December is an interesting month.
College applications are usually finished by now, so many of my more proficient Seniors are more focused. The end of the semester is also only a few weeks away, and that ends up making everyone stand up a little straighter and listen. But along with the increased engagement comes a myriad of other challenges as Winter makes its appearance.
In what can only be called unprecedented, eight students came to me last week with a Short Term Independent Study form. Two were going somewhere for an increased vacation (one actually said “Disneyland”) and six were head to Mexico, all looking to miss 2-3 weeks total one either side of Winter Break. At this point I’m fairly exasperated with family members that pull kids for month long vacations, and that’s where Edmodo has come in handy. Students must have the organizational fortitude to stay with the class and be prepared to take the quizzes and Finals upon return. The problem is that almost none of them do and that creates a line of F’s that create more problems down the road. I’ve talked to the counselors about it and they are just as frustrated. After everyone and the Easter Bunny telling them that it’s a bad idea, the parents are putting their foot down and saying “I don’t care what you say, they are going”. This is why I tell all of my Short Term Independent Study students that most of my kids that leave for that length of time fail the course. They nod of course and I rarely hear from their parents. The one time I heard from the parent was a mother that went off the hook when I refused to assign packet work. Afterward she yanked the kid out of class, put her on permanent Independent Study and that’s the last I heard of her. So much for educational priorities.
The good news is that those students in my classroom are starting to create some excellent work. Government Mock Congress bills look really nice with students branching out in much more thoughtful directions than the usual lowering of the drinking age, and legalizing marijuana. This year includes bills about doctor-assisted suicide, requiring schools to have solar panels for football lights, creating stronger laws against the ownership of exotic pets, and the taxation of ammunition. My Economics students are creating solutions to economic problems in and around Ukiah. It’s called the Ukiah Economic Development Project and it has replaced my old Economics Expo project where students created a business plan. Instead students must answer the question “What can we do to make Ukiah a more desirable place”? They then create an entire online report (paperless) around the problem, the solution, and a description of the town. Students are working on local employment, increasing tourism, what to do with vacant buildings, and the economic impacts of banning plastic bags. I’m really proud of the effort because the students must relate the problem to the economic concept of scarcity. The group that is dealing in the plastic bags originally did so for environmental reasons but are now really pushing themselves by addressing scarcity and positive/negative externalities to all parties involved.
Week-and-a-half left as I prep for Finals and ready the team for a tough tournament in Napa. Christmas vacation, and all the driving that comes with it, is just around the corner.