I had a more experienced senior teaching English amiga to help me out last year, but this year they are mine all mine. As of last year, I had taught 9th, 10th, and 11th grade English, but never 12th. I hadn't even read Beowulf or Canterbury Tales! It was a lot of feeling around, getting my bearings, figuring out what I could expect and what I wanted.
What I want is to get them ready for college. Really ready.
The early college mission is to immerse students in a college-going culture--especially if they don't experience that kind of culture at home. I see this course as my chance to really enforce effective strategies for managing college expectations, like communicating with instructors and navigating a hybrid online/in-person structure. Because let's face it: hybrid courses are the best-case scenario for the increasingly internet-dependent colleges, and these kids have had issues navigating hybrid courses thus far.
And this course is nothing if not hybrid. Not only are the students hybrid high school/college kids, but since the course is a high school class meeting on a college schedule, its hybrid structure is not just about online versus in-person. I don't think I'll be meeting with them in college classrooms across campus like last year, but I will still have to limp along with Blackboard and leave my own classroom.
So to accommodate the unique setup of this unique course, I've borrowed from some strategies I figured out teaching online last year and started organizing my expectations for my little hybrid high school students.
It comes down to crystal clear expectations from Day One.
Last year I thought, "Hey, they're super seniors! They don't need all this first day stuff! They've done this a million times, and they can read a syllabus!" True, false, and false.
So I've already started getting ready to lay it on the line, starting with some math:
- We will be IN class for less than HALF the time a "normal" senior English class would be: there WILL be homework daily. You will have a little flexibility as to when you get things done, as some assignments will be posted a week or more ahead of time, but the basic order of things will remain the same:
I have to have 2 schedules--double the kiddos, you know.
- You have to meet with me outside of class. I will have office hours during my planning period, and you will come by at least once a month--twice if you want me to even look at late work. Also, I went to the trouble to set up an appointment calendar for the year, so, you know, use it. I cannot hunt you all down.
- You will create something cool. Numbers can never tell the whole story, so you need to start thinking of what you want to learn more about, and then what you can contribute and present for a senior project. (PS that's what the mandatory meeting for is each month).
I think with routines established, we will be in good shape to dive right in--and not with the Jonathan Swift satire stuff that about jarred them out of believing I spoke English, much less taught it. This year, I've got some straightforward articles leading into some straightforward historical fiction, leading into, well, some Shakespeare scenes--but just excerpts! And I've got it all set up to tie in with the NC Final Exam at the end too, with a little prep work I did while rereading some Philippa Gregory this summer.
It really will be a great big mixture, but with this setup, I think all of us will be less mixed up.