My district just released its plan for the upcoming school year to parents, and I’m coming to terms with it. Long story short, parents have the choice to send their students in, or let them learn from home. If they’re learning from home, they can Skype in and learn in-sync, or they can watch recorded video lessons from their teacher on their own time and submit work. Daily attendance and hours spent learning will be logged. Lunch will be in the classroom, desks will be spaced out, no desk shields will be installed. No mention of how specials, recess, or dismissal will work –my hope is that they’re waiting for surveys to come back and are planning on getting feedback from teachers before proceeding.a
I get why it’s being done this way–we’re faced with an impossible decision. There are no historical precedents to address this situation or provide guidance. Everyone has an opinion on what should be done, and no matter what happens, someone is going to be unhappy.
If we went all digital, at-risk students would fall even further behind. With budgets being cut, we’d have no money to buy new devices or buy enough hot spots for families without internet–and so many of our families don’t have it. Younger students, who need more help with digital learning, would need to rely on parents who may be working from home themselves, or are essential workers who won’t be home to help their children learn.
If we went all in person, there wouldn’t be space to social distance in the classroom. It would be a health risk for students and teachers who have at-risk family members, or are at risk themselves. Again, I think of my colleagues who teach younger grades. How do you keep a Pre-K classroom sanitary during a pandemic when it’s a veritable petri-dish during a regular year? How do you enforce social distancing, or impart how important it is to do so when you have kids whose parents don’t believe in wearing masks and still think this virus is a hoax?
Then you have hybrid. Parents get to choose, but teachers have to carry the weight of both a digital and in-person academic year. It’s not an ideal choice by a long shot, and it’s exhausting to think about how to manage both. Teachers will need to keep track of student log-in hours–will students be required to wake up and log in by a certain time, or do we look at how long they spent on assignments? Is there even a way to do that? Teachers will need to pre-record lessons for students not Skyping in — when? And for those student Skyping in, how do we account for lag or poor connection? How do we tie that in to our classroom management? How will we address cyberbullying and responsibility online? What do we do for students who receive SPED services, but are connecting digitally?
Now that lunch will be in the classroom, when can I take a bathroom break? How will planning periods be addressed? There are no answers to these questions yet. My brain is spinning and my anxiety is climbing just trying to imagine how all these moving puzzle pieces will come together to create a comprehensive school year. Even then, there are questions about the implications of this pandemic further on down the line. Will there be standardized testing this year? What does this mean for schools that need state intervention if no tests are required?
I’m beginning to be at peace with my district’s hybrid decision as I try to wrap my brain around what that will look like for me. I’m beginning to plan as best I can and figure out how to manage. It’s going to be difficult. We’ll need lots of understanding and support, which we don’t always get. We’ll be asked to fall on the perpetual sword of “it’s best for the kids” while more responsibilities are given to us. It’s a crappy situation, with no ideal answer. We’re all going to be thrown into this year operating in survival mode.
If I know anything, I know that we’ll adjust to this year’s “new normal” and be there for each other as we navigate the unknown. In an ideal world, things would be different. Our funding wouldn’t be cut in a global crisis, we’d be given the resources we needed when we asked for them, our profession would be respected, our voices would be taken into consideration. I wish we lived in that world.
For now, we can just hope to shape the one we have to meet our needs as best we can.
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