It’s no secret that high school is demanding. Homework, projects and relentless tests can be daunting, especially to an incoming freshman. That uncertainty can lead to an overwhelmed state of mind. That’s why Ptownlife has kickstarted a Surviving High School series, beginning with Freshman English. Interviews with two Amador Valley teachers, Ms. Boe who teaches Freshman English and Ms. Randazzo who teaches Honors Freshman English, provided valuable information regarding their classes and how to ‘survive’ them.

According to Ms. Boe, students do not realize that transition to high school can be challenging, and taking too many honors classes can be overwhelming; some can handle the stress while others crumble. She adds, “Incoming freshmen need to know themselves and understand how they process stress – this is the best way for them to survive. The biggest issue is time management, so choose extracurriculars and classes effectively. Do not try to do it all in the first year – you still have three more after that!”

Ms. Boe likes to create a classroom environment that is nurturing, engaging, and rigorous with the hope that students feel they will always be supported and that learning English is fun. In her class, students will read four novels and write four major essays in the school year; she especially finds the autobiographical essay useful because “it is usually required for college applications and work and helps students develop that tool early in their career.”

On the other hand, if you are up to the challenge and want to experience an intense classroom that covers the deeper aspects of literature analysis, critical thinking, essay writing, and public speaking, consider taking Honors Freshman English.

Ms Randazzo’s advice is to consider two things before making the choice: “1. Do you truly love English or are you choosing the honors class for someone else? 2. You need to think about balancing other classes as well. Pace yourself; see if you have room and look at it practically.” Her opinion includes thinking of reading and writing as a journey in a car. Some students like the joyride of it, while others like to explore its mechanics. She thinks of honors students as auto mechanics who should want to know how the story is built, not just read it for pleasure.

Ms. Randazzo also emphasizes that communication is key. “Talk to your teachers if you have any questions or struggles. Stay on top of assignments. Be willing to trust yourself and create and defend your own ideas rather than just parroting what the teacher says. Teachers want to see evidence of students’ thinking,” she says.

Students who opt for Honors English will have summer homework that includes reading two books and writing a set of dialectical journals (to analyze the books) that accompany their reading. They will also be tested on the material on the second day of school.

So, if you are a freshman who is unsure of your options or you simply want to be more informed, take the time to connect with your current English teachers and listen to what they have to say. The next best thing to a real classroom experience is a realistic sense obtained from dialogues with your teachers and peers. A decision that truly reflects what you enjoy will most likely be the best decision you will end up making.



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