Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The State of School, After Eight Weeks at Home

This is my eighth week of teaching from home.

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I know that there will be four more--my district will finish this school year from home and our year ends June 10.

I worry that we might begin next school year from home as well, if there's a summer spike from all the states reopening too broadly and citizens letting down their guard too soon. (My personal tendency would be to go very slowly and cautiously in this regard).

So, it seems like a good moment to reflect on how its going.

I was lucky in a lot of ways. My district was already a one-to-one school district, meaning that all students had already been provided a laptop by the school district.

I was already using hybrid teaching methods, offering course content in person in the classroom, with digital assignment management and access to class content there as well via digital slideshows and video lectures/lessons from me. I liked having multiple access points to the same information so kids could reference and review as needed.

My students were already "trained" to use CANVAS to manage their schoolwork for me.

Providing lessons purely digitally didn't require much change for me. What *did* change was whether I focused on my students more as groups or as individuals. It's harder, connecting with 120 people a day when you need to make contact one person at a time and can't just stop by their desk for a quick check-in.

We're asynchronous to the extreme. I mostly work early, so that I can give feedback, provide new
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lesson supports, and create new materials while my house is still quiet. I let my own child sleep late and start her homeschooling after ten a.m., so I can have that focused time to really get things done.

My students seem to mostly do their work late morning into night, so there's lag. They send me assignments and questions after I've logged off for the day, and my answers are waiting for them when they log in the next day.

While I'm busily responding to student queries several hours a day, there are students on my list that I haven't heard from at all, or who I only hear from once every two to three weeks. I worry about them. Some of them are fine, and just haven't put Spanish very high on their priority lists right now. Others? Not as fine.

I'm proud of the outreach my school district has done, making sure that our families know about all the supports available for them for food resources, obtaining and providing hotspots for families with limited or no internet access at home, arranging for uplifting and supportive messages to help us all keep heart.

I'm grateful to our counselors and social workers who have put themselves at risk of exposure in order to visit families in their homes if reaching out by phone and email didn't yield results. We don't give up on our kids, not any of them. It's tested me, for certain, stretching me outside my comfort zone in some cases and forcing me to change how I organize my thinking around a school day.

I've settled on using a chart I made listing all "my" kids (the ones currently enrolled in my classes), with their contact information and a notation about the last contact I had from that kid. Each day, I look to the ones I have gone the longest without word from and reach out to them--trying first through the LMS, then via email, then by phone, then letter by mail. I still have three I haven't heard from at all.

When I'm teaching them 20-30 at a time in the classroom, they don't feel like as as many people as they do contacting them this way. I get overwhelmed trying to remember who I talked to and when, which is why I eventually made the chart, offloading that information to something I could reference outside my own brain.

But I know it matters, so I keep reaching out, much like the young woman in the starfish story--it makes a difference, to one student at a time. So, I'll keep walking up and down this beach, offering a hand to anyone who will take it.


  1. I am so impressed by your dedication, your commitment, your organization, and your refusal to let any kid slip through the cracks. I could never be a teacher because I'm not organized or patient enough, and you and all the other teachers whose lives have been upended recently have my undying admiration.

    1. Thank you so much. It's strange living my teaching life so much online . . .and it's nice to be appreciated!