Thursday, March 11, 2021
Honestly, this may not appeal to my readers, but if nothing else, I think I will appreciate being able to look back on my thoughts.
I started to title this “Back to School” but then I added the “in person” because we have been back to school since August. I have seen some articles where the public is lambasting teachers for being lazy and not wanting to “work”. Wow! We have been continuing to hold school, albeit in a different format. Of course, some schools and some teachers have had different degrees of success. Just as the parent has the responsibility to see that kids are ready to come to school and learn, they also had the responsibility to make sure kids were ready to learn from home. And, this is not easy with the demands of jobs. Childcare was a huge issue for so many and it breaks my heart. I think teachers were the easy targets to blame.
The pandemic is not the fault of the teachers. The policy makers were put in a very difficult decision. Exactly a year ago, the entire country pulled the plug on being in school to save lives! Some school districts already had virtual plans in place and were 1:1 – meaning one device per kid. They had been using these for school weather cancellations already.
My school is part of the largest district in Kentucky which serves almost 100,00 kids. We were not 1:1 and we are behind in technology. Our building was built in the 1960s and has not been updated. This is my 27th year teaching high school Spanish and I have been at my current school for 21 years. You know that saying about old dogs and new tricks?
So, last March, my district took the last two weeks of March off for students and teachers, then had Spring Break, then gave teachers one work day before starting back virtually for the rest of the year. During those 3 weeks (yes, including Spring break), there were lots of Zoom meetings. I felt like I had to learn to do my job in a whole different way. I learned so much! We didn’t have a set schedule for the whole school to do live meetings or Zooms, but it was at the discretion of each teacher, so it was kind of a hot mess, but we tried. My twins were seniors so I also got to see the parent side of it. We were also told that kids’ grades could not go down. So, many checked out. I may also point out that we didn’t realize it would be the rest of the year when we started. We all still thought we might go back in May; oh, how little did we know.
In August, teachers from my district and school worked for a full two weeks before we brought the kids back virtually. Now, we had a set schedule and attendance was “mandatory” but we couldn’t hold absences against them. We had set rules for class length and assignments. There was lots of communication to parents and students about expectations. Also, we were not supposed to have firm deadlines on assignments and we still don’t. We were supposed to use “grace and flexibility”. Again, we thought it might just be 6 weeks or one semester. I don’t think anyone really thought we would be home learning virtually for this long.
It’s actually not been a horrible experience at the high school level. I have 150 kids and only 4 have totally checked out. I feel like I have gotten to know many of the kids. We have had some laughs and I feel that learning has taken place. Is it the same? Definitely not. Are there some good things about virtual? Definitely. I am almost wondering if a hybrid model might be the wave of the future for high school students.
Last week I went in to my room and moved my desk to the front of the room. I measured 6 feet and tried to come up with a workable seating arrangement. We will not be walking around the room and students will need to be contained to their desk area. We will have the students bring personal laptops or school issued laptops (we provided them to students that needed them), we will not be using much paper, and of course we will all be wearing masks. We do not have plans for plexiglass barriers.
So, I feel like I am learning a third new way to do my job. I am trying to think through how I can combine my old teaching style with what I have learned while teaching virtually. I also promised the kids consistency. I will still structure my lessons in the same way as I have since August. One thing that I think I have going for me is that I taught as much like we were in person as possible. I start class with a question and announcements. I call on students (I have their names on popsicle sticks. #oldschool) and try to have as interactive of a class as possible. I use breakout rooms for pair and group work. I have played video clips and music. I have tried to make it as much like an in person language class as possible. And, they have done really well for the most part! I try to commend them as much as I can. Can you imagine what they are going through?
I bought myself a taco mask.
Whew! I’m tired. But, I am not nearly as tired as I am going to be April 5.
Here is our plan:
Students who chose in person will go to school either Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday depending on their last name. The other 3 days will be asynchronous where they can do their work on their own schedule. Teachers will not be teaching virtual students at the same time, but instead we will be teaching our virtual students during our planning periods and possibly on Wednesday if the teacher chooses to make their schedule that way. We will get paid extra for teaching during our planning period.
My planning period is first period so I will teach my virtual kids from 7:40-8:30 and then I will teach 6 more 50 minute classes with a 20 minute lunch break. It will be a long day, but it is a short time period and I am so excited for the students.
I know many schools have been doing this schedule all year or most of the year. I think it is good that we are doing this and it will help us to be ready to go back in August.
If you are still here, thanks for reading! Thoughts? What is school like in your neck of the woods?