It has been a year like no other. While a pandemic disaster did not strike to close all the schools in Grumpy Old Teacher’s (GOT) north Florida district, as we once anticipated through the holidays, Covid mitigation and adjustments have still had their effect. As we close out the school year (thirteen school days left [yay!] along with a boatload of testing [boo!], how are we doing in our schools?

  • Warm and sometimes humid weather has arrived, which makes mask wearing uncomfortable for students. They are weary of the mitigation measures, yet will still comply with the mandate when told to do so. Everyone is done and ready for the end, including teachers, administrators, and support staff.
  • Almost all parents are sending their home learning children to the campus to take the state tests. It seems that the test-taking culture is well-ingrained into our culture. They kept their children home for health and safety reasons, but it is the test after all and the almighty test must be taken.
  • The usual strain on school resources, time, personnel, and space, has been trebled by the need to keep the in-person students and the at-home students separate.
  • The at-home students don’t want to be separate. They ask why they can’t eat lunch with everyone else.
  • No teenage boys have yet laughed when GOT tells them to ‘keep it up’ referring to their face mask.
  • Grades are suffering. Children who normally care about their performance are lackluster about their coming report card.
  • We will return to a full campus in August. It is highly unlikely that Florida will allow public school districts to continue remote learning next year. At that time, we will have the challenge to rebuild our school cultures so the students reconnect with the school and to help those who need to recover from this year and resume progress toward completing their K-12 education on time.
  • If we want normalcy, we need our student population vaccinated. Now that the Pfizer is approved for children 12 and older, GOT is encouraging all of his students to get vaccinated over the summer. “If you want to put these masks away, get rid of the desk shields, and get back to normal, that is how we do it.”
  • 13 days.
  • Many of you who start later than southern states, who typically begin a school year mid-August, have longer to reach your finish line.
  • The state has granted ‘grace and compassion’ to students and schools. End of Course exams will not be factored into their course grades (Algebra 1, Geometry, Biology, Civics, and U.S. History) unless it improves the grade. Florida will not issue school grades for 2021 unless a district requests it. That would happen if a district believes that an individual school’s test performance would result in a better grade than its 2019 scarlet letter.
  • Teachers, you will not be surprised to learn, are not excused from growth scores and VAM rankings. The state has weaseled out of the issue by saying districts have ‘maximum flexibility’ in determining how to issue growth scores for teacher evaluations. But GOT’s district, to date, has shown no interest in that. It has been game on, test all the kids, get those remote kids on campus, and if the parents are reluctant, offer them Saturdays … GOT has worked today and last Saturday testing kids. At least his district is going to pay him for the hours.
  • A sacrifice must be made for the testing gods to be happy.
  • Enrollments are down. Despite the best efforts of school districts to find students, many are simply missing.
  • They may show up in the fall. The legislature is determined not to provide extra funding, but they have set aside a contingency fund if students reappear and additional funding is needed for schools.

Finally, about that learning loss. There have been other losses as well. Students have been isolated at home, kept in contained pods at school, clubs and activities did not take place or happened under restrictive conditions … others have talked about the nonsense of learning loss as the squealings of think-tankers, astroturfers, and other self-appointed experts pushing an agenda that would hold children in school over the summer because … test scores.

They have debunked the learning loss theory. Not that anyone is listening, from Uncle Joe to the USDOE to states, but GOT doesn’t have anything to add to that debate.

But there has been a different type of loss that has occurred over the last 15 months. A loss of childhood, a time to be a kid and to play and have fun with friends.

That’s it. That’s the tweet as people occasionally tuck into their 140 characters. When the last bell rings, when the last teacher-tired memes have had their last postings, when the last bus finishes its run, it’s time to let our children be kids.

Forget the summer enrichment programs. Forget the leaky mind theories of knowledge pouring out of heads into the storm water drains. Forget the summer academies and keeping kids in a stuffy classroom sitting on butt-pinching chairs for hours on end to try and make anything up.

We’ll handle that in the fall.

Let them go to the pool. Let them hang out in the park. It’s time for play and laughter and, for the lucky, summer romances. Let those who are into it go to the library and check out books to read for no other reason than they want to without the need for reports and logs.

They won’t stop learning, but they will be getting on with the learning that the pandemic interrupted.

Let’s leave them to it.

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