Skip to content

In Memory

April 7, 2020 pm30 11:27 pm
tags:

We are living through a crisis, a pandemic. We know because our lives are changed. We see the press conferences, the charts, the graphs. Flatten the curve!

But those charts, graphs, and curves, they are numeric representations. They tell us about the crisis. But they are composed

of people. People who got sick. People who we have lost. Focus on the curve, we need to flatten it. But do not forget what that curve is: People. People from China, or Japan, or Iran, or Italy, or Spain, or Washington, or our next door neighbors. And sometimes closer than that.

The tragedy is social. It hits all of us. But each loss is personal. And as we must slow down to preserve our physical and mental health, we must also slow down to recognize our loss, to remember, to celebrate each life.

My small school has lost two of our number in the last two weeks.

Denis Murphy taught English in our school, from the day it opened in 2002. There were six of us, founding teachers. I think of him teaching writing, getting more out of some kids than I would have expected. In reaction to the news, many alumni talked about learning from Murphy how to write. He ran the soccer club, served on the UFT consultation committee for many years. Denis was from Ireland (Kilkenny? or nearby?) and I occasionally got him to discuss the political situation in the south. The last few years he had some of his creative writing students write short plays. The kids would create a make-shift set in the lobby, and perform, to an audience that usually started small and grew. Denis would stand to the side, watching, with an obvious sense of pride in what they had accomplished. I’m going to sit quietly tomorrow, push my thoughts far away, and hold onto that image as I recall our 18 years working together.

Ulices Castro was a Lehman College Peace Officer. He was assigned to our school for most of his 16 year career at Lehman. Castro had a quick laugh and quick wit and a quick way of moving kids to class. And sometimes when a kid was drifting, Castro tried to push them in the right direction. I remember the exasperated sound of “Castro” or “come on Castro” from seniors who knew he was right. He cared about them. He cared about our school. He was protective of the building, of the students, of us, the faculty. And we knew it. “A pillar of strength” a retired math teacher wrote on learning the sad news “I loved him.” Castro always had the late shift, and was often there when I was settling in to program. Those late afternoons and early evenings we talked. We talked about labor. We talked about sports. We talked about policing. We talked about politics. We gossiped. Castro often took a psychological approach – he delved into the motivation of individuals, what made them do the things, good or bad, that they did. I want more time to think about Ulices, about the hours we spent talking, about what he meant to our small school’s community. I will miss him.

Plans

April 6, 2020 pm30 11:58 pm

Over the last four weeks, New York City teachers have been asked to plan a lot.

Extraordinary Planning I

March 17 – 19 we were supposed to plan for “remote learning” or “remote teaching.” Moving our existing curricula onto remote platforms really made this curriculum replanning. And most of us had to learn something about the software as well. Even those who had some knowledge were going to be using the software in new ways. At least we, in theory, had time to plan.

On the other hand, buildings where people tested positive were not being closed and cleaned. And we did not necessarily know which buildings they were. And we didn’t know who had the virus, but no symptoms. Kind of like planning on a paint ball course, but instead of dodging paint balls, we may or may not have been dodging a deadly virus. Doesn’t help focus.

People actually got sick over those days. I think, when this is done, there should be an inquiry into de Blasio’s behavior, including this decision. It may be criminal. People died as a result. I’m also disappointed that the UFT did not stop us from going in. It would have been a Taylor Law violation, maybe? probably?, but lives were literally at stake.

Many people sensibly stayed home for all or some of those days. Separate issue:  they should not have to use their CAR days to protect themselves from the Corona Virus when our employer intentionally put us at risk. We should get those back.

Extraordinary Planning II

March 23 – 27 (and onward). Turned out that during the planning the previous week, some principals asked us to do too much.  Not as in, “let’s be reasonable, that seems like an awful lot.”  No, as in, Carranza put out guidelines, summarized here, that said sensible things like “Schools should not try to replicate a regular school day schedule in a virtual environment” or faculty and departments should meet “maximum of once per week.”  A previous document had indicated that live teaching was not required. None of this would not have been necessary if all the principals in NYC were sane.

But that did lead, one at a time, to schools being forced to replan. And by schools? I mean individual teachers. Fortunately, planning to reduce may be stressful, but it’s not as stressful as planning from scratch. But moving from a 45 minute lesson to a 25 minute lesson – yup, real replanning. In any case, and unfortunately, not all schools got the message. We have teachers out there still adhering to inhuman (and officially proscribed) schedules. Someone should be taking a look.

Extraordinary Planning III

March 23 – April 3. Many of us, possibly most of us, learned after a few days that the planning we had done was too much, that we were working at an unsustainable level. That was my case – I thought I had set a reasonable work level for the kiddies and for me. I might have been ok with the students, maybe I was a bit over – but I was wildly over for me. Planning was hard. Grading online was hard. In a lesson plan, I often jot a word or a formula with one example, and I know what to say to flesh it out and develop it in class. Here, I needed to translate every thought to written words and symbols. I can read a kid, see where they are stuck, but in person. Now the back and forths to give feedback were long, over multiple messages and emails. What in the classroom can take 20 seconds was taking 20 minutes. That’s kind of my story. Other teachers found ways to post that wasn’t such a drag – on them – but was burying students. Some classwork (done at home) + some homework (done at home) feels like an awful lot of work done at home, and 100% on screen.

So in both instances above, and myriad others, teachers were faced to replan – not just content – but mode, pace, expectations. That’s big planning!  Fortunately, we had a week and two days coming up… Spring Break.

Well, um, that turned into two days, without the week. And then into no days. And trying to replan while you are too busy to get your daily work done….

Extraordinary Planning IV

Friday April 3, as we were reeling from the realization that all of our time to regroup had just been stolen by Cuomo and de Blasio, the DoE posted new guidance to the principal’s portal – the two most popular live audio and video tools for NYC teachers – Zoom and Google Meet Up – were banned immediately. Actually, let’s look at the language, perhaps it was ambiguous: “the DOE will no longer permit the use of Zoom at this time.” Nope, not ambiguous. How about Google? “Please note that Google Classroom” yay? “with the exception of video and voice conferencing” what??? “is also currently permitted for use.” They wanted us to migrate to another platform (the DoE’s preferred platform is Microsoft Teams, probably the last choice for many teachers). All of the planning we had done to learn Zoom, to teach our kids how to use it – out the window. Where was the Chancellor March 17 while teachers were learning Zoom?  Why not speak up then?

But this post is about planning. Teachers were being asked to plan again. This time we needed to learn a new system. We may have needed to transport existing files. We were going to have to teach students to access a new platform, which required the use of specific DoE e-mail accounts, that at least in my school, our kids had not previously used. And we no longer had days off to accomplish this.

Most of us caught a break when Carranza tweeted (really, he tweeted a policy correction!) Sunday afternoon “we can now confirm their [Google’s] Meet tool is a safe, secure…” and “We know the transition away from Zoom will take time for many teachers… it will not happen overnight.” Because Zoom was clearly the most popular platform, this still entails serious replanning for many NYC teachers (why did they let us plan with it in March???) but far better to have a transition than an immediate change, and keeping Google Meet Up as a back up is important.

Not that I’m looking for one, but just wanted to note that there was no apology for the revised post to the principal’s portal that panicked many of us.

Extraordinary Planning V

March 31 – April 8

Even for those of us who now have a much better idea of what we are doing (I am getting there, not quite there yet), we now face a new challenge:  we need to plan for break.  Our regular planning, the routines we are just starting to develop and implement? Nope.

Kids were expecting break, families were expecting break, some kids and families are involved with religious observances April 9 or April 10. It is not fair to pile on school work. So reduce the lessons?  Just what we’ve been doing, but a little less? Or a lot less? Nope.

Schools are expected to plan for “a series of themed days of activities that focus on family, community service and social emotional learning” with a list of themes. They were developed by the DoE working with the UFT. And with all due respect for the suggested lessons – those are not lessons (here’s the world language day suggestions). And for all due respect to the educators who compiled resources – amazing lists, I’m sure – those are lists of links, not plans.

Even with some ideas out there and resources to dig through, schools are going to need to plan. And by schools, I mean teachers.

Enough

I am getting tired of doing the work that the school system fails to plan for. This is curriculum writing, and curriculum mapping. This is work that is normally paid outside the school day, and voluntary. Honestly, I am far more interested in being allowed time to do this work properly than in being compensated. I believe I speak for many when I say I am working harder now than at any time in my career – except perhaps my first few months as a first year teacher. Please, stop stealing my time. Please let me do my job properly.

A question – de Blasio or Cuomo?

April 5, 2020 pm30 2:11 pm

Who took away Pesach and Good Friday – de Blasio or Cuomo?

There were reports that some districts were off for Good Friday. Turns out, untrue.

I have heard it said that, in court, lawyers should not ask a question unless they know the answer. Those kinds of questions elicit testimony, not information.

This is different. I don’t know the answer. I am asking a question to learn something.

Before I continue, I do not support Bill de Blasio. Once I defended him, but those days are past. I believe that when this crisis is over, his conduct should be examined, not because I dislike him, but because I believe his decisions showed callous disregard for life, and caused the deaths of New Yorkers. I think his behavior may have been criminal, and that he should be held to account for his crimes.

How did we lose the first two days of break?

Version I (UFT Leadership)

Andrew Cuomo signed an Executive Order on Friday, March 27. The order involved State funding for school districts, and the 180 day requirement – but the import was that public schools in NY State would have to stay open for remote learning from April 1 – April 15, even if they had scheduled breaks.

Monday the UFT leadership seemed ready to fight, but Tuesday March 31 announced that we are supporting the Governor’s order, and that we would be open for “family service and support” April 13 – 17. The same e-mail, over Mulgrew’s signature, also said “Therefore, UFT members will be off from Thursday, April 9, to Sunday, April 12, for the religious holidays.” Sounds like 4 days, actually 2, but “off” is “off.”

The leadership had trouble with its messaging, moving from rah-rah to we-did-not-want-this – but the content (open April 13 – 17, closed April 9 and April 10) was consistent.

Friday, April 3, just after 9PM, I got an e-mail over Mulgrew’s signature that began: “The schools chancellor has informed me that Mayor Bill de Blasio has decided to keep New York City public schools open on Thursday, April 9, and Friday, April 10, even though those days are major religious holidays. I told him flat out that I disagreed with that decision, but the city is going ahead with it anyway. Under the state of emergency he declared in New York City, the mayor has the authority to do that.”

The leadership encouraged and amplified a tweet and facebook storm of indignation. I participated (including this blog post).

Saturday AM, with teachers already enraged, Carranza e-mailed us: “As the coronavirus pandemic persists in New York City, and social distancing remains an imperative for all New Yorkers, we must take a new approach to Spring Recess, originally scheduled for Thursday, April 9 through Friday, April 17, 2020. For the health and wellbeing of all New Yorkers, the City and the State are in agreement that schools must continue to offer remote learning, including during days that were previously scheduled as breaks. As a result, our schools will continue with remote learning through the time originally scheduled for Spring Recess.”

Version II (Cynical)

Andrew Cuomo signed an Executive Order on Friday, March 27. The order involved State funding for school districts, and the 180 day requirement – but the import was that public schools in NY State would have to stay open for remote learning from April 1 – April 15, even if they had scheduled breaks.

Monday the UFT leadership seemed ready to fight, but Tuesday March 31 announced that we are supporting the Governor’s order, and that we would be open for “family service and support” April 13 – 17.

The UFT leadership spent a day going after members who challenged Cuomo’s decision on social media. They were avoiding conflict with a Governor with a 70% approval rating.

The same e-mail, over Mulgrew’s signature, also said “Therefore, UFT members will be off from Thursday, April 9, to Sunday, April 12, for the religious holidays.”

But Cuomo’s order had already taken away Pesach and Good Friday. There was no distinction between break and holidays.

Friday, April 3, just after 9PM, I got an e-mail over Mulgrew’s signature that began: “The schools chancellor has informed me that Mayor Bill de Blasio has decided to keep New York City public schools open on Thursday, April 9, and Friday, April 10,…”

The leadership encouraged and amplified a tweet and facebook storm of indignation at de Blasio, even though this had been Cuomo. They directed it at de Blasio, whose incompetence and unpopularity make him an easy target.

Problems with Version I (UFT Leadership)

Every district* is closed.

The political convenience of attacking an unpopular mayor but praising a popular governor is obvious.

No one (including Cuomo and de Blasio and Carranza) has made a distinction between April 9/10 on the one hand, and April 13-17 on the other, except for Mulgrew. The Executive Order covers all days. Here’s NYS Education Department’s clarification:

Problems with Version II (Cynical)

If this were true, why hasn’t Carranza or de Blasio blamed Cuomo? Why did they wait until this Friday, over a week and a few hours after the Executive Order, to make a public announcement? They seem shifty and sneaky.

And de Blasio’s behavior HAS been abysmal. This would not have been out of character.

Discussion/What would be helpful

The UFT leadership had discussions with Cuomo. I wrote “negotiation”, but in a lawyerly trick an officer called that a lie (withholding that conversations, but not negotiations, had occurred). Knowing the content of those “conversations” would be helpful for understanding what had happened.

*Other districts. There are many districts in the state, and between direct contact, and surveying a representative sample on-line, all seem to be working the holidays. But a district that is closing for the holiday, even one, would be strong evidence that Version I/UFT Leadership is correct.

Anything in writing from the State, saying they were considering appeals or case-by-case exemptions to the Executive Order.

Anything in writing between the UFT and the DoE discussing/arguing/negotiating the 9th and the 10th.

de Blasio’s Friday Night Massacre

April 3, 2020 pm30 10:38 pm

I used to preface my criticism for Mayor de Blasio, but why?

Today we learned that his Department of Education is banning Zoom, that many of us have spent 3 weeks learning to rely on. (And called into doubt our ability to use Google Meet Up, which others of us used, and which yours truly had learned as a back up). Instead we are supposed to use a Microsoft product with no training, but with the e-mail address of some schlub who I already know won’t answer beyond sending us to a help page, where we can spend more hours learning on line. I could rant for a full post. But no.

Tonight we learned that the Mayor has decided to open schools (well, remote learning) for the last two days we have off, for Passover and Good Friday. We got a very strongly worded e-mail from Mulgrew. We, the whole UFT, are furious.

I am glad that Mulgrew expressed outrage over de Blasio’s move. And I am glad that we will continue to fight for compensation.

But honestly, I’m not the hardest working out there (not that I’m a slouch) and I am exhausted, physically, intellectually, emotionally.

I need, not just want, but need, time to breathe, recover, catch up, figure out adjustments, and replan my expectations and daily work, and replan my scope and sequence for the rest of the year.

And Zoom is out. Google Meet Up probably, too. So I real need some time to figure things out, including technology I’ve never used before.

And then the Mayor takes the last two days?
I am glad that Mulgrew expressed outrage over de Blasio’s move.
But I want to know how we will stop him.

 

Lost Spring Break – Here’s What Might Have Happened

April 2, 2020 pm30 10:36 pm

We’ve lost Spring Break. Schools in NYC will be open remotely for the week of April 12 – 18 (April 9 and 10 we are “closed” for religious observance.) I’m not happy, but that fight, if there was a fight, is done.

Those of you at a loss, who needed time to catch up, to breathe, to reflect on what’s happened, to make adjustments:  We have been, collectively, trying to do too much. Online teaching has a completely different time-profile from classroom teaching. Ask yourself this:  How many evenings, considering our first 9 days, have you been exhausted?  How hard is your planning? How far have you fallen behind?  Use those questions, perhaps this weekend, to estimate how much you need to reduce your current work. The actual planning can come a little later, but at least set a goal.  Mine?  I need to reduce 30-50%. I’m not lazy. I can’t believe I’m writing that. But I did. It would have been better if I could have reset my classes over break, but that’s not going to happen.

My last thoughts are to piece together what happened.

Friday Cuomo announces that schools across the state will be closed through April 15, but ““must continue to provide remote instruction for students, meals for students, and child care for essential workers every weekday between April 1, 2020 and April 14, 2020, even if the district is scheduled to be on spring break during that time,”

By Monday it is clear that he is requiring “remote learning” to continue straight through break.

Monday UFT leadership fumes, is ready to fight

Tuesday UFT leadership decides only possible fight is to sue Cuomo

Tuesday UFT leadership decides the optics of suing Cuomo now would suck

Tuesday UFT leadership decides to cooperate

Tuesday evening UFT leadership proclaims that the UFT is doing a Great Thing and supports Cuomo. Well, I exaggerate. But not by much:

we are supporting the Governor’s decision to continuing teaching during the Spring Break as the right decision for this moment in our history. We are just doing what we always do. Being on the side of unity, compassion and solidarity.

Tuesday UFT leadership gets a shit storm of member complaints

Tuesday UFT/Unity leadership puts out a call to their faithful to trash anyone who is objecting on social media

Wednesday UFT leadership shifts the messaging (executive order, we had no choice, we know you really needed the break, but what could we do)

I’m not sure when the UFT leadership tried to talk to Cuomo, but it was seemingly rebuffed. It is disingenuous (and lawyerly) to loudly proclaim that there were no negotiations, when there was at least an attempt at a conversation.

The right message: “we needed this break, all of us, badly. Cuomo’s executive order blind-sided us. We wanted to fight it, but suing the governor right now would have made teachers look like assholes. So we have to suck this up, and we will try to negotiate compensation.”

– the right message would have saved a lot of people a lot of angst. It would have saved the leadership the embarrassment of shifting their messaging. It would have saved me from getting called names for expressing the frustrations that many teachers felt. The truth is easier. But the truth would have included admitting that the leadership couldn’t get what the members wanted this time. I guess that’s too hard.

 

 

We fought the governor; We lost; We will try to get the vacation back, later in the year

April 1, 2020 pm30 3:38 pm

April Fools?

We fought the governor; We lost; We will try to get the vacation back, later in the year

April Fools!

Teachers (and parents and students) would have been unhappy about that message. But many of us would have understood.

But that is not the message the UFT shared with members last night.

First, a word about remote teaching. We started in New York City a week and a day ago. At my school, at many schools, we jumped in, with three days’ worth of confidence and trepidation. “Let’s get to break,” we said, “and evaluate from there.”

Turns out, we were trying to do too much. Way too much. Our kids are exhausted. And we are exhausted. I wrote about that yesterday. We were doing a lot of other things wrong, too. We are learning as we go. How do we assign things, when do we assign things, how we present lessons, how we answer questions, time we go live, time we answer e-mails – you’d think this was easy – but if you think about the importance of classroom procedures – that’s what these are – in a land where all our procedures just went out the window.

So we needed break. To catch our individual and collective breath. To catch up on grading (actually, yes). To reexamine what we were doing, to adjust, to correct.

So the news that Cuomo was demanding we cancel Spring Break was, mm, unwelcome.

How we got that news was another thing altogether. You’d think the UFT would resist. You’d have thought wrong.

I got a text from my District Rep at 8 yesterday night:

DR’s just finished a meeting with President Mulgrew and he just confirmed to us that we are supporting the Governor’s decision to continuing teaching during the Spring Break as the right decision for this moment in our history.

We are just doing what we always do. Being on the side of unity, compassion and solidarity. Please help us to inform our members that this is an act of community and not just for our City, our State, but also for our Nation.

Thanks for your understanding and do not hesitate to contact if any questions and/concerns.

Notice “… we are supporting the Governor’s decision…”  And no where any indication that the UFT resisted. I was not happy.

Next, 15 minutes later, the letter from Mulgrew:

I know it’s not fair, but it’s not fair for a lot of people right now. State health experts say the next two weeks will be critical in determining whether this public health crisis lasts for another six weeks or another six months.

Governor Cuomo believes public schools can play a critical role in keeping kids engaged in learning at home during this pivotal period so the virus does not have the opportunity to spread more widely in our communities. That is why he is using the emergency powers that he legally has to keep schools open during spring breaks throughout the state.

Therefore, UFT members will be off from Thursday, April 9, to Sunday, April 12, for the religious holidays, but starting on Monday, April 13, we will be working with the DOE to create a special week of family service and support. We are working now with the DOE to develop plans for that week, and we will communicate them to you as we finalize them.

Not a word about the UFT resisting. Not a word that recognizes why the break was important, and why losing it was painful. And not a word about fighting to get time back.

I wrote immediately. I took to Twitter, which I normally skip:

And I got push back from a UFT officer (who I have to say, is generally supportive and knowledgeable. I am angry at what they wrote, angry that they seemed angrier at me, just having been blindsided, than at Cuomo, who had just screwed us over, but not angry enough to denounce someone whose work I otherwise respect, and have relied on)

It looked like Unity Caucus sent out an e-mail asking their members to push in defense of losing Spring Break on social media. I saw it on FaceBook. I saw it on Twitter. I saw them hitting “likes” on posts that said that teachers were whiny. There were also Unity members who were clearly uncomfortable, and posted weaker statements about how this was important, without actually saying “we support the Governor’s decision”

But most teachers were horrified. Some understood that there was some logic to the governor’s order (keep kids inside), but that it was wrong-headed to think that keeping teachers on the job would accomplish that.

The messaging started shifting. This is softer:

At 11PM an Officer laid out the story very differently than my DR and Mulgrew had:

This acknowledges my frustration. I’m still would not have been happy, and would have liked to hear about UFT resistance to Cuomo – but I would not have lost it.

So what next?  We have lost this fight. I’m not sure the UFT engaged in any fight, but perhaps they did.

  • We need to press leadership to monitor the week, and to actively intervene to stop creep principals from making this full instruction.
  • I can’t believe I need to write this today, but we need to press leadership to actively check that schools are not running regular schedules. It is inhuman. And the members are often totally cowed.
  • We need to press leadership to get us something in exchange for these lost days – the best would be five consecutive days at the earliest possible date. (There’s talk about $$ compensation. 1) I think we need the time, not the $$, and 2) the $$ may be short.)
  • And we need to press the leadership to watch its tone when it addresses members. Someone wrote “we are supporting the Governor’s decision to continuing teaching during the Spring Break” and “help us to inform our members that this is an act of community” – that person should be retrained before writing messages to members again. Everyone who approved that should go through a mandatory communication workshop.

I wanted to write about something else. This should not have been necessary.

What do we need? Time! When do we need it? Um, lemme check planner… Thursday 11:15?

March 31, 2020 am31 12:03 am

I am now a remote teaching veteran. One week and one day. If I’m not going to work, how come I’m exhausted?

So here’s what I normally teach:

  • 4 sections of precalculus, each meets 4 times a week (normal, in my school). I give lots of quizzes, (no tests) and I assign a lot of homework, and check it for completeness, not correctness (we can correct each other’s homework, and they are responsible for asking for help). And I give the occasional more-involved project.
  • I am down one class for comp time (I’m back to programming).
  • But I picked up voluntarily, one period a week, kids’ lunch period, where I do a reading seminar in Set Theory for a small group of highly motivated kids.
  • And I picked up one more period, same idea, we call it Axiomatic Arithmetic, we are nibbling around the theoretical edges of the construction of the real number system.

And here’s what I remotely teach. Once a week I Zoom Set Theory for an hour. We did that today. Once a week I Zoom Axiomatic Arithmetic for an hour. I do that tomorrow. I prepare for both classes. I’ll have a worksheet for Arithmetic tomorrow. I practice with Zoom for both of them. I bought extra equipment today to make it easier. I’m spending about twice the time for these classes as before, while the actual instruction part takes literally the exact same time (they even meet on the same days as before, at the same times).

For precalculus, I used to teach 16 hours a week. Now I’m teaching 10 – but it’s not teaching – it’s live office hours (on Google Meet Up, which most of my school uses for most of our core classes) with questions and answers. Actually, quite a bit of time has been taken up just checking in on the kids, making sure they are ok. This was complicated by the death of a teacher in my school last Wednesday (not COVID-19 related). Everyone was edgy. Then they were edgier. I’m trying to keep my lessons aligned with what I did before the crisis. The homework, that’s easy. But the lessons. I have been writing up notes, in my style, in my voice, that accompany the text, that explain the text, that focus on what is most important, that warn about easy traps to fall into. Those notes, they take a long time to write, far longer than a lesson. And there is no “easy” way to type math into documents. On the blackboard, I had chalk. COVID-19 stole my chalk! And the quizzes?  Not a clue. So let’s go back to the homework. I am now grading selected problems (because I have nothing else to grade). I decided to assign homework each day, but collect selected exercises from the week on Friday. Easier that way, right?  Except I got piles of homework – and grading on line is hard. You have to click open each page, leave comments on the page (because that’s what I do), and assign a numeric grade. I’m a fast grader. This process is SLOW. And oh yeah, I’m also dealing with a project. I have been giving intermediate deadlines (one was last Tuesday, next is tomorrow). And that involves checking sketches submitted on line. Sorting projects into Google Classroom categories. Creating new assignments (not so bad, but ti takes time). But there’s lots of questions. Did I tell you about Office Hours?  I didn’t mention that I am getting a ton of e-mailed questions as well. It feels like 20 screen hours a week for precalculus – and I’m leaving stuff out.

Everything is new. Everything is foreign. But I’m getting it!  I now know how to use the whiteboard in zoom, and how to comment on kids’ work in Google Classroom without assigning a grade.

But get this. It takes time to set up. It’s on a computer, so it’s fast, right? Nope. If I’m going to use a virtual whiteboard, I need to plan its use. I put a lot of planning into how I use Google classroom. And even when I know how, it’s slow. And that’s on top of my regular lesson planning.

And how about this:  if I needed a better intro to say, my logarithmic change of base lesson – sounds scary – right? Well I can start with my textbook, or I can look at a different textbook, I’ve got them all over the place. If I’m not happy with that, ask a colleague in my school, or in a bunch of other schools who I know, I can post a question on line, I can google it (try it now – google logarithmic change of base lesson – what comes up?

But every new question with Jupiter or Zoom or Stars, getting each answer is a project.

Not every teacher is having the same experiences as me. Some already kind of did this stuff. They are good. Some teachers are super-tech savvy. But maybe not as many as you think. And a lot of teachers know less than me. They are trying to work with the one tool they were handed, and may be copying the colleague in the next classroom, hoping that they know more.

Frankly, in many cases this has become another excuse to curtail our professional autonomy (glad that’s not the case in my school).

Look, I’m not saying this can’t work. Though I do have my doubts. And I’m pretty sure this is nowhere as good, even at its best, as good teaching, face-to-face teaching, teaching with students in the same room, interacting with each other, and with the teacher. But as good as this is ever going to get, it’s not going to get there the way we are going now.

For teachers to switch to remote, we need more time to plan and prepare. Much more.  I’d say we need roughly one hour preparation time for each hour teaching. Maybe more. Not less. Not meeting time. Not team planning time. For our own planning and preparation to happen – we need more time that we can use, ourselves.

SInce that can’t mean fewer classes, it probably means reduced contact hours. And stop wasting our time with useless meetings. (again, my school has not wasted our time, not yet, and maybe not ever – but it is happening throughout the city.

Give us a chance. Give us the time. But, please, get us back into the classroom as soon as its safe.