Today was the second day of in school training for transferring from all online learning to hybrid + online learning combination. I thought about writing a six word sentence yesterday to commemorate this first day of this experience, but since most of my six words were swear words, I skipped it.
Where do I even begin? This is, of course, a big philosophical question, raising issues of equity and pedagogy and curriculum design for different types of learning and different learning delivery systems simultaneously and trying to talk to those in the room and on Zoom at the same time, and many other important teacher questions.
But, really, I just mean, my goodness, where do I even begin?
Teachers clumped together on day 1, no more than a couple of feet apart, and so many people taking their masks off to drink coffee.
An assistant principal who told us, in all seriousness, to let kids eat and drink in our classes, as it was only fair, since the kids who were still at home could continue to have a snack or drink whenever they liked. “Just, you know, as long as they don’t have their masks off for long. Not more than thirty minutes of snacking.”
Or how about the same assistant principal telling us that middle schoolers cannot sit still all day, so we need to let them get up and move around. But, in their space. Obviously.
We also were informed by the other assistant principal that she did not see it as her job, or ours, to police how close kids got to each other in the classroom.
Yeah, we’re totally safe. Eating and drinking and sitting side by side. Right.
My favorite were the written instructions from the district, informing us that we need to continue doing what we have been doing, and put all information into our online platforms and deliver instruction via Zoom. To the kids who are home and the kids who will be sitting right in front of us.
Let me repeat that for you.
Go to school and teach via Zoom. To the kids who are in the same room with me, in person.
Our union agreement states that we can do work that CAN be done remotely, remotely. But when I asked about working from home during our prep times (after the meetings are over) this week, because I have a child at home who is not yet returning to school, I was told that I had to be in the building because the district said so. When I mentioned that this was causing child care issues, the administrators told me, “Yeah, we all have child care issues.”
Today was our big test. We ran practice simulations, putting groups of teachers into one room to be “roomers” and another group in another room to be “zoomers” and then our brave and stoic tech people ran simulations of how to teach so we could see and hear how it would work.
News flash: Nothing worked.
I mean, really nothing.
No sound on the video. Lagging wifi with only 70 teachers in the building, instead of 600 kids all on Zoom at the same time. People forgetting to put in their headphones, so sound and feedback bounced around the rooms. Cannot hear the people who are “at school” when you are “home.” Can hear the teacher live and 2 seconds later in your headphones when you are “at school.” Strangely distorted views of teachers standing in front of their laptops to teach. Midriffs. Breasts. Half a face and half of what is projected on the screen. Up a nostril. Take your pick- it depends on your height. None of them are attractive. No one able to follow the chat and teachers routinely missing questions from those on Zoom.
And these were dedicated, hard-working, innovative teachers who have been doing amazing things for their students via Zoom and Canvas for a year. The system is simply ridiculously designed, and cannot possibly be what parents or students want in a return to school. A handful of students (as low as two people in person for some classes) in person, still staring into their computers all day, masked and distanced from everyone else. An education that has already been difficult, fractured by yet another seismic shift in what teachers are expected to do, reduced in time by the weeks needed to establish classroom protocols that normally are set up in September (and are usually a lot less complicated!), and sabotaged by dividing the teachers’ time and energy between instructing students in two diametrically opposed pedagogical systems simultaneously. All in the final nine weeks of school. And while case rates, hospitalizations, and positivity rates steadily increase locally and nationally and vaccinations remain difficult to get and not open to all.
I know that there are students who need to be in school with a teacher. I know that many of mine who are returning will get more help and struggle less if they are in the classroom. I know that many of those who most need to be in the classroom are staying home, so I will have even less ability to engage with and help them. And I know that this system is not what they are looking for when they express a desire to return.
But, hey, at least the schools will be open. And those “selfish, lazy teachers who have been sitting at home on their asses getting paid for nothing for the last year” won’t be getting a cushy ride any more.
Maybe the teachers will no longer get death threats on the school district’s social media pages.
It’s all back to normal, right?