Thursday, September 11, 2008

13 Weird Things About My School

1. Our schedule. We have different schedules for different days, labelled "A," "B," "C," "D," and "E." And these days do not necessarily correspond with the days of the week, although sometimes they do. For example, last week was Monday off, then ABCD, and this week is EBCD. BCD usually flow together, in that order, but As and Es can occur pretty much anywhere. I even here there's a crazy thing called a "modified F schedule," but I haven't personally witnessed that yet.

2. Double and single periods. This is actually an extension of #1. On an A day, each class meets for 45 minutes, plus a 20-ish minute community meeting--more on that later. On a B day, I teach double 1st (meaning 90 minutes intstead of 45), single 3rd, single 4th, double 5th, and single 7th. But on a C day, 1 teach double 2nd period, double 3rd, double 6th, and single 7th. And on a D day (like today), I teach single 1st, single 2nd, double 4th, single 5th, and double 7th. And on an E day, all the classes meet, but unlike an A day, they're all 40 minutes instead of 45. Those spare minutes go into the community meeting, and we usually have a guest speaker or special presentation.

3. Bell schedule--or lack thereof. As you can probably glean from #1 and #2, periods begin and end at different times depending on the day. One would think this would create a logistical nightmare for the bell schedule. The solution? We just don't have bells. The teachers just have to keep that day's schedule in their heads (which I stink at) and let the students go at the appropriate time. This makes it virtually impossible to determine if students are actually "tardy" for class or not, as it's all kind of a guessing game as to when their previous teachers released them.

4. Community Meeting. You know how normal schools have morning announcements over the PA system? Or, maybe if they're really fancy, on a TV? We don't do that. Instead, the entire student body and faculty troops over to Andrews Hall (more on that in a minute) and have a big old meeting. At this meeting, anybody who wants to can get up on stage and give an announcement. It can be anything from "the boys' soccer team won our game last night" to "does anybody want to be in my ping-pong group? I'm going to call it the Pepperoni Club" to "so, what do you all think of the mentoring process?"

5. We like to applaud. A lot. All of the announcements mentioned in #5 received enthusiastic responses.

6. The buidlings. Apparently when University opened, they just had Andrews Hall, which contained a (small) auditorium which doubles as a cafeteria, a gym, some offices, and four classrooms. It also had two buildings called "The White House" and "The Ranch House," because that's what they looked like. Both were used as various offices. As the school grew, they added "portable classrooms," aka trailers. Last year, they added Fairbanks Hall, which is now the building that has all the classrooms, and got rid of the portables. So currently, classes are in Fairbanks, with the exception of music and gym, which are in Andrews. Morning meetings are also in Andrews. Offices are in the White House, the the Ranch House is a storage facility. Students and faculty walk between these buildings several times a day. There are also many picnic tables outside, where students can sit and visit. There is also a legit house on "campus." The headmaster and his wife (who also happens to be the Director of Admissions) live there.

7. Food. While our assistant headmaster "thinks that we have a working kitchen," it has never been used. We do not provide school lunches. Instead, every year we contract with five different semi-fast food-type restaurants to bring in food. The kids sign up for meals and pay for meal as the beginning of the year, and the restaurants make them and deliver them to the school every day. This year we have Jimmy John's, Panera, Subway, a Chinese place, and a pizza place. If a student is absent, their lunch still gets delivered, since they paid for a semester's worth of food in August. Therefore, their lunch is then up for grabs amongst the teachers. Today I ate free Panera. Nice.

8. Drinks. There are no soda machines in Fairbanks, but there are some in Andrews. (There are also regular vending machine and one that sells various ice cream products.) But the kids all thought that the sodas were too expensive ($1.25), so they got together and decided to have a "drink shop." This basically means that somebody buys large cases of soda at Sam's Club, they store them in the school kitchen (since goodness knows it's not being used for anything else), and then sell them for 50 cents each at lunch. The administration thinks this is great because the kids have had the initiative to organize it all.

9. Classrooms. Right now, Alicia and I are the only teachers who actually share a classroom, but other teachers have done so in the past. The master plan is that when the school is filled to capacity (we grow every year), all classrooms will be shared by two teachers. What this means, in practice, is that teachers who share classrooms end up teaching and working in weird places during the day. For example, I teach in my own classroom during periods 1, 2, and 3, and then I have to go find some hidey-hole in the school (or sit at my desk with my headphones on) to prep during 4th and 5th, and then I teach in a Spanish teacher's room during 6th and 7th. Alicia finds random places to prep during 1st and 3rd, teaches in a history room during 2nd, and teaches in our room 4th through 7th. This leads to much confusion when trying to track down teachers.

10. Technology. Every student and faculty member has a laptop. We use them often throughout the day. We also use Edline, which is a site that allows teachers to post all homework, notes, class announcements, etc. All of the parents have their own Edline accounts too, so they can see their students' assignments, grades, etc. And all students and staff have email accounts through a school-wide email program. Every classroom has a printer in it. Every classroom also has a built-in projector for showing movies, Powerpoints, etc. However, we have the dumbest and slowest online gradebook program that I can imagine.

11. The mentoring program. Every student is paired with a faculty member, who serves as their "mentor" throughout their four years of high school. We meet with our mentees (each of us has 8-10 kids) for 30-45 minutes every other week and talk through all of their life and academic issues. We also guide them through the college application process. If a student is having problems in, say, math class, the parents don't contact the math teacher--they contact the mentor, who serves as a liason and works things out for them. We don't have any guidance counselors at our school; in a way, we each fill this role for a few students.

12. Size. I know that a lot of private schools are small, but after teaching at public schools (including Carmel High School, which is one of the biggest in the state), this feels ridiculously tiny. We currently have 203 students, which is the biggest enrollment ever. (We've now been open for 9 years.) We plan to continue growing until we reach 400 kids (100 in each class) (although right now each class size is different--there are only 30-some seniors, and 70-some freshmen), then stay at that number.

13. Feeder schools. The freshman class alone comes from 28 different middle schools, everything from Orchard (a swanky private prep school) to IPS (Indianapolis Public, not exactly known for their academic excellence).

In spite of the fact that I have now reached 13 items, there are still plenty more weird things to be mentioned. I may have to have a continuation of this list for next week!


Andrea said...

Okay I think that the mentor program and the fact that all the kids have computers is cool. However, I really don't think I would like the weird schedule and lack of bells. That has to be confusing to the students and the teachers alike. Plus, if a teacher accidently forgets which day they are on and dismisses late, students could miss the beginning of their next class. Having different schedules on different days is not a big deal (we had block scheduling through part of high school so we had a "red" day and a "white" day that alternated) but I think they should rethink having 6 possible schedules...

Oh and I think I might be a little not okay with feeding my child fast food every day.

Anonymous said...

Amy, I am just now catching up on a months' worth of friends' blogs!!! I am loving reading of your latest adventures. This post is SOOOOO interested! Though long, I'm glad you took the time to record it as I had NO CLUE what an unconventional place it is! Very cool ... Very odd. Enjoy that free panera, and CONGRATULATIONS on such an amazing job at such an ESTEEMED school! Love, Caroline

SlyGly said...

I think I would like to attend that school.

Kathy said...

so strange but cool!

Fox and Dawg said...

It sounds like a good school for students, although I'm not sure about the teachers :) I'm all for that food though! Are they allowed to bring their lunch from home if they want - that could fix Andrea's worries. :)

In high school we had A, B, C & D days. and since there were only 4 of those days and 5 days of the week, they never aligned either. Quite annoying.

Melissa said...

wow, what a weird school! i would never be able to keep those schedules straight.

i'm with andrea on the fast food! i guess william and joy would have to bring a vegan sack lunch :)

good luck with everything, it sounds like a really great place!

AngieRenee said...

I am so glad you posted this blog. I have always had so many questions about that school... given most of those things you said blow my mind... it's answers many questions!! love you!