One day recently I was alone in the Learning Center as my monitor was sick. I kept a quick (sloppy) log of all that I encountered throughout the morning and thought it might be an interesting blog article. If you homeschool, you might like to see how similar (or dissimilar) a school setting is. If you work in an ACE school or are considering starting one, this might resonate with you. Just so you know, we have 20 students in the high school Learning Center, grades 7-12, and 15 in grades 1-6 this year.
Before the 8:30 bell, I get a cup of coffee, skim the morning newspaper, answer student questions who come up to my desk, and take note of attendance.
8:30 the bell rings and the students assemble for Opening. One of the teen boys leads the pledges and Scripture memorization and the singing of a few songs. While they are doing that I am checking goals for the 20 teens. Only one “problem” this morning – a paragraph that a student was supposed to write for English is not laid out with his goals. I leave his goal check card on top of his office so I can check back after opening with him. (Later . . . he did have it done, but forgot to lay it out. One demerit.)
While the students are singing the last song, I tell them to sing another verse. I just realized I forgot to pull the PACE tests for that morning. There are 4 tests, so it only took a minute or two.
At the end of opening I make a few announcements, answer a question about that day’s schedule, and then dismiss the students to their offices. In just a minute or so they are all seated and setting goals, organizing their PACES, and a few with privilege status are already up at the score table checking their work from yesterday.
A few flags are up so I walk around taking them in order . . .
- “May I do this check-up now?” I flip back to the previous check-up to be sure the score was passing and initial it. Then I check that every page was scored correctly. I also look for any “Supervisor Initial” strips. Since this is a Science PACE, I ask to see her study guide (required for Social Studies as well). After I initial the check up I hand it back and say, “Here you go! Put away your study guide and you may begin. Do your best!”
- Next flag – “I need to do this Self Test.” I flip back and check the score on all three check-ups and quickly verify that all the pages have been completed and scored. Since this is English, I look for a completed Wisdom Pac, too. As I take her PACE to the testing table I say, “Bring your pencil up here to the testing table and you may begin!”
- Next flag—“I can’t find this answer in World Geography.” He’s looking for the Answan Dam in Egypt. I happen to know that this answer is very hard to find and is not on any of the maps or diagrams in that PACE. I instruct him to go to the computer and do a search and then look on the map online.
I return to my desk to grade the PACE tests that have been collected. As I am getting set up a student approaches my desk. He just needs to sign out the bathroom pass. But behind him I see a student get out of her desk and go to another student’s desk for a split second. That’s not allowed. Out of my desk to talk to that student and give her a demerit.
- Now there’s a hand raised at the score-table. “Is my answer the same as the score-key? I capitalized He in the verse since it referred to God, but it’s not capitalized in the key.” I’m glad she’s checking and being observant and careful. But a minor difference like that is certainly fine. “Don’t mark it wrong. I’m glad you noticed that, though.”
- There’s a hand raised up at the computers so I walk over there. “I finished my Word Building Self Test on the computer.” I see that his score is 94, so I have him show me the test so I can see what he got wrong. He missed a few words and messed up the Wise Saying. I mark those on the Self Test and instruct him to write the missed words 5 times each and the wise saying three times and then turn in the PACE for the test in the morning.
- Next flag – “I need someone to help me study for this Biology check-up.” I don’t allow students to help each other study until after morning break, so it’s too early for that. “Do you have a study guide yet?” “No.” “OK, go to the computer and see if you can find a Quizlet study set for that check-up, or make a study guide for the questions you are not certain about. Study that yourself. After break I will have someone study with you for a few minutes.”
- Next flag – “I need help understanding this Physical Science. I am not getting it.” Oh yes, this page. Thankfully I have a 10 minute video explaining that already. “Go up to the computer and go to PaceSuccess.net and look for the science videos. You’ll find a lesson there for this exact page. After watching it, if you still need more help, let me know.” (Later . . . the video helped and he didn’t need further help.)
- Next flag – “I am not understanding these different types of nouns. I always get Predicate Nominative, Objective Complement, Direct Object, Indirect Object, Direct Address, etc confused.” Yeah! I have another video on PaceSuccess for this topic. He hasn’t seen it yet so I send him to watch it. Later he tells me that it really helped him!
While answering flags, three students handed me writing assignments needing to be graded. The first is junior high Word Building sentences, but I need to tune in to whether these words are supposed to be used as verbs or nouns, since some of them could be used either way. I also check for ending punctuation, neat hand writing, and correct spelling of other words in the sentence.
The second writing assignment is a paragraph for English. However, this student didn’t read the directions very carefully and so the paragraph is too short and not really the right idea. I take it back to his desk and explain that he needs to redo it before I can sign off the Supervisor Initial and let him take the check-up, which is his goal today.
The third writing I need to grade is a personal story as part of a 10th grade autobiography assignment. This girl has written 3 pages instead of 3 paragraphs! I don’t have time right now to score the whole thing, so I put it aside to do during student break. Right now there are 3 more flags up.
- Next flag – there’s a supervisor score strip asking me to counsel this student about salvation. He’s been reading something about the gospel on that page, evidently. I quickly whisper a prayer and then put my head down into his office to have a more private conversation with him. He’s from a good family, but he’s not sure he’s saved. I pray with him and suggest that he talk to me or his youth pastor when we can give him more undivided attention. Then I quick send a text message to the youth pastor giving him a heads up.
- Next flag – “I need to do this microscope project for my science PACE.” We have one, but I need to get it set up and want to see if anyone else is in the same PACE that we can help both students at the same time. “Let me hold on to your PACE to remind me to pull out the needed microscope and slides during break. While the senior high are in Bible class I can help you with this.”
- Oops, I need to give demerits to two girls who are whispering at the other end of the Learning Center.
All the flags are down, so I take a slow stroll around the Learning Center, just looking over each student’s shoulder to see what they’re working on. Thankfully, everyone is busily working on their goals. I don’t have to refocus anyone this time around. I am also noticing student star charts. This is the end of the 3rd week of this second quarter so each student should have 4 stars now in each subject. I note the ones who haven’t earned that fourth star yet as I want to take some time in the afternoon to talk with them about a plan to get back on track.
A text message just came in from a parent. “We will be out of town Friday and Monday. Can my children take work with them?”
It’s break-time now. As the students leave to play four-square in the lunchroom supervised by a volunteer mother, I head to the restroom then get a fresh cup of coffee before heading to my desk. I need to reply to the parent’s text message, grade the autobiography assignment, finish grading PACE tests, pull their new PACES, and get the microscope out and set up for a student to use after break.
I could keep going, describing the rest of that day, but you get the idea. Each day is a new adventure, but here are some observations I made after that typical morning:
- A supervisor or monitor stays busy answering quite a variety of questions
- Over time I have learned what resources I need to keep on hand and what resources to have students use online at PaceSuccess.net
- When students have questions or problems they can get individualized personal help
- Learning Center rules and procedures must be followed and enforced but they help students learn and stay focused
- “Students don’t do what you expect, only what you inspect” – so I need to daily check goals, check progress on star charts, review pages before allowing them to check-ups, etc
- The PACES give me opportunities to deal with individual students about their character development, academic progress, and spiritual needs.
Does my morning sound anything like yours? Give me your comments below.
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