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?

Amy

28 thoughts on “Thursday Thoughts – Back to In Person School

  1. I love this reflective post. I love how your structured your virtual classes. That’s amazing that you’ve only had 4 kids completely check out. Our numbers were much higher than that. Your taco mask is awesome. I know your students will be so happy to see you in person!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I could’ve written more! There is so much to say, but I had to try to keep it succinct. I have all advanced so even 4 checking out is not good in my mind. I love my new taco mask! I am not sure I can get myself to school by 7 like I used to!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 3:15 is early for me. My old school didn’t get out until 4:00. 😬 when I taught in Missouri, high school went early (7:30-2:20) and elementary went late. It’s the reverse here which I guess has been good so I can get to school before heading to work

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing, everything school related is interesting to me! And I need all the information I can get now that I’m teaching from home. My school haven’t decided what will happen next week yet, the authorities are very blurry in their recommendations and leave the decisions to the individual schools. I would love to be home one more week! Even though it’s exhausting….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What are your rules on each class period?
      We only had 4 classes a day maximum from 30-60 minutes at teacher discretion.
      I did 40 minutes because I thought more than that was hard for their attention span. I stay on for 60 for individual help but let them go after 40. They wave goodbye to me like they are leaving on a 1900s steam ship and it is the cutest! Do you use Google Classroom and Google Meet?

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      1. Well, we’re following our normal schedule, since it’s just for a short time period. So normally I have 5-6 lessons per day, each between 40-60 minutes.
        I use google meet. So cute with your students waving! I love your simile!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s a lot and requires a lot of energy! It will get easier but it’s also hard having the uncertainty of how long you will do this. Thank you!

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  3. I am all for in person learning – even though I work in a virtual school – ha!! Virtual learning is not for all and neither is homeschooling. Our children have really suffered so much in this last year and I am so happy to see that things are getting back to normal slowly and safely. Our schools have been open for some time and most schools have given kids the choice to be at home or in school. The teachers have really suffered because they are doing BOTH jobs in our district. Ugh!!!
    xo,
    Kellyann

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with everything you said! We will be teaching both but not at the same time which I think is better. How can you divide your attention between the two groups? Of course I would like a planning period or more of a break than my 20 minute lunch. I’m also worried about having time to visit the restroom! I’m also worried about getting myself out the door in time!

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      1. EXACTLY!!! My best friend teaches 3rd grade – 5 kids at home with 15 in class. She has to teach both, wearing a mask and microphone all day. It is insane!
        Once I started working from home 3 years ago I wondered how I ever got out of the house on time, lol! It’s easy to slow down and take your time when you’re not rushing out of the house but you’ll get back on your schedule easily I bet!

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      2. Your friend needs a giant margarita! I have wondered about the microphone thing. One of my kids suggested it. I can be really loud and I will have small classes, though.
        I have really slowed down and become calmer in the last year. I will adjust and it may mean not reading my blogs in the morning!

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  4. Most of the teachers I work with always wear microphones (pandemic or not) because we have several hearing impaired students in our building. The non-hearing impaired kids really benefit from it too and request the other teachers wear microphones.
    Great for foreign language pronunciation and listening and speaking assessments.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You (and all teachers) have definitely had to be flexible. I know that a lot of students have “checked out” in our school. I get the email notifications from my son’s teachers, and sometimes it sounds like the teachers are practically begging for kids to turn work in. Sad! Hope you stay strong til Easter! 🙂

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    1. Yes! Flexibility can be really hard as a teacher, which I am sure you remember! We are practically begging and we don’t want anyone to fail. Thank you so much!

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  6. You know most of my thoughts 🙂

    That being said, if schools had resumed in January in-person or back in September (here they started September 7 instead of August 14), I feel like it’d be less overwhelming. It’s very stressful to be making these changes in the 4th quarter, especially in high school. And it’s creating a high-stress environment. I remember the high-stress feelings here and I started to feel better after a month or so.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! I couldn’t agree more! But, since we can’t turn back time, I see the positives to getting kids back in the building so August isn’t so overwhelming for all involved.

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  7. Thanks for sharing about this! We’re a military family (through facebook) I’ve seen how many places have handled virtual school – it sounds like you have a great handle on it. I like for you that this new teaching change and the stress with it have an end date!

    Personally, we now live in a fairly small town in Georgia which is VERY casual about covid in general. I have a 2nd, 5th, and 8th grader who have been in school all year. We moved here last summer and could have chosen virtual but it’s challenging to learn new schools in the best of circumstances, let alone from home. I haven’t heard how the high school is handled but we’ve been pleased with the other schools – even the middle school with changing classes. As of now, both my 5th and 8th graders have each had to “quarantine” at home once from a possible exposure. Having said all that, school is NOT the same and we long for “normal” school.

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    1. Not sure about that, but thank you! It is funny how the south has been pretty casual. It sounds like your kids were in the best scenario possible. I long for normal, too, and hate that we have to do this.
      Wishing you all the best of the rest of the year and thank you for your service and sacrifice!

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  8. Our school has been set up to accommodate in person and at home since Aug. The entire day is live streamed for the at home kids and the teachers make a huge effort to call on the kids at home. My daughter was home the first three quarters and went back for 4th qtr once my parents were vaccinated. We cannot thank our school enough for taking on the extra work this year to ensure everyone felt safe. What teachers have done this past year is incredible and very much appreciated!

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    1. That is so hard for teachers but I guess as with anything it gets easier. Our district didn’t want to do virtual and in person simultaneously for some reason. Congrats on your parents getting vaccinated! I hope your daughter is happy to be back. It’s been a lot for teachers, but I know it’s been a lot for everyone in whatever profession they are in. I hope that people will stop saying such ugly things about teachers and I also hope that society in general appreciates all that the schools provide their communities!

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