Palo Alto High School Vice Principal Vicki Kim sent an unusual email to the parents of students enrolled in Pat O’Hara’s fifth period Functional Programming class two weeks ago, offering options to resolve complaints about the slowness of the class, including the possibility of transferring.
The email came in response to complaints from students and parents that O’Hara’s class was falling behind the other section, taught by William Friebel.
The programming class was so popular this year that the school created two sections with two different teachers to accommodate all the students, but the complaints started within a matter of weeks.
Kim surveyed O’Hara’s students on Sept. 13 about potential solutions that might enable them to learn more effectively. Out of the 23 students, six expressed interest in transferring into the first period Functional Programming class taught by William Friebel, who has taught the class for two years. Another two are interested in creating a second period Functional Programming class taught by Friebel and 15 said they would consider staying in O’Hara’s class.
“I did let the students know that if they chose to transfer, I would make every effort for the transfer to have the lightest impact to their schedule,” Kim said in the email.
O’Hara had previously taught game design and business law. Last spring, he was asked to teach a section of Functional Programming
“I had had some similar experience in my past, and said, ‘Yes,’” O’Hara said. “Soon after the school began this year, I could see that my class was falling back relative to Mr. Friebel’s class, and realized that I was not prepared for the pace of the course.”
Students enrolled in O’Hara’s class rapidly became alarmed that they were lagging relative to the other class.
“[O’Hara’s] teaching style is slow and allows for a more complete understanding, while on the flip side, the other classes are moving on to different topics faster than we are,” said junior Athan Chang. “It almost feels like there are Honors and normal level programming classes.”
One problem this teaching system faces is that student cannot receive immediate help if they have questions about the online lectures, since Friebel is not present in class.
“The only time we have to see an experienced teacher is during Flex,” said junior Tejas Shete. “I do not have time to go during Flex.”
The school administration has not found another qualified Functional Programming teacher, and O’Hara said he does not expect to teach the class again.