gmhTODAY 19 gmhToday April May 2018 - Page 111

Paulson, who taught math at Sobrato High School for three years, enjoys the difference in format at MOHILA. For starters, he’s working with far fewer kids—there are eleven in-school kids enrolled this year, and another dozen or so homeschool kids whose work he helps to grade. “It’s an alternative education, a different setting where they are able to work independently at their own pace as opposed to a class where the teacher sets the pace,” Paulson explained. Some students work way ahead of pace, while others just try to keep up with the 5 percent per week pace that Paulson suggests, so that they are done by the end of the 18-or-20 week semesters. Tessa, age 16, a high school junior likes the self-paced part of the program. “You’re not limited to an amount of time so if you do math for an entire day, you can get really ahead,” she said. She also feels that she can focus better with fewer students competing for attention. “Unlike in regular school this class actually focuses and gets thing done. Because it’s a smaller atmosphere, not forty kids to one teacher.” Lexi, age 13, in 8 th grade, likes that she can repeat a section as many times as needed. “At normal school you have to go along with the teacher, learn what the teacher teaches, but here if you don’t understand it you can go over it as many times as you like.” Paulson acknowledged, “Kids have different needs.” He added that this program appeals to “The super creative ones that are really motivated, and can really reach their potential.” It’s also nice for kids who have “anxiety type issues,” he said. “We are a small environment, one teacher to deal with, and the kids don’t have to explain themselves to a lot of different teachers.” Indeed, the room was quiet, despite multiple students working there. Occasionally, a student raised a hand to call for Paulson, or leaned over and chatted with a neighbor. This all allows for a peaceful air of relaxation not usually found in a typical classroom. “We don’t have periods so we don’t have to move around,” said Alan, age 18. “It’s relaxed and laid back.” Though they don’t have periods, they do have an informal structure. Paulson said the students come in at 8:45 am then go to PE sometime within that first hour. When they return, they do additional work for up to another hour and a half. Then he leads them in collaborative projects, “for building the interpersonal and presentation type skills they wouldn’t always get in an online environment,” he said. This is followed by more coursework. It’s important to Paulson to split up the day, “because you can’t sit in front of the computer for six hours at a time. I try to mix it up and give them their opportunities to get their brains unwound.” Even more exciting to students and teachers alike are the number of electives available to them that they would be unlikely to take in traditional or even private schools. GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN “We have students taking forensic science, criminology, gothic literature, and AV production,” Paulson described. As a bonus, Paulson gets to learn alongside the students as he grades their written work, organizes discussions and collaborative projects or science experiments with them. “I like that because I’m interested in all these different areas,” he said. The middle-school-aged kids take four cores: English, History, Science and Math, and can take up to two electives on top of that. High-school-aged kids add a foreign language for two years, and some students are also taking advanced placement (AP) classes. For these latter two types of classes, students work with teachers online through Edmentum, rather than with Paulson. Paulson also finds that having kids of different ages and grades working together is a unique benefit of the format. “They each bring their own strengths,” he explained. “If a younger one is stronger in math than some of the older ones, they can shine in different ways. I think it’s neat that they cross over and interact.” The students themselves also like the crossover and expressed that the small format allows them to bond with each other without any judgments or peer pressure. As the program expands, Paulson would like to arrange for more break-out groups where he can focus on specific subjects and do some direct teaching with a group on one particular subject. He’d also like to be able to do more field trips. “That might be stimulating in some way to expose them to more [educational opportunities], because it’s a small group. Otherwise, he just wants to see the program continue because it clearly meets a need. Gomes, too, is hopeful for the future of the program. Once the state grants them the designation of being a stand- alone school, they’ll have a grand opening. “We’re really excited to have the opportunity and honor to work with neat kids and super cool families and provide a solution for them as traditional schooling wasn’t working for them and their family.” Vera Gomes, Principal APRIL/MAY 2018 111