Friday, January 22, 2010

Continuation High

I work at a Continuation High School. This means, for various reasons, my students do not fit into the standard public school mold -- usually for failing classes, chronic ditching, breaking school rules, dropping out then returning to school, an inability or unwillingness to do homework, or just because they don't like the pressures of "normal" school. They are here either temporarily or until they graduate -- for credit make-up, and extra support.

Classes are smaller than average -- 12-18 or so, in most cases. Sound easy? Imagine plucking the most loud mouthed, rebellious, angry, easily provoked, school loathing students from your average public school classroom, and putting them all in one class -- at the same time, on energy drinks, without a proper breakfast, or enough sleep the night before. Then try to teach them English, while the quiet ones cut daggers at you because the rampant out of control outbursts of their peers makes them crazy, and they blame you for it. Not every class is the same, of course, each comes with its own dynamics, some have synchronicity, some not so much -- but one thing is consistent throughout the day -- English class is no easy sell, no matter how you spin it. Ours is not a relationship based on a mutual love for literature, that much is for certain.

That's why I am so lucky to have State Standards. Gosh, without those, I'm not sure how we could get anything accomplished in the classroom. At the end of the day, I like to remind myself how lucky all of our children are that there exists a group of consultants out there that know exactly what our children should be learning, on any given day, from year to year, all across the great long state of California. In fact, I have been told that, if all teachers would really buckle down and attach every single one of their lessons to a State Standard then every student graduating high school would know exactly the same things! You could even give them all the same test, and no matter how unimportant and random the information on that test -- everyone would know all of the answers! From what I can gather, it's almost as if the State Standards are magic. I think that, next time there's a fight in my classroom, I am going to pull out my book of Standards and just recite from it. I've been told that this makes them settle down almost immediately. I'll let you know how it goes.

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