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Let Schools Prepare!

August 13, 2020 pm31 2:43 pm

Yesterday the Mayor and his Chancellor lied, and deceived, and omitted, and lied some more. But one of his Chancellor’s lies is not getting attention, and that’s a shame, because it was a whopper. Carranza said that 85% of teachers are planning for blended learning.

It’s not true. Teachers are frozen with uncertainty. Those who know their classes (most of us) do not know what mode we will teach in. Most teachers are not planning for blended learning.

In-person

This is what we have done in the past.

Remote teaching

This is what we tried to do in the Spring, with three day’s planning, and we had very little idea how it would turn out. Some teachers already had strong remote experience. Others figured things out quickly. Most of us muddled through, and tried to make improvements as we went – but that was hard – as the NYCDoE took away our only break, when many of us had planned to reflect, discuss, revise.

We learned some things. Preparation for remote learning is very different than for in-person. Grading moves much more slowly. And assigning classwork and assigning homework felt like different categories for the teacher, but both felt like “screen-work” for the students, and became overwhelming.

We modified what we assigned, and need to modify more. We altered what kind of work we did in class, and what we assigned for homework. And we need to further consider those things. Assessment was hard, and we are looking at alternate methods (both procedure, and assessing through other-than-tests).

And we need to know if there will be state tests, or if we can slow down. Remote teaching moves more slowly than in person.

Hybrid or Blended teaching

So this might be every other, or every third day, or even every fourth in person, and the rest of the time remote. This is by far the most challenging, because we do not know the mix of activity. We do not know if we will be doing both the in-person and the remote instruction. We are wondering about today’s lesson being in-person for one group (which would suggest certain activities) and remote for other students (which would suggest other activities).

We also have coordination between all-remote and blended classes. And coordination (maybe?) between two instructors for one class, if there are separate instructors for the in-person and the remote parts. (Mulgrew and Carranza seem to disagree about this.)

Blended, if it happens, will require the trickiest planning, and will involve the greatest challenges with implementation.

Which do Teachers plan for?

Teachers have our classes – but we do not know which to plan for. And the planning for all three is different (actually, forget in-person for now, it is not happening anytime soon).

At my school, teachers are assembling committees to review best practices from the Spring – what worked, what did not work. While we faced the same problems that schools did across the city, we did have quite a bit of positive feedback from students on many of our classes (flexibility, mix of instructional modes, some in-person lessons), and some negative (very heavy workload, especially at the start, too much live instruction, too little live instruction). I know, some of this seems contradictory, but that’s the nature of learning something new through experimentation.

But no matter what we find, no matter what teachers in any school, anywhere in the city find, we will not know what to plan for until we are convinced an actual decision has been made.

And while the vast majority of educators in New York City (unsurveyed, but true) believe we should be all-remote, we are caught waiting. We are waiting for Bill de Blasio, all bluster, to back down, the way he backed down Sunday afternoon, March 15, after days of pigheadedly insisting he would put teachers and students and all New Yorkers at risk by keeping schools open.

We are waiting.

What do schools plan for?

Schools can begin thinking about what it would mean to bring students into the building, but just start. Our ventilation systems? We don’t fix them, the DoE does. Temperature checks? The DoE sets the protocols. PPE? The DoE delivers – or as many suspect will happen – doesn’t. Sanitizer? The DoE is stockpiling it. Special Ed? The DoE promises information.

Schools can write plans for teaching, but they get caught waiting for approval. I am my school’s programmer. I know where I should be, during a normal year, with schedules. I am not there. I talk to other programmers. They are (vast majority) not there. Blended schedules and remote schedules look very different from each other, and require many specific decisions. Most schools are gathering information, and waiting.

I have heard Michael Mulgrew say we are preparing for both blended learning and remote learning. I am not sure who “we” is, but I’m pretty sure he’s not talking about anyone I know.

Look, here’s what has to happen. Mr. Mayor, you are going to surrender. The only question is whether you, Mr. Mayor, surrender today, and let us start planning, or whether you wait until September 7, and make the coming chaos even worse. I don’t know that you have any legacy at stake. Maybe just a touch of compassion?

 

 

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