I am quite familiar with the way things work in many English classes across the country. But on this point, I am completely baffled.
Is my high school the only one that views English class as the administrative portal through which all the bilge should flow?
For example, today I was greeted with a gigantic informational survey as mandated by my district, an anonymous appraisal of a California teenagers “health”. By health they asked questions about exercise, eating and sleep. They also asked about drug, tobacco and alcohol use. They also asked about bullying, violence and emotional support systems both in the home and in school. It was bubble sheet format (of course) and there must have been 100 questions broken into a variety of sections. It took my kids 45 minutes to complete this thing — in each and every class — and, as was made quite clear to me, its administration wasn’t an option. I even had to sign a student confidentiality agreement promising I wouldn’t take a looksy at any of the answers provided by my kids so that as much veracity as could be gleaned about the “health” of our students could come to the fore.
All in all, I wasn’t really opposed to the survey since it seemed to be something they were going to be taking quite seriously. Plus, they asked a lot of pointed, hardcore questions. And when the results come my way in the year 2012 I’ll be riveted, I am sure.
But why do they administer this in English class?
When it comes to textbooks being handed out the first week of school, we always go through English class. When there are letters to be handed out to all the kids, they always go through English class. When anything needs to get from administration to the kids, they always go through English class.
Is it this way at other schools as well? At least once a month instructional minutes are sucked from my curriculum in the name of English being the prime gateway to all the kids of our school. If English were a narcotic, my department would be marijuana.
Now I know the answer is, at least at my school, that English is the only department that sees all the kids at every grade level. English 9, 10, 11 and 12 — every kid has at least one of these classes on their schedule. With Math, some 9th graders are in Algebra II and not in Algebra I or Geometry; with science, some seniors don’t have anything; we don’t even offer a history class for 9th graders on our campus and the idea of distributing anything but jock straps through PE seems preposterous.
(BTW, do people still use jock straps or was that a 1970’s thing? Personally, I think the modern underwear revolution which provides exceptional support without providing locker room awkwardness is one of the great unheralded advancements in the world of sports. Sorry, I am way off track.)
How come our English classes, one of the most admittedly “core” courses at a school, has its time so henpecked away? They treat my minutes so frivolously and yet they count on my instruction so exceptionally. What gives?
Maybe they read Hemmingway once upon a time and something just kinda stuck: The Bilge Flows Through Thee