… get up and walk through the room. Tap the thermostat to turn the AC on. Ten minutes later, do it again. Pandemic teaching, when teaching staff must report and work on the campus with no students in the room. The motion detector detects no motion as the solitary figure known as the teacher sits in a chair and works online to deliver instruction. Maybe it’s a metaphor; maybe it’s a school district that doesn’t trust its teachers to turn the lights out when they leave the room.
Wait at the front door for the temperature check. Try not to giggle when the thermometer reports a temperature two or three degrees below the actual temperature because few use it correctly. The device needs to be less than an inch from skin. Whatever, every day everyone passes. Slap the paper on the table which every day interrogates about the last fourteen days. Look for the sign-in sheet. It’s not in sight. Realize that one good thing about the daily paper is that it documents attendance for the day.
Remind students that the mask should cover the nose. We’ve reached the point where the novelty has worn off and students as well as some adults, think they are being safe if the mask covers the mouth. Conduct on-the-spot health and science lessons that animals, including humans, breathe through their noses.
Multi-task through a team conference with the principal about the Algebra 1 state testing diploma requirement that none of the current freshmen have satisfied since there was no Algebra 1 test last spring. Recognize that we’re actually doing something smart by notifying parents and students that they may prep and take the FSA End of Course exam in November, but they don’t have to because there are alternatives. Bonus points for finishing the review of student work submissions and posting all progress report grades so the end-of-the-day bell really ends the day.
Work on baseline testing. Realize over 96% have tested and that, unlike previous years when 100% was achievable, that’s going to have to be acceptable. Wonder how the first progress monitoring assessment, whose results have to be reported to the state to demonstrate that remote learning programs are effective, will go once the students have an incentive to cheat.
Argue with colleagues over work-arounds to the lack of breakout rooms in Teams, which would allow teachers to move online students into small groups where the students can’t overhear the other groups but the teacher can hear and monitor all of them. Point out that starting multiple meetings leaves the teacher unable to monitor more than one group at a time. Listen to advice to record every meeting. Understand that students will figure out that no teacher with three classes a day, six or more groups per class, and 30 to 60 minutes of small group could possibly listen to 9 to 18 hours of meetings after the fact. They are unsupervised and their conversations are unmonitored. Children can be unkind to one another in their immaturity. Know that the risk of bullying, sexual harassment, or other undesirable behaviors is too great for this.
Plan adjustments to the district’s schema for online instruction. Apply the knowledge that while teachers must insist upon synchronous learning (students must report for each class), they don’t have to be in the meeting the entire time. Let them go for a while and bring them back at the end. An opportunity to work with small groups and, more important, to provide support to students with IEPs and 504 plans, will open. Take it.
Resist the temptation to call parents that their students are skipping when it could be a technology problem: old equipment, inadequate devices (students need a laptop; a cell phone is a poor substitute), bandwidth limitations, loss of wi-fi, and more. Live with the fact that students are catching on and blaming their technology when they log in 30 minutes after class starts.
Know that what’s important is checking in, assessing what they’re learning, and reviewing the work they submit that documents their learning.
When the lights go out … get up and walk through the room.