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Thinking’ like an iPod

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Teachers lobby to change English classes

By Kirsten Laskey

Teenagers today live in a world where having choices is the norm. For instance, Los Alamos High School English teacher Margo Batha explained nowadays, when youngsters listen to music on their iPods, they can select which songs to listen to and which ones to ignore. This example supports the fact that having choices is an intrinsic part of young people’s lives.

During the school board meeting Tuesday night, a group of English teachers showed how they are following the iPod’s lead.

Batha, along with fellow English teachers Michelle Holland and David Buckland successfully argued for the board’s approval of these changes in English courses offered at the high school.

Buckland explained many of the current English courses are about to sunset or expire, which allows them to offer different courses.

It began with an idea formed last year to have the sophomore English class become more of a genre and skills-based class to align with the freshmen English course, he said.

From there, the English department progressed into an idea to change from year-long courses to semester courses. Originally, Buckland said, six courses were planned to be on the docket but teachers decided that would be too much and decided for next year, to keep the number of courses at four.  In the future, it will be proposed to increase the number to six.

The grade that will be affected by this change will be juniors.

The four courses that will be offered include Friendly Shakespeare, Media and Message, Emphasis on Poetry and the American Experience, which will be required.

Ninth grade English classes, Buckland said, will continue to be focused on genre literature while sophomores will focus on everything from Greek and Roman literature through to contemporary African works.

Board Vice President Ken Johnson asked if students could take more than two classes during a school year.

Batha answered they could, one would be an elective.

Buckland added every teacher will have all the state standards within the classes they teach.

In addition to helping students prepare for college, Batha said the courses use the resources available at the high school and give a greater mix to the students in the classroom. “(This) is what we’re hoping,” she said.

Also, Superintendent Gene Schmidt told the Monitor next year juniors will be required to pass every subject on the Standards Based Assessment (SBA) test to graduate and these changes in the English courses will be beneficial in fulfilling this requirement.

“We look forward to next year when juniors must pass the (SBA) test to graduate that they will have the skills to do that,” he said.

Board member Jody Benson wondered what was not rigorous in the current classes and therefore made the English teachers want to change the courses.

Holland replied, “It is rigorous, but not interest based.”

Batha said a survey conducted last year asked ninth- through 12th – graders what courses they would like. The overwhelming response was for more choices. “They voted and it’s our job then to give them a rigorous education with those choices.”

Board President Joan Ahlers asked how the English department staff responded to these changes.

Holland said, the staff’s input was requested and “they’re cool with it. They’re supportive of this.”

The board unanimously approved the semester courses. They will be sent on to New Mexico Public Education Department for approval.

Ahlers praised the staff who participated in making these changes to the English classes.

She said participants worked to inspire students to love English.

“We have to teach this material and I think you found a way to make it interesting and appealing to every child,” Ahlers said.