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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.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2020 am30 12:51 am 12:51 am

    Exactly all of this. My partner asked me last night what I was most frustrated about, and it’s the clear lack of leadership and planning that’s led to conflicting, unrealistic and unclear expectations across the board. And of course, everything falls on the teachers to figure out.

  2. Jim permalink
    April 7, 2020 am30 7:11 am 7:11 am

    No leadership or direction from schools.

    As a veteran, I have noticed that teachers(especially young ones) are asking too many questions.

    From years in the doe, I know that less is more.

    Do what you can do and wait for someone to instruct you otherwise.

    This whole thing sucks. It does.

    But the worst thing we can do is ask admin questions bc all they will give us is carranza nonsense.

    I know I will be called bitter or a slacker.

    I do care and want to do a good job and I do my best, but I won’t let this job get the best of me.

    Been there. Some that.

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