Monday, February 27, 2017

WELCOME MEMO to STUDENTS (#4): Some of our procedures

Welcome letter to a new student
Welcome to the Online Middle and High School.
You might already know that we are more than a high school… we serve students in grades 6-8, too.  We have seen that many students do well up to about grade 5 and then “BOOM” the middle school years are difficult.

Our school has a number of procedures that are different from traditional schools.   You can see the entire list at and you can read the Little Book at to get a brief look at our primary focus:  skills and portfolios (and blogs).

Today I’d like us to focus on two main ideas.

What are the skills that you need to move ahead?

What is the easiest way for us to measure your progress?

1.  SKILLS:  Find the skills that you need by asking the parents and the student.  Then look at the lists that forward-thinking educators (like Tony Wagner) propose.

2.  Measuring your progress
A wise teacher has written:  

You can judge our program by looking at the work of our graduates.  

This idea comes from the idea that we have choices.

Another way to look at this school is “voice and choice.”  John Spencer, George Couros and others have written deeply about these two ideas and you can follow them to learn more from these teachers.  Today we want to cover two important procedures:

VOICE - You can speak about what’s on your mind — instantly.  You can send an email message and you can “interrupt” your studies to let the teacher know what you are thinking.  In a traditional school, you need to write your idea on paper (so you don’t forget the idea), wait for the right moment and then approach the teacher or raise your hand.  In an online school, your opinion matters more than in a face-to-face school, since your participation drives the school.   In a traditional school, students can spend large amounts of the day relaxing, waiting for the next subject to be presented.  In an online school, it’s you who decides what happens next.

CHOICE - you can decide what you do next.   Who has more stress, the CEO of a company or a telephone receptionist?  The owner of a restaurant or one of the servers?  The principal of a school or one of the teachers?

Many of us might say, “The person who is the boss has more concerns and more weight on her shoulders, so the owner is more likely to have more stress.”

But what is stress?  Stress comes from not having control over what your day looks like.  Think about the server at a restaurant.  Think about the teachers.  Think about the telephone receptionist.  Can any of them tell someone to “hold my calls.  I’m taking a nap”?  Who can decide what she will do next?
The CEO of a company, the owner of the restaurant and the principal can say, “I was up late last night thinking deeply about our challenges.  I need to take a nap.  Please hold my calls.   Wake me in 30 minutes.”  The telephone receptionist, the server and the student can’t easily decide what order they will do their work.   These people have to answer the phone, take the and do what they are expected to do.  Now.

“You can take your break in 15 minutes.  You are needed now to….” (complete a task).

The point is this:  You have control over much of your day because you are a student in an online school.  You can decide which subject you will work on in this next hour.   Yes, you can decide to listen to music while you read and you can eat snacks while you put your feet up, relax in your pajamas and sit on your bed.  After all, you are in home school and you are working online!

Show up to school in your home
Studies show that people who work from home can be more productive and produce more results if they: 
— work in a special area of their home that looks like an office;
— wear work clothes;
— reduce the number of distractions (some students often turn off the notifications on their phones so that there is no signal when an email arrives);
— avoid eating throughout the day and instead schedule breaks to stretch and breathe deeply. 

Daily contact
Our school is unusual:  students and teachers don’t meet face-to-face very often, but we have frequent contact with each other via technology. 

Let’s go through some of the procedures.

Each day you can make progress by doing small tasks.

1.  Thought for the day
2.  SAT or ACT test questions
3.  IXL math and English
4.  Use an app:  Math Workout for 20 questions
Spread the words SAT:  3 words.

In the extended version of your day, you can add 
5.  a phrase in another language.  Pazhalsta (“please” in Russian)
(what language do you want to learn?)
6.  Find something to think about that happened recently (watch Student News on CNN or some sort of summary of the news on the internet).
7.  Pick up a book.  Look at the cover, the back text and the first page of each chapter.  Read one of the chapters, quickly.  Choose a title that interests you.  In about ten minutes you have a pretty good idea about the book.   Write that summary (and perhaps a quote from the book) in your blog

How much will happen over four months?
1.  Thought for the day 
1 x 30 days x 4 = 120 short quotes 
2.  SAT or ACT test questions 
2 questions x 30 days x 4 = 240 questions
3.  IXL math and English
5 math questions
5 English questions
10 x 30 x 4 = 1200 questions on IXL
4.  Math Workout and Spread the words SAT
1 x 30 x 4 = 120 sessions in multiplying or adding
3 words x 30 x 4 = 360 new words in four months
In the extended version of your day, you can add 
5.  a phrase in another language. 
1 phrase a day x 30 x 4 = 120 phrases
6.  Student News 
1 topic a day x 30 x 4 = 120 news items
7.  You will have looked at 120 books in 4 months.

That’s the power of being consistent.  You can set your own pace.  You can choose to do half of these items on ODD days and the other half on EVEN days.

It’s your choice.
1.  Two quotes for the “Thought for the day” 
2 x 15 days x 4 = 120 short quotes 
2.  SAT or ACT test questions 
4 questions x 15 days x 4 = 240 questions
3.  IXL math and English
10 math questions
10 English questions
20 x 15 days x 4 = 1200 questions on IXL

4.  Math Workout and Spread the words SAT
2 x 15 days x 4 = 120 sessions in multiplying or adding
6 words x 15 days x 4 = 360 new words in four months
In the extended version of your day, you can add 
5.  a phrase in another language. 
2 phrases a day x 15 x 4 = 120 phrases
6.  Student News 
2 topic every other day x 15 x 4 = 120 news items

GRAD POINT (the online courses)
The Online Middle and High school uses a program called GRADPOINT.  This is a typical part of any online program:  
deliver information (often in videos and in articles)
ask students some short questions
then test the student with longer tests
The exams “show” that the online student has received the content of the lesson.

This will take about 80% of your time.  Spend at LEAST 4 hours each day in the online clicking. The credits for your academic progress come from Gradpoint.  The world wants to know what you have learned.  Grad point (or a similar program) will show that you have “made progress.”

The other items that we ask you to complete also show some sort of progress:
a. Khan Academy has “leaf points” to indicate progress.
b. Spread the words SAT shows “completed” on the app
c. IXL delivers “badges” and keeps track of the number of questions and amount of time spent in the program.

We ask you to do book reviews and to keep track of your academic work in a blog.   The book reviews and the “extended work” (language learning, vocabulary practice, IXL and Khan Academy) are about 15% of your time.

Daily you should put about 5% of your time into the Thought for the day and reflecting in a blog post about your academic activities.  

Here’s a typical blog post:

Thought for the day

Academic Activity


Future Work

One of the principles that we use at Online Middle and High school is “Do what we expect the students to do”… So here is a typical blog post.

Feb 25, 2017
Thought for the day:   Mark Twain once wrote that “I never let schooling get in the way of my education.”  To me this means that the things that teachers ask me to study are not what’s important.  I need to pursue my interests and think about what I need to learn… and then find something to help me learn those other things.

Academic Activity
Today I read from John Greene’s book about “The Fault in Our Stars.”  I can see why the book was a success.  I like the way the narrator, the girl who has cancer, speaks openly about “cancer perks” and 

I talk with a parent about what the parent would like the son to learn and he mentioned Thomas Pinckney.  I didn’t remember that name and I need to follow up on this hero from South Carolina in the 1770s. 

My new phrase in Portuguese is Eu sinto falta de voce  (I miss you.  Literally it looks like “I feel the fault or lack of you”)

SAT words:  vicarious (I live through someone els’s life):  I had a vicarious experience listening to the sailor describe the ports that he visited.

vivacious (sparkling, lively): the woman’s vivacious laugh caught my attention.   

Seen on Social Media:  a list of companies that sell products created by Trump’s family.  I noticed that there is a complex issue confronting consumers.  The Daily Topic that I ran into is the list that is circulating on social media showing companies that carry products by Donald Trump’s family.

Something that boycotting people don’t know is the anti-boycott measures that are in place.  “If you discontinue our line before the contract ends, you will forfeit 40% of the stock or you can’t get the special pricing or you are banned from ever carrying our materials again.”  I would like to write to the companies to find out what life is like from their side.  What penalties do they face if they walk away from the agreements made with Trump’s family businesses?

That’s what I wanted to think about instead of simply writing quickly to Zappos and declaring a boycott.   

Why do I want to hurt the creativity of some people who work for Trump?   Trump won’t be significantly hurt if the line of clothing is dropped.  There are other sources of income to the family.   The people employed by Trump will be hurt.

I am interested in learning more about history of South Carolina.  More than just Francis Marion (the Swamp Fox).


That summary took about 20 minutes to complete.   That’s about 5% of a 400 minute day.  400 minutes is about 7 hours.  If you want to make serious progress in completing Gradpoint in a month, you need to put in at least 6 hours a day on the courses:  6 hours x 30 days = 180 hours to complete a course.

Thank you for looking through this introduction!

Steve McCrea
(954) 646 8246
get started by texting me…. 

No comments:

Post a Comment