Hello classroom, my old friend … I come to enter you again …

And we’re back! Working from our classrooms whether teaching face-to-face or remotely, teachers are noticing the silence of the campus as only 25% of the student body is on campus at any one time. Even then, the students are quiet, mostly moving silently from room to room. Gone is the boisterous laughter and horseplay when throngs of students crowd in front of lockers to greet old friends and make acquaintance with new ones.

Even lunchtime is quiet. Too few for the combined volume of voices to create the usual roar heard in the cafeteria and courtyard. When few people are present, there’s no need to raise one’s voice to be heard.

Hybrid model

In Grumpy Old Teacher’s (GOT) district, parents could send their children to the campus under a model of face-to-face (f2f) learning and home learning (GOT uses remote learning to refer to this.) The superintendent will evaluate the Covid-19 status in the community after Labor Day and decide whether to bring these students onto campus five days a week.

Until then, high school students spend two days on campus and three days at home. Because GOT’s school is using a block schedule, this means that, at best, GOT sees his students once a week. The two f2f classes happen on A day. After seeing them on Monday, GOT will not have students back in his classroom for a week and a half.

However, one student doesn’t fit the model. He’s a junior, so he is out of sync with the rest of the class. Yesterday was his day on campus, so he sat in GOT’s classroom alone. It defeated the purpose of coming to campus.

Students chose to return to the campus because they wanted to be with other teens!

GOT also saw a student from last year this week. He said he hated doing remote learning–that was why he came back. He is frustrated that he is still having to stay home three days each week.

From the teacher’s perspective, it’s difficult adapting lessons to the two formats. No, teaching remote is not the same as f2f. Two very different learning environments require two very different pedagogies that have to be built from the ground up. It’s hard on everyone to switch back-and-forth. Then with the upcoming Labor Day holiday, the schedule works so that freshman and sophomore teachers will not see their B day classes in person for a three week stretch (August 31 to September 17).

Many feel that if we have to offer a f2f option, we ought to go ahead and make it five days a week. We’re not protecting anyone by limiting the attendance to twice a week. Students and staff are still being exposed to whatever anyone is bringing into the building.

Simultaneous f2f and remote

In GOT’s district, teacher pushback led the leadership to direct principals to separate students into f2f and remote classes. While this was mostly achieved for core classes, it was impossible for elective teachers who do with multiple preps that often combine many levels into one period. Think of a theater teacher who has musical theater 1, 2, and 3 in one period because she also has IB theater classes and different classes for the AP students.

These teachers find it impossible to handle classes of 50 or 60 students with half in the room and half at home. GOT is following other teachers around the state who are dreading their opening next week with this combination.

Technology issues still dog attempts to provide instruction via the internet. Districts are requiring synchronous instruction for the fall. That means students must be online and participating at the scheduled time the same as if they were on the campus. They cannot leave a class early–that’s skipping. They cannot report late–that’s a tardy. (Although GOT has a hard time imagining how the dean of discipline will assign in-school suspension to a student at home. Sit in your bedroom and don’t talk to anyone?)

GOT’s district has run out of technology to lend remote learning students. How are they supposed to come online if they don’t have a laptop and hotspot for wifi access?

Ah, the sound of silence.

Some students dropped out of GOT’s class early. As the day is busy, he could only make a note to contact parents later. Then, GOT found out from his lone student yesterday, who used a laptop to sit in his room and participate in the remote learning, whose laptop went to sleep and he ‘left’ the meeting, but obviously he wasn’t skipping because he was in the room, that students leaving doesn’t necessary mean the student stopped participating in the class. They might be doing their work on paper to scan and upload.

GOT is glad he didn’t call any parents and complain about their children.

bus drivers’ strike

Didn’t happen.

The buses ran. Kids arrived. Temperatures were taken.

Teachers also have their temperatures taken as they walk in the door. Typically, the temperatures run two to three degrees below the actual temperature because the thermometer is seldom held close enough to the forehead. For an accurate reading, it needs to be within an inch.

Every day we turn in a paper to say we have not been exposed to Covid-19 in the past 14 days. It’s seems a bit much–didn’t we tell them yesterday the same thing? Couldn’t we turn in a new paper every Monday and the rest of the week answer a verbal question, “Has anything changed since yesterday?”

Trust GOT, if a teacher has symptoms or been exposed, they don’t want to report to the building.

Students do not have to turn in a paper every day. It would slow down the entry process. Our procedures seem to be based upon a practice of following CDC guidelines if convenient.

health and safety

Supplies of hand sanitizer have held up as each teacher received a gallon jug for the opening of school. The desk wipes ran out the first day for most teachers. We have received a second pack of 50, but that is only enough for one day.

Students are complying with mask wearing and frequent hand sanitizing.

But the custodians are unable to do all the extra work. Their workload has been doubled or tripled, but no additional staff was hired. In addition to mopping hallways, cleaning bathrooms, sanitizing water fountains, sweeping classroom floors, and emptying trash, they are now expected to sanitize all frequently touched surfaces and devices, including door handles, light switches, student desks, chairs, teacher desk, board markers, board tray, display screens, and the classroom phone.

Not happening and it’s not their fault. But it makes good PR for the district to say that these cleaning procedures are happening nightly.

Finally, there’s this. The school has shut the water fountains (talk about germ spreaders) and instead has water cooler stations.

What’s wrong with this picture? There are disposable cups for a student to use, there is a large jug supplying the station, there are even two spigots to handle a high volume of people who want a quick drink during a limited class change.

Perhaps a hint. Jacksonville commemorated the 60th Anniversary of Axe Handle Saturday this week, looking back to 1960 when lunch counters were segregated in downtown department stores and the sit-in protests by the NAACP Youth Council.

It has to be unintentional, certainly no one with the district or school administration has seen it. Maybe even the manufacturer of the station wasn’t thinking either when they fashioned the dispensers. But it brings up bad memories for those who see it and go, “WOW.”

One thought on “The Sound of Silence

  1. Pre-covid, (10 years ago) we had water dispensers in my school. They presented a bunch of problems:

    Where to store the 5 gallon jugs?
    Who is responsible for removing the empty container and lifting a full one into place?
    How long before the responsible party can replace an empty jug?
    Where do the empties go? Who is responsible for their removal?
    They leak.
    They attract cockroaches and rodents.
    They’re expensive.

    The reason we had dispensers was fear of lead contamination in our drinking water via old pipes. The pipes haven’t been replaced, so can’t be used now during the pandemic. The initial guidance was kids were to bring their own refillable water containers with them to school. After push back, it’s been revised to say there will be drinking water stations; i.e. these dispensers with all their inherent problems.

    Public schools and those who spend their days in them always are afterthoughts.


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