I knew there would be plenty of challenges moving to hybrid teaching but with each extra step, the amount of time for preparing, executing, and grading each lesson has snowballed so I find myself taking a lot more time than I anticipated.
We’re five weeks in, with classes beginning September 3. Last week, we welcomed in the sophomores and allowed freshmen to opt-in for four days a week instead of two. So far, not a single case of Covid-19 has been reported so our safety protocols are working.
On any given day, I will discover one piece of tech or another is not behaving. One day the external speakers wouldn’t play sound, while most days it’s the Bluetooth headset not syncing with the laptop, causing me to reboot, costing us all precious time.
I find every minute we’re with the students precious so wasting it hurts. They’re patient but I still feel bad for them.
I continue to do my utmost to make certain the two halves, those in class and those online, see one another, and interact. I’ve tried some online group work with mixed results but am continuing to mix and match, hoping they gel as a class.
By now, each class has pretty much formed its identity. Each morning starts off with my quietest class and we end the day with my most boisterous and lively group. I can live with that. What isn’t quite working yet, though, is really getting to know my online-only kids as individuals. We have a few email interactions and I ask questions as they log in but get monosyllabic answers which reveal little.
I am judiciously integrating a variety of tech tools, feeling my way through what works for me and what the classes respond to. My juniors tried a Socratic seminar with Parlay, which worked pretty well and they asked to try it again. My freshmen recorded poetry on Flipgrid, watching one another’s poems, and recording video responses. They liked that a lot. I’ve also been using PearDeck, turning my static slide decks into interactive lessons which keeps them somewhat engaged.
But there are definitely days it can all feel very overwhelming, juggling tech, lessons, students questions, papers to grade, and so on. It’s all the normal stuff and then some. We’ve been asked to limit homework to about 15 minutes per assignment which means units are getting stretched out to accommodate the work. And as each unit takes longer, I am already foreseeing the spring when we don’t finish the curriculum. I am looking for ways to streamline, maybe cutting The Canterbury Tales from five stories to two or three and my freshmen short story unit down to just a handful.
The one saving grace are the asynchronous Wednesdays, such as today. I managed to complete building and posting the next units for the freshmen and juniors which means my lessons are done through October and maybe a little into November. I’m glad I had the time because the next tsunami of grading arrives tomorrow.
Beyond the classes, I am a moderator for the Freshmen class and we’re just getting started on planning our first activities. This also means I help with a small cohort of freshmen through the Campus Ministry, basically being the adult in the chat room as Seniors lead them through some discussions. It’s vital for the kids, making them more connected with the school and the upperclassmen but it’s also more time not spent grading and planning or even talking to the students one-on-one.
Some days I’m energized, others, I am exhausted at 2:30. This is most definitely not a normal school year by any stretch of the imagination.