Welcome to Howard Rodstein's webpage.Howard RodsteinAlternative School Director and 10th Grade English Teacherphone --- 914-721-2591e-mail --- firstname.lastname@example.org
Everything You Need to Know
About English 10
At the A-School
This class should be playful, challenging, and thought provoking. I promise to show up on time, prepared, organized, enthusiastic, energetic, and willing to learn. I expect the same of you.
I promise to be respectful of the individuality of each member of the class. Again, I expect the same of you, and allow me to be more specific: no one has the right to make fun of or insult others (either to their face or behind their back).
Note that body language that mocks or dismisses others is as disrespectful as a verbal put-down. The goal is to create a classroom atmosphere in which people can try out ideas or ask questions without fear of ridicule. Quieter people should push themselves to offer their ideas to the class; more talkative people should monitor their “air time” and push themselves to become more active listeners. I expect everyone to become a more reflective learner who asks whether he or she has contributed positively to the class. We should come to value each other’s differences and appreciate the thinking of everyone, including those who might never become our close friends. I expect us to become a class in which respectful disagreement is the norm.
I value integrity, commitment, and hard work. You should expect me to be honest with you, and I expect equal candor from you. Do not pretend that you have completed work when you have not. Speaking about a text during class discussion means that you have read it; do not fake it. Much as I am a fan of Holden Caufield, “shooting the old bull” does not impress me.
Note that on reading quizzes it is unethical to write material that you heard from friends in the hallway or that you picked up from sources such as Spark Notes rather than from your own reading of the assignment. I will often allow you to use notes that you have taken while doing homework on reading quizzes; therefore, if you are the sort of student who tends to forget the names of characters or the set of significant events that comprise the plot, I encourage you to take notes even when I have not formally assigned them.
Everyone must take notes every day during class discussion; we all need a working record of the ideas and facts that we chew over and digest as a class. How much you write down is your decision: ask yourself what level of detail is helpful to you as a learner. However, in my experience, most people who say they can remember everything that transpires during class without benefit of any notes are not being honest with themselves.
I will offer feedback on your writing assignments that praises the strengths of your writing and specific, clear, constructive criticism which points out deficiencies in your prose. I expect you both to read my comments and try to use them to improve your writing. When you are puzzled by my comments or if you disagree with them, I expect you to seek me out for a conference. Similarly, if you want individual help in developing strategies for improving your writing, I expect you to make an appointment to see me. Besides meeting with me during mutual free periods, you may also schedule time with me before school (any day), after school (Tuesdays and Thursdays are usually best for me), during homeroom, at lunch, or before Community Meeting. Also, many A-School sophomores are free either Tuesday 5th or Thursday 7th, which is great time to seek me out. You are also welcome to chat with me if you are having trouble understanding the reading assignments or if you want to pursue an idea that we did not have time to discuss in class. I also encourage you to contact me by e-mail at email@example.com either with a question or to set up an appointment.
Your work should be your own. If you use other sources to better understand what we are reading as a class, I need to know what those sources are. If you use a source in developing a paper, you must cite it. If you are receiving help from a parent, another relative, a tutor, or a friend, in the writing of a paper, you should tell me the kind of assistance you are receiving. Needing help simply means that you are human. Misrepresentation of your work, however, jeopardizes your integrity.
I expect you to show up to class on time. For me, it is a matter of respect for our work together. If you are late because of a conference with another teacher, come to class with a note from that teacher. Lateness once or twice in a quarter is no big deal. However, a pattern of unexcused lateness interferes with your own learning and the learning of others.
I expect us all to “own” the class. Praise classmates who make helpful or insightful comments. Thank people who ask questions that you wish you’d asked. Let me know how you think things are going; I welcome constructive criticism and suggestions although I can’t promise I’ll always take your advice. If classmates are distracting you or others from focusing on the work, politely tell them to stop. Ultimately, if the problem persists, people who disrespect others will be confronted and brought to Fairness Committee. If we need class rules regarding respect, punctuality, and work habits, we will discuss the problem, brainstorm solutions, and democratically vote to own rules determined by the class. Of course what ownership entails is not only abiding by rules but enforcing them as well. We all deserve a class where people can do their best work. We also deserve a class in which each individual can bring her or his own unique personality and voice to all tasks.
An important part of my job is to assess the quality of your work. Although it is hard (given our crazy, grade-obsessed culture), try to think of grades and comments as information that you can use to promote your learning rather than as a set of rewards and punishments.
Here’s how I determine the overall quality of your performance: 60 % will be based on major assessments (papers mostly, as well as occasional tests and presentations), 20 % will be based on the quality of and consistency with which you produce homework, and 20 % will be based on the quality of your class participation, including occasional handed in group work assignments as well as objective evidence of active listening, note-taking and speaking (we will actually keep a record of who speaks and how often).
Papers will be evaluated for content, organization, grammar and style. I will make standards in each of these categories clear for each assignment. Approximately 75 % of your writing assignments will be analytic essays and 25% will be what students refer to as creative writing (I refer to them as narrative or descriptive pieces). Most assignments will be “at-home” papers, but you will also have one in-class writing assignment each quarter. You will receive frequent writing assignments. I will hand back papers approximately one week after I receive them; sometimes, I’m much quicker, and two or three times during the year, it takes me a few extra days to complete a set of papers. Occasionally, I will ask a student to re-write an essay but rarely more than once per quarter; you will have one week to complete a re-write, and the revision will count as a new paper that I will add to your overall evaluation for that quarter (it does not erase the grade of the original paper). You may also request to do a re-write. However, requesting to do re-writes at the end of the quarter simply to boost your grade is a waste of your time and mine. Reflecting on your writing and revising your language to improve content, organization, and style is a very worthwhile endeavor; I encourage it. Note that “at-home” papers that are submitted late incur substantial penalties: a half grade for each day beyond the deadline.
Sometimes I will use a test format to assess your understanding of a unit that we have completed, a text that we have studied, or a set of grammar rules that we have reviewed. Also, I will sometimes assign group projects, presentations or performances to assess your knowledge and understanding. Each of these will count as the equivalent of a major paper.
I have two means of keeping track of homework: I sometimes assign study questions, and I may ask to see your answers. More frequently, I will give brief reading quizzes. These are designed not only to determine whether you doing the reading but also to determine your comprehension and retention of detail as well as your ability to pick up on important ideas and repeated images as you read. On average, I will formally check homework twice a week. Less formally, I learn a lot about how thoroughly you complete and digest assignments from your class participation.
My evaluation of your class participation will not be exclusively based on the frequency with which you speak. Active listening is an equally important skill associated with class participation. Demonstrating your ability to stay focused, to listen to (and value) what others say, and to contribute your own ideas and questions is the key to excellence in this area. If you distract yourself or, even more significantly, others, you will lose points for class participation. If you have difficulty staying focused when you sit near your friends, choose to sit apart from them. Also, everyone must take notes. A working written record of our discussions should help you prepare for writing assignments and other assessments. If you are the kind of student for whom writing extensive notes detracts from your ability to pay attention, see me individually, and we can work out a system that will work for the class and for you as a learner.
Use of cell phones and especially texting during class is a matter of profound disrespect to the class and to me especially. Similarly, choosing to do homework for another class during English is never acceptable. However, telling me that you’re overwhelmed or simply having a lousy day, and you would prefer not to be called on a particular day, is fine as long as this request is not overused. We all have bad days. No one is perfect, and perfection, frankly, as a goal, is over-rated. As I’m sure you can tell from this document I do expect you to work hard, respect your classmates, respect me, and be honest with yourself and with others.
I look for students who think, who listen, who speak, and who reflect on what they are learning. I’m also a big fan of questions, especially ones that grow out of the texts that we read. I value inquisitiveness, effort, enthusiasm, respectful disagreement, and risk-taking as hallmarks of effective class participation.
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