Friday, February 10, 2006

The New English Class

"Omigosh, I am so going to flunk this English class!" DS#2 declared last night. It's Advanced Freshman English. He just transferred in because he was getting an "A" in regular English and not breaking a sweat. (English is his worst subject.)

"Why do you say that?" I asked. I mean, it's only been a week.

"It is so hard!" he said.

Well, that was the point.

DD#1, who graduated from the same high school last year, thinks I'm nuts. The AFE teacher is "old school": students are to be in their seats reading (imagine that!) when the bell rings. They have essays due each week. Papers are to be typed and on the box in her desk before the bell rings, or they are considered late.

I read the teacher's syllabus and I knew I would like her. Furthermore, my spies on staff at the high school confirmed my opinion.

"She reminds me so much of you," DS#2 told us Sunday night as Hubs and I read the syllabus and signed it. "And, by the way, I need a book from this list."

The list of fiction was three pages long. The students can choose a book from the list or a different fiction book by the authors listed. Authors like Ray Bradbury, Chaim Potok, Pat Conroy, Mark Twain, Isaac Asimov, Jane Austen, Arthur C. Clarke, Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Daphne duMaurier. You know, the classics.

It was 8:00 p.m. on Sunday. He needed a book by Monday morning. Fortunately, I am a biblioholic. I knew I had several of the books on the list. Where they were (as in which box) was a bit more problematic. I dug around in the garage and came up with The Martian Chronicles that I thought DS#2 might like. As it turned out, The Chosen was on the list and DS#2's tutor had given him that to read.

Back to last night...

Once again, I made my argument that he was in school to learn, not just to get A's. I realize he needs help in English. I wish there was a middle way between the teacher he had who did not challenge him and his current one who is so demanding. But I'd rather he get a C and learn something than an A and not.

"You know, Mom, if he flunks he won't be able to transfer to the Other High School," DD#1 helpfully pointed out.

"You know, if he doesn't go to the Other High School prepared, he'll flunk out anyway," I replied. (The Other High School is out of our district. 94% of its graduates go to 4-year colleges. We've applied for an interdistrict transfer and we're praying.)

I looked at DS#2. "If you need help, ask," I said. "I'll help you or you can ask your teacher for help. And if you're worried about flunking, what are you doing here, watching TV?"

"Okay," he admitted, "I probably won't flunk. But I won't get an A, either."

"I don't expect you to," I answered. "But I do expect you to work."

The irony is that he is very good in math. But his Algebra I teacher is also old-school, and DS#2 only got enough points for a B+. So I couldn't make the argument for a more difficult Algebra I class (if, in fact, there is one).

The next quarter is going to be very interesting, indeed!