When Pallotti opened its doors to students on September 3, no one imagined we’d still be open without having to shut down to control Covid-19. But, we have not lost a day to the coronavirus. We’ve lost more time to the weather and have remained hybrid.
It’s been a struggle as we continued to master teaching hybrid with about half the student population, and a fair percentage of faculty, at home. In my class, I max out at eleven socially-distanced students per class and fill most seats five of the six periods. Interestingly, the juniors show up the least often, three on two days.
It’s the beginning of March, meaning in three months the school year is over, It suddenly feels last. Still, I regret that I barely know most of the online-only freshmen. They barely know one another despite my mixing in-class and online students for group work.
Teaching with a dozen faces on screen and a handful in the room has been a challenge but I’ve made it work. Some classes are absolutely silent, refusing to talk or even type in the chatbox, except to announce bathroom breaks. Others will chat it up a bit, livening things up. But, just one of the six classes really lights the place up both in-person and on-screen, no matter who is present. I am so thankful I end each day with them, putting my in high spirits.
I’ve gotten better at using various tech tools, trying some, keeping a few, and returning to them when the students say they like them. The two most successful have proven to be Flipgrid, where students can record responses and record video responses to one another. The other is Parlay, an online venue for Socratic seminars.
I’ve also come to love Google Classroom since it allows me to keep all their work orderly, in one place, and easily reviewed. Some still can’t seem to navigate it, despite my not changing where I put things, so that’s a head-scratcher.
Last Thursday, I received my second dose of the Moderna vaccine and in a few weeks will be fully armed against the disease. The bulk of the faculty will be similarly ready by early April and we’re hopeful this will encourage more parents to send their kids back in for the final two months. I personally think it will be best for my freshmen to at least sample what it’s like being part of the community. We’re going to try an outdoor event in a few weeks, which could help put people at ease.
They’ve all been put on alert that our current plans are for them come in for finals, so maybe that too will encourage them to get accustomed to the building before then.
Have I been at my best? Like any other years, some times. Other times, I do the best job I can given the circumstances. Are they learning? You’d have to ask them. I’m sure some have thrived whatever their circumstances, but far too many are so silent, I would be hard-pressed to tell you if they’ve learned and retained anything. That may be the greatest frustration of the academic year.