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Students elect alternative learning opportunities

While many students thrive in a traditional high school environment, a significant number of people struggle to keep up with their school work, aren’t interested in what they are learning, or have conflicts that prevent them from academically achieving their best.

Such students may choose to research alternative options that better suit their personal situations, such as one-on-one tutoring or homeschooling, online classes, courses at College of Marin, or attending Tamiscal.

Junior Hall Darden had back surgery in the eighth grade that prevented her from attending Ross Middle School for several months.

“Because I went to a public school and I was missing more than a week or two—I was out for two and a half months—by law they are supposed to provide someone to come in and teach you things that you missed in two classes that you struggle with,” Darden said. “I kind of dreaded [the tutor] coming everyday.”

Students at Tamiscal have less hours inside the classroom, allowing for a more flexible schedule.
Students at Tamiscal have less hours inside the classroom, allowing for a more flexible schedule.

Upon her return, Darden was caught up in the curriculum and was able to resume class as normal, thanks to the tutoring. However, even after studying with a tutor, Darden was unable to move on to geometry during her freshman year at Redwood.

“I missed [the traditional environment of school] a lot,” Darden said. “I was pretty on top of  [the work], but it was really annoying because in math, I had worked really hard with the [tutor] to stay on top of it and catch up to the class. ”

Junior Sofia Cassidy sought a different type of alternative education when she performed in a production of Legally Blonde as a professional actress during her sophomore year.

“I came to Redwood for the first two and a half weeks of school, but I couldn’t get any of my homework done – I would have to go straight from school to Oakland and wouldn’t get home until 12. I had to do my homework backstage,” Cassidy said. “Since the teachers had so many students, they weren’t able to really help me. I was doing terribly in classes because I wasn’t able to finish my work and I didn’t understand the information.”

After struggling to balance school with her work in the theater, Cassidy wrote a letter to Tamiscal, where she was interviewed before being accepted into their program.

“At Tamiscal, it [was] very intimate and you got to know your teachers very well,” Cassidy said. “You actually got to teach yourself a lot more and find out what you were really good at. When I was here at Redwood [my sophomore year], I felt like I was stuck in the back of a classroom and just sort of following along with what everybody else was doing.”

Because Tamiscal is in the Tam district, policies regarding grade point average and transcript requirements are the same as those of Redwood. It differs from Redwood in that Tamiscal students have a more flexible weekly schedule.

Cassidy’s show ended shortly after her admittance to Tamiscal, but she continued to attend for the remainder of her sophomore year.

“I really enjoyed the environment there so I decided to stay another semester,” Cassidy said. “I didn’t have plans of coming back to Redwood until I was deciding what my junior schedule would be.”

According to Cassidy, Tamiscal offers limited class options, especially for Advanced Placement courses. The only AP course that Tamiscal offers is AP English Literature & Composition, which is only available to seniors.

“It was very difficult to get reintroduced to the traditional classroom setting,” Cassidy said. “I was sitting there in class and I could handle it for the first few hours, but after that I was getting pretty tired.”

Cassidy said that students at Tamiscal choose an alternative education route for a wide variety of reasons.

“I was working professionally and other people have injuries that prevent them from sitting in a classroom seven hours a day. Some people suffer from depression, and there are some people who are professional ballerinas,” Cassidy said.

According to Cassidy, because of the large amount of prospective students, Tamiscal students must be self-motivated and stay on top of their work in order to return the following semester.

Many students who wish to learn more about a specific subject can opt to take classes at other institutions. Dual enrollment at College of Marin, which provides credits that are transferable to the TUHSD transcripts, is one option.

Junior Maia da Silva decided to take a nutrition course at College of Marin due to her interest in sciences and desire for education beyond what Redwood offers.

“You really get the whole college feel for things,” da Silva said. “You can take an AP class here, but you’re still at a high school and it is still a high school course. But if you’re at a college, you get the feel of a lecture, you get the feel of all your other classmates, being in a room with 50 other kids and your teacher not knowing your name.”

However, da Silva said some students may not yet be capable of handling the personal responsibility that comes from the freedom of a college course.

“If you’re not really ready for that step, it is a really long class and it is lecture-based,” da Silva said. “You have to keep yourself motivated. It’s not like your teacher is giving you regular homework assignments, checking up on you—it’s more independent and self-driven.”

To get approved to take a College of Marin course, students should discuss their interest with their school counselor.

“[My counselor] set me up with a paper that I had to get signed by her and I had to go into College of Marin and talk to a counselor there and get them to sign it,” da Silva said. “This year, I was able to drop my seventh as well as my first [period]. I just had to get my parents to sign this slip and prove that I was actually taking a class at College of Marin.”

According to da Silva, the grades she earns at College of Marin are not reflected in her  Redwood grade point average, but are added to her college transcript and thus contribute to her college GPA.

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About the Contributor
Megan Millard, Author