The "Elective" Cycle

As an "upper" middle school student (does that even make any sense?), my son was allowed to chose three cycle/elective classes for the school year.  ("Lower" middle school students don't get to select their cycle classes; they have 6 assigned throughout the year and how they know when to move from one to the other is as confusing to me as it is to them, or so I assume.)  We got the form early in the spring and looking over it I immediately saw two classes that I knew he'd want.  As for the third, I thought I knew what he'd select, but he surprised me.  Even though selections are not guaranteed, I was pretty certain he'd get the three he wanted (along with health which is a mandatory part of the cycle.)

Form was turned in and that was that.  Or so I thought.

Monday, less than two weeks before the end of the school year and the last FULL week of school, we, along with other parents received an email from our son's math teacher.  The note said:  

"Math Lab is a cycle class offered in both the 7th and 8th grades.  This course parallels the on-level math class, providing reinforcement of concepts and skills necessary to be successful at math.  Because this is a second math class, there is no homework assigned in Math Lab. I believe that your son/daughter will benefit greatly from participating in this class and therefore have recommended Math Lab be assigned as part of his/her schedule. Having taught this class in past years, it is my experience that most students saw it to be a great benefit. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me before the end of this school year."

If you had been nearby you would have seen smoke coming out of my ears.  I was really furious.  NOT at the teacher who sent the email.  She was right, our son would benefit by taking Math Lab.  But it had never been presented as an option when we filled out the form for these elective classes.  We weren't even aware that such a class existed.  Because it was being recommended by a teacher, I was relatively certain that he would be placed in this class for one of the 4 cycles.  I was DEFINITELY certain that this would NOT make my son happy. 

I knew a letter was in order.  I also knew I'd have to tell our son and I figured better now than later.  He was pretty upset.  In his eyes he's being "punished". (He's not, but I can understand how he views it as such.)  It also felt like a blow to being "grown up" enough to make decisions on what classes he might like.  But I felt that it was better for him to find it out now, rather than the last day of school, or WORSE the first day of school in the fall.  I explained that he was NOT being punished and this would help him with math.  Most importantly he would NOT be the only child taking the class and it was only for one marking period.  I also wanted him to know that I thought it was unfair that this was suddenly sprung on him; that we SHOULD have had the opportunity to discuss this as a family as we did when he made his original choices.

I wrote an email to the teacher, his guidance counselor and the principal.  I had both my husband and son review and approve it before I sent it because this effects all of us.  Here's what I said: 

 Thank you for your email.  Both my husband and I agree that our son will benefit from Math Lab next year.  

However, I am very distressed and our son is very upset that this was not brought up prior to his selection of the three cycle classes he would like to take next year.  In his eyes, not only is he being “punished/forced” to take an additional math class, but he is going to miss the opportunity to take one of the classes that he really wanted to take.   I feel that this issue should have been raised prior to the selection process so that he, as well as any other students who might be recommended for Math Lab, would be aware of the potential loss of a selection.  This could have and SHOULD have been discussed by our family before the forms were submitted.  I know that he will be particularly upset if he does not have the opportunity to be a part of oceanography (he has been studying marine science every summer for the past 6 years) or art, and hope that scheduling will permit him to be a part of those classes.   

I would also hope that going forward, the recommendation for Math lab, or any other class that is NOT on the cycle class form, would be presented to parents PRIOR the date that the form had to be submitted.  It would certainly prevent a great deal of hurt and would allow for family discussion and participation in the process.

I did get an email back from the teacher saying our son did not HAVE to take the Math Lab if we did not want him to take it.  (NOT what I was trying to get across!)  I also got this from the Principal:  "We apologize for the inconvenience of picking cycle classes before students who would benefit from lab classes were alerted.  We will work on doing a better job of that next year." this cannot be the first year that you are doing this (the Math teacher even says that in her original email), shouldn't you have a better plan in place?  I appreciate that the teacher and the principal responded (the guidance counselor did not), but...I'm always trying to teach my eleven year old son that he needs to be organized, should I be teaching the school too?  (Or at least the people who set up the class schedules?)

Honestly stuff like this just gets my goat.  If you want students to actively engage with elective/cycle classes then they truly have to be part of the process.  The school missed the boat big time on this front in my opinion.

By that's my opinion.  Maybe you think I'm overreacting?  I'm open to feed back and thoughts...GO!


  1. I don't think you are over-reacting at all. It's not even my kid and I was peeved reading about it. I also think the teacher's response was pretty stupid, like they hadn't even actually read your letter? Stupid math.


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