Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Middle school is going to kill me

I have made a horrible mistake.  Little did I know that enrolling my son in the middle school Gifted and Talented Academy was going to bring back horrible memories of overwhelming school projects, unrealistic guidelines, and feelings of stress and inadequacy coupled with the paralyzing anxiety driven trait of procrastination.

And this is for me…. Not the child…. The 11 year old child who just entered this school, what… 6-7 weeks ago?

Weekly posters and projects. Emails, texts, app reminders from 8 different teachers with 8 different ways of communicating said projects, homework assignments, tests, quizzes, etc.

The notifications come within minutes of the start of the school day:

!st Period text – don’t forget to finish your magneto lab study guide, and study the rules of the labs which will be a minor quiz grade.  Major grade for rules of the lab poster due next Thursday!!

2nd period email – students – don’t forget to bring the zip drive for your notes regarding the essay which you will them turn into your oral speech presentations – presentations begin Friday
3rd period – (no electronic notification, you are just supposed to know to go to her weeble blog) – complete worksheet pages 4-7, due Wednesday

4th period – (no electronic notification, you are just supposed to know to go to the Edmodo account) Post on Edmodo – Major grade assignment due next Thursday, see folders for details and rubric……

blah…blah…blah….. on and on… you get the picture.

At this point, I am not really sure who is in school, him or me.  Because I feel like I am doing everything first, then sitting with my son to help him figure it out on his own with slight nudges here and there to “guide” him in the right direction.

Week one – I help Max, start to finish, with one project.

Week two – I don’t read the edmodo posts that indicate the due date of a major project (yes, a major project in week 2) and continue to blow Max off thinking we have one more day … only to wake up to Max (who woke himself up at 5:30) sitting at the computer, frantically typing away on a project due in a few hours.  He skips his bike gang morning ritual to finish the project and I drive him to school with minutes to spare

Week three – I send Max off on his own to work on the project, then sit with him later, tear apart the power point, basically make him do it again entirely, then spend another ½ hr going over it to make him fix spelling, grammar, formatting issues

Week four – science poster – I ask Max to tell me exactly what he plans to do and how he plans to execute it.  Pass the project monitoring duties to Daddy and tell him “this one is on you….”  Get home late to see science poster on table – looking NOTHING like what Max explained earlier,  I cannot even figure out what he is trying to “present”, and there are horrible handwriting and spelling issues.   I go to our bedroom and ask Michael – did you even LOOK at the poster – “He said he did it.” FACEPALM.  Next morning I wake Max up early – we re-do the poster, I drive him to school just in time to hear the 1st bell of the day

Now to the straw on the camel’s back:

Spanish project – major grade. – due Thursday Oct 2nd.

He has known about it for a week.  We started it last week because I was not going to have another “night before, morning of” drama all over again..  We started the research, we located websites for him to get information, we talked about writing notes/thoughts as he researched.

Research what? 
No Max – what about Spanish – what is the project?
A timeline
A timeline about WHAT?!?!?!?

The conversation has escalated to loud voices and tears.  Take a step back, breathe, settle down.

Max – what exactly is the timeline supposed to be about?  How the language developed? When Spanish went from country to country? The timeline of the history of Spain and its people?  What?
Okay – how long is the timeline?  How many dates?  Just facts/dates or details info about each date?
I don’t know – she just said a timeline!!


Did she give you instructions anywhere?
Yes, Edmodo
Of course – edmodo. 

We go to edmodo to see a folder for this project that includes 10 .pdfs/power points with non-descript titles.  (Oh dear lord I do not have time for this….)

Max – look at these and figure out EXACTLY what you are supposed to do.

Max – are you working on your Spanish project?
Max – how you doing on the project?
Max do you have the project done?
Almost … I just have a little to do, it’ll be easy…

I get home tonight at 8:45 after Ben’s football practice.  Max is headed to his backpack with a printed power point with a beautiful graphic "Spanish" emblazoned on the front in scripty font.  Wow, I think to myself – all by himself…. Impressive.

Max – May I see it?
Hands it over
I realize it is 3 pages: the cover page, and one page about Christopher Columbus with dates and one page about conquistadors with no dates, just info.

Max – this is TWO things – and it is not even in a timeline?!?!? 
She said today we could just write paragraphs!
Okay – but it is only 2 facts and one of them doesn’t even have any dates!!
It doesn’t have to!!
Max – open edmodo and pull up the instructions – I want to see EXACTLY what you are supposed to do!!

And here is where my blood pressure shoots through the roof and I am fairly certain I am having a heart attack.

The project is titled Timeline and Puzzle project:
Use the attached research as well as individual research to create a time line -  50%
Create a hexagonal tarsi puzzle - 50%

There was a detailed rubric explaining point breakdowns related to presentation effectiveness/Historical accuracy/mechanics – but NOTHING specific – no info regarding how long, what to include, nothing.  Just – was it colorful, did the graphics relate, was the info correct, was everything spelled correctly?

There were tools to “help” the students organize their thoughts –
Example: Main causes of the expansion of Europe: economic causes, political causes, social causes, religious causes, scientific causes,

Wait – WTF?!?!?  Let’s just take a minute here and remind ourselves of our language classes when we were young.  Perhaps yours was different, but mine – we learned our numbers, colors, conversational Spanish to help me get to the bathroom and sang songs about the days of the week and months of the year.  College Spanish was really off the charts – we watched telenovellas and took quizzes afterwards to see if we understood who was cheating on who and why.

Political and religious causes of the expansion of the Spanish culture to Europe and the Americas?!?!?  For 11 year olds?!?!?  In a timeline and hexagonal tarsi puzzle?!?!

WTF is a hexagonal tarsi puzzle?!?!?  I had to google it, because the helpful graphic made me think she had accidentally added an algebra or geometry slide in the instructions.

Go ahead – google it – it still took me 4 or five images to figure out what the hell it is.

My head is going to explode.

MAX!!!!!!!  When did you think you were supposed to get all this done?!?!?!??! 
I was just about to start that part.
How many questions/answers do you have for the puzzle?
(which breaks down to 14 sides of the puzzle – and the puzzle he is supposed to create (according to helpful graphic) is supposed to have something ridiculous like 100 corresponding questions/answers… I think… I really don’t have a fucking clue at this point….Me – an almost 40 year old college educated woman who, until tonight, believed she was relatively smart – I have no clue what the hell this woman wants.

One week – my 11 year old, 6th grade student had one week to figure the above out.  My GT student, who is the classic definition of GT – disorganized, procrastinating, horrific handwriting and spelling, but brilliant mind – was supposed to figure out this project and execute it in 7 days – along with everything else he has to do for the other 7 classes in his school day.

And oh yeah – he is also supposed to study for a quiz for tomorrow – Spanish numbers 1-900 – spelling must be accurate – but that is just a minor quiz grade.

I can’t this time.  I just can’t.  I can’t stay up late or fly through another morning trying to figure this out with Max.  He is going to fail this one.  He is going to miserably fall flat on his face and fail this one.  He has to.  Though I think this project is unrealistic and unclear and he doesn’t deserve to fall flat on his face for it, he is going to have to because  I–just-can’t-this-time.  I may have fallen off the deep end and blown this out of proportion, but the teachers lack of clear instruction and over sharing of helpful tools that are not helpful at all have pushed me off that ledge.

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