If there's one regret I have in choosing to teach English, it's that I never realized that English was the class where everything non-academic had to be done. Individualized Learning Program on the computer? Do it in English class. Scheduling? English. Manners and respect lessons? English class! School pictures? English again! Study skills? Time management? College applications? All done in English class.
Why does this occur? For one simple reason. Every year, for the entire year, all students take English. With the advent of the trimester program, it just changed to students take English every year, but that's a debate for another day. The point is, every student in every grade is required to take English for all four years of the high school career. Since everyone has English at all times, the best way to make sure every student in the school gets a certain program or opportunity is to put it in English class. As you can guess, this tends to take time away from, you know, English instruction. Not only that, it kind of confuses kids about what English class is supposed to be about. I end up feeling more like a part time foster mom to a hundred kids rather than a teacher when it comes to making sure my kids are all practicing appropriate hygiene, using proper manners and everything else.
Next year, my job gets easier. We're starting a new program and to say that I love it is an understatement. The Advisory program will set up each student with an advisor. We're going to take time out every couple weeks to meet during school time with our 15-20 advising students. Freshmen will be with Freshman Academy teachers while sophomores and up will stick with the same teacher for three years. The idea? Cover all of these non-academic but still very important ideas in the Advisory time rather than taking time out of English. Not only that, but students will have at least one adult in the building who will be their person to advocate for them. With the trimesters, some kids don't even stick with a single adult all year long. Now they'll be with the same adult for as long as three years to help them and learn their strengths.
Every teacher in the school will have a group of kids. This isn't supposed to be downtime, study hall or homeroom. This is a time to prepare students for the most important day of their life: the day after graduation. This day seems to be a bane for many of our students. They are fine with being compliant and working just hard enough to pass high school, but then what? What's where advisory comes in. We're there to help the kids who need that extra motivation and confidence to take the next important step.