation class.

ElizO said...

This is such a bummer. What a hard place to be for all of you. It must be discouraging for Dark Lord. Hugs to you all.

And I thank you also for sharing this process, I do appreciate being able see what it's like, and what the pitfalls may be, as we'll be thinking about high school in a couple of years.

shanamadele said...

Hugs all around. The more I hear about schools, the more convinced I am that Butternut's future teachers are going to hate me. Or else I'm going to have to learn some social skills I currently lack.

beth h said...

M -- Sorry to hear about all the crud with Public High School. It simply cannot serve every kind of kid, and does a less-than-stellar job serving a large chunk of kids these days.

At least nowadays, home-schooling is an option.

Don't forget that you have LOTS of resources around you, particularly in friends who know an odd and interesting assortment of skills that might enrich a kid's learning experience. Just a reminder...