Last week I had the opportunity to meet Ali's teachers at Meet the Teacher Night. Ali is now in 10th grade and most of her classes are AP (advanced placement) classes. Apparently, AP means "just like college". They use college textbooks, college vocabulary, have college requirements, and, when it is over, should receive college credit. Nothing like pushing things a bit.
Now, Ali has not really liked school much...um...ever. She has her moments. Lunch is usually fun. Phys. ed. is always a favorite class. And any class with a friend is worth staying in. So this year, I was quite surprised to hear some positive things about her teachers. I was actually looking forward to meeting some of them. And then I got there.
Each teacher has 8 minutes to talk. They have 8 minutes to tell us their goals, get us excited about the class, present us with the most important information. And then it's off to the next class. I began in math. Ali likes her math teacher. She says she's funny and hands out candy. Anyone with candy is a hit with my daughter. So I was looking forward to meeting Mrs. C. She started by telling us she has 32 students in the class. It's packed and she doesn't have much time to help anyone during class. Extra help is after school. Then she told us her goal...prepare for the regents. This class is not an AP class. It is Algebra 2/Trig. So Mrs. C. spent a great deal of time telling us how the children would find it difficult to pass the regents but she would work with them all year and they would eventually do well. When is the test? Late May. So all year, they will practice for the regents.
Other nuggets from Mrs. C.: "I'm much older than the other teachers who teach math. I've been doing this a lot longer. Your child will never come home and say I am cool. But I know what I'm doing and they will learn." (She was younger than me!) Another nugget: ready math teachers...."Tell your kids to study every day. You will not be able to help them cram for a test. You don't remember this stuff because you took algebra and trig so long ago and nobody uses it in real life." Sigh. Since Ali likes this teacher, I can only assume Mrs. C. needs to work on her elevator speech. She needs a new one.
On to Spanish. Ali's take on the Spanish teacher - she has a great style and great hair. I agree. I also found her funny and sarcastic. Oh...her goal for the year...practice for the regents. That was it. She did reprimand me, in a joking way, about texting during class. I was texting Ali. Oops.
Next came AP Euro...European History. Ali hates social studies but this year, she loves it. She loves her teacher, finds it relatively easy to understand, and enjoys the class. Mrs. R. gave her goals in 8 minutes. "My goal is to inspire your children to travel. And I want them to learn how to analyze and evaluate history so they learn to love it." Will they take the AP exam? Yes. Did she talk about it as a goal? Nope. She said they'd be ready and moved on. I LOVE THIS TEACHER! (Yes, I told her so. And I told her how much Ali loves her class.)
AP Biology was next. Mr. S. spent the entire 16 minutes (double period) telling us how he was running the class exactly like a college class. He lectures and they take notes. He will not go over notes. He will not go over chapters in the book. They must read the chapters and outline each one, study each night, and be prepared for ....you got it...the AP exam in June. Guess how excited Ali is with this class. When I asked if there were any labs, he answered, quite sincerely, yes. "In fact," he said, "we have one tomorrow. There are twelve throughout the year." I thought the university biology teacher parent who was sitting next to me was going to fall off her chair. So this class, apparently, is designed to prepare them for the AP exam and turn them off of college. Well done!
I gave up at this point and went looking for the principal. He was wandering the building and couldn't be found. I did find an assistant principal who listened to my tirade and gave me a story about how New York State does require a lot in the regents and AP exams. I told him I was a NYS teacher and knew all about the exams. I also told him that teaching to the test meant children were turned off. "There has to be more to school than preparing for a test that comes in June," I complained. "There is much more going on in class," he countered. "Well then why didn't I hear about it?" No response. Finally he told me he would relay my message to the principal.
So here I am. Blogging my frustration, once again. But I have no solutions. My daughter is staying put in public school. Money, time, and geography do not allow a change. I will continue to keep her excited about learning, separating it from school as much as I can. And I will continue to play down the tests when I talk to parents. Learning is so much more important than passing a test. And I will continue to hope that next year will be better.
Image: 'Superbokehtheorie' http://www.flickr.com/photos/37977505@N00/2421129047
'Milady, did you enjoy the museum?'
'I don't dig texting.'
In the Clouds'
'bored during my Management class. |:'