Well, not officially. But this morning I realized that the hybrid model is very similar to the common schedule of college courses: twice-per-week class meetings, with the expectation of homework to be done before the following week's sessions. Of course, those college class meetings are usually 90 minutes or so, and K-12 teachers will only get about 1/2 as much time. And those in-class sessions will have unusual limitations too, like students must be facing forward and everybody's wearing an uncomfortable facemask.
With less than 6 weeks to go before students "arrive", I'm still wayyyyy behind my usual planning. Partly because my curriculum is fairly well set, and I plan to stick with the same flipping and grading systems. That's the Big 3 -- usually I'm overhauling at least one of those elements. This time. I'm just waiting for the parameters that I will need to live with. Finding that a rough model already exists is somewhat helpful, particularly because I have been a student under those conditions (yeah it was two decades ago, but still!).
We are in an enormous metaphorical car.
Driving on an unfamiliar road, in the dark, surrounded by dense fog.
Everyone in the car really wants to get where it's going: a destination that will benefit the children in multiple ways and will occupy their attention while many of the adults do important things.
But like I said: our visibility is severely limited. We don't know exactly what lies ahead, and there are disagreements inside the car about how many potholes we might suddenly drive into. The impact will probably affect older people most of all for some reason, although people in the car disagree about how dangerous it will be for the children.
How fast should we drive this car?
FYI this is a metaphor for the COVID pandemic and debate about schools reopening
3 hours of sleep is not enough for normal living, is it?
Somehow I have been operating quite well so far, despite only sleeping between 2-5AM this morning. I'd better get today's obligatory blog post written and posted before I lose all brain function. (As if it makes a difference, the blog reader mumbled.) Today's edition will be in bulleted list form as a bunch of semi-formed thoughts that I might expand upon someday later....
Nobody takes summers off in 2020! Earlier today, I survived this afternoon's webinar for in-district colleagues about using videos asynchronously. There was a lot to cover in just 1 hour, and I was one of 3 presenters. The other two are district IT specialists at the middle schools, and they gave overviews of WeVideo, Loom, Edpuzzle, and Flipgrid -- all are programs that the district has agreed to provide at the Premium/Enterprise level, which is really cool for me.
My role in the webinar, as the final presenter, was to describe my approach to using videos as a classroom teacher. I did not demonstrate any tools, but rather repeated and emphasized some key points the IT Specialists had mentioned:
I tried to make my slides really basic with a large font. Actually, I designed them to function as a Zoom virtual background, but the other presenters were not psyched about that idea, so I chose to present classically instead.
This is an important point I wanted to convey: that videos should be one of the last things we produce. Not sure I really got that point across though, because I had to rush through my stuff to make sure we finished on time.
We had over 90 participants logged in, which seems impressive. Not sure how much attention they paid, but at least a dozen wrote questions in the Chat window, so at least that many people were engaged at some point!
I'm doing a 1-hour webinar tomorrow for educators in my district (over 100 attendees registered!!) about how to use videos asynchronously. The other presenters are IT Specialists, and they will go first to present about some basic elements of videos in education and a few apps (Loom, Edpuzzle, WeVideo) that the district has funded for the upcoming school year. They brought me as a "special guest" to share some of my experience and advice. I'll blog tomorrow about how that went.
When planning my segment, I decided to make slides that would work as a virtual background -- I download them as separate JPGs, add them to the library of Zoom backgrounds, and keep that Settings window open while on-camera so I can click to change what appears behind me. I used this technique on my FlipTech2020 video about SBG, because it's so much easier than using the greenscreen feature in editing programs like iMovie. I hoped this would make the slidedeck sharing less awkward than screen-sharing sometimes turns out to be.
Brenda, one of those IT Specialists, informed me about a program that could make this technique even easier and better. You gotta check out this preview:
DISCLAIMER: I am not compensated in any way for this support of mmhmm. In fact I would gladly pay them for the privilege of getting to tryout this program!
I actually had a jawdrop moment at the 1:25 mark when the guy shrinks himself and again at 1:47 when he fades and starts moving his webcam video section all over the screen. The video looks a little choppy, like 18 fps instead of the usual 24 ... but that is a very small price to pay for these excellent features to really improve synchronous and especially asychronous video-based teaching.
A couple weeks ago, the dean of Yale's School of Public Health [pictured on the right] published a newspaper opinion letter extolling the reasons why he believes that in-person teaching is vital and quite possible next month.
"My odds of acquiring the virus (SARS-CoV-2) are exceedingly low if my students and colleagues adhere to these guidelines. And I will help them adhere when necessary with gentle reminders and friendly advocacy." Cool. You're dealing with young adults, some of whom still go streaking for public approval or chant "Pork: the other white meat!" in the middle of Old Campus. Some of us have even younger students (biologically) who are even less likely to adhere to guidelines and even more inclined to ignore "friendly advocacy" whatever that means.
. I'm also amazed and appalled and offended that this good doctor distrusts public protesters to wear masks (although consistently they do, and I don't know any COVID cases traced to infection at a protest) yet so cocksure that slightly more-ventilated classrooms with some "gentle reminders" will do the trick.
And I'm sorry but he can totally fuck off with the "essential workers" paragraph [below the Barbie pic]. Nobody ever died from a slightly lesser knowledge of history or multiplication. As he even stated, I didn't sign up to become a frontline health care worker, and you should not want me in that role. (See: teacher Barbie https://twitter.com/SrtaLisa/status/1289205663273369601?s=19) I am not an "inspiring symbol" when barking for the 12th time to pull up your facemask, when I'm basically just running a Zoom session in 3D.
Sure, I agree the federal govt should provide more, but that clock has already run out. And sure, "if we get more support to manage or avoid the risks" that would be great too. But the OPPOSITE IS HAPPENING and somehow this guy has not noticed yet.
As a physician, I took an oath to provide care to all of my patients, regardless of their condition or illness. But as a teacher, one does not sign up for this level of risk. Still, teachers in pre-school, K-12, or university and technical colleges are aiding their students as essential workers. I see teaching in the COVID-19 era as merely a variation on this theme of academic service.
Is in-class teaching important for students? Is the quality of education enhanced in the classroom environment? Can teaching be an inspiring symbol of commitment and courage for students amidst this pandemic? Can in-class teaching normalize life for parents who must return to work (or look for work)? One can answer with a resounding “Yes!” to all of the above. Thinking about the situation this way helps motivate me – and hopefully can motivate other teachers as well — to return to the classroom with joy, pride, enthusiasm, and caution.
Yup, that's the district where I work. I hate this idea for a lot of reasons, some of which I tweeted about last month when the New York Times printed a couple of "edgy" and "outside-the-box" pieces in the Opinions section.
But let me step back and write a little list of some ways it might be OK for my school district to buy 1 or 2 large tents for each school:
Yeah, that's about all I can come up with. These tents do very very little to alleviate all the other problems of in-person schooling under current conditions. Not enough of them and not enough favorable weather days to make them a universal solution. The brief respite of an outdoor "mask break" (another term that didn't exist before 2020) just isn't enough to justify all the other problems. Nope, nope, nope.
This afternoon I got the confirmation email from my children's school district: remote-learning until at least Friday October 30, with the next decision to be made in mid-October. That is more than my wife and I know about our own districts' status, but it's that is one less thing to think about. My kids will be in 10th and 12th grade, so they're technically capable of caring for themselves in our absences ... but of course I am still highly concerned for their productivity and general wellbeing if all alone for 7-8 hours every weekday. Let alone our concerns for our own health and safety in a classroom of potential disease vectors.
I don't expect news from my district for at least 1 more week. And yes I know it seems this is all that I blog about ... but this is the topic that consumes my mind, and most of my social media feed. How could it not? We have been in this state of limbo since the week of March 9th: ever since some schools started closing and parents started keeping their kids at home. "When will we go back to the building?" "How will we work and interact in the meantime??" "Who is really in charge???" -- those have been the questions for over 4 months now. When we look back on this period, let's not forget about that uncertainty we lived with every day, week, month. I remember when the closure was supposed to be just 3 weeks ... then we were gonna be back May 4th ... and then most certainly we would get a fresh start in September. Nope, nope, nope.
So I blog about these thoughts and feelings for posterity, because it still seems way too soon for specific lesson & activity planning!
Who is this flipping guy?!
Andrew Swan has survived 20 full years of teaching middle school (currently grade 8 US Civics/Government in a Boston suburb). Previously he taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grade English, US History, geography, and ancient history in Massachusetts and Maine.