Hawaii school furloughs. A sign of the coming apocalypse, or just one more epic fail by Hawaii’s state government? Not that I’m talking smack about our state government. Not at all.

All I’m saying is that 17 days off from school this year may SEEM like a good idea if you are a teenager, sort of how all candy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner SEEMS like a good idea when you are 8 years old, but it really isn’t that good of an idea at all.

I’ve been thinking and thinking about it, and I can’t come up with a great solution to this problem.  In my experience, when nothing comes to mind, it means there isn’t an easy solution. There’s just a lot of lousy compromise options that make the best of a bad situation. Sometimes it seems like life consists almost solely of things that fit that description, actually.

The best solution? No furloughs. I’d rather just have everybody in school on Fridays. I’d have taken a pay cut without furloughs, no whining. I’d take anything over this furlough thing. There’s a reason we have schools, and as much as people like to dump on them, it’s actually not that easy to pull off all the things schools do without, well, schools. If you ask me, the State of Hawaii has lost its mind, because schools are one of the most essential, invaluable parts of our community, and not something you can barter around like the price of eggs or bricks or oh, I dunno, oil. We know the cost of everything but the value of nothing, apparently.

But anyway. This isn’t a blog about me being bitter. This is a blog about a proposed solution. It’s not a great solution. It may not even be a possible solution. It’s not a solution that’s going to solve the problem. It’s a solution that will sort of inadequately help a very small number of students. But it’s something.

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’re one of my students. I put a link to this on my facebook page, and most of my facebook “friends” are students and former students. Which means that the furloughs affect you, and also that you know me. And you know that I’m a Christian. I’m not going to talk about this idea in my classroom. It wouldn’t be appropriate (there are conflict of interest issues, and church and state issues). Furthermore, I actually don’t think most of my current students would be that interested in it. So if you are reading this and you are one of my current students, be aware that this is outside of school and not in any way affiliated with school. I can’t teach you anything that I would have taught you in school, and I can’t help you with the homework I assigned at school. That may seem weird, but it makes sense if you think about it.

Anyway. . .

Interested people at my church met on Sunday to discuss this problem. We had a lot of ideas. But we don’t really know what people need, and we also don’t really know what we are capable of providing.

But we want to help. You know, if people actually need help. And if they need help that we can give. As you know, I’m certified to teach grades 7-12. As you also know, I don’t really have much of a life. Here’s what I came up with for high school kids.

Discipleship with Dante

My proposal is that I would offer an hour and a half-long class called “Discipleship with Dante”. The class would be open to anybody who wanted to take it: public school kids grades 9-12, homeschool kids, college kids, and even adults. I’d probably offer it at 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning on the Furlough Fridays.

I’ve been wanting to teach a Dante class with an emphasis on scripture and journaling for a long time. If this were to be approved, I’d submit a syllabus with a detailed plan of what I was going to do each week. It would be more in-depth than the version I give kids in 8th grade, with more emphasis on the Jesus side of things (I mean, I’m teaching at a church, so it makes sense). It would give the high school kids a productive way to spend part of their Fridays off from school, but still leave them with time to do their homework (I know the secondary school kids are concerned about the “homework packets” their teachers have said they are planning on assigning for the furlough days).

I was also thinking that after the class, I’d stick around and offer an hour or two of “homework help” for kids who need a place to get those homework packets done. Kids who came for “homework help” could also be Dante kids, but they don’t have to do both. I’m pretty strict with high school kids. It wouldn’t be a time for goofing off. It would be a place to get help from peers and from me on whatever the teachers from their regular school assigned. Sometimes it really helps teenagers if there’s an adult around making sure they are actually being productive. I don’t want to sound horribly harsh, but if kids weren’t being productive, I would ask them to leave. I’m the kind of teacher who hasn’t sent a kid to the office in years–I have my own ways of handling discipline, and I’m no pushover. But I don’t kick kids out with no warning, and I am very big on keeping the relationship with the kid even while I’m disciplining them. There would be rules for homework help time, there would be a contract signed by parents and students prior to the program starting–I’d be as formal as I can be, because that’s what would distinguish “Homework Help” from just kids hanging out at Taco Bell.

What if I have to be absent for some reason?

I am a pretty faithful attender of stuff I make a commitment to, but I get sick or have emergencies just like everyone else. Because I’m teaching upper-level kids for whom childcare is not a concern, I would probably either cancel the week before, or if there was an emergency, I’d make a phone tree for the people taking the class. I’d also ask people taking the class to let me know if they were going to be absent.

Would I have an assistant/another adult in the room?

I don’t know who would fill this role, but I’m open to it. Truthfully, I spend my entire day at Kailua Intermediate with just me and 147 kids, no other adult in the room, and I do fine, but if there’s somebody available to help, I sure wouldn’t say no.

What about money?

To be honest, I want to offer this class so badly I’d do it for free. I just think it would be a neat way to disciple others. Dante has helped me understand God so much, I’d love other people to be blessed, too. I’ve taught Inferno to 8th graders for five years, and I taught it to The Well (the college/career group at my church) a few years ago. The idea of being able to use scripture in a study of Dante just thrills me. It’s a really great study no matter what age you are. But I think when people pay, they value things more. I also notice that when I am paid, I tend to take things more seriously and prepare more carefully. Not to be horrible or anything, but I do see that in my own behavior. I was thinking along the lines of having a suggested donation of $100 for a school year’s worth of my class and/or homework help, payable to Kailua Community Church. KCC would buy the books (they are around $11) , and then people could pay KCC for the books. If people couldn’t afford the $100 or just didn’t feel like paying it, fine. If they wanted to pay more, that’s fine, too.

So that money would go to KCC. Now, if I were really going to teach this class right, I’d like to offer a sort of binder of resources, the way it is done with the Discipleship classes, and that binder of resources would cost the church money in xeroxing. It also would cost the church money for the electricity.  So I think the board should figure out what percentage of money collected should go to the church, and what should go to me as a stipend.

How many people can take the class?

As many as God leads to the class, I say. When I think about this, I kind of figure it will be a miracle if anyone signs up at all. Still, adults always are saying they wish they could be in my class, and the kids I teach always come back to me from high school and say they wish they could take my class again–so here’s your chance! I think I’d need a minimum of six people to sign up, and I guess a maximum of thirty. Maybe that’s foolish. I’m just so used to teaching enormous classes, it doesn’t really put me off.

For homework help, I think a maximum of twenty kids and a minimum of six.

How would the schedule go?

A few proposed options (open to discussion/change):

8:30-10:00 Discipleship with Dante
10:00-10:10 Break
10:10-12:00 Homework Help

10:30-12:00 Discipleship with Dante
12:00-12:45 Lunch (bring your own lunch and keep it in the fridge at the Androtti House, or go get lunch in Kailua if you’re an older kid and want to drive)
12:45-2:00 Homework Help

As you can see, these options do not take childcare under consideration. Kids would have to find their own way to church (although I might be able to pick some kids up and bring them to church, if necessary).

What about on Fridays that are not furloughs?

I would consult the people taking the class, but I’d probably have Dante class in the evening or afternoon of those Fridays, depending on demand.

So that’s my idea. I’m okay with it if it doesn’t happen. If you think it’s interesting or you have suggestions, let me know. Either comment here or email me at grape700@hotmail.com. Or leave a comment on facebook underneath this post.

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