I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

First Week of Hybrid - Observations

I've had one week of hybrid at our middle school. Our hybrid situation goes like this: On Mondays, everyone but the teachers are remote. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have students with the last name starting with A-K, and the rest of the alphabet is home. On Wednesdays and Fridays, it's the other way around. We've had more parents share that their child will be remote just this week, and many students stay home with symptoms of COVID, just in case. So, really, I never know who's going to show up in front of me. Attendance takes longer than it did just on Zoom. Here are some other examples of how my days are changed.

  • When I mask up and walk into the school building, I consider it a wonder that so many educators are still showing up to work. At the school building... With children coming in and out of their rooms up to ten times a day...While many parents of those children are still safely working from home...
  • I can get to the office to check my mail and up to the classroom without touching anything (even though the entire building is (I hope) sprayed down each night. I use my sleeve or lanyard to open doors that pull outward.
  • I get to class and take down the shields students use at lunchtime. The students in the room 10th (last) period put them up so the custodians can spray them down at the end of the day.
  • I set up the laptop, plug in the external camera, the cord for the projector, and keep the laptop charged. Zoom takes a toll on that battery. I unplug the speaker/microphone we were provided, and turn it on, then turn on the bluetooth so the laptop and speaker connect. (I should really do something about all the messy dangling cords, but no one has complained, and I truly won't make the time unless someone does.)
  • Students come to school with their masks on, backpacks on, their water bottles and their lunches. 
  • I'm at the door taking student temperatures (how close we get then!) before they come in for homeroom. I start the Zoom for that period once they're in their seats.
  • Remote students for the day are still coming into Zoom a few minutes after the bell. Since I can't get used to showing one thing on the screen behind me and another in front of me, I've just decided to share my screen. This means that sometimes it's all our Zoomers for the day, or it's our slides plus a couple of Zoomers on the side (and hopefully it's never my email). I try to make sure my in-class students can see our at-home students often. 
  • I switch cameras often, so students at home feel as if they're more involved in the class - my face-time camera (which shows my masked face) or my external camera (which faces the class).
  • I've learned that the speaker that was provided works better on its side. Meaning - we can't really hear anyone from Zoom if it's sitting up like it should. I use the music stand I brought from home to keep the speaker on its side (it's round, and I can't think of any other way to turn it on its side), so we can all hear our at-home class.
  • I have to remember to turn off the speaker and plug in my earbuds when having 1:1 conversations with the kids at home.
  • We've ditched the idea of using the microphone part of the microphone/speaker combo that was provided, as it only covers up to ten feet, and we are all at least six feet apart, so...
  • When having a discussion (we tried for the first time on Friday) with everyone, I have now taped an "X" on the carpet where students in class can stand and share with the kids in class and the kids at home can still hear and see the speaker. I then change the view on Zoom to "speaker," so the person sharing at home is projected large on our screen.
  • We take mask breaks. We'll either jog or run for a few minutes, stand around, or play a short game. Sometimes my at-home students stay on Zoom, and sometimes it's near the end of a period, so I let them go when my at-school students head outside. I pray for at least "okay enough" weather each day. I, too, relish mask breaks.
  • Students get to the classroom one minute after the first bell rings. I haven't even had a chance to spray all the tables as they're using hand sanitizer and grabbing a paper towel to wipe off their table.
  • I feel as if I have six classes now instead of three, as the dynamics are very different. I'd guess teachers who have six different classes now feel they have twelve.
  • Most students stay in their (plastic blue) seats. (All our comfy furniture has been relocated.) When it gets near time to go, students begin to congregate.
  • I keep hearing myself repeat, "Six feet," "Mask up," and "Don't touch your face." I repeat directions to grab a paper towel to wipe down desks and to use hand sanitizer.
  • Three times during this one week a desk has fallen to the floor. Students aren't used to them having their wheels locked in one space (on a velcro dot on the floor to ensure they're six feet apart).
  • I've backed up significantly when a student gets too close outside. One even came into my "teaching area," and my eyes must've bugged out so much that she backed up immediately.
  • I can talk to students about what's on their sweatshirt or about their cool masks.
  • I have one child who has a mask that keeps slipping under her nose. I find myself holding my breath.
  • On Wednesdays and Fridays, students eat lunch in my room behind shields. With our homeroom. Quietly. When it's nice enough out, they will be able to eat outside. It was raining half of our week.
  • I've been eating in the art room - four of us can be in there eating with plenty of space between us. We clean the area before and after we use it.
  • I have my plan period with my remote teacher partner/friend in the hallway. 
  • Bus duty is fast - there is no need for students to linger, and there are no lockers to go to.
  • I haven't been around so many people since March 13th. When I leave the school building, I feel like retching. The feeling goes away shortly after I take off my scrubs and wash up and get my hug.

The students seem to be doing fine in this environment. 

I keep hearing that we need to "care for the students."

We also need to take care of the teachers - who truly want to care for the students (or we would be gone by now). Nobody but fellow educators that are actually trying to connect with - and teach! - students hour after hour know what we're going through. I hope readers here have found ways that are helping you cope. Since our students will most likely have the option of "remote" all year, it looks like this will be the routine until our numbers soar enough (um... 6,000 more cases yesterday, IL?) to go back to being fully remote.

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