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Cline column: Block scheduling hits home

By Mike Cline
for the Salisbury Post
I have been reading the recent articles in the Salisbury Post concerning block scheduling of classes in our local high schools.
My days of having children in public school are long gone, so, as some say, “I don’t have a dog in this fight any longer.”
But I recall that back when my older child was a student at West Rowan High School, he came home and announced that West was going to block scheduling the following year, which would have been his sophomore year.
I thought it was a good idea. Gone would be the days in which a student would have to endure a class that he didn’t enjoy for an entire year.
It would help prepare college-bound students for their next four years after high school. And I didn’t see how the new concept would be detrimental for students who didn’t have college plans.
As it turned out, my son liked block scheduling and later, my daughter did as well. And speaking with a slew of teachers during my eight-year tenure as a parent of a pair of Falcons, the teachers told me they liked the concept, too.
It all made me flashback to my school years and wish I had block scheduling back in the “old days.” You know, back when we rode the stagecoach to school.
The required 18 credits my generation needed for high school graduation started with ninth grade, just like today, except we weren’t in high school in the ninth grade. We were the upperclassmen of an extinct relic called junior high school.
High school didn’t begin until year 10.
I needed block scheduling when I began the ninth grade. It was a dark time of my life when I was placed in Mrs. Tarman’s third period Algebra I class. How did I get along with Algebra I? A fair comparison would be Algebra I and me to American Airlines and Alec Baldwin.
My brain (yes, I actually have one) was not wired for algebra. The TV Guide yes, but algebra, no. From the first Mrs. Tarman class, I knew I was in for an unpleasant experience.
I probably had trouble reading the title page of the textbook, and from the point Mrs. Tarman told us to turn to page one, she could have taught the class speaking Mesopotamian. It wouldn’t have mattered.
Add to the fact that I had been placed in the same class as most of our ninth-grade brainiacs (my wife was one of them). I figured this class wasn’t going to move at the speed of the U.S. Postal Service (I’m still receiving 2011 holiday catalogues).
About the second week of the semester, also being in Mrs. Tarman’s home room, I approached her early one morning and told her I was having trouble with “ole Al.” I asked for some extra help. I did. I really did.
She looked at me dryly and said, “You’ll just have to keep up with the rest of the class.”
“But, Mrs. Tarman, I can’t keep up with J…. and M… and S…. and K…” They’re the smartest kids in our grade!”
Now, having seen “A Christmas Story” countless times, I probably should have given her a fruit basket as Ralphie did his teacher, but it probably wouldn’t have helped me any more than it did Ralphie.
By the middle of the first six-week grading period (we received report cards six times per year back in those Pony Express days), it was all over for me. I stopped taking my algebra book home at night and stopped attempting to do the class homework.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do it. There was just no way I could. Since most everything in this devil math was built on something already learned, I found myself with a collapsed foundation, unable to proceed.
So, from the end of September until the school year ended, I found myself occupying a third-period desk, signing my name to blank test papers, just to prove I was in class. Eventually, the teacher stopped calling on me in class and asking me for my homework paper.
Block scheduling would have been a real friend to me at that time. At least, the bleeding would have stopped at Christmas, and a fresh start in another subject would have come along after the holiday break.
The Algebra I result would have been the same. I was going to sacrifice six weeks of the following June and July mornings repeating the course in summer school. Two years of algebra were required for college back then, so I had to get through it somehow.
That somehow (and someone) turned out to be Mr. Goode. We met the first day of summer school. He spoke an algebrarian language I understood, and soon the nightmare was over.
The “good news for me and bad news for them” about summer school was that I found myself in a classroom with many of my colleagues and friends.
I had my share of fun in the blistering heat of that gymnasium basement classroom and put my mathematical nemesis behind me forever.
And to this day, I couldn’t care less what “x” is.
Mike Cline’s website, “Mike Cline’s Then Playing,” documents the movies played in Rowan County movie theaters from 1920 through 1979.

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